Queen City Drinks: Foeders, sours, & cease and desists

I stopped by Rivertown Brewery earlier this week to talk about their new foeder. I ended up having a wandering conversation with co-owner Jason Roeper covering many topics about all things new for Rivertown.

Read on after the jump to learn what the hell a foeder is, what small batch sours you can expect to regret getting so little of, the various ways Rivertown is growing, and how they’ve dealt with a legal entanglement from a similarly named brewery!

What is a Foeder?

A foeder, (pronounced FOOD-er,) is a large oak barrel used for fermenting wine. Breweries in Belgium started using them decades ago and craft breweries stateside have picked up on the trend.

They’re basically giant barrels and are used for fermenting or blending sours. Rivertown has been making it’s sours in stainless steel tanks and barrels for years now but is seriously upping its game with this addition.

Many breweries wait months or years for a winery to stop using a foeder and put it up for sale. Rivertown decided to go straight to the source and had this one built for them in Italy.

rivertown foeder

The 20 barrels worth of fermentation space in the foeder will allow them to replace the stainless steel fermenter they had used for primary fermentation. All secondary fermentation is done in standard barrels.

Rivertown’s foeder brings them into the good company of many of the largest and most famous American sour breweries including: New Belgium, Boulevard, Russian River, New Glarus, Crooked Stave, Hill Farmstead, Two Brothers, Captain Lawrence, Jolly Pumpkin, Barrel Works, Anchorage, Epic, Allagash, and Perennial/Side Project.

This upgrade is making them a member of a small and elite club of U.S. Breweries, a group that Cincinnati should be very proud to be part of!

A Smattering of Sours

Along with that 20 barrel foeder Rivertown is upping its barrel collection with another 30 barrels on the way. This will bring them from the current count of 90 barrels up to 120, and all for sours.

Not only do they have more barrels coming soon but they have more sours coming soon. They recently bottled this year’s batch of lambic -- which is carbonating away – but there is no ETA yet on sales yet. While we wait for that to carbonate the sour tap will be packed with goodies for a few weeks.

Expansion Abounds

A few months back Rivertown bought another unit in their stretch of warehouse. This allowed them to add on an on-site yeast lab, more tap room space, bigger offices, and an area dedicated for the sour barrels.

This is important because you don’t want the sour bugs getting in the non-sour beers.

rivertown barrels

Along with that physical expansion Rivertown now has the proud distinction of being the farthest flung Cincinnati brewery. Beginning in Cincinnati back in 2009 and growing to cover all of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

They’ve now stretched their wings, and distribution trucks, to include both Tennessee and Florida. So next time you’re vacationing on the Florida cost you can pick up a 6-pack from home.

C&D: Rivertown vs. Rivertowne

The craft beer industry seems to be getting plagued with cease and desists letters these days. Some gain notoriety when one of the two breweries lashes out on Facebook and riles up the Internet .

Though I think most of the time these issues are settled out of court with a name change or logo tweak. Sadly the rarest resolutions involve an appreciation of each other’s efforts and a collaboration. I always hold the Avery/Russian River Collaboration Not Litigation beer as the best possible outcome of a C&D.

A few weeks ago cans started to appear around Cincinnati from Rivertowne Brewing. I knew immediately that this was going to cause a ruckus with Cincinnati’s Rivertown Brewing. Little did I know that said ruckus actually began back in 2011.

According to Rivertown co-owner Jason Roeper the back-story on Rivertowne is that it started as an inn back around 2002, which grew to include a bar, then a small brewpub named The Pour House.

The Pour House is in my opinion is a pretty sweet name, however, when they continued to expand and begin distribution they changed names to Rivertowne. Starting in July 2010 Full Pint Brewery was brewing beer for them under the Rivertowne brand.

Cincinnati’s Rivertown was incorporated in 2008 and began brewing in 2009. The prior incorporation date gave our Rivertown the legal advantage but Rivertowne sent Rivertown a cease and desist letter in 2011.

rivertowne logo

After consulting with their lawyers Rivertown sent Rivertowne a cease and desist back saying that Rivertown had the superior mark.

After talking to the folks behind Rivertowne Jason realized there was no intention of malice, which would have to be proven for Rivertown to be compensated in a lawsuit.

In the end the two breweries decided to settle out of court with Rivertowne altering its name slightly to be Rivertowne of Pittsburg or of Pennsylvania but our Rivertown is The Rivertown.

Here are the last words, and great news, that Jason Roeper had to say about the issue:


the end of the day there was no malice, nobody tried to rip anything off. We’re going to do a collaboration with them, 1 package 2 logos, so people can distinguish between the two understand that there are 2 companies.”