Boom Island Brewing started in an unlikely spot: backstage at an orchestra concert.
Founder Kevin Welch, a professional musician, remembers the way beer had become an integral part of the orchestra culture.
“It was always kind of a bottle-share, backstage, dress rehearsal thing,” he says. “It was after a handful of orchestra members shared some homebrews with me that I got into brewing to repay the thanks. One thing rolled into another, and I fell in love with the Belgian brewing tradition.”
He spent a few summers in Belgium, learning everything he could about the traditional techniques, and launched Boom Island with his wife Quixia in 2011. Their brand grew out of its original space in north Minneapolis and then out of a taproom down the road. This past fall—once again cramped by the small-ish space and its neighborhood—the brewery announced a move to Minnetonka, with triple the square footage and a more upscale taproom.
Dan Syverson was enlisted in late 2018 to help with a build-out of the former Anchor Block space in the Baker Technology Park. He worked with Kalcon—the commercial construction firm behind Utepils, Keg + Case Market, Enki, and Hai Hai—and design and architecture firm Studio M to create a consistent aesthetic for the new, and much larger, space.
“A lot of us had traveled to Europe and Belgium. We loved the old-world feel and wanted to create a comfortable, family-oriented space,” Welch says. “How do you turn a sterile office environment into a space people want to hang out in?”
Syverson pulled in old-world iron and steel elements by Checkpoint Welding. Vienna Woodworks from Waseca installed timeless wood elements, like reclaimed barn wood, a sliding barn door, and distressed beams above the bar. Two Inlets Mill—a family-run operation out of Park Rapids—cut trees into custom slabs for community tables. The result is warm and timeless, but quite literally a little rough around the edges.
The team also acknowledged that the aesthetic needed to be secondary to functionality. As the team discussed seating styles, general manager and brewery partner Scott Becker remembers some disagreement among the stakeholders.
“We don’t all like the same thing. Some want to sit at the bar with an old-school bartender experience and have lots of human interaction, with excellent personal service. Others like community tables,” he says. “We really wanted to emphasize the environment and the service; our knowledgeable staff who are actually happy you’re there.”
So there are a variety of options, with bar-height seating along the windows, and intimate tables that are perfect for conversations or board games. On the formerly blasé front of the building, they added a huge patio with a garage door that opens to the taproom—bringing the outdoors in during Minnesota’s warmer months.
“Lots of regulars have said, ‘Wow, you’re taking things to the next stage!’” Becker says. “When you come visit our space, you’ll get a feel for something that’s a little more upscale, but certainly not pretentious. We thought a lot about how we can bring what we’ve experienced at breweries in Europe–and even in downtown Minneapolis—and bring that to a technology/industrial park.”
Food and Festivities
There’s a lot going on at Boom Island besides the beer. Here’s what you need to know:
“Down in Minneapolis, we had a tradition of a jazz night,” Becker says. “Kevin has a lot of involvement with amazing local musicians.” Though that hasn’t been set in stone yet, the brewery plans to bring in live music—plus a regular trivia night.
The owners and leadership team are also avid sports fans, so look for Vikings and Twins events, and—in a nod to the brewery’s European roots—soccer. (We’re guessing Belgium will be on the screens just as often as the Minnesota United.)
A rotation of food trucks pull in every Thursday through Sunday evening—with some Wednesdays, too. Station Pizzeria is a favorite for delivery, and guests are encouraged to bring their own snacks or take-out, or purchase the ones available in-house.
Yule. Come winter, Boom Island taps a little something festive. Each year brings a slightly different variation of the Yule, a dark, holiday strong ale that’s perfect for sipping in the cold, wintery months. It typically hovers around 9-11% ABV, centers on notes of spice and fruit, and has its own official release in early November. When it runs out, it runs out!
Kollusion. This is a jet-black beauty with “notes of rich dark malt, coffee and chocolate, and the presence of the beer’s 11% ABV as it warms,” read the tasting notes. But more than that, it’s a signature collaboration between Boom Island and a tiny Belgian brewery that still uses traditional methods. “It’s phenomenal, and it’s something Kevin did in collaboration with Brouwerij Maenhoud,” says Becker. “They released at the same time, and it’s been a big success.”
Thoprock. You can’t run a Minnesota brewery without a solid India Pale Ale on the menu. Thoprock is a fan favorite Belgian-style IPA with a bit of malt to it, but a clear burst of West Coast citrusy hop flavor.
Bière de Garde. Translated to “beer for keeping,” this farmhouse-style strong pale ale was traditionally brewed in colder weather to avoid heat-related yeast problems—and then matured, sealed, in a cellar to be consumed later in the year, just like a saison. “It’s a really nice, rich malty beer in the style of northeastern France and northwestern Belgium,” Becker says. “It has a little bit of sweetness and a little bit of pepperiness.”
Lambics. New this year, Boom Island is making a foray into lambics, malt- and wheat-based, fruit-infused beers that are exposed to wild yeast and aged in order to give them a tart, slightly fizzy flavor that make them a hit among non-beer-drinkers. At Boom Island, a space has been intentionally left between the brewing room and the taproom, so that lambic barrels can be stacked two-wide and aged, right in the middle of the action. “We’ll keep each one for one to three years, adding fruit for six months to create a nice, special beverage,” Becker says. “We began fruiting those last fall, using cherries, strawberries and raspberries. The result is a slightly tart, fully fermented brew.”
In Their Words
Boom Island might be new to the area, but it comes with a loyal following. Here’s what a few visitors have said about the brand on social media:
“This is, hands-down, one of the best taprooms in Minneapolis if you’re looking for a low-key, personable atmosphere with fantastic beer and well-planned events … must love dogs, because there are always tons of puppers roaming the taproom. A must-visit for anyone who loves a good Belgian or specialty beer in a unique atmosphere.” —Alyssa Bixby-Lawson
“The Lemon Drop was wonderful and the popcorn was delish. Can’t wait to come back! Friendly and great atmosphere. Welcome!” —Carrie Van Beusekom
“My favorite brewery in the Twin Cities. Never once had a bad (or even mediocre, for that matter) beer here. Always a great spot to have a couple laid-back drinks and enjoy some good company.” —Meg Niesen
“Some of the best beer in Minnesota! Love the Thoprock and all the seasonals. The space is incredibly charming, and the beertender, Jim, is my favorite in town. There’s no place like the Boom Room!” —Shaina Brassard
“Great taproom, love the new location, safe and big for larger groups.” —Owen Kleberg