It is great having family members who enjoy great beer. It is even better when they invite you on a beer themed trip to Decorah, IA.
Recently my brother-in-laws and I went on a trip to visit the famed Toppling Goliath Brewing.
Anyone who knows quality craft beer has heard of Toppling Goliath. They are known amongst craft beer fans for their famed beers as Morning Delight, Assassin, and King Sue (to name a handful). However some of their lesser known varieties are also stars in their own right. Fire, Skulls & Money, Sosus, Hopsmack, Pseudo Sue, and Supa Sumo are all great beers in the land of IPAs & APAs. More about that later.
Prior to arriving at Toppling Goliath, we went to Pulpit Rock Brewing the night before. I had heard some good things about them from some fellow beer nerds so we stopped in to check it out. Pulpit Rock is a modest, grass roots brewery. They brew in small batches, only available on tap with occasional select varieties in crowlers distributed from their quaint and cozy taproom. My tastings of their beers were a wide selection of what was available at the time: IPA, Double IPA, ESB, bock, & Porter. Most of which were good, in the average to slightly above average category for their style. Unfortunately, at the time we were there none of their best offerings were available. I am told that they have a very good Barrel Aged Stout and that they also have a fairly highly rated imperial stout. Those proved elusive during our time there.
After our brief trip to Pulpit Rock we grabbed some dinner, a TG Hopsmack (on tap at local bar/restaurant) and awaited the arrival of another to our party. Upon his arrival, we decided that we would take up a friendly recommendation from a local couple and made our way to PIVO Brewery. They are a newer brewery and have a brand new facility. They offer a huge tap list and have some interesting eclectic options. I would recommend checking them out if you are in the Decorah area. They have a nice friendly vibe in their taproom and a fair amount of space to accommodate you and your crew.
Finally, the following day, we made our trip to Toppling Goliath. Their new facility is huge and completely state of the art. I admit I did not take any exterior photos. Shame on me. Regardless, we came here to sample the beer! We got settled in at a large table to accommodate our crew. The tap list had a few new ones I had had not sampled yet, my first flight included the following beers: Supa Sumo, X-Hops Maroon, Sosus, Mozee(Zeelander/Mosaic), Galaxy Double Dry Hopped Psuedo Sue, and Rover Truck. It was a tasty flight! I also got a sample of the Dragon Fandango, a sour/tart offering which is not bottled/canned but should be.
After looking around for a little while and snapping a few pics, my brother-in-law Matt comes back to the table with a snifter half full of a rich dark beer that showered the air with aromas of bourbon. The highly sought after Assassin was still on tap! For reference during the release party the prior weekend, someone had come all the way from South Korea to get two bottles!
There was a limit of one pour per person. Because not everyone in our group wanted one, I paid and received three! Thanks friends! Assassin is a special beer, excellent Bourbon notes combined with a light touch of maple, brown sugar, and Vanilla. It is sweet, yet balanced and oh so complex. Each sip reveals new levels of flavor. It is a beer that stands above many others, though I don’t know it it worth the $50 a bottle it commands. That is IF you get selected for a ticket to go to the release.
Assuming what I experienced was the new normal now that they are upping production, I would use the hack we discovered to get a sample of an awesome beer without the steep cost of admission or the crazy crowds.
After our great time at TG, we made our way to Mabe’s Pizza based on a local recommendation. It is a local pizza joint that had decent pizza, but also had some Fire, Skulls, & Money in bombers to enjoy with our pizza. After sampling nearly all their core IPAs and DIPAs together (King Sue is the exception) I would say Fire, Skulls, & Money is their best offering of the bunch.
After dinner we stopped at a local establishment located in the basement of a building. The Courtyard & Cellar. They have a great atmosphere with some rather good brews available for take out purchase as well as on tap. They have a number of different games to play if that is your sort of thing along with a nice lounge area and fireplace. Cozy would be a way to describe it in a word. Even better as we left, I was able to pick up some Clown Shoes barrel aged beers and some harder to find offerings from Evil Twin.
All in all the new brewery is quite a pleasant experience. TG provided good service, an open relaxing atmosphere, and excellent beers. I would recommend taking a journey to Decorah to experience the small town environment and the great beer.