It’s Only Wit But We Love It! Brouwerij Maenhout Collaboration

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From Qiuxia

What does “collaboration” mean in the fast-paced, and ever changing craft brewing world? There are plenty of one-and-done collaborative beers out there. They appear fast and disappear even faster.

Boom Island Brewing is no stranger to the collaboration beer scene. Last fall, we released our first collaborative beer, Kollusion, a Russian Imperial Stout,  with a small family brewery in Pittem, Belgium, Brouwerij Maenhout.

 

Kollusion
Our first collaborative beer finally met! The best part was the side-by-side tasting.The beer was an instant success on both sides of the pond. Thijs sold his batches within days, and we had to carefully guard our bottles and kegs so it lasted a little longer.

 

I always thought real collaboration should have a lasting impact, and it should come from something deeper than a quick flash-in-the-pan event. This is why I am moved by the friendship and creativity of Kevin and Thijs.

The inspiration of Lemon Drop Wit comes from a memorable trip and an evening of fun in the small town of Pittem, Belgium. Last April, we traveled with a group of beer lovers for our Belgian beer tour. Before the trip, Kevin and Thijs was already talking about another collaboration. They both felt that even though the first collaborative beer was great, they would have benefited more from brewing together. Since we were going to Belgium, Kevin decided to skip a day of the tour (he actually skipped Zythos Beer Festival!)  and go brew with Thijs. But what beer should they make together? How about Witbier? A beer style almost expired and later resurrected by Pierre Celis who created Hoegaarden.

The interesting story is, Witbier was the first beer we released in Minneapolis and Thijs in Belgium has never made a Witbier! To make it more “American”, Kevin decided to dry hop it with a hop variety that is not available in Belgium, Lemon Drop. Here is where the story gets juicy. Since we ran out of time to ship the hops to Thijs for the brew, the only choice we had was to bring the 11 pounds of hops in our suitcases. Luckily, we had a group of adventurous and willing tour folks, all the hops arrived safely (hopefully, no border control people are reading this).

Skip ahead to their production day, we go to the party later that night.  Kevin was invited to a special fundraising rock concert “Pure Rock” in the township, benefiting a local non-profit group for people with disabilities. Interestly enough it was organized by Thijs’ brother, Ward. The entire town was there and Kevin was welcomed by everyone (who said Belgians are boring and shy). We get so much done when we are having fun! By the end of the night, the name of beer, the label concept and taglines were all in place. We have a new collaborative beer!

Next day, when the tour group arrive at Brouwerij Maenhout, we were greeted by two good friends who have shared some amazing experiences together and the result is our second collaborative beer, Lemon Drop Wit – It’s only wit, but we love it!

Come celebrate the release Lemon Drop Wit, Friday, October 26 at 4pm.

The Beer:

 

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Lemon Drop Wit, It’s Only Wit But We Love It!

 

The Lemon Drop Wit has a slightly peppery taste from the spelt, along with a velvety and hazy mouthfeel from the yeast.  It’s pale and cloudy and enriched with coriander and lemon zest. Lemon Drop Wit weighs in at 5.5% ABV, a modest 16 IBU, and is amazingly delicious.

 

Belgian Pale Ale, what might be one of the most under-recognized of the Belgian styles.

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From Qiuxia

Silvius Brabo was a mythical Roman soldier who killed a giant in Antwerp, Belgium.  The story goes like this: once upon a time there was a giant named Droun Antigoon, who asked for money from people to cross the only bridge over the river Scheldt. If they couldn’t pay, he would cut off their hand and throw it in the river. Silvius bravely fought the monster, cut off the giant’s hand and threw in the river.  Everyone lived happily ever after. Today, you can see his statue in front of the Antwerp City Hall in the main square.

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The statue of Silvius Brabo in Antwerp

But what does that have to do with our Belgian Pale Ale? Before I answer that question, let’s first talk about Belgian Pale Ale, what might be one of the most under-recognized of the Belgian styles.

Pale Ales were brewed as early as the mid-1700s. But it took the popularity of German “light beers” to put Belgian Pale Ale on the map. In the 1800s light, clear and low alcohol German Lagers were extremely popular. Many European brewers rushed to try to imitate the new light beer style. The Belgian brewers had to come up with their own version of the new trend.  They drew inspirations from British ales, used pale malts and Noble hops, but the yeast stayed truly Belgian. The “everyday” beer became more popular after World War II as a refreshing, malty and lightly hopped session beer.

Belgian Pale Ale (BPA) is a significant departure from its abbey beer cousins and is much less driven by esters, phenols, and alcohols. Instead, BPA relies more on the malt to carry the flavor. What really makes this beer is not just malt, but also the fruit esters.  When properly balanced, this beer should be a showcase of bread, toast, biscuit, and caramel. It is (ironically) not pale, but rather, a nice, rich amber, with some examples settling solidly into the red range. It can also be more bitter than most other Belgian styles, though even a “bitter” Belgian beer isn’t going to come across that way.

A true example of Belgian Pale Ale is the city beer of Antwerp, De Koninck APA (Antwerp Pale Ale), that is also the inspiration of Silvius, our version of Belgian Pale Ale.  Years ago, when having a brewery was just a wild dream of ours, Kevin and I took a trip to Belgium. On a very sunny afternoon, we stumbled upon the city festival in the center of the town in Antwerp. There was music, food, happy crowds and plenty of De Koninck, the refreshing, malty, lightly bitter Belgian Pale Ale. It seemed like the best beer in the world at that moment. Kevin declared that when he opens his brewery, the first beer shall be a Belgian Pale Ale!  But we needed a name for the beer, and as we were trying to come up with some smart, sexy names for this beer, we took a selfie in front of the iconic statue of Silvius Brabo, the local legend hero. Then Silvius Belgian Pale Ale was born.

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The City beer of Antwerp

A note on the malt itself:  without the malt of the Dingemans Family Maltery in Stabroek, Belgium, Silvius would not exist.  The Dingemans family, now in its 5th generation, started malting grain in 1875. Since then, Dingemans has shaped the flavor of beer in Antwerp, as well as all of Belgium.  We are proud to know them personally and even more to proud to use Karl’s malts exclusively for all of our beer, including our beloved Silvius.

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Owner of Dingemans and Kevin Welch

We are so happy to bring it back to the taproom. Enjoy while you can, this original Boom Island inspiration.

Cheers!

Boom Days 2018 – The Beer

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From Qiuxia

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

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!

Don Oishi Kitchen Japanese Street Food

Don Oishi

The Skruffians with live instrumental Ska and Reggae

Skruffians

Free Photo Booth with Heather Hanson Weddings Photography

Heather Hason

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.

Pints & Purrs Fundraiser for Feline Rescue

 

BoomGivesBackLogoSmallHorizPints and Purrs 2018

We are joining forces with Feline Rescue host the 3rd Annual Pints & Purrs Fundraiser. On Saturday, June 23, we pair unique Belgian-inspired craft beers with lots of cat-themed fun. Join us for a purring good time!

At Pints & Purrs, you’ll not only have the privilege of snuggling with Feline Rescue’s finest kittens, you’ll also meet a wide range of characters who love Belgian-style beer. A portion of the day’s Boom Room sales will benefit Feline Rescue.

Don’t miss out on Kitten Therapy – the most popular part of the day! Kitten Therapy is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to cuddle and play with some of our adorable, adoptable Feline Rescue foster kittens! For an opportunity to reserve an 8-minute therapy session, visit https://felinerescue.org/kittentherapy. Or you may wait until June 23 and enter for a chance to win 5 minutes with our kittens – winners will be drawn and announced only as spots become available. It’s best to hurry to try to secure a reservation!

Schedule of Events:

1-3 p.m. FACE PAINTING BY KAREN AND RED CARPET PHOTO OPS

1-5 p.m. KITTY KRAFTS AND ACTIVITIES
Make kitty krafts and cat toys to donate to Feline Rescue cats or take home to your own kitty. Participate in cat-themed coloring, games, activities, and fun for all ages!

1-8 p.m. KITTEN VIDEO FASHION SHOW
Watch Feline Rescue kittens strut their stuff and vote with your dollars to select our new 2019 Spokes Kitten!

SEE PAST KITTEN VIDEO FASHION SHOWS
2017
2016

1-8 p.m. GASTROTRUCK FOOD TRUCK
Enjoy modern Midwestern cuisine that emphasizes seasonal, sustainable ingredients. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options are available.

2-5 p.m. KITTEN THERAPY
Visit https://felinerescue.org/kittentherapy for information about how to get your cuddle on with Feline Rescue’s foster kittens.

3-7 p.m. BOOM BEER PULL
You can’t lose! $20 gives you the opportunity to pull a 750ml Boom Island bottle of signature brew! If you’d like to donate a bottle (or case) please contact events@felinerescue.org.

3-7 p.m. DOOR PRIZE DRAWINGS
Prizes include Sojo’s gift box, gift cards, and kitty swag! Must be present to win.

About Boom Island Brewing Company

Following the Belgian tradition, all Boom Island beers are naturally carbonated and bottle conditioned. Live yeast is added just before the beer is bottled, resulting in a fresher tasting beer with flavors that continue to evolve over time. While you’re enjoying a beer, watch the Boom Island brew masters in the tap room as they use strains of Belgian yeast to produce the elusive qualities found only in beer from the breweries of their origin.

Contact info@events.felinerescue.org for more information.

Farm to Brewery: Literally.

qiuxiaHeadshot“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.

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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.

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Saison,  Farmhouse Ale

Saison – 6% ABV

Appearance – Light copper in color with a fluffy white head

Aroma – Soft and subtle citrus.

Flavor – Smooth mouth feel, light spice bitterness with its trademark dry and delicate finish.

Eat local, drink local!

Cheers!

 

Conversation with Thijs Maenhout

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Qiuxia Welch, Co-founder Boom Island Brewing

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.”

Try another. There are over 1,600 different beers in Belgium. Trust me, you’ll find one you like.

Thank you so much for taking time to talk about this collaboration. Do you have plans for another one?

Yes! I am looking forward to brewing another beer with Boom Island when you Kevin come to Belgium in April with your tour group.

 

More readings on Belgian beer history and Belgian beers:

The Great Beers of Belgium – Michael Jackson

CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide to Belgium – Tim Webb, Joe Stange

The Belgian Beer Book – Erick Verdonck