This Is More Than Beer To Me

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From Qiuxia

I always wanted a beer that represents where I am from. A beer that reminds me of home and great times with friends. I want to make that connection and I want to share my story with you. I had the opportunity to sit down with a good friend Frank from the Minnesota Skinny who is always interested in finding stories like this. Instead of writing another blog post, I think I will just share with you what he has written. As always, he does a great job capturing every little detail.  Cheers!

Making 明: The Story of Boom Island’s New Asian-Inspired Ale

Ask Boom Island Brewing Company co-owner Qiuxia Welch about beer back home and she’ll take you to the streets of Chengdu, a city of 14 million in the Sichuan Province of China. She’ll verbally serve you up some of that notorious Sichuan cuisine, known for deep flavors but also for the lip-numbing peppers. She’ll offer your imagination a fresh, light beer; a simple beer, but a rescue craft from the blazing delirium you’ve eaten yourself into.

Now, as the Minneapolis-based brewery cruises toward seven years in business, she and her husband – fellow co-owner and head brewer Kevin Welch – launched a beer that brings Qiuxia back to those Chengdu streets.

(Ming). It means “Clarity,” but it’s also how you say “Minnesota” in Chinese. The characters on the bottle’s label were drawn for them by a friend back in Chengdu – the original drafts were drawn up on rice paper with a horsehair feather pen and black ink.

“We talk about the connection with Belgian beer [here], but we also talk a lot about the culture here, being bilingual, multicultural, how we spoke Chinese here when we first came,” says Qiuxia. “To have a beer with a Chinese name, that means almost more than beer to me.”

Qiuxia lived in Chendgu from birth until she moved to the Twin Cities area in 1996 to pursue music studies at Augsburg College. She’s lived in the Cities more or less ever since; but, interestingly, she first met Kevin at a French horn symposium in Beijing (they’re both longtime horn players and have been involved in local orchestras, if you’ve ever wondered about the French horns in Boom Island’s branding).

“A bunch of weird geeky French horn players from all over the world get together for a week,” says Qiuxia. “All they think, drink, eat, whatever, is French horn. Lectures, conferences, exhibits. I thought, ‘Oh, I would never go to one of those things.’ I was never geeky like that … and Kevin had gone to every single one.”

That was the year 2000. By the end of 2001, Kevin and Qiuxia were married.

The Welches lived in China from 2005-2006, and it was during this time Kevin says an Asian-inspired beer was first imagined. His home-brewing adventure had begun long before that stay overseas, but his fascination with fermentation and yeast strains connected him with distillers in the rural countryside.

“None of [the operations were] commercial,” says Kevin. “It was all just, Grandma in the back room cooking it up on New Year’s Eve.”

He explained his home-brewing interests to locals and exchanged stories. He heard about yeast strains that have been passed down from generation to generation over hundreds of years, and the making of Baijiu. He made beer during his stay, too, something Qiuxia said made them popular in town.

“There are no home-brew shops in China, and you couldn’t just buy all those fancy things online, so it took a whole month to put together a home-brew thing that worked,” she recalls. “We didn’t have bottles and we couldn’t buy commercial, so we had a whole neighborhood saving bottles and cleaning for us. And we didn’t have caps – you buy them either 100,000 at once or nothing – so we taught everybody, whenever they drink beer, they had to open very carefully because we were re-using the caps.”

Twelve years on, things have gotten a bit more sophisticated.

The making of Ming involves the use of sticky rice, in addition to long-grain rice; Pilsner malt; bittering hops, and bitter orange peel; and Tahoma hops, added toward the end of the boiling process. An ale yeast is used, as neutral a yeast as Kevin could find.

At 4.2 percent alcohol, Ming is inviting indeed – should you, perhaps, lose count of drinks while you desperately fight the scorch of hot noodles. It’s light and clean, with just enough citrus and bitterness in the finish to let you write “citrus and bitterness in the finish” but not enough to overpower a steamed pork bun or a Shanghai pancake.

Qiuxia says half the brewery is represented in this beer’s making and branding, but she doesn’t mean only herself: her parents, “Hu Baba” and “Hu Mama”, traveled from Chengdu to help build the brewhouse while Boom Island was getting started.

“[Hu Baba] was my plasma-cutting extraordinaire,” says Kevin. “There was nothing more this guy loved than to get out there in his flip-flops, plasma-cutting eighth-inch stainless [steel]. This big jagged edge would come down; he’d shimmy out of the way, and light a smoke off the ember that was still red-hot on the edge of the sheet metal.”

“There were some wonderful tears and sweat, everything,” says Qiuxia. “It was really the best time we had, even though it was the most difficult.”

Hu Baba and Hu Mama never saw the finished brewery, and won’t likely – Qiuxia says they avoid flying now – but the Welches visit at least twice a year and of course they bring samples. Kevin says Hu Baba will hold up bottles and say, “This is my company!”

To which he’ll respond: “You’re right. You built that thing. That is your company.”

Ming was welcome in the taproom last Friday with a weekend party that featured Mahjong lessons, a table tennis tournament, and a lion dance. It debuted off-site Tuesday at Tea House in Minneapolis. More information can be found on Boom Island Brewing Company’s website or their Facebook page.

Beery Pairing: Yule & Pecan Pie

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Despite the odd well-intentioned fruitcake, fruit and nuts are a winning combination during the holidays. A new twist on this combo can be achieved from the fruit essences of the Yule and the nuts nestled in a warm pecan pie. The nuttiness of the pecans will already be accentuated by sugar in the pie, but the cherry tones from the Yule will offer a balancing sweetness with subtle tartness against the nuts. This year, serve a small glass of Yule to go with your dessert; your guests will be impressed!

The Great MN Get Together Day #10

We have the guide to get you going on the best food pairings at this year’s Minnesota State Fair! Every day we will share a new fair food pairing to go along with each of our beers available on tap. So grab some great local beer and great food to finish out the summer right!

FRENCH FRIES & WITNESS

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French fries may seem like a mild food choice at a fair where exotic and fried dishes reign, but you have to admit, you can never go wrong with the “World’s Greatest!” Pair this crowd pleaser with Witness Witbier, whether you’re at the Minnesota State Fair or grilling up some goodness at home with friends!

Grab a Witness, on tap at Giggles’ Campfire Grill, and more at the Craft Beer Hall, housed in the Agriculture/Horticulture Building to start your journey. Remember to share your own Boom Island Beer and food finds with “#WitnessTheFair” to win free beer and prizes!

****We want to know: What ‪#‎MNStateFair‬ food are you pairing with the ‪#‎BoomIslandBeer‬ on tap? Share your selections using the hashtag “#WitnessTheFair ” August 27 – Septmebr 7 to win FREE BEER & PRIZES! Winner(s) announced September 8!

Stay tuned for more pairings — new ones each day of the MN State Fair!

The Great MN Get Together Day #9

We have the guide to get you going on the best food pairings at this year’s Minnesota State Fair! Every day we will share a new fair food pairing to go along with each of our beers available on tap. So grab some great local beer and great food to finish out the summer right!

CARAMEL SUNDAE & HOODOO

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Rich and complex dark malt flavors of our Hoodoo Dubbel harmonize with anything caramel. Pair this light roasted aroma with sweet flavor with a caramel sundae from the Dairy Building. This is one sweet treat you can’t leave the fair without!

Grab your Hoodoo at your favorite liquor store if you can’t find it at the #10kBeer Craft Beer Hall at the State Fair. Don’t know which liquor store carries our beer? Find it here: http://boomislandbrewing.com/find-beer

****We want to know: What ‪#‎MNStateFair‬ food are you pairing with the ‪#‎BoomIslandBeer‬ on tap? Share your selections using the hashtag “#WitnessTheFair ” August 27 – Septmebr 7 to win FREE BEER & PRIZES! Winner(s) announced September 8!

Grab a Witness, on tap at Giggles’ Campfire Grill, and more at the Craft Beer Hall, housed in the Agriculture/Horticulture Building to start your journey. Remember to share your own Boom Island Beer and food finds with “#WitnessTheFair” to win free beer and prizes!

Stay tuned for more pairings — new ones each day of the MN State Fair!

The Great MN Get Together Day #8

We have the guide to get you going on the best food pairings at this year’s Minnesota State Fair! Every day we will share a new fair food pairing to go along with each of our beers available on tap. So grab some great local beer and great food to finish out the summer right!

PRONTO PUPS & WITNESS

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Who can resist a hot dog, layered in a crisp and fluffy pancake-batter bun? With ketchup, mustard, or both, you can’t go wrong. Pair this pup with the floral and citrus flavor of Witness, witbier. The perfect summer snack, at the State Fair or a day up at the cabin.

Find your refreshing glass of Witness at the back right bar at Giggles’ Campfire Grill at the Minnesota State Fair, or from your favorite liquor store. Find Boom Island in a liquor store near you by visiting: http://boomislandbrewing.com/find-beer

We want to know: What ‪#‎MNStateFair‬ food are you pairing with the ‪#‎BoomIslandBeer‬ on tap? Share your selections using the hashtag “#WitnessTheFair ” August 27 – Septmebr 7 to win FREE BEER & PRIZES! Winner(s) announced September 8!

Stay tuned for more pairings — new ones each day of the MN State Fair!

The Great MN Get Together Day #7

We have the guide to get you going on the best food pairings at this year’s Minnesota State Fair! Every day we will share a new fair food pairing to go along with each of our beers available on tap. So grab some great local beer and great food to finish out the summer right!

BLUE CHEESE AND CORN FRITZ & SAISON

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Grab some deep fried blue cheese and corn fritters from the Blue Barn and a Saison and you’re in for a wave of amazing flavor. Its’ crispy rich flavor pairs smoothly with our cool Belgian-style farmhouse saison. Hints of orange peel melt with the warm deliciousness of this savory bite-sized dish.

Grab your Saison at the #10KBeer Hall in the Agriculture/Horticulture building at the Minnesota State Fair, or from your favorite liquor store and pair with your home-made cheese fritter creations! Find Boom Island in a liquor store near you by visiting: http://boomislandbrewing.com/find-beer

We want to know: What ‪#‎MNStateFair‬ food are you pairing with the ‪#‎BoomIslandBeer‬ on tap? Share your selections using the hashtag “#WitnessTheFair ” August 27 – Septmebr 7 to win FREE BEER & PRIZES! Winner(s) announced September 8!

Stay tuned for more pairings — new ones each day of the MN State Fair!

The Great MN Get Together Day #6

We have the guide to get you going on the best food pairings at this year’s Minnesota State Fair! Every day we will share a new fair food pairing to go along with each of our beers available on tap. So grab some great local beer and great food to finish out the summer right!

CHEESE PIZZA & WITNESS

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Cheese pizza — it’s hard to go wrong with this all-American classic. If you’re looking for something simply divine, pair your Witness with your favorite slice at the fair, or split a four pack at home with friends!

We want to know: What ‪#‎MNStateFair‬ food are you pairing with the ‪#‎BoomIslandBeer‬ on tap? Share your selections using the hashtag “#WitnessTheFair ” August 27 – Septmebr 7 to win FREE BEER & PRIZES! Winner(s) announced September 8!

Grab Boom Island Beer at your favorite liquor store or find it closest to you: http://boomislandbrewing.com/find-beer

Stay tuned for more pairings — new ones each day of the MN State Fair!