I know that we are mostly finished shouting about Iowa on this website, but I think a post about Iowa beer may be an exception. Toppling Goliath Brewery in Decorah, Iowa is one of the Midwest’s—and entire country’s tbqh—finest breweries and I’m extremely excited that we get to talk to them. If you made the trip down to Iowa City last weekend you probably saw their beer in every liquor store and at most bars and restaurants that you went to. They are pretty ubiquitous in the Hawkeye State. For your sake, I hope you tried some.
The Badgers have a bye week coming up so there is a perfect opportunity awaiting you to sit on your couch all Saturday and sip on some beer that you’ve never had. I suggest picking up a four-pack of Toppling Goliath and let your taste buds marvel at how something this great could be made from grain and hops. Check this article out for a little bit more about Toppling Goliath’s successes in Iowa and worldwide.
I know the Badgers won’t be making the trip back to Iowa City for two years, but if you’re looking for somewhere fun to go for a weekend, you can do way worse than heading to Iowa for a beercation.
Name: Toppling Goliath Brewery
Location: 1600 Prosperity Rd, Decorah, IA 52101
Key Beers: Pseudo Sue Pale Ale; Dorothy’s New World Lager; Mornin’ Delight Imperial Stout (one of the best beers I’ve ever had, if that means anything to you)
Awards Won: Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout was named best beer IN THE WORLD by RateBeer in 2015; they were named second best brewery IN THE WORLD by Beer Advocate
Brewery Tour: Check out this part of their website for tour information.
Here is my interview, conducted via email and lightly edited, with brewmaster Mike Saboe.
What got you started in the brewing industry?
I was part of a German exchange program that led me to spending time in Germany with two different host families over the course of two summers. Beer and wine were served with meals – it was a natural part of their culture and out of sharing that culture with me I was amazed at a whole new world of what beer could be.
What did you go to school for?
My educational path was intentionally tailored towards pharmacy and entrepreneurship. Pharmacy offered a near-perfect parallel with the necessary education needed for the brewing industry. Entrepreneurial business courses provided educational diversity that could easily be transposed onto any direction I chose to pursue.
When did you change your career path to brewing?
My passion for what the brewing world had to offer began prior to officially targeting any other career path. I’m extremely lucky in that regard.
What is your favorite beer that your brewery makes?
I’m compelled to provide my honest answer – I especially appreciate the diversity of hoppy offerings that we provide. It’s the ability to switch from a Pseudo Sue to a Pompeii to a Golden Nugget that keeps me happiest. If I were to answer in terms of what beer of ours that makes up the highest percentage of what I drink, that nod would go to Pseudo Sue.
Dinosaurs, volcanos, beer, oh my! #Repost @mandrliquors.avon— Toppling Goliath (@TGBrews) August 8, 2018
Look who’s here!!! Oh man these are fresh and good! @tgbrews #pseudosue #pseudosuepaleale #paleale #pompeii #pompeiiipa #ipa #mibeer #topplinggoliath #topplinggoliathbrewing #soworthit #getthisbeer #craftbeer pic.twitter.com/mTcJepcQR2
What is your favorite beer that another brewery in Iowa makes?
The craft beer scene in Iowa has grown due to the synergistic and cultivating effects of people being exposed to what craft beer can be. This has fueled inspiration for the exploration of new iterations upon beer styles and the introduction of new breweries to the market. This fast pace and high energy makes it challenging to identify a particular favorite beer. When I travel to Des Moines area, I’ve been fortunate to enjoy great beers from 515, Barn Town, and Confluence. In our neck of the woods, there are a few breweries to visit and enjoy – each of which offer a relatively diverse portfolio of beers worthy of one’s time.
What is your favorite beer that a Wisconsin brewery makes?
I lean towards Central Waters for their barrel-aged offerings (Author’s Note: basically every brewer I’ve talked to has said this), The Brewing Projekt is making some nice hoppy beers, and I’d love it if New Glarus would brew Yokel again. What I appreciate the most out of this question is the realization that a beer trip to Wisconsin is long overdue.
Do you follow college football?
It’s hard to name something more exciting to me than what the feel of Fall and the college football season offers. I’m both an Iowa fan and an Iowa State fan. Iowa is my alma mater and my father went to Iowa State.
If so, what were your reactions to the Iowa vs. Wisconsin game?
It was a fantastic representation of what college football can be. While I’m an Iowa fan, I wish Wisconsin the best with the rest of their season.
Is your beer distributed in Madison?
We have wonderful distribution partners that share our beer throughout the entirety of Wisconsin.
Which of your beers should Badgers fans drink the next time Wisconsin visits Iowa?
We have an assortment of hoppy offerings that offer the liquid translation of their respective hop varieties; our focus with our hoppy beers is not on bitterness, rather we prefer to provide a soft, juicy expression of what hoppy beer can be. For lagers, our Dorothy’s is a clean and refreshing beer that beer drinkers of all backgrounds can enjoy. We anticipate offering our Mornin’ Latte for Stout drinkers by mid-to-late season – imagine a chocolate-forward Stout with a velvet mouthfeel and fresh roasted coffee to provide balance and complexity.
What do you listen to while brewing?
We encourage our team to play the music that inspires them. As you could expect, a wide range of musical influences energize our team. For me, I listen to grunge – my favorite is Alice in Chains. That said, I have a firm appreciation for almost all music, ranging from classical, country, and hip hop.
Why is beer important to you?
It’s a form of art that, for a moment in history, wasn’t necessarily seen as such. We’re humbled and appreciative every day that the craft beer scene has re-opened that door. Our mission has offered a multitude of challenges - some seen, others not - that we’re thankful to have been afforded the opportunity to overcome. For our team, there isn’t a more compelling or fulfilling thing to be a part of. Beer is important to me because of the appreciation it provides of what our team can accomplish.