The FV13 foudre.
The foudre: magnificent staple of the wine world turned wonderful tool for craft brewers. A foudre (pronounced either foe-der, foo-druh, or foo-der depending on who you ask) is basically a huge, wooden tank, historically used for the storing and maturation of wine. FV13 was aged in such a tank.
Not only was FV13 aged in a foudre, but it was the first beer that Allagash brewers ever aged in one. Sure, our brewers had experience with barrel aging before FV13, but we still had a lot to learn about the mighty foudre.
One of our staff pours a sample.
Between the first and second batch of FV13, the aging process changed quite a bit. Where in the first batch we started with unfiltered tripel—as we do in Curieux, a bourbon barrel-aged beer—the second batch was started with tripel that had been put through a centrifuge, for a clearer, smoother final product. In addition, the brewers inoculated the first batch with a starter containing a mixed culture of Brettanomyces and Lactic acid bacteria. The second batch, instead of using a new starter, was simply inoculated with a small sample of the first batch of FV13.
FV13 (far left) sits with its foudre brethren.
Also, the brewers learned, a two thousand seven hundred gallon foudre is not exactly the same as a fifty-five gallon barrel. Unlike barrels, it’s less tolerant to being left unfilled. The long, thick boards that make up a foudre are much touchier than traditional barrels; when left unfilled, the boards shrink, allowing gaps to form. This fact led to a whole lot of beer being pumped into the foudre for our third batch before the boards were soaked through, and shrunk the gaps again. We still weep over that spilled tripel. Now, all foudre batches are filled within the hour of the last batch leaving the tank.
Thanks to its nearly four-year aging process, only two batches of FV13 have ever been released. This oak barrel-aged ale is brewed with a blend of wild yeast and bacteria that help it develop its complex flavors of tart grapefruit and raspberry jelly. While four turns around the sun may seem like quite a bit of time and effort to go into the production of one beer, we hope that when you taste FV13, you’ll share our enthusiasm about getting the next batch going.
The waiting is the hardest part.