Fair State Brewing Co-op went toe to toe with Tin Whiskers in a Brew-Off at Grumpy’s in Roseville on Wednesday night. They say that competition brings out the best in people, but what about beer? The offerings were tasted blindly so you didn’t have any idea which brewery made what. Each brewer had to use cherries, rosemary, and sumac, which were ingredients chosen in an online poll. Upon tasting the beers, one thing was clear; they were both good and it was going to be tough to pick a favorite.
On the blind ballot, the offering #1 was a Saison had a pinkish hue with a very slight head retention. The beer had a fruity aroma with a bit of spice. The use of the cherries in this one resulted in a mildly tart flavor with hints of sweetness to mellow out the sip. I think that the cherries very well with the rosemary and sumac. Not quite as much saison yeast presence as I was hoping for, but if it was 80 degrees on a patio, I would enjoy several pints of this beer. This was very much a beer centered around balance and drinkability.
Offering #2 was a Sour Brown Ale. Definitely a darker reddish color and a little bit of head retention. This selection had a great nose, with aromas of cherries and vinegar. Slightly dry at first, but the dryness finishes out very strong at the end. I was hoping for more sour bite, but it wasn’t there for me. I think that if it had been a bit more tart at first, the way it finished so dry would have really knocked my socks off. That being said, if you like sour beers, this was an above average beer to me and I did like it a lot.
I was curious to see what other people felt about the beers. There was a table of women seated just behind me by the window who looked like they had just ordered their flight. I asked them if I could ask them a few questions and they kindly said yes. I asked them about the beers and if they were styles that they were familiar with. They both have been to both breweries and were fans of the flavor profiles of the beers they were served. I asked them if they had a particular favorite beer at each brewery, and they said that usually they order flights so they can try them all. One of the women named Laura said that both places were great places to have a pint. Laura also really liked the Paint and a Pint events that Tin Whiskers has hosted in the past. Valerie, who is associated with the group, Girls Pint Out, explained that she figured Fair State brewed the sour because they are the local brewery that comes to mind when she thinks of sours and they brew their sours very well. Ultimately, they really enjoyed both selections and were impressed with the depth of flavors in both beers. They said that the decision of which brewery had the best one was going to be tough.
Across the bar, three gentlemen were engrossed in a deep conversation about the beers and I had to get their thoughts. Vince, with his brow furrowed, seemed to be in a state of deep thought. He was lamenting how choosing his favorite was going to be a very close call. One of the guys named Eric really liked the Saison and thought that the sour flavor stepped on the toes of the rosemary and the sumac in the Sour Brown Ale. Derek was very diplomatic in saying that he was not a fan of the Saison, not because it was flawed in any way, it just wasn’t the style for him. They both thought the beers were great representatives of the style and I think that really is the takeaway from this entire event.
As the crowds gathered, more and more ballots piled up in the collection tin. Members from each respective brewery were on hand to chat with people and it really made for a great opportunity to mingle and talk craft beer. When the pints were empty and the dust settled, Tin Whiskers’ Saison edged Fair State’s Sour Brown Ale by a total of 75 to 68. A close battle, as was evidenced by the slim margin of victory. However, anyone who participated in the event really got to have a fun night out and get up close and personal with representatives of two Twin Cities breweries who have very loyal fan followings. I would say that this event is another great example of how powerful craft beer can be in bringing people together to enjoy some laughs and conversation. Tin Whiskers is shooting to do an event like this every 3 to 4 months if they can. I, for one, hope that they continue to do it and maybe even turn it into some kind of Brew-Off tournament. Events like this bring out fans of local craft beer as well as showcase the brewing talent we have in this market and that is definitely a winning combination. Prost!