Conversation with Thijs Maenhout

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



Playing It Safe No Longer an Option. We are Kicking Ass and Taking Names


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.

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.

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!

Kevin with the creator of Delirium Tremens 
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.

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!


Kevin Welch

Famous Belgians – Eddy Merckx


From-JimSimilar to our home here in Minneapolis, Belgium is a place of bicycling fanatics. Nearly every village has a cycling club where members meet two or three time per week to pedal the picturesque countryside and riverways, much like how cyclists here will embark along the Mississippi River or venture out on trails beyond the city limits.

The undisputed greatest cyclist ever is Eddy Merckx from Meensel-Kiezegem, Belgium. Born in 1945 and known as “The Cannibal,” Merckx was a time trial machine, one of the best climbers and was rarely beaten sprinting to the finish.  

His resume includes five Tour de France victories, which is a feat only matched by Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Lance Armstrong.  Of course we all know now that Mr. Armstrong was on more drugs than a touring funk band.  In the 1969 Tour de France, Merckx won the Yellow Jersey as the overall winner, the Green Jersey for points winner and the Polka-Dot Jersey for being the best climber.  In all he won over 300 races.

Many of his records held up until updated technology paved the way for faster times.  I think it’s safe to say that Belgians are as proud of the achievements of Eddy Merckx as Americans are ashamed of the disgraceful bravado and unscrupulous fall of Lance Armstrong.

But as we head into the prime time for biking here in Minnesota – and in particular, the popular April challenge 30 Days of Biking – we can reflect on how biking fans here in Minneapolis share something with Merckx, which is perhaps the freedom and exhiliarion of the ride itself.

Breweries of Belgium

Belgium scene

Europe is rich in culture and has an indefinite amount of food, music, art and more to delight any visitors. But if you’re lucky enough to find yourself destined for Belgium, there is one part of Belgian culture you won’t want to miss, and that is drinking their beer. Our head brewer Kevin Welch has been to Belgium on multiple occasions and knows several breweries that are especially worth visiting. In this post, we have compiled some of Kevin’s recommendations so that next time you’re in Belgium, you can easily find some of the best beer that Belgium has to offer!

  1. Cantillon – Located in the city of Brussels, this brewery is mere blocks from the central train station. Kevin describes it as “One of the most important Lambic breweries, in my opinion,” and it’s easy to understand why. The beers are carefully crafted at Cantillon to preserve the lambic tradition as well as the Gueuze style that originated in this area of the country.
    1. Cantillon website –
  2. Achouffe & La Vieille Forge – Kevin says that if you visit, stay at the BB&B (which stands for bed, breakfast and brewery) of La Vieille Forge in the little village of Mont and visit Brasserie Achouffe as well. Achouffe was a venture started by two brothers-in-law, and as the beer became successful, they eventually decided to pursue brewing full time. It is advised that you book and confirm the Achouffe tour ahead of time, and separately from the room at La Vieille Forge.
    1. Achouffe website –
    2. La Vieille Forge website –
  3. Brouwerij De Koninck – This brewery is located in Antwerp and is a virtual “Disneyland” of Belgian beer. The origin of this brewery dates back to the early 19th century, and later became officially formulated as the “De Koninck” brewery in the early 20th century. Kevin highly encourages sitting in the main city square on a sunny afternoon and enjoying a De Konink at Cafe Den Engel to pass the time.
    1. Brouwerij De Koninck website –
  4. Westvleteren – Located in western Flanders, here you can find some of the most sought-after Trappist beer in the world. Brewed by the monks themselves, this brewery has a large reputation, but its producers prefer to remain out of the spotlight. Anyone visiting the monastery can get further information about the beer at the nearby visitor center, but the monks themselves do not receive visitors.
    1. Westvleteren website –
  5. St. Bernardus – This brewery is also located in western Flanders. Book a room and a tour at the St. Bernardus brewery’s bed & breakfast in the city of Watou. Take advantage of the complimentary bicycles to pedal through the countryside (you can easily head out to the Abbey of Westvleteren). Kevin recommends partnering this journey with a tour of the Hop Museum in the nearby city of Poperinge.
    1. St. Bernardus website –
  6. Brouwerij Rodenbach – Rodenbach, the original Flemish dark sour, is located in the city of Roselare and was originally started and operated by 4 brothers in the early 19th century. The business stayed within the family until the 20th century and was later sold to Palm Brewery. Today, Palm continues to produce and distribute a variety of Rodenbach beer.
    1. Rodenbach website –
  7. Brouwerij Maenhout – Brouwerij Maenhout is one of Kevin’s favorite newer Belgian breweries in the village of Pittem and he says that owner and brewer, Tijs Maenhout’s Tripel “Koeketiene” is an outstanding beer to try. If you are able, stay in the nearby village of Tielt in the historic Sleutelhuys Bed and Breakfast, the newly remodeled historic city hall building which was built in the late 1500s.   
    1. Maenhout website –

Thanks to Kevin’s adventures around Belgium, now those of us who have a passion for craft beer in the United States can cross the pond and seek out the finest beers in Belgium, and perhaps the world.

If you’re interested in more information about beer in Belgium, you can also visit this helpful website:


Famous Belgians – Django Reinhardt


From-JimAnd we’re back with another popular figure in my “Famous Belgians” series. In announcing the name of our recently released Django Hop Bier to customers in the taproom, a number of people have replied “Like Django Unchained?”  In fact, what we are getting at is Django Reinhardt, the highly influential Belgian born gypsy jazz guitarist.

Jean “Django” Reinhardt (1910-1953) is known as one of the greatest guitarists of all time and a contributor to the evolution of the genre.  He was the son of a travelling entertainer and grew up in a gypsy settlement near Paris.

In 1928, Reinhardt badly burned and paralyzed his ring finger and fifth finger in a fire, which forced him to learn how to solo on his guitar with only his index and middle finger.  The technique later became dubbed the “hot” jazz guitar method and has become tradition with French gypsy culture.  He worked in Paris cafés with the singer Jean Sablon, and in 1934, he was a founding member, with Stephane Grappelli, of the ensemble that became known as the Quintette du Hot Club de France.

The years prior to World War II the group gained in popularity and reputation and released numerous recordings of great originality, including such standards as “Djangology”, Minor Swing“, “Swing ’42”, “Nuages,” among others.  He travelled the world as a celebrity and plugged in his guitar for the first time soloing with Duke Ellington’s band in New York.  Reinhardt seamlessly adapted to the electric guitar, and his style continued to flourish.

Django Reinhardt was a gifted composer and played with a flair, sensitivity and variety that have forever cemented his place as one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time. Fittingly, it’s the name of our newest beer as well, so you can get a bit of swing in your step right out of the glass.  

And our passion for music and beer doesn’t stop with our Django Hop Bier. In an effort to bring music into our corner of the world, we’re beginning a new music series at the taproom, called Boom Room Jazz. Every last Saturday of the month, we’ll host a free jazz concert right in the taproom, with music beginning at 7pm. There is no need to wear a striped shirt or don a beret to enjoy these concerts; they are a celebration of great jazz music and Belgian-style beer. All concerts will be free; there is no cover to enjoy the Boom Room Jazz series. Local jazz musicians will rotate for each performance and will be announced by the brewery prior to each concert. To top it off, each concert will feature an exclusive taproom-only Boom Island beer during the performance.

Original Jazz Fbook

At Boom Island, you’re guaranteed to find a bit of jazz somewhere, whether it’s in your glass or perhaps floating through the air. We hope you’ll join us as we bring music & beer together with the Boom Room Jazz series!



Famous Belgians – Audrey Hepburn


From-JimHere at Boom Island Brewing, we have a focus on just about everything Belgian, especially when it comes to our beer. But to help hi-light other parts of Belgian culture beyond the brew, I’ve created a series of blog posts to take a closer look at popular people, music, and places of Belgium. The first part of this series I’ve entitled “Famous Belgians”, and as we’re in the Oscar season, I thought it would be fitting to begin with a very famous Belgian actress from the 20th century.

As the time draws near to hand out another set of Oscars for movies I haven’t seen, it seems appropriate to highlight the career of Audrey Hepburn.  Did you know she was Belgian?  I would guess that more people know that Jean-Claude Van Damme is Belgian, with his catchy “Muscles from Brussels” moniker.

Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) was known one of the greatest female screen legends active during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Hepburn went on to star in a number of successful films, and is mostly known for Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Charade (1963), My Fair Lady (1964) and Wait Until Dark (1967), for which she received Academy Award as well as Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.

Audrey Hepburn worked tirelessly later in life for UNICEF, and remains one of the few people who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards.  The image of her in the little black dress with the large sunglasses and cigarette holder remains one of the true iconic images of Hollywood at the time.

If you prefer more wooden performances, Belgian accents, explosions and scores of people getting punched, Mr. Van Damme is your man.  For a little more subtle and graceful touch, it might be time to binge marathon some Audrey Hepburn films.

“There are so many people I’d like to thank…”