Although it’s been operating for about a month, the Tin Whiskers St. Paul tap room is now officially open for business as of Thursday last week. It started out strong with a packed night of beer tasting and a visit from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. We had the opportunity recently to sit down with the three electrical engineers behind Tin Whiskers the day after the grand opening: Jake Johnson (above, left), Jeff Moriarty (center), and George Kellerman (right).
The post-work crowd was pouring in, spring rolls in hand, and the conversation was flowing. A mix of weekend night suburbanites, destination tap room dwellers, and local loft livers, the room was sparkling as the late afternoon light seeped in through the floor-to-ceiling windows and reflected off — well — absolutely everything. Every element of the tap room is shiny and new, calculated, and pun-laden with primary colors and metal.
Google “Tin Whiskers” and your first hit will be the brewery, the second hit will be the definition of the term. When a NASA astronaut heard about the brewery (via said Google search), he was inspired to bring the brewers a piece of the actual Space Shuttle Endeavour with tin whiskers, in a shadow box, to put on display.
So what is a Tin Whisker? According to the brewery’s website:
“A Tin Whisker is an electrical engineering term for a soldering failure that results in a short circuit on a printed circuit board (PCB). It is caused by a tin ‘hair’ (or whisker) that unintentionally forms between adjacent pins of integrated circuits (ICs) which are the little black parts you’ll see on a circuit board.”
Kellerman, the brewery’s brand manager (above), says, “Like naming your kid, you have to think of all the nicknames people can come up with. When we tested [Tin Whiskers], people said things like ‘cats, bearded men, and electronics.’” Perfect.
Tin Whiskers has branding in abundance. From coasters, to tap handles, to a giant robot mural, to table tents and even chairs, everything just fits, and makes you feel at home, bringing you into this hybrid world of science and beer. Part of that branding is the meticulous description, on tap room televisions, of every beer (and beer in progress) including its production stage.
Kellerman explains: “Every brewery, whether they share it or not, has a system for how they categorize their beers in the stages leading up to production, so we created a way to share it with people.” The earliest stage is “Alpha,” when the brewer is testing the waters, gauging interest, perfecting the recipe. It may or may not return as a “Beta” batch, a more refined brew. “Production”-level beers indicate a pretty locked-in recipe. And for special occasions, like the launch, there are “Singletons,” special one-offs that are available until they run out.
When Tin Whiskers was looking for a site, St. Paul drew it in with recent zoning changes and “well-balanced” water — which is to say, water boasting a good balance of minerals. Its location also houses Sawatdee, Black Sheep, and Camp Bar, underneath layers of lofts in an in-between neighborhood possibly known as “Downtown North.” Not quite Lowertown, not quite downtown, but like most places in St. Paul, it is two minutes from 94 and two blocks from the upcoming Green Line LRT.
When asked how long their dream has been in motion until this point of reality, Moriarty replied, with a smile and without hesitation, “four years and two months.” It was on that day that the Tin Whiskers was conceived, in the fermentation of what the men dubbed “Punishment Beer,” the worst and most bitter brew they ever made. After tasting it, they vowed that they were going to drink a bottle of it with every batch they brewed thereafter, as a reminder to do better and be better. With that beer long gone, they have not only lived up to the high expectations they set for themselves, but have built a tap room experience and craft beer brand unlike any other in the Twin Cities.
Short Circuit Stout on Nitro, 5.3% ABV
With a burnt caramel nose, Short Circuit is a solid sweet stout with a lightly roasted finish. Unlike Batch Beta, the Singleton Robust Stout also available on tap, it is only slightly bitter and significantly creamier, like a milky chocolate dessert without the heavy mouthfeel. While it’s always a treat to have a beer on nitrogen rather than the usual CO2, for Tin Whiskers it’s a practical move: It takes less time to carbonate. Maintaining its creamy tan head and Belgian lace as its sipped, Short Circuit is not unlike Left Hand’s Milk Stout, but with more caramel undertones and subtle nuttiness.
Wheatstone Bridge American Style Wheat, 6.3% ABV
Glowing with the golden haze of an unfiltered beer, the Wheatstone Bridge is, according to head brewer Johnson, the most popular beer they have. With five gallons of it in every batch, honey adds crisp flavor and high gravity, not the sweetness some would expect. Pineapple dances on the tongue, due to 10 lbs. of chamomile tea, apparently a bitch to clean, but a debonair element in the dainty light beer. It’s so palatable and pleasant, flavorful without being overwhelmingly fruity, you could drink 12 on a summer boating trip on the lake; but I wouldn’t recommend it with that high alcohol content.
Tin Whiskers Brewing Co., 125 E. 9th St, St. Paul, MN 55101; 651.330.4734
HOURS: Wed-Thu 4-10pm, Fri 3-11pm, Sat noon-11pm