On Tallgrass Brewing and the Subjectivity of Taste

We were standing in line for the PedalPub at Autumn Brew Review 2011 when a friend of a friend spotted us and wandered over.

"What brewery tasting are you going on?" he asked.

One of the great things about Autumn Brew Review is the PedalPub beer/food tasting tours. PedalPubs are a newer sight among the streets of Minneapolis/St. Paul - several seats, each with their own set of bicycle pedals, one driver and several taps. At Autumn Brew Review, they up the game by asking local chefs and national breweries to get together for a 20 minute beer and food pairing. It’s a welcome respite of exercise during a day that gets to be a bit excessive. It sounds horrible, but it’s the best thing you could do for your sanity.

We told our friend-of-a-friend that we had signed up for the session by Tallgrass Brewing, only to recieve an eye roll and a “Really? Tallgrass?” as if we had just agreed to eat dog turds and drink moss juice for the rest of the day.

We didn’t understand. We liked Tallgrass. Everyone likes Tallgrass, right?

Turns out, no. Friend-of-a-friend didn’t like Tallgrass, and walked away assuming we were tastless cretins, devoid of critical thinking and probably just biding our time until it was time to down some domestic light beer at the local bowling alley. One person’s personal taste had disregarded another’s. Subjectivity battling subjectivity.

Therein lies the battle of beer culture - and the battle in recommending and reviewing beers in the first place. What I drink, or what your friend-of-a-friend might drink, is tightly bound to our own personal perception - perceptions that others don’t have because everyone’s tongues and experiences and phobias and situations are different. We’re all very different. We’re all the most tender of snowflakes, not one of us alike, not one of us willing to land on the same combination of beer taste.

Turns out, Tallgrass Brewing’s turn on the PedalPub was one of the highlights of that year’s Autumn Brew Review, providing us some delicious food and some fresh-from-the-cask Oktoberfest. That love has expaneded into their regular offerings as Tallgrass made their way to Sioux Falls, complete with rows of obnoxiously designed cans, bright and bold with their over-the-top roosters and buffalos and 8-bit graphics.

8-Bit is worth the biggest mention. Buffalo Sweat - a smooth and bold Oatmeal Cream Stout that veers into bitter porter territory just enough for my tastebuds - gets all of the press as their flagship beer, but it’s their pale lager, 8-Bit, that really sets the scale high. Hoptastic and gimmicky (with a playful nod toward the new generation of Nintendo-raised craft beer drinkers and employment of the a Hop Rocket) 8-Bit gives Shift a run for its money in the hoppy tallboy craft can department.

I’ve been more impressed lately with their Belgian trippel, Velvet Rooster, which takes the cake for one of the most accessible trippels in the American cooler section while also rocking the most bold and recognizable can design of any beer at the store. Velvet Rooster is one part delicious malt, one part delicious sweetness, one part YEAH I’M GETTING A TRIPPEL IN A CAN.

My suggestion: don’t choose a four-pack on its own. Grab the eight pack sampler - you’ll get two of each of the three beers I’ve mentioned, plus their Oasis Ale, which is beyond fantastic - and enjoy some tall frosty cans of great beer, straight from your friends in Manhattan, Kansas.

You’ll probably love it. And if you don’t, that’s okay. You’ll get no eye rolls from me.