Updated: May 28, 2015
The Tin Whiskers vs. Urban Growler Brew-Off ended in an even tie!
Tin Whiskers threw down the gauntlet; Urban Growler picked it up. Now the two St. Paul breweries are facing off in a brewing competition akin to the Food Network show “Chopped” when Tin Whiskers hosts its first Brew-Off at The Happy Gnome on Wednesday, May 27, from 5–8pm.
The idea of challenging another brewery to see who could brew the best beer using ingredients chosen by their fans came from a Tin Whiskers patron, which is fitting for the brewery’s open source philosophy.
“I have a really good relationship with one of our customers,” Tin Whiskers Co-Founder, President, and Brewer Jeff Moriarty explains, “and one day she was throwing around some ideas of some fun things to do and mentioned this Brew-Off.”
Once Urban Growler accepted the challenge, the breweries polled their social media followers for potential ingredients, resulting in a list of about 100—one-third of which were meat products.
“Basically I crossed off all the meat because I wanted this beer to taste good,” Urban Growler Co-Founder and Head Brewer Deb Loch says, “and I didn’t think pepperoni or Durian fruit was really going to do it.”
Six ingredients were taken from the initial list and a final social media poll was posted until coconut, mango, and ginger were chosen.
“It can be any style, you can use other ingredients, but it has to have those ingredients in it,” Moriarty says. “It’s just a fun way to really challenge you to use ingredients you may never [have used], or never even wanted to use before, but now you’re forced to.”
The challenge of using new ingredients was something exciting for Loch to tackle.
“I love the show Chopped […] so I love the idea of trying to brew something that tastes great just given some crazy ingredients—and I’m also all about the crazy ingredients,” Loch says. Loch’s experience using non-traditional brewing ingredients, like lemongrass, rhubarb, and cranberries for Urban Growler’s Plow to Pint series, may serve as an advantage in the Brew-Off.
One thing is for certain: Both breweries went all out to showcase the flavors of all three ingredients.
Tin Whiskers—which used each ingredient in the mash, boil, and during fermentation—created a cloudy pale wheat ale with a strong mango flavor and sweetness from the coconut. Urban Growler made a wheat beer called Sticky Rice that not only contains the three required ingredients, but jasmine rice, as well.
Patrons can purchase these brews in a flight of two five-ounce beers and vote for their favorite at The Happy Gnome or on Twitter.
“It’s just a fun way to have a friendly competition with a St. Paul neighbor,” Moriarty says, hoping to challenge a new brewery every six months or every year.
What will prove interesting is just how good the beer turns out; each brewery only had enough time to brew them once.
“It gets a little hairy there; we didn’t get a lot of time to brew these beers,” Loch says, before explaining how exciting it’s been in spite of the time crunch. “As a brewer it’s super fun because I love these kinds of challenges, and it’s a great way to get people involved.”
Tin Whiskers Celebrates First Anniversary With Events, Expansion
The Brew-Off is just one event Tin Whiskers will be putting on this summer. The brewery’s one-year anniversary is June 6, and it will host a week of events to mark the occasion, including the release of a wheat wine.
It’s a fun way to cap off a successful year that includes Tin Whiskers winning five awards in May at the Las Vegas International Beer Competition. Ampere Amber, Short Circuit Stout, and Schottky Pumpkin Ale all won gold medals in the Amber Hybrid, Stout, and Spice/Herb/Vegetable beer categories, respectively. Wheatstone Bridge won a bronze in the light hybrid beer category, and Flip Switch IPA won a double gold in the India Pale Ale category.
“All of the beers that we submitted actually won something,” Moriarty says. “It was our first time doing a commercial brewery beer competition and we’re really, really pleased with the results. It’s kind of a warmup to the GABF (Great American Beer Fest) which we’ll be entering this year.”
Beyond that, the brewery has seen exceptional growth.
“It’s been an amazing year,” Moriarty says. “It shows the four difficult years we took to get planned and get money to build a place, and continue to research, really paid off.”
Tin Whiskers beers are in almost 70 liquor stores and about 55 bars, and also on tap at the Beer Dabbler Craft Beer Corner at the new home of the St. Paul Saints, CHS Field.
“That’s the first time I’ll be able to drink my beer at a professional sporting event arena,” Moriarty says excitedly, adding that a July expansion will increase the brewery’s production capacity from 1,500 barrels per year to 2,500, in addition to creating an outdoor space, a relaunched website, and more experimental brews.