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

 

 

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.

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

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

The Art of Aging Bottles of Boom: Resist Temptation

From-Jim

Over the last several months I’ve heard a number of people admit that they don’t possess the will power to age their bottles of Boom Island beer for any length of time.  They just can’t resist the lure, and allure, of those beautiful 750ml bottles of ambrosia.  To make the task even more difficult, the taproom has bottles available of Yule 2014, Yule 2015, Triple Brett and Cuvée de Boom in corked and caged 750’s.  All of these beers are special, limited and not readily available anywhere else in town.

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© Heather Hanson Photography LLC

My sales pitch, which many of you have heard, goes something like: “Buy a couple bottles (of the Yule for example). Drink one when you get home and put the other in your cellar or basement and bust it out on Christmas Eve.  It continues to ferment in the bottle and gets more complex and delicious with each passing month.  Don’t feel compelled to share it with your family and friends when they show interest.”

Most chuckle and think it’s a good idea but some still can’t resist the temptation.  The bottles never make it to that special occasion.  Here is the idea of the day:  Buy a couple bottles.  When you get home force yourself to wrap them in any form of giftwrap you have on hand.  Next dig out your holiday decorations and bury the wrapped bottles in the bottom of a box and cover it with other boxes.  Out of sight, out of mind.

When the holiday boxes come out down the line, the bottles will emerge.  Drink them then stop by the taproom or your favorite store and buy some bottles of the Yule 2016.  After the holiday, put the bottles in the boxes and put them away for the year.  Put it out of your mind.  Next Christmas you have one-year-old bottles waiting for you, much to your surprise and delight.  Drink them up or use as a prepaid gift option.

Way to go.  You are now a pillar of self-control.

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© Heather Hanson Photography LLC