Destination: Decorah, Iowa
As the shiny new Toppling Goliath destination brewery prepares to open its doors for the first time today, we decided to write about our trip to Decorah this past summer. Enjoy!
For some, Toppling Goliath is a once-in-a-lifetime destination, for us, it was a 3 hour drive on a Saturday afternoon in early Summer 2017. We didn't go for a specific beer release, and this certainly isn't a post about how we won the Mornin' Delight raffle, we just drove down to see what Decorah had to offer.
Decorah is a much smaller town than we expected, especially since we arrived after Luther College had let out for the summer. At a population of just over 8,000 people, its hard to believe that this town supports more than one brewery, let alone one of the most renowned breweries in the world. Upon arriving at the taproom, its clear that its a lot different than we expected, and is perhaps one of the most understated taprooms we'd been to. At this point, the TG taproom is separate from their production facility, while they are currently building out a massive destination brewery and taproom in Decorah. The taproom sits on a small hill on College Drive, the main road through town, and overlooks a Pizza Ranch restaurant — like I said, the place is understated. There weren't a ton of options for beers on tap, but it didn't matter, we ordered a Sue and a HopSmack and headed to the patio. Both of us were a little awestruck that we were sitting at the legendary Toppling Goliath and that it wasn't packed wall to wall, so we sat back, drank a couple of amazing hoppy beers, and planned the rest of our day.
The new taproom is set to open today, February 10th, and as the brewery ramps up production of cans at their new facility we as consumers can only hope they'll dial in the inconsistencies recently with their flagship pale ale, PseudoSue.
Ah, PseudoSue, once a venerable midwest "whale", now reduced to BeerAdvocate users' favorite whipping boy. This was in part due to Toppling Goliath's decision to contract brew Sue, along with a few other beers, down at BrewHub in Florida. The beer coming out of Florida was a shadow of its former self; the beer that we used to drive to Hudson, WI for, just in hopes that the shelves at Casanova hadn't already been cleared out. Very quickly this beer became known as "Florida Sue" on online forums, and seemed to become the scapegoat for all of TG's issues, whether they were warranted or not. Despite the maddening batch variation coming out of Florida, Toppling Goliath continued to push out Decorah brewed bombers of PseudoSue variants, and other hoppy goodness into the marketplace.
Despite all of that, the beers we drank in the TG taproom were all amazing. We were able to drink HopSmack and PseudoSue on tap, and buy bottles of DDH Sue and Fire, Skulls, & Money to-go.
Now to the busiest taproom in Decorah...
I had always heard rumblings about Pulpit Rock on various beer forums and social media, especially around their big releases, and over time they have established quite a cult following for their hazy IPAs and various barrel aged offerings throughout the year. Every so often, you'll see a beer like BA $ticker $hock pulling some serious weight in the trading forums as well. The tiny little taproom was packed, the bar was packed, people were spilling out of the patio into the parking lot. It became clear that this is where Decorians (?) and non-Decorians alike were hanging out and drinking beer.
Since we had a room booked just down the road, we were able to run through a few beers at Pulpit Rock, we tried their de facto flagship NE IPA, Saftig, which features simcoe and mosaic hops. Saftig is soft, hazy, juicy, and a wonderful representation of an east coast IPA. We also were able to try one of their mainstays, Pour Over porter, a Baltic porter that features rotating variants of coffee throughout the months. Our favorite beer of the day was called Coconut Migration, a collaboration beer with nearby SingleSpeed Brewing in Cedar Falls, IA. Coconut Migration was a double IPA with coconut, it was really well balanced and a nice departure from some of the milkshake IPAs of late that can get out of hand very quickly.
If Decorah is on your list of beer destinations I would highly recommend going in the summer, most everything is walkable and the town is very enjoyable to experience on foot. Most people will only get the chance to experience Decorah for a crazy KBBS or Assassin release, but we preferred to go on a quiet weekend in June and have the place almost to ourselves.
^ Some TG beers from throughout the years.
Sam + Libby