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

The Arrival of Triple Brett

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Our newest beer, Triple Brett, is soon to make its official debut next month on Friday, May 13 during Minnesota Beer Week! As a beer that has been in the works over the past year and one that is an American Wild Ale produced in Minnesota, it’s an exciting time for the brewery to introduce Triple Brett to the world.

Probably the most unique characteristic of Triple Brett, as evident by its name, is that it was fermented with 3 different strains of Brettanomyces yeast. How does one go about selecting 3 different Brett strains for a beer? Very carefully, and as head brewer Kevin Welch stated, these strains were chosen for their specific aromatic properties. Triple Brett was then aged for 10 weeks in French oak red wine barrels after its first fermentation. The patience was worth it, and Triple Brett showcases a significant fruity aroma with hints of pear and pineapple against additional floral notes. With a fuller body that provides prominent fruit maltiness, Triple Brett ultimately ends in a dry finish.

Brett barrel

So why Brettanomyces? Historically, the brett yeast strain has often been an unwelcome guest in breweries and wineries as it can adversely affect fermentation, resulting in downright repulsive flavors and aromas and ruining entire batches of beer or wine. It would seem contradictory to intentionally introduce such a repugnant yeast strain to a beer, but when done correctly, the results can be extremely pleasing and complex, both in flavor and aroma. Take, for example, the Trappist abbey of Orval. When it comes time to bottle the beer, Orval adds in a strain of brett to aid in the refermentation that takes place in the bottle. Not only does this practice yield an impressive beer, but it’s a beer that continues to develop. Thanks to the additive of the brett strain, the Orval beer will mature in flavor over time. Many beer experts enjoy the experience of tasting a fresh Orval beer alongside one that has been aged as the difference is noticeably significant.

Triple Brett can be treated the same way; it’s advised that you get one bottle for now and another to save for later… much later. “This [the process of creating Triple Brett] is taking elements that exist in certain Belgian techniques traditions and forging a completely new direction,” says Kevin. “This beer will change over time; Brett will continue to mature in its flavor contribution for very long periods of time.”

The official release for Triple Brett will take place at the Boom Island Brewing taproom at 6pm on Friday, May 13. Bottles of Triple Brett will be available for purchase during the release, and perhaps plan on grabbing 2: one for the fridge and one for the cellar.

From the Brewer: 2015 Yule

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It is about tradition… not style.

Christmas beer is a long standing tradition among breweries large and small in that wonderfully quirky little country. A tradition that is, rather than a style, in a country where beer is taken as seriously as its fine cuisine.

In the town of Essen near Antwerp in the North, there is even a special beer festival held annually specifically to showcase the beers brewed for the holiday season. In 2014, over 190 holiday beers were represented at that festival. As I mentioned before, this type of beer is a tradition rather than a style. Some are dark, some are blond. ABV can range from 7% to well above 10%. One interesting side fact…the famous Trappist brewery Chimay once brewed a Christmas beer. After its initial release, it was in such demand that the monastery decided to make it available year round so they gave it a new name so today we know it as Grand Reserve (the one with the Blue Label).

Although the tradition of the holiday brew does not dictate any necessary recipe guidelines, there are some general tendencies. The majority tend to be higher in alcohol. They tend to be darker. Many have holiday type spices and some have fruit.

In effort to showcase the tradition, our Yule has many of these qualities. It is rich and dark. I have always used holiday spices, but very lightly so. To acknowledge the fact that there is a wide spectrum of interpretation in recipe formulation, I have changed the fruit from year to year. Our first Yule was in 2012 and was made with tart cherries. In 2013 I used Italian plums and 2014 was fermented with black current which gave a nicely tart edge to the big, dark and bold 13% ABV beer.

That brings us up to this year, 2015 Yule. The story begins with a word or two on cellaring. Most beer is intended to be consumed fresh. Filtered and artificially carbonated beers are very vulnerable to oxidation, which is exposed to the liquid at bottling time. I am a passionate advocate for one particular element in the Belgian tradition of brewing and that is 100% natural, re-fermentation in the bottle. This means that at bottling time, a little bit of fermentable sugar is added to the beer allowing the yeast in the unfiltered beer to undergo a final fermentation in the bottle, once the bottle is sealed. Belgian brewers refer to it as “Living Beer”. The advantage is that this process consumes the oxygen in the headspace of the bottle making beer inside very shelf-stable.  The beer is now able to mature just like fine wine and without risk of oxidation.

All that being said, earlier this year we opened a bottle of our very first Yule which was more than 3 years old. Its flavor development over time was incredible. With cellaring in mind, we brewed this year’s Yule about four months ago and allowed it to mature a slight bit ahead of time for you. I also went back to that original recipe which used tart cherries. We made a bit more this time than we did on that first batch, now 4 years ago so you can grab an extra bottle or two and lay it down for years to come. Happy Holidays and Happy Yule!

Prost!!!

Yule will be available at the Friday, Nov. 6th taproom release party at 6PM. Join us at 2014 Washington Ave N., Minneapolis, MN 55411.