LOWER FREETOWN, P.E.I. - A Lower Freetown man is pinning his future on the resurgence of a very old craft.
Jordan Stetson is the proud owner and, so far, lone craftsman at New World Foeders (pronounced food-ers).
A foeder, a Dutch word, refers to a large, reusable, oak barrel traditionally used to age beers, wines and spirits.
Depending on how new the barrel is, how long the liquid is left in it, and other factors the end product can have a unique flavour profile.
Stetson is currently splitting his working hours between work as a carpenter and building his burgeoning business.
“The general public is like ‘what’s a foeder?’ But anyone I talk to in the brewing industry is really excited by it,” he said.
He got the idea for his business through his work with Charlottetown-based brewing equipment manufacturer Diversified Metal Engineering (DME). Stetson was a project manager for that company for several years and traveled throughout North America installing equipment. As he traveled, he often found breweries importing foeders or otherwise experimenting with wooden barrel aging.
Previous to working at DME, Stetson had been a carpenter, so the barrels intrigued him. He did some research and found hardly anyone in North America was making their own foeders.
He started working on his own prototypes shortly before leaving DME in 2017.
He’s since received some start-up funding from Innovation P.E.I.’s Ignition Fund and launched New World Foeders.
He’s building his barrels in his father’s wood shop in Lower Freetown.
A typical unit would hold about 500 litres, take him about 40 to 50 hours to build and cost more than $3,000. However, Stetson can make custom orders much smaller or larger, depending on the needs of the client.
Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown purchased one of the first units.
They were intrigued when Stetson approached them about the project, said Mike Hogan, co-founder at Upstreet.
Hogan said they had considered acquiring a foeder in the past, but the logistics and cost of trying to get one from Europe or the U.S. made the idea unrealistic. Then Stetson showed up one day and offered to build one.
Hogan said he was impressed with Stetson and his product. They’ve been putting it to good use for about a year.
Craft beer is an industry constantly in flux, said Hogan, and consumers are always looking to try something new. Foeders are a part of the answer.
“It’s only growing in popularity,” said Hogan.
“People’s palettes are changing. With craft beer they are looking for new flavours and they’re looking for unique beers.”
Stetson is hoping to expand New World Foeders in the future. Recent media attention on his product has already resulted in some phone calls from breweries interested in the product.
He’s hoping to get to the point where he can start making them full time and hire some help.
“I think the market is out there,” he said.
“I really enjoy building them – so if I can do that working in a heated shop instead of framing that house outside … it’s definitely nicer in here.”