In search of an antique foeder
As we will focus mainly on barrel-aged beers, we considered there might be some room for one or two small foeders too, in our little housebrewery. It would be some nice addition after a few years.
By accident however, we stumbled upon a little add for what looked like a nice foeder, on a French agricultural forum. Size: 30HL. Perfect for us! Place: Poligny in the Jura. So not all too far, to get it ourselves. But what intrigued us most was it's owner: Valentin Morel. We were both familiar with his beautifull natural wines, and were planning to visit him anyway on our yearly trip to winemakers in the Jura and Beaujoulais. After a few mails, we decided to go for it. Happy to hear too Valentin is a big lover of lambic and other wild beers, and an activist for an alternative social and ecological politics (he made a wine to support the French 'communist' candidate at the presidential elections, Jean-Luc Mélenchon).
So on an October friday, we rented a trailer, and headed to the Poligny for a weekend. On saturday monrning, Valentin loaded the foeder onto the trailer, and made sure we still had some time to taste his wines from last year, and even some of this year, straight from the tanks. After a quick stop at Domaine des Bodines and a nice lunch at the ever cosy Bistrot des Claquets in Arbois (a litttle heaven for natural wine lovers!), we headed back home for a 600km drive. We were both quite nervous to transport such an old foeder (the date on the foeder says 1882, made in the Jura, and for the first time in more than hundred years leaving its region), but arrived with it safely home late in the evening.
The most difficult part, was still to come. How do we clean it, prevent molds from growing, and most important: how much will it leak? After some advice from several people (thanks to Milk the Funk), we decided first to clean manually some of the tartaric acid crystals left on the walls. The opening was just big enough so that one of us could crawl in to do the job. After quite some hours, a few buckets of crystals were remained. Then we rented a strong steamer, and filled it with steam over the course of 2 hours; not sure though if it had any real effect. Because of the size, we have the impression pressure couldn't build up enough. We'll probably have to try it again right before filling it with beer. In the maintime, we filled it with a solution of citric acid and a bit of sulphites to inhibit bacterial growth.
At the end of February 2018, we are going to fill it with our Flemish Oud Bruin, and use it further as a Solera Foeder, where we take out the size of one brew (800l) after at least one more year after filling it for the first year. Fingers crossed!