Boom Island Brewing Company and tap room is located just north of downtown Minneapolis. Inspired by several trips to Belgium, Boom Island opened its doors in 2011 and has been serving up fresh, locally made, unfiltered and 100% bottle-conditioned Belgian style beer ever since. Never stop exploring.
Many of you know and love Boom Days. We pull all the stops to celebrate summer and beer. What makes Boom Days special is the beer, the very special beer: Cuveé de Boom. This year we sweeten the deal and will be releasing our Petite Rosé as well! Both will be available to take home in bottle form, with a limited amount each day of the event.
So what’s special about the beer? Cuvée de Boom is unhopped and oak aged. Cuvée consists of 45% Pinot Grigio grapes and 55% Belgian style blond ale. Specifically created for our annual Boom Days Festival, this blend awakens a nuanced palate for even the most sophisticated beer aficionado. Some people call it Wine Beer, we call it delicious!
We will be releasing the two beers on Friday July 13. At 4pm, we will tap Petite Rosé and at 6pm Cuveé de Boom will be released. Both beers will be on tap and in bottles.
Cuvée de Boom – 12.5%ABV Release at
Appearance – Fluffy white head, which quickly dissipates into a light champagne-like effervescent beverage.
Aroma – Light malt that interplays with white plum & grape aroma.
Flavor – Smooth mouth feel from the wine morphs into a collage of champagne with a hint of plum and lingers into an assertively dry finish.
Petite Rosé is similar to the Summer time version of the Cuvée, except with roughly half of the ABV, hence the “Petite” of its name. This beautiful beer is unhopped and consists of a hybrid of Belgian blond ale, Pinot Grigio and a dose of Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep ruby in color, the beer is fermented with a Champagne yeast strain. Imagine yourseld in the the Mediterranean sun when you have a glass in hand.
Petite Rosé – 6% ABV
Appearance – Shimmering, fluffy white head, deep ruby in color.
Aroma – Red grape and plum, light malt intermingles.
Flavor – A hybrid of Belgian blond ale and a tantalizing sparkling Rosé.
It would not be a beer release party with activites. Here is what we have planned for you. Do Bike to Boom, you will get $1 off on your first beer if you do!
For our 5th annual Boom Days summer celebration, we will be pulling out all the stops, and more than a few corks. It all begins on Friday evening with the much-anticipated release of Cuvée de Boomand Petite Rosé.
Cuvée de Boom is unhopped beer that consists of a blend of Belgian blond ale and Chardonnay. Petite Rosé is a delicious hybrid of Belgian strong ale and a tantalizing French Mediterranean Rosé. Both will be available on tap and in bottles during Boom Days while supplies last.
Visitors can also enjoy local bands and food trucks, take a yoga class, get their bicycles tuned up by Velofix Mobile Bike Repair or Tangletown Bikes, tour the Mississippi on an electric bike, enter a homebrew competition, learn about Belgian-inspired brewing.
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.
明 (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.
“Farm to table” to most of us means the relationship between farmers and food we consume at home or in restaurants. People want to know where their food comes from and the faces behind their food. They want it to be local and personal. For those of us working in breweries, “farm to table” has a new meaning. It means, “farms to bottles”, “farm to pints”, “farm to brewery”. In fact that relationship has been cultivated for centuries. In Europe, farmhouse breweries have deep roots in Belgium and France. Farmers use whatever grains and ingredients they have on hand to make beer. “Eating Local” is gaining in popularity in this age of processed everything, but back in the day it was the only way. Most of the beer they made was consumed within the household and shared with family and friends in the village. During harvest time, they would make large batches of beer using grains, including malts and wheat, spices like coriander, along with yeast and water that were all sourced from the farms. The migrant farm workers were the beneficiaries of the beer which was simply called ”farmhouse” beer. Today, this special style of beer is popular. The guideline is wide and flavors and ingredients are diverse.
True farmhouse breweries are becoming increasingly rare. Most breweries have moved on to using modern equipment and commercially sourced ingredients to meet their demands. But the relationship between farm and brewery is extremely close. At Boom Island Brewing we cultivate that relationship with Chad Douglass and his family at Douglass Farm in Mora, MN.
For the past two years, Chad has picked up all of our spent grain to provide a nutrient rich food source for his animals. The grain is saved from the landfills on our end, and Chad says his animal’s ears perk up when they hear the truck pull in with the grain. The cows run beside his truck to get into the proper position for feeding time. Happy cows, happy everyone!
Chad and his wife Brenda and son Cooper have worked their 80-acre farm for two years. They grow and bail their own hay, as well as some neighboring farms and end up bailing 250 acres each year. A friend told him about the benefits of using spent grain, so he decided it was worth the hour trip from Mora. The grain is high in protein, contains good starch and helps the cows maintain a grass-fed diet. In the heat of the summer some of the grain is used as compost for their garden. They have a list of animals to feed, including Belted Galloway cows, dogs and exotic short hair cats, Brahma chickens, Serama chickens, ducks and geese. We look forward to Chad’s weekly visits. Many times he comes with chicken eggs, rabbit and beef fresh from the farm and we bond our friendship with a couple of pints.
Farm-to-brewery-to-farm-to-table. This is truly local, environmental and sustainable.
Every spring, we release our version of Farmhouse ale, called Saison (meaning “Season” in French). Each year our Saison would be unique, incorporating orange peel, barley, oats, wheat and perhaps a touch of rye. However, just calling it “Farmhouse” isn’t enough this year: we are bringing the farm to our north Minneapolis brewery. Boom Island parking lot will host baby Rex rabbits, miniature Serama chickens, a Galloway calf or two and some new hatchling baby ducks. Maybe even a pony or two, and possibly a goat. Chad Douglass will be on hand to answer questions and sell a few of his wares. Dog treats using spent grain will be made available for dog owners and their pets.
Come during the day to pet the animals and stay for live Jazz at 7pm. The MN Hard Bop Collective will be playing music of Bobby Watson.
On February 23, we released our first collaboration beer created in partnership with a small Belgian brewery, Brouwerij Maenhout. The beer, Kollusion, is a Russian Imperial Stout. It’s not a style commonly associated with Belgium, and neither Brouwerij Maenhout or Boom Island has released one before. I checked in with Thijs Maenhout to get his thoughts on the experience.
What inspired this collaboration?
It was a fun experiment! Kollusion has been very well received in Belgium, in fact it sold out in three days! I have never made a stout before, and I was excited to try something new. Here in Belgium traditions are strong. People like to drink what they are familiar with over and over. But as a brewer, I like to try new things and experiment with new styles. It can be boring if you just make same beer every day. I’d like to brew more collaborations with Boom Island. I think we could learn more if we were to brew side by side.
What is your favorite Russian Imperial Stout?
Mmm…honestly, I have never had one before! This beer was a pure experiment and I had a lot fun making it.
What are your thoughts about the craft beer industry in America today?
I am very interested in learning more about the U.S. craft beer industry. I’m a member of the Brewers Association and I’m active on many online craft beer forums. Belgium and the U.S. are very different. Here in Belgium, people stick to traditions. It takes a long time for brewers to come out with new beers, because our consumers like to drink the same beer that they have been drinking for years. It is changing, but slowly. There are more hoppy beers now in Belgium, and brewers are experimenting more with other styles. I like what is happening in the U.S. The market is very diverse. Brewers and consumers aren’t afraid to try new things, and they’re not afraid to think outside the box. Sometimes these new beers work, sometimes they don’t. People just move on and keep trying new things. I like that. I like that spirit. That is why I want to collaborate with Kevin and learn from him.
This collaboration is a story of what’s possible when two breweries from different countries learn from each other. What would you like people in the U.S. to know about Belgian beers?
Two things. Tradition and balance. We have a long history of making beer, so there is a lot of knowledge that comes from brewing Trappist beers to lambic and gueuze beers. These traditions have been passed down for hundreds of years. Belgians are good at brewing! Another thing is balance. We always try to make balanced beer. It is never too bitter, or too sweet. We believe that is essential for making good beer.
What do you say to people who say “I don’t like Belgian beer.”
“Why would two different brewers stick their mash paddles into the same pot?”
This was a question posed to me by a Dutch brewer in a small enclave of Belgian territory about 5 years ago. That has been my thinking ever since regarding collaborations. They almost always come across as a marketing gimmick, despite the positive reaction from the public.
My mind was changed however, on our last trip to Belgium as I had the opportunity to visit one of my closest brewing buddies in Belgium, Thijs Maenhout of Brouwerij Maenhout. Thijs’ brewery is similarly sized to that of Boom Island. 12-15 BBL batches, unfiltered and bottle conditioned as is consistent with Belgian tradition. Thijs’ brewery is unique in that it qualifies as a genuine “Huisbrouwerij” under Belgian law meaning that his family’s place of residence is under the same roof as the brewery itself. The thing I most respect about Thijs though, is a quality I strive to execute here at Boom Island. That is nailing down the classics of the Belgian tradition of brewing first, then stepping beyond that realm to show one’s true understanding of the broader brewing culture.
On that last trip to Belgium, I was lucky enough to meet up with Thijs over a few brews as he casually tossed out, “Why don’t we do a collaborative brew of some sort?” Having never approached the topic before and without hesitation, I responded, “Absolutely!”. So what follows is how it all went down.
He chose the style, Russian Imperial Stout. I added the idea of using a bit of Chocolate to represent Belgium and a bit of Coffee (supplied by North Loop Dunn Bros.) to represent Minneapolis’ vibrant coffee scene. Both ingredients to be kept subtle and balanced as should be in true Belgian fashion. From there, Thijs developed a recipe and sent us the samples via a friend who happens to work here in Minneapolis a couple of weeks each year and also happens to be his logo designer. The entire Boom Island team agreed that test batch was outstanding! No changes necessary.
Then came the biggest challenge, naming the beer. Let’s see: Russian Imperial Stout, behind closed doors, Belgian brewer meets with American brewer. No paper trail, no missing emails, no dossier, and until now no one has had to recuse themselves. The name “Kollusion” surfaced, seemed perfect and was agreed upon
Kollusion – Russian Imperial Stout, 11% ABV
Boom Island Kollusion
Brouwerij Maenhout Kollusion
Appearance –Thick and inky as a blackout velvet curtain, with a deep espresso head
Aroma – Roasted malt, with hints of chocolate and coffee lurking in the shadows
Flavor – Bold but light on the palate, with notes of dark malt, coffee and chocolate in equal measure. Flavors emerge as the beer warms in the glass.
Kollusion is bold, beautiful and a little mysterious. It is a delicious departure for us, and we are excited about it. See for yourself on Friday, February 23 at 4pm. Another collaboration beer with Thijs is a distinct possibility that will be discussed in late April when we visit the Brouwerij Maenhout with our Boom Island tour group. On the 23rd we will have bottles for sale and will be pouring it as fast as we can get it into a glass.
Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. —Oliver Wendell Holmes
This 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.
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!
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.
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.
Bolleke Plus: 7.2% ABV
Grain Bill: Pale, Biscuit, Aromatic and Caramel Malts
Hops: Bravo, Exp.#09326
Appearance: Dark Copper straw
Flavor: Citrusy bitterness tempered by the malt, fruity nose, hints of French Oak