By Neal St. Anthony
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “Boom Island” is a craft beer company owned by Kevin and Qiuxia Welch. The business, named for the nearby island on the Mississippi River, is growing volume by nearly 10 percent annually. The Welches expect revenue to top $500,000 this year.
There are more than 125 Minnesota craft brewers.
But only one, Boom Island, based in north Minneapolis and founded in 2011, was founded to make Belgian beer by two now-married former professional musicians who met in China in 2000 at a French horn symposium.
Qiuxia Welch, a native of Beijing, was a graduate music student from Augsburg University, when she met now-husband Kevin Welch, a native of Tennessee, also a graduate student, at the horn conference in China.
The Welches, who married in 2001 and are now in their early 40s, settled in Minneapolis to teach music and work temporary appointments with the Duluth Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Opera.
In 2003-04, Kevin Welch sampled home-brewed beer made by musicians in Duluth. A fan of Belgian beers, Kevin started home-brewing his own varieties. Kevin and Qiuxia’s father, an engineer, bonded over beer-making when the Welchs moved to China in 2005 for a year.
During the 2008-09 recession, music gigs dried up, followed by the Minnesota Orchestra lockout. More musicians, less work.
“Our freelancing world was shattered,” recalled Qiuxia Welch. “Kevin was getting passionate about brewing and we started to think maybe we could build a little brewery.”
The couple raised about $70,000 from family members, friends and their own savings to open a tiny brewery in 2011 in 500 square feet of warehouse space. Qiuxia’s parents visited to help for a year.
“We didn’t have all the proper equipment, but we pieced together a brewery,” Qiuxia said. “We started brewing Belgian-style beer in north Minneapolis, where the four of us spoke Chinese. And we still taught and played some to keep cash coming in.”