Breaking Boundaries Series II: This one is about the malt.

From-KevinThis one started out with a wonderful journey 5 months back, to where else? Belgium! Qiuxia, my wife, and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with Karl Dingeman. Karl just happens to be the great great grandson of Alexander Dingeman who started malting barley in Belgium in the mid 1800’s. Karl is now the 5th generation of the family to run the malt facility which is the oldest family owned maltery in Belgium.

We dropped in early one morning last September. I can vividly remember the smell of the fall air. So natural, as the maltery’s property is bordered by fields of seasonal veggies and free roaming sheep. We were welcomed in by the staff and the morning started off with a wonderful history lesson on the malt process and the patented processes that the Dingeman family use. We were then joined by Karl himself who walked us through some of the famous Belgian beers that are produced with 100% Dingemans malt. These beers included breweries from Trappists to commercial, well known to obscure, tiny operations to the big guys. It is amazing that we still had enough coordination to navigate our way through the production house afterwards.

The knowledge picked up that day was beyond any expectation I could have imagined. I learned that day that it just so happens that many malteries produce only base malts. The base malts are basically given the opportunity to sprout, then dried gently to preserve the enzymes necessary for the brewing process. Dried at the lowest possible temperature for Pilsner malt, or dried at a slightly higher temperature for Pale Ale malt. Many fewer malteries produce the specialty roasted malts, such as caramel malts, dark malts and in Karl’s case, his patented “Special B” malt. Mouterij Dingemans produces both! No questions, no hesitations, and they do both at the highest standards of quality without exception.

Another thing I learned from Karl is that malting and the barley used to produce malt in Europe has always had it primary focus on the flavor of the finished beer. In North America however, commercialization and industrialization has pushed the focus more in the direction of the quantity of the yield of the harvest. This claim became a realization when I later returned to brew my first batch of beer using Karl’s malt as the entire grain bill.

Karl proceeded to walk us through the entire operation start to finish, including the analysis lab where all the quality control is monitored. We finally ended up the afternoon at the 3 star Michelin restaurant overlooking the famous Port of Antwerp, eating an amazing Belgian lunch accompanied with beer after beer that were brewed with Karl’s malt. Toward the end of the meal, I did my typical trick that I use when visiting my Chinese family and excused myself to use the restroom (with the intention of picking up the bill). As I approached the waiter he responded, “Mr. Dingeman has instructed me that your money is no good here.” Embarrassingly, I returned to our table and the look on my face must have been obvious enough. Attempting an additional haggle for the bill, Karl explained, “The time it took to show you around the mouterij and take you out for lunch was much much cheaper than it would cost me to travel to Minneapolis to do a sales call at Boom Island Brewing.” I was left speechless and humbled. That day was one of the most truly inspirational days of my life as an artist, whether it be playing the French Horn or brewing.

Malt

 Upon our return, I decided to make a batch of beer using all Karl’s malt. The first experience was during milling. The smell was very rich with bread and nutty aromas. Next was in the mash, it was at that point that I could vividly recall the smell of the air that morning visiting Mouterij Dingemans. The smell was identical! It is really amazing that the literal essence of the tiny town of Stabroek, Belgium literally soaked into the malt and was released in the brewhouse of Boom Island Brewing Company. Wow! It’s no surprise at this point, and inline with our vision of brewing classic Belgian style beer here at Boom Island, we now proudly use 100% Dingeman’s Malt!

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Now that was a really long prelude to the story behind this new beer, so here we go with the meat and potatoes. Upon our return home, I was approached by Cargill, who is the North American importer of Mouterij Dingemans. We were asked to prepare a collaboration brew with Mouterij Dingemans and Hopsteiner (one of the worlds largest hop suppliers). The beer was to be highlighted at Craft Brewers Conference 2017 in Washington D.C. Without hesitation, I accepted. Now comes down to the recipe formulation. Taking inspiration from the rich history and tradition of the Dingeman family and their contribution the the history of Belgian brewing, I rewound myself to the very first recipe I sketched out for Boom Island. Ironically, I planned this recipe as Qiuxia and I sat in the main square of the city of Antwerp just 10 miles south of the Dingemans facility. It was as I had my first taste of what I consider the definition of a Belgian Pale Ale, De Koninck. To order this beer in Antwerp, you have to options. First, simply ask for a glass of beer in dutch, the waiter will get the message and bring you a De Koninck “Een Bolleke, Alstublieft”. Second, if you are feeling really confident of your local appeal, you can hold up the number of beers you would like with your fingers, then follow it by pointing upward with the pinky finger and a nod of the head. In the local dialect of Flemish Dutch, the word for the pinky finger is the same word for a pint, “Pintjes”. No need to clarify which pint you prefer, you will get a pint of De Koninck.

Bolleke Photo
Paying homage to the rich brewing tradition and malting tradition of the Antwerp area, I took that first Belgian Pale recipe that I sketched out and amped it up a couple of notches in alcohol to what I am calling a “Belgian Double Pale”. Then working with Doug at Hopsteiner, I dry hopped it with a new variety that they have Exp. #09326 which gives a really nice delicate nose. Finally, giving a nod to history of beer in the region I aged it on French oak. As recent as 60 years ago, these beers would have been delivered and poured from oak barrels so why not? The result is a truly rich and complex yet balanced Amber colored beer that rings in at 7.2% ABV. Once again, we worked with artist / illustrator, Sean McCann for the label art. (He is the one who did our mural outside the brewery). I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed sharing the story behind the recipe.

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Bolleke Plus:  7.2% ABV

Grain Bill: Pale, Biscuit, Aromatic and Caramel Malts

Hops: Bravo, Exp.#09326

IBU: 23.4

Appearance:  Dark Copper straw

Flavor:  Citrusy bitterness tempered by the malt, fruity nose, hints of French Oak

Santé!

Kevin

Mixed Fermentation

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From-Kevin
Framboise is our newest member to join the Spontaneous Series. These Lambic type beers sit in the oaken barrels for well beyond 12 months before they are opened up for a sample to evaluate their maturity. It is at that point that several decisions are made. First, has the beer developed not only acidity, but also has it developed the layers of depth that can only be achieved through a very, very long “mixed fermentation”.  A mixed fermentation is one in which a cocktail of different microbes are going to work and simultaneously breaking down the various food sources present in the liquid. Choices made here by the taster and blender will result in the destiny of the beer.
In Belgium, fruit (and I’m not talking about a slice of orange) has been used in beer production for hundreds of years. Especially with regard to the production of Lambic beers. Additionally, the fruit I find most frequently associated with Lambics is the Raspberry. “Framboise” in French for southern Belgium or “Frambozen” in the Dutch speaking north, raspberries have been found to be the perfect accompaniment to the acidic depth of a spontaneously fermented Belgian Lambic.
In our case, I felt that the blend lent itself very nicely to partnering up with a healthy dose of raspberries. It was at about the 14th month of fermentation when the raspberries were added. Of course, all those wacky non-traditional brewing microbes went nuts consuming the additional sugars present. The beer actually foamed out of the barrels at that point. I gave it a couple more months to ferment out all the remaining sugars. Next, we hand bottled the beer one by one with a little additional fermentable sugar and finished it with a cork and cage. The bottles then underwent an additional fermentation inside the bottle to develop its natural carbonation, which is exactly the same as the Champagne bottling process referred to as Champagne Méthode Classique.
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I can’t conclude the blog without referencing the overly sweetened yet most famous example of Framboise, that of Brouwerij Lindeman’s. A truly wonderful and historically important brewery itself, the Lindeman’s Framboise is not the example I was taking inspiration from. Perhaps more applicable examples in our case would be those made by Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, Oud Beersel or Timmerman’s.
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This Framboise is going to be dry but with very complex layers of depth from both the wild fermentation in the barrel as well as all the fruit. Its appearance is totally influenced by the raspberries. It pours a deep ruby red with a quickly dissipating head due to all the head retention elements being consumed along the way. You will get the fruit on the nose, but don’t over chill the bottle. The fruit comes out when the beer is a few notches above fridge temperature. We only bottled two barrels worth this year so grab it quickly. I can’t wait to share some fruity sour complexity with all of you!
Lambics are great with food as well, there are some ideas for you:
Fennel, Sun choke and Apple Salad. Tart, clean, and goes well with fruit lambics.
Mussels with beer sauce and of course fries. Anything goes with fries!
Eggs Benedict. Yes, this classic breakfast fix is surprisingly sour beer friendly.
Belgian Waffles. Why not! Top your waffles with some delicious fresh raspberries!
Santé!!!

Kevin

Join us, we are hiring!

150Boom

Description

Boom Island Brewing is a growing micro-brewery in Minneapolis crafting Belgian style beers since 2011.

We are currently looking for part-time Brand Ambassadors to join our growing company immediately.

As a Brand Ambassador, you will be working with the sales team to conduct in store tasting events.  Brand Ambassadors will be responsible for engaging customers, delivering key product messaging and encouraging the purchase of Boom Island Brewing’s line of Belgian style beers.

Key Responsibilities:

Enthusiastically represent Boom Island Brewing and our clients

Educate and inform shoppers about the Boom Island Brewing’s products

Engage shoppers and share key messages about Boom Island Brewing and clients

Enthusiastically work with store owners and managers to create a memorable experience for shoppers

Provide detailed feedback on shopper interactions and comments

Present a professional appearance and show up on time

Attend brand/product training

Set up & Breakdown the tasting set

Keep accurate inventory of tasting products for the brewery and stores

Qualifications:

Extremely outgoing, enthusiastic and energetic

Comfortable educating and sharing product with shoppers

Strong verbal communication skills

Dependable and reliable

Must be able to commit to event days

Independent and motivated whose past experience clearly demonstrates team player abilities

Available transportation to get to and from the site is required

Must have access to computer and cell phone

Must be able to lift 30 pounds

Able to work on weekends.

Compensation:

Hourly wage.

12-15 hours per month.

Benefits:

Beer

Apparel

Fun time

Working with a great group of people

Please send cover letter and resume to qwelch@boomislandbrewing.com

No calls please.

Playing It Safe No Longer an Option. We are Kicking Ass and Taking Names

From-Kevin

This is a series of beer which I have been wanting to do for quite some time. The series itself consists of four Belgian style beers which break free from tradition in one way or another, or maybe in more than one way. We collaborated with local artist / illustrator and creator of our amazing mural of a Belgian cityscape, Shawn McCann, for the label art. I feel that Shawn was very successful in bringing a taste of Belgium back to Minnesota for this series. All of these beers are brewed as a single batch, and for us that means 12 barrels or 372 gallons.

The original idea for the series started out as a metaphorical representation of some of my favorite regions of Northern Belgium through beer. After a visit last fall to the wonderful Mouterij Dingemans, an opportunity came my way to do a collaborative beer featuring their malt for the 2017 Craft Brewer’s Conference. The Dingemans facility produces the definitive Belgian malt, both base malts and specialty malts. It is located just a few miles north of the great port city of Antwerp. My wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit with Karl Dingeman and get an insider’s glimpse of the malt facility on our last trip to Belgium. Karl is the 5th generation of the family owned operation and what a terrific guy! Antwerp also happens to be where my wife and I were when the idea for Boom Island was first hatched. Hence the “Born in Belgium, Crafted in Minneapolis” line. Antwerp is a beautiful city with a very rich history of not only producing malt, but also brewing beer. Which brings us to Brouwerij De Koninck. In my opinion, the definition of a Belgian Pale is the Antwerp Pale Ale brewed by Brouwerij De Konink. De Koninck started its brewing operations all the way back in 1833. In Antwerp, a glass of De Koninck is referred to as a Bolleke. Bolleke is simply the goblet shaped glass in which this beer is served. To order this beer, one would say “een Bolleke, alstublieft” or “one glass, please”. The waiter will know exactly which beer to put into that one glass. Our Belgian Pale “Silvius” was inspired over a few “Bolleke” of De Koninck. So, creating a special beer for CBC 2017 and highlighting Mouterij Dingemans was an idea that came to me very naturally.

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Kevin with Karl Dingemans after tour of the maltery.

Take our Belgian Pale recipe and bump it up to what would basically be an Imperial Belgian Pale (if there was such a thing) and then rewind the clock back to 19th century Antwerp when all the beer was delivered and served from oak. Our “Bolleke Plus” was then oak aged for 10 weeks. Finally, it was bottle conditioned as all Boom Island beers are produced. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until April for that one as it will be released at the Craft Brewer’s Conference in Washington D.C. first and we will release it the following weekend at the brewery here.

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A glass of Bolleke with a shot of yeast that fermented the beer. The local favorite.

We wanted to release the series at the beginning of this year so we needed another beer to be first in the series. From there I traveled south of Antwerp just past the city of Boom (Yes, Boom is an actual place in Belgium) and then on west to the town of Melle for two beers that were to be inspiration for the first brew in the Breaking Boundaries series. Of course the two beers, Duvel and Delirium Tremens, reign from these two areas and are today both really define what a “Belgian Golden Strong” is.

Duvel started its journey as a brewery in 1871 and brewed up a batch of what was then called “Victory Ale” to celebrate the end of World War One. It later became Duvel which means “Devil” in the local dialect of Dutch. On our last Belgium trip back in the fall, we had the wonderful fortune of meeting the brainchild behind the “Pink Elephant” on a visit to Brouwerij Huyghe in the town of Melle which is just on the outskirts of Gent. Wonderful conversations and a very generous amount of time was spent with the Master Brewer following a private peek at the entire facility over a faucet of Delirium than will literally, never run dry!

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Kevin with the creator of Delirium Tremens 
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A nice glass of the famous beer at the brewery

With an intimate knowledge of these two beers, I put some thought into how to warp that classic style without disrespecting tradition. Not exactly possible to make an Imperial version. It is already sitting at 8.5% ABV. Oak it? I was already planning to do that with the other one. Then the thought came to me. These beers are nice and floral on the nose, then deceptively high in ABV. But, that aroma is coming from the yeast and perhaps a bit of spicing (in one example, at least). The hops however, are traditional in both examples. Mostly Saaz and Styrian Goldings. Great hops that really shape Belgian brewing tradition…But, what if I think from the other side of the planet and then to the southern hemisphere, grab some crazy cool floral and tropical fruity New Zealand hops. Dry-hop the heck out of it adding fruity hops to an already floral nose. I must tell you, the result is truly terrific. I can’t wait to share it with you! This one of course, is a nice straw blond with a nice bottle conditioned effervescence at 8.5% ABV.

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First two beers of the series. Art by Shawn MaCann.

These are the first two of four. I can share with you that the third installment will be an Imperial Wheat Wine fermented with Black Currant. Basically a Witbier jacked way up, then fermented with a really intense dark fruit. The fourth and final installment will be very strong and hoppy.

I am confident you will enjoy these four beers and thanks for the continued support!

Prost,

Kevin Welch

Keeping up the Belgian Tradition

From-Kevin

Kriek, barrel aged sour beer fermented with cherries. Krieks originated as a variation on another Belgian style of spontaneously fermented beer called Lambic. Lambic producers originated from the area just to the south and southwest of Brussels. It is believed that the region evolved such a tradition of initial open fermentation, then wild or mixed fermentation, in wooden barrels because of the abundance of natural yeast in the air from the many local fruit orchards. Today some breweries which are not in the Lambic region produce Kriek but use other wild or mixed fermentation processes such as a vatted Pale or an Oud Bruin.

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Belgium is fairly unique in the respect that using fruit to ferment alongside wort created from grain has been a tradition for hundreds of years. I like to think of it this way. Belgium is a wonderful little country wedged between Germany which is famous for beer, and France for its wine. (There is a reason why many great Belgian beers come corked and caged, just like Champagne.) The Belgians have taken the best inspiration from those around them and put it all together to bring us the most diverse tradition of brewing we know historically. Today of course, we know American craft beer to push all boundaries. But the Belgians have been doing this for hundreds of years!

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Kevin and Liefman’s brewer

On to the Boom Island Kriek. This beer pays respect to that Lambic tradition of making beer with cherries. Since we are not producing it in the Lambic region of Belgium however, you will not find the words Lambic (or Gueuze – which means blended Lambic) anywhere on our labels. These are registered terms just like Champagne. Our wort, just like Lambic, was produced by what is called a Turbid Mash. This means during the mash, liquid is drained off, boiled, then returned to the pot to gradually raise the temperature through multiple steps. Our wort is then boiled with old, brown oxidized hops. This is also standard in producing Lambic. The old hops have lost most of their aroma and bitterness potential, but still maintain their preservative qualities. This is important to fight back Lactobacillus. But doesn’t Lactobacillus cause sourness? Lactobacillus could cause some sourness, but Lambic brewers have found the acid it produces lacks the depth and complexity which is found in a barrel aged Lambic.

This brings up a little tangent. A relatively common practice these days here in the US craft beer scene is referred to as a “kettle sour”. This is a technique which does use that very microbe, Lactobacillus, to sour the wort over the course of 24-48 hours before it is boiled. Once the desired ph is achieved, the wort is then boiled to kill off all the bacteria. The remainder of the brew process is a “clean” fermentation and the finished beer can be achieved in a matter of weeks. This allows a brewer to quickly produce a couple of German style beers like Berliner Weisse and Gose. One can find many pleasant and tasty examples of this type of beer on the market.

The Belgian approach however is quite different.  As our process continues, we have incorporated a turbid mash and then boiled the wort with oxidized hops. The wort is then cooled and moved to a stainless conical fermenter where it begins fermentation. The top is left open so the now fermenting beer can interact with the ambient air. Next comes the important part. Toward the end of the primary fermentation, the beer is moved into oak wine barrels to rest for more than a year. These recently emptied barrels had been home to sour beer produced by the same method for up to 4 years. The porousness of the wood harbors the litany of microbes which slowly soured the beer in the barrel over the course of at least a year and usually more.

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Cherry Picking in South Minneapolis

Hand picked tart cherries are added to the barrel and after a year the fermentation kicks back into action. After a couple of months, the sugars from the cherries have all been consumed and the beer is ready to bottle. Fresh yeast and a small amount of fermentable sugar is then added to the flat beer at bottling time. The bottles are corked and caged (the Belgians learned this carbonation technique from the Champagne makers of long ago) and a final fermentation takes place in the sealed bottle creating natural carbonation. This is the short story of how our Kriek is produced

 

 

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Stats:

Kriek – 4.8% ABV

Appearance : Light-Red Rose.

Flavor : Slightly tart, nutty and acidic, with a light effervescence and dry cherry halo.

Proost!

Kevin