Despite drowning in a flood of good Minnesota beer, local drinkers are finding time to buzz about an Iowan outfit called Toppling Goliath, which made its state premiere at this year’s Winter Beer Dabbler.
Toppling Goliath has a name that alludes to the war small brewers fight against Big Beer, and a reasonably long track record in the fight. First opened in 2009 in Decorah, Iowa, it is just now appearing in liquor stores near you. After benefiting from a series of law changes and business developments, they began a contract brew partnership in 2015 through a company called Brew Hub, based out of Lakeland, Florida.
Similar to how Cold Spring brewery contract brews for 21st Amendment based out of California, bringing Minnesota more Back in Black at lower prices, Brew Hub specializes in helping small breweries brew more beer for larger distribution.
Toppling Goliath makes two out of RateBeer’s top 100 beers in the world (2015), the second best beer of the Rate Beer Top 50 (as of publication date) and two out of the top five beers on Beer Advocate’s top 250 beers as rated by users. It almost feels in this case, as if Midwestern beer fans in heart-warming solidarity, have rallied together to put Iowa on the map after many years of being neglected on the national scene.
We sampled three of the brewery’s readily available beers, all at relatively reasonable prices, about $10 per pint four pack or regular 12 oz six pack: PseudoSue Pale Ale, Golden Nugget IPA, and Dorothy’s New World Lager.
PseudoSue Pale Ale is the standout, likely to join our weekly rotation. With its bright citrus notes and bitterness that turns into an overall evergreen taste, it stands up to the likes of Indeed’s Day Tripper. Brewed with the popular and increasingly-hard-to-get citra hops, this pale is a breezy spring beer without the heavier malt backbone of the Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed IPA. Its Belgian lace and steady head make it just as beautiful to look at is it is to drink. 5.8 percent ABV, 50 IBU.
Brewed with Nugget hops instead of the clementine-scented hops of PseudoSue, the Golden Nugget IPA has a hop blast up front but the heavier malt bill stands up to the bitterness creating a somewhat duller experience. While we still prefer Surly Furious with its biting bitterness and copper notes, the Golden Nugget has a slight alcohol nose and resin floral finish. It is overall milder than Summit’s Saga, but on par with Steel Toe Size 7 in terms of its strength. 6.8 percent ABV, 56 IBU.
And finally, Dorothy’s New World Lager is a Toppling Goliath’s flagship brew, named after the brewer’s grandmother. A “California Common” (aka “Steam”) – meaning a beer that is fermented at a temperature between ales and lagers, like famed Anchor Steam – the beer is fruity and fresh but soft, if not a little thin. Lightly hopped with a smooth finish, this year-round staple is what we would call a “lawnmower beer”. 5.5 percent ABV, 10 IBU.
Although currently unavailable on the local scene, Toppling Goliath’s fan favorite is the Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout, an imperial coffee stout aged in whiskey barrels. It was also rated in 2015 on RateBeer as one of the best beers in the world and cited in various lists of rare and excellent beers, followed closely by Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight imperial stout.
Based on the beers we tried, a beer pilgrimage road trip to Decorah may be in the cards – if only to fight it out for a bottle of Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout.