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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Kriek, barrel aged sour beer fermented with cherries. Krieks originated as a variation on another Belgian style of spontaneously fermented beer called Lambic. Lambic producers originated from the area just to the south and southwest of Brussels. It is believed that the region evolved such a tradition of initial open fermentation, then wild or mixed fermentation, in wooden barrels because of the abundance of natural yeast in the air from the many local fruit orchards. Today some breweries which are not in the Lambic region produce Kriek but use other wild or mixed fermentation processes such as a vatted Pale or an Oud Bruin.
Belgium is fairly unique in the respect that using fruit to ferment alongside wort created from grain has been a tradition for hundreds of years. I like to think of it this way. Belgium is a wonderful little country wedged between Germany which is famous for beer, and France for its wine. (There is a reason why many great Belgian beers come corked and caged, just like Champagne.) The Belgians have taken the best inspiration from those around them and put it all together to bring us the most diverse tradition of brewing we know historically. Today of course, we know American craft beer to push all boundaries. But the Belgians have been doing this for hundreds of years!
On to the Boom Island Kriek. This beer pays respect to that Lambic tradition of making beer with cherries. Since we are not producing it in the Lambic region of Belgium however, you will not find the words Lambic (or Gueuze – which means blended Lambic) anywhere on our labels. These are registered terms just like Champagne. Our wort, just like Lambic, was produced by what is called a Turbid Mash. This means during the mash, liquid is drained off, boiled, then returned to the pot to gradually raise the temperature through multiple steps. Our wort is then boiled with old, brown oxidized hops. This is also standard in producing Lambic. The old hops have lost most of their aroma and bitterness potential, but still maintain their preservative qualities. This is important to fight back Lactobacillus. But doesn’t Lactobacillus cause sourness? Lactobacillus could cause some sourness, but Lambic brewers have found the acid it produces lacks the depth and complexity which is found in a barrel aged Lambic.
This brings up a little tangent. A relatively common practice these days here in the US craft beer scene is referred to as a “kettle sour”. This is a technique which does use that very microbe, Lactobacillus, to sour the wort over the course of 24-48 hours before it is boiled. Once the desired ph is achieved, the wort is then boiled to kill off all the bacteria. The remainder of the brew process is a “clean” fermentation and the finished beer can be achieved in a matter of weeks. This allows a brewer to quickly produce a couple of German style beers like Berliner Weisse and Gose. One can find many pleasant and tasty examples of this type of beer on the market.
The Belgian approach however is quite different. As our process continues, we have incorporated a turbid mash and then boiled the wort with oxidized hops. The wort is then cooled and moved to a stainless conical fermenter where it begins fermentation. The top is left open so the now fermenting beer can interact with the ambient air. Next comes the important part. Toward the end of the primary fermentation, the beer is moved into oak wine barrels to rest for more than a year. These recently emptied barrels had been home to sour beer produced by the same method for up to 4 years. The porousness of the wood harbors the litany of microbes which slowly soured the beer in the barrel over the course of at least a year and usually more.
Hand picked tart cherries are added to the barrel and after a year the fermentation kicks back into action. After a couple of months, the sugars from the cherries have all been consumed and the beer is ready to bottle. Fresh yeast and a small amount of fermentable sugar is then added to the flat beer at bottling time. The bottles are corked and caged (the Belgians learned this carbonation technique from the Champagne makers of long ago) and a final fermentation takes place in the sealed bottle creating natural carbonation. This is the short story of how our Kriek is produced
Kriek – 4.8% ABV
Appearance : Light-Red Rose.
Flavor : Slightly tart, nutty and acidic, with a light effervescence and dry cherry halo.
From Brewer Christian:
Grumpy’s Downtown is hosting a beer festival called “Limited Action.” Their idea is an interesting one. Host a beer festival unlike other festivals. Instead of breweries pouring their normal lineup Grumpy’s is only allowing beers that meet a series of requirements. Those requirements are as follows.
1. The beer must use hops that are grown at Grumpy’s NE location.
2. The beer should include other aromatic herbs or spices.
3. The beer should include a distinctly Minnesotan ingredient.
The distinctly Minnesotan ingredient stumped me for awhile. All I could think of was wild rice or “Hot Dish” ( that thing southerners call a casserole.)
I started to think of my overall Minnesotan experience and what I truly enjoy most. I finally realized that going to an apple orchard was a wonderfully Northern experience. Speaking of apples, the University of Minnesota has created several apple varieties that grow exceptionally well in the climate here. One of those apples is Honeycrisp.
The beer I brewed for this event is a different take on a popular fall seasonal, the pumpkin beer. Instead of pumpkin I used Honeycrisp Apple cider for 20% of the overall volume. I relied on the yeast to provide the spice ingredient for this beer.
Kevin and I went to Grumpy’s in NE a few weeks ago to pick hops for this beer, I then dried those hops over a couple of days and brewed shortly thereafter. No other hops went into this beer than the hops that we picked.
The beer is called “Harvest Ale” and you can find it at Grumpy’s Bar & Grill Downtown Minneapolis from 2-7PM or at the taproom starting October 23!