We’re highlighting Minnesota’s 100-plus craft breweries with our flight series – four short questions for the people behind the beer. This week is Tin Whiskers Brewing.
Tin Whiskers Brewing in St. Paul is an electrical engineering-focused brewery (it was started by three electrical engineers, after all). And that theme runs throughout everything; from the flight boards which are made of actual circuit boards, to real tin whiskers from Space Shuttle Endeavor hanging on the wall.
The brewery aims to make "technically excellent" beers, which to head brewer Derek Brown means "hours and hours of running the same tests over and over again, and being precise about everything" to make sure it's quality, consistent beer. No matter if it's the flagships, the seasonals, or the rare beers.
I sat down with Brown, co-founder Jeff Moriarty, and marketing manager Chelsea Fey this week to talk about Tin Whiskers, and ask them a flight of questions. And at the bottom, check out a Snapchat tour of of their place.
Draft, bottle or can?
"I usually like it warm, flat and out of the fermenter," Moriarty said. "My philosophy is if you drink it warm and flat, and you like it – it's just going to get better when it's cold and carbonated."
"Draft," Brown said. "If it comes out of the draft line, it means we did it right. ... Since I'm in charge of making sure it goes right that's the best place to enjoy it for me, is on the other side of the brewery in the taproom."
What are some misconceptions people have of those who work in a brewery?
"Everyone has beards," Brown said.
"It's true, we don't all have beards," Moriarty (who doesn't have a beard) said.
Brown continued, saying: "A lot of people say, 'Oh you get paid to sit around and drink beer' – I mean, that's not it at all. When you see us having a pint, it's probably an eighth full and we're probably swirling it, we probably have our noses in it. It's not exactly enjoying it. Part of our job is making sure that our beers are good and they're consistent. It's less drinking to enjoy a beer and ... putting your nose in it and taking little small samples of beer making sure its consistent to the previous fermentation. It's not all, back here slamming beers in the cooler, having a good time."
Best reaction you've gotten from someone drinking one of your beers?
"I think a lot of people coming into craft beer have already made up their mind about certain styles of beer based on older styles and older recipes. I've heard too many times to count 'I'm not a big wheat fan but I really liked your Wheatstone' because it's not just a wheat beer that they've had a million times. It's got the chamomile and honey in it," Brown said.
(Wheatstone Bridge is one of Tin Whiskers' flagship beers, and is described as an American-style wheat beer with flavors of honey and chamomile tea.)
"Wheatstone has been described as 'life-changing,'" Fey said. "People have literally said that."
Added Moriarty: "Oh once a month we get a review of someone like – best way to sum it up is – it's like you've cured cancer for them. 'Life changing,' these very gushy emails. And you're like, 'It's just beer, let's frame things in perspective a little bit.' That's probably the coolest thing we get a lot is the 'life-changing' testimonials about the Wheatstone."
Biggest blooper or mistake that's happened at the brewery?
"I was on live TV showing them how to tap a keg – I didn't realize there was cleaner in it still, and it didn't have a hose on it – so when I pressed it down, it shot up like a fountain," Fey said. "It made for great television, and my face was all red. I was so embarrassed, but it was really funny."