Minneapolis. Belgian-style beer. Chinese New Year.
At first glance, it might be difficult to see how these three things are related. Maybe you can see a link between beer and Minneapolis given the vibrant craft beer scene, but how does that connect to the Chinese New Year? If you shift your gaze over to Boom Island Brewing, you’ll start to see why the Chinese New Year has a unique and special meaning to us. Not only did our current taproom open during the Chinese New Year in 2014, but the foundation of Boom Island Brewing itself is rooted in Chinese culture.
It all starts out like this: “What happens when two professional horn players fall in love with Belgian beer?” The obvious answer is open a brewery, which is why Boom Island exists today, but one of those horn players was Qiuxia from Chengdu in China. Qiuxia (pronounced choo-sha) came to Minnesota at the age of 18 to pursue her horn performance career at Augsburg and the University of Minnesota. Along the way, she met fellow horn player and Belgian beer fanatic Kevin, and together they decided to pursue a life of music and eventually beer.
But the Chinese influence on Boom Island doesn’t stop there. In fact, our north Minneapolis brewery was literally built with the help of Qiuxia’s own parents. Despite the drastic culture and language barriers, they traveled from China to live with Qiuxia and Kevin, and helped get Boom Island Brewing into operation. Everything from building fermenters to brewing beer, Qiuxia’s parents played an immense role in the making of Boom Island. If you were to step inside the brewery in its earlier days, you wouldn’t have heard English spoken, but Chinese instead. Qiuxia recalls fond memories of her mother and father being in the brewery several years ago. Her family’s connections to Boom Island are close and remain so to this day. If you happen to catch a glimpse in the back of our walk-in fridge, you’ll still see the names of our beer written in English and Chinese as a little reminder of the brewery’s beginnings.
Even though Minneapolis is far from Chengdu (13 hours away, to be exact), Qiuxia finds ways to see reflections of her home here in Minnesota. On the hottest, most humid days of summer, she can be found out in the sunshine, relishing the intense heat and happily proclaiming “It’s just like China!” Or, if you have any frustration, simply mention it to her and she’ll have a Chinese adage for you. “In China, we have a saying for that!” is a phrase often heard around the brewery. And so, our celebrations of the Chinese New Year are just another way in which we’re bringing a bit of China into the heart of Minnesota.
Hearing Qiuxia describe Chinese New Year celebrations is reason enough to get excited for the holiday. “It’s our Christmas,” Qiuxia elaborated. “And Thanksgiving, too. It’s huge!” As a part of the New Year, people gather with their family and friends to celebrate by doing what most anyone can relate to – eating a large amount of food. “That’s why it’s like Thanksgiving,” Qiuxia said before bounding into the details of the Chinese New Year’s food traditions, only to end with “…now I’m hungry.” Each region of China has its own particular culinary tradition that is the focus of the New Year, but everyone celebrates by enjoying a large, festive meal together. “As a child, I remember we’d prepare the meals days ahead of time because it’s so big. On the actual day, we’d have the adult table and the kids table. All us kids would wear our new clothes for the New Year, we would get together and play, get our red envelopes, and wait for midnight to have firecrackers.”
The New Year is all about luck, and as a way to ensure luck for the oncoming year, firecrackers are set off at midnight to ward off any bad luck or evil spirits. Red is also associated with luck, and traditional decorations for the New Year are just about anything in red. Red envelope trees are a popular tradition in China. The envelopes typically contain money or a token of good luck, and are gifted from the older generation to children. However, the red envelopes are not simply given out to anyone. To earn the opportunity to be given a red envelope, children must offer a good wish or fortune to the giver. “Everything is about luck,” Qiuxia said in explaining the traditions, and everyone passes along good fortunes and wishes throughout the New Year’s celebrations.
So on our corner of Minneapolis where we could walk out our door and launch a firecracker over highway 94, we’ll be paying homage to our Chinese roots by celebrating the Chinese New Year in style. We’ll have a special tarragon Witness witbier in the taproom made especially for the New Lunar Year, along with complimentary fortune cookies and tea. Here at Boom Island, we’ll have a red envelope tree of our own with a token for everyone, just be sure to come prepared with your good tiding so you can earn your envelope. A special Chinese Lion Dance will be featured at 4pm, so be sure to visit to catch a glimpse of the lions! Like any new year, it’s a time to celebrate with family and friends, so here’s to the Chinese New Year and to the traditions and people that brought Boom Island to where it is today!
Event details: Chinese New Year at Boom Island Brewing
All photos by © Heather Hanson Photography LLC