New Belgium didn't become the nation's third largest craft brewer without exerting a stiff competitive punch, but the Fort Collins beer maker has always been more than just another company, imbuing everything it does with a playful spirit and a high level of conscientious thoughtfulness. In fact, that ethos is part of what sells its brands.
On Saturday, New Belgium poured that ethos into "Lost in the Woods," a release party for two of its most ground breaking beers, La Folie and Transatlantique Kriek -- an event that transported guests into an enchanted forest of giant wooden "trees."
In the daytime, the forest consists of 64 massive wooden barrels, called foeders, that are typically used for aging wine in Europe and California. New Belgium acquired them slowly over the past decade, but last fall, it doubled its number in one fell swoop. At more than fifteen feet tall, each one holds 130 hectoliters, or roughly 104 barrels of beer.
For the nighttime party, however, New Belgium enlisted its creative staffers -- the ones who organize the Tour de Fat -- to decorate the high-ceilinged foeder rooms, which the brewery calls Cached La Foeder, a play on the nearby Cache La Poudre river.
And they had fun. Black drapes were hung up to hide the working spaces in the rooms, while white lights were strung up overhead, along with a green disco ball or two. But to give it the forest feel, the crew created huge cardboard trees, animals, giant mushrooms and other woody life, which they attached to the foeders themselves.
Add in a couple of fog machines, and the place took on a magical aesthetic - and with a slight touch of a haunted house crossed with a nightclub.
But the point was to showcase the wood, and the beers that are aged in it.
The genre-creating La Folie, a Flanders-style sour brown, was first brewed in 1997 and is New Belgium's original wood-aged beer; it stays in the foeders for one to three years before being bottled in 22-ounce bottles and released once per year.
Transatlantique Kriek is a spontaneously-fermented lambic-style ale made with Polish cherries that New Belgium's Peter Bouckaert has brewed four times in partnership with sour beer expert Frank Boon, the founder of Boon Brewery in Lembeek, Belgium.
The 2014 versions of both beers, along with a variety of other sours, were available to guests; the beers should hit stores shelves soon.
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