This week's Microbrewery of the Week is Boom Island Brewing Company located in north Minneapolis, not far from the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. We talked with Kevin Welch, founder, owner and brewer at Boom Island Brewing Company.
How did your brewery come to be?
[I had] been brewing at home for about 11 years. In 2005, my wife and I moved to her hometown in China. I taught her dad to brew while we lived there and we brewed an awful lot of beer. We started dabbling with the idea of opening this microbrewery. The following year, we moved back to the U.S. and really started brainstorming with the idea of what it is. I had fallen in love with Belgian beer in the very first year I was homebrewing, just based on the completely different concept of flavor profiles and layering of different flavors beyond just the malt and the hops. Eventually, that culminated in a couple of trips to Belgium spent traveling across the countryside - both Flemish-speaking and French-speaking parts of Belgium. I met a handful of very generous and very, very passionate brewers, and learned a lot of good tricks to the trade. I got a lot of good advice as far as brewery floor plan layout and different processes that I used today in my brewing.
How did you name your brewery?
It's a personal tie for me because I was born right on the Mississippi River just a few yards south in Memphis. I grew up as a child fishing in the Mississippi. I went off to conservatory, studied classical music and found my way through that to the music industry. I always found myself migrating back towards the river. Once we got started with the brewery, there was just a good, heartfelt, personal connection to the Mississippi just right on up the creek from where I grew up.
What's your favorite beer you make?
At this moment, it's the Brimstone Tripel. I like all of the beers that we brew; each one of them has their own personality. The Silvius Pale Ale is a very true Antwerp-style pale ale. It's very easy drinking. If you ask me a month from now, that would be my favorite. But the Hoodoo Dubbel and Brimstone Tripel are real authentic interpretations of the abbey style of brewing in Belgian tradition.
What's your favorite beer someone else makes?
I tend to go to specialty beer stores and pick up any Belgian beer that I haven't tried before that's made in Belgium. I just want to stay up on the trends. I'm particularly fond of the sour beers, especially the Flemish sours; the Cuvée des Jacobins, the Rodenbach Grand Cru - those are both personal favorites.
What are your hopes for the brewery's future?
We're looking forward to continuing to grow and meet the demand. We're selling as fast as we make it, which I appreciate with all of the enthusiasm around craft beer in the Twin Cities right now. There's a whole world of possibilities in Belgian beer. I would love to be able to catch up on these four enough that I could make a witbier this summer. If I don't get to it this summer, it's definitely a good summer beer for next year. Perhaps a Saison but I want to do one that's really unique. There are a couple Saisons that are being produced locally and I don't just want to reproduce something that's already out there. And like I said, I'm particularly fond of sours. Wherever that might lead, who knows?
What is the best piece of advice someone gave you before you started?
Being a freelance musician, I was somewhat running my own business as far as management of my own contracting for different classical music jobs in town and working through the union to do that. But finding a close person that I really trusted to keep me on track as far as running the business-side of things. Many homebrewers are making great beer. It's easy to make great beer at home these days. It's not easy to run a commercial business unless you have experience in start-ups. So to be adventurous enough and bold enough to jump out on your own for me personally, the most wise move was to find someone with the expertise on the business side of things.
What is the best piece of advice someone you can give homebrewers?
Learn as much as you can. There's a wealth of information out there that 10-15 years ago was not available. The American Homebrewers Association and all the publications they put out is a ton of information that would have been graduate-level class work in a brew master's certificate or diploma 15-20 years ago. And we have our hands on that readily available at any library or bookstore now.
Describe the local craft beer scene in 11 words or less.
Thriving, exciting, growing and a very rewarding place to be.
If you're not drinking beer, what are you drinking?
Boom Island Brewing Company is located near the intersection of Broadway and Washington avenues in north Minneapolis. The brewery will open its doors for tours starting Wednesday, May 23. To find Boom Island's beers, check out this list on their website.
Boom Island Brewing Company is also on Facebook and Twitter.
Previous Microbreweries of the Week:
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