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!

 

The Kollusion Kollaboration

From-Kevin“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.

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Boom Island Belgium Beer Tour 2017.
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Thijs Maenhout, Brouwerij Maenhout

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.

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Kevin and Thijs in Brouwerij Maenhout, Pittem Belgium

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

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.

Kollusion line
Kollusion, Russian Imperial Stout
Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. —Oliver Wendell Holmes

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

Boom Days: Meet the Bands (6)

eleganza (2)

 Eleganza!

Performing: Saturday,  July 16 at 8PM

Headlining this year’s Boom Days on Saturday , July 16th is local rockers Eleganza!. Eleganza! was formed by Brian Vanderwerf, guitarist/vocalist for the Estrus Records band The Midnight Evils and the celebrated Chooglin’ (Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess Records).

 

Eleganza! is a 3-guitar ROCK AND ROLL attack featuring Vanderwerf and Chooglin’ bandmate, Jeff Johnson, and ex-Ol’ Yeller’s Greg McAloon. Also on board is the legendary Tony Zaccardi of Romantica & Kruddler on bass, and his longtime partner in crime Tim Baumgart (Wizards Are Real/Big Ditch Road/Kruddler) on drums and August Varwig on harmonica.

The band played the First Avenue BEST NEW BANDS of 2012, and have opened for The ALABAMA SHAKES, CHARLES BRADLEY, BOB LOG III, LEE BAINS III & THE GLORY FIRES, LEFT LANE CRUISER, BUFFALO KILLERS, MEAT PUPPETS, BOBBY BARE Jr. and more!

The band recorded their first record at Secret Stash Studios in Minneapolis. Look for a release date in the fall of 2016.

We urge you to “Like” them immediately: https://www.facebook.com/eleganzaband/

Twitter  https://twitter.com/Eleganza_band

Boom Days: Meet the Bands (5)

phantom tails photo (2)

Phantom Tails

Performing: Saturday, July 16 at 6:30PM

Phantom Tails formed in early 2009. In fact, the band never really formed so much as it emerged as part of a natural progression. All four members had been playing together for some time in other bands before indulging to embark on a more electronic, gritty, and concise musical path. Wielding distorted analog synthesizers, fuzz bass,and angular guitar while brandishing electronic drum beats sampled from vintage 808 machines, traditional sumatran folk music, and sonar whale recordings, they have executed this transition. How can this be categorized? Deep Space Doom Funk, of course.

Music- https://soundcloud.com/phantom-tails

Videos- https://www.youtube.com/user/phantomtailstv

EPK- http://phantomtails.bandcamp.com/

Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Phantom-Tails/102218143151972

Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/phantom_tails

Boom Days: Meet the Bands (4)

Crossing guards

Crossing Guards featuring Martin Devaney

Performing: Saturday, July 16 at 3PM

 

Crossing Guards began as a recording project in 2007 between songwriter/frontman Martin Devaney and bassist and sometimes drummer Sean Hoffman. In the years since they’ve played on and off in clubs and headlined festivals such as the Pizza Luce Block Party and the summer Beer Dabbler. In 2009, they released their full length album, Revenge of the Tall Boys. After a recent hiatus, the band is back at it with new shows and new tunes to come. The Current lineup includes Devaney, Hoffman, Eric Kassel. Steve McPherson, and Ryan Otte.

 

Play List: https://martindevaney.bandcamp.com/music

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/martindevaneymusic/