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.

Maenhout glass
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

Congratulations on the MRAC Grant!

 

From-JimMNHBC

MN Hard Bop Collective (MNHBC) drummer extraordinaire and friend Jesse Simon applied for and received a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.  This is great news for fans of local jazz.  The grant, which will last from now until early summer, will add focus to our Boom Room Jazz initiative.  Starting February 10, we will be hosting live jazz every other week, with the MNHBC playing each gig.

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The grant will not only help finance the series, but will also allow Jesse to focus each program on education of the hard bop style, and challenge his players and the audience with music rarely heard on the scene.  Are you familiar with the likes of jazz greats Hank Mobley and Elmo Hope?  I hadn’t either, until we started Boom Room Jazz.  And I’ve been listening to jazz for a long time.

My dad introduced me to Jazz when I was 13.  He played Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5” to me and I had to admit that he was right, that tune is amazing.  From that point on I’ve been buying jazz records.  I had great mentors to help along the way. That said, 2017 was the year that put my appreciation of Jazz into overdrive. My knowledge and appreciation, as well as my collection, has easily doubled from what I have learned from Boom Room Jazz.

For those who haven’t had guidance like I received, the genre of Jazz can be daunting.  It’s huge, ranging from 1930’s big band music, to 60’s heroin-fueled mind trips, and everything in between.  All I can say to anyone who was hasn’t been properly introduced to jazz, stop by on a Boom Room Jazz Saturday at 7pm and give it a shot.  Live jazz is amazing and the music of the MNHBC will always swing with sophistication. The vibe in the room is electric.  The music being played is rarely, if ever, heard in this town.  To top it all off, the beers you will be drinking will always be complex and delicious as well.  Write down the following dates:

700 Jazz (2)

Saturday, February 10 – “Soul Station” Quartet, The music of Hank Mobley part 3

Dave Hagedorn on Vibraphone, Aaron Hedenstrom sax, Ted Olsen bass

Saturday, February 24 – Elmo’s World! A return to the music of Elmo Hope

Jake Baldwin Trumpet, Clay Puhfal sax, Jeff Rinear trombone, Javier Santiago piano, Ted Olsen bass

Saturday, March 10 – Modern Hard Bop, NYC Hard Bop from the 1980s to the present

Pete Whitman Sax, Jeff Rinear trombone, Ted Godbout piano, Graydon Peterson bass

Saturday, March 24 – TBD

More great music to come!

 

The Chinese Heritage of Boom Island

Chinese red lantern

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.

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Qiuxia and Kevin enjoy a visit to Chengdu, China

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.

Chinese blue lantern

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.

Chinese blue house

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