Epic Brewing will kick-start a new sour beer program with foeders from New Belgium

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Epic Brewing, which started making beer at its huge new Denver facility in July, has even more good news for fans of its brainless and off-kilter beers.

The Salt Lake City-based brewery will use three 60-hectoliter wooden barrels -- called foeders -- that it just bought from New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins to jump-start a brand-new sour and wild ale program in Denver in the next few weeks.

See also: Photos: Epic Brewing rolls out three Colorado-specific beers

"We were definitely in the process of advancing the sour beer program, but we are out of space in Salt Lake, so I knew we couldn't do it until Denver was up and running," says Epic head brewer Kevin Crompton. "I was planning on doing it in wine barrels the old way. So, buying the foeders means we can get serious sooner rather than later."

In fact, the brewery finalized plans on Friday to add a series of sour beers to its existing product line, which are all sold in 22-ounce bomber bottles. Epic will begin with a Belgian golden ale -- similar its Brainless Belgian Golden -- which it will inoculate with both brettanomyces yeast and lactobacillus before aging it for at least four months.

"A barrel-aging program is extremely labor intensive," Crompton says. Foeders impart the same flavor characteristics into a beer as barrels, but with less labor and more consistency. "It takes a couple of hours to fill or to empty a foeder, versus an entire day to do the same thing with thirty wine barrels."

New Belgium, which helped pioneer the sour and wild ale movement in the United States, began buying foeders from overseas wine makers several years ago and now has 32 of the enormous casks in its "foeder forest," where it ages beers like La Folie.

But New Belgium prefers to use 130-hectoliter foeders -- which hold the equivalent of 104 barrels, or 208 kegs worth of beer -- says brewery spokesman Bryan Simpson.

That meant that the three "little" ones were available, and Epic found out about them before they even went on sale through a mutual brewing friend.

"We pounced on them because it was such a rare opportunity," says Crompton, adding that foeders are difficult to import into the U.S. "They are pristine...and absolutely perfect for what we are going to be doing."

Very few U.S. breweries have foeders and, outside of New Belgium's location, they are rare in Colorado as well. Crooked Stave has several and plans to add more, while Ska Brewing in Durango has one. Aurora's Dry Dock Brewing just purchased one as well.

Epic will use a complicated blending regiment, which will limit its production of sour beers to begin with, but Crompton says if things go well, the brewery will make soured versions of some its existing beers as well as new recipes in the future.



's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan

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