On the crest of the state's pre-eminent tap-water tasting event Wednesday at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, taste testers David LaFrance and Tony Belden bandied about the topic of the city's water.

"Duluth has some of the best-tasting water in the world," said the Denver-based LaFrance, chief operating officer of the American Water Works Association, whose Minnesota section is holding its annual conference at the DECC this week.

"They make really good beer with their water," said Belden, the state section's chairman-elect out of Grant, Minn.

While Duluth's tap water earned a finalist distinction at the conference, it came up short in the coveted Best in Glass competition, which named St. Cloud's the state's best tap water.

St. Cloud will now represent the state next June at the AWWA national convention in Philadelphia.

Bloomington won both the state and national competitions last time around, but the city's treated well water earned only runner-up status this year alongside Duluth's treated water from Lake Superior in the competition among the three finalists.

St. Cloud's tap water is sourced in the Mississippi River.

Four judges with three glasses of water apiece met in a crowded Pioneer Hall to conduct the blind tests. The water was served at room temperature - at which the judges said the purest taste could be found.

After testing each sample, LaFrance was quick to choose his favorite, the eventual winner from St. Cloud. St. Cloud's water was listed first on three of four ballots.

"Refreshing. Clean on the palette and a fresh aroma," LaFrance said of the St. Cloud water.

Unlike wine, whiskey or other liquid-tasting endeavors, water tasting ought not produce a bouquet or flavor of any kind, said Jon Eaton, AWWA vice president.

"You're looking for no taste," he said. "Any smells and tastes just shouldn't be there."

The clarity of the water can be impeded by elements such as chlorine, a metallic flavor or any hint of mustiness, Eaton said.

"Refreshing is the key," LaFrance said. "Something you can guzzle."

While the judges, including Minnesota section administrator Mona Cavalcoli, agreed it was a tough decision, St. Cloud's victory was not without precedent.

It was the people's choice winner at the Minnesota State Fair earlier this year.