Narrow gauge is inside an Italian restaurant and bar slightly north of the St. Louis airport. When you drive up, it is easy to expect that the brewery should have its own space and entrance, although it is inside the Italian restaurant. When I stopped by they only had four hazy beers on tap that they brewed although thankfully they also had quite an extensive guest tap list.
In essence, they really only had two beers on tap because two of them were variances of others. For example, I had both the standard cloud city and the DDH cloud city. All of the beers were generally excellent hazy with creamy bodies and soft mouth feel. The standard cloud city was a nice mix of citrus and tropical fruit with mild hop acidity. The DDH version was stronger with flavors of tropical fruit and overripe fruit typical from the use of galaxy hops. I preferred the standard version but both were excellent.
Similarly, the next two beers were both variances on a beer they call flag. The Queen flag is different because of the addition of honey. It had a slightly boozy bite with bright citrus hops and mild honey sweetness at the finish. Comparatively, the DDH flag was equally acidic and grassy with notes of grape. After having four tasters of their Hoppy hazy beers, I decided to order more traditional styles to finish off the visit. If you are already staying in down town St. Louis, I recommend stopping by narrow gauge before you go to the airport rather than making a separate trip because of how far North they are from everything.
While the hazy IPAs I had were all a bit green at the time I visited, I expect they will mellow out nicely like most proper examples of the style. They were so good that I am a bit sad that I was unable to get some cans to bring home.
Come for hazy IPAs and an extensive guest tap list.
Pulpit Rock opened in Decorah just down the street from Toppling Goliath. They managed to distinguish themselves enough to grab some overflow beer nerd crowds from those who are coming down for their neighbor. You can easily walk from one brewery to the other assuming it isn’t the dead of winter.
I started with their Show and Tell Berliner Weisse. It was an excellent example of the style with tons of jammy berry character and a light tart finish. I didn’t notice the lactose in the flavor. The Dave O Pale was creamy and hazy with grassy and citrus character and tons of hop aroma. It was quite the tasty hazy pale.
The IPA was similarly creamy with notes of vanilla and candied fruit and light hop acidity. The pumpkin porter was very spice forward on the nose and had tons of holiday spice on the taste with light chocolate and an overall nice balance of flavors such that it tasted like liquid pumpkin pie. It was super creamy and delicious on nitro.
Pulpit Rock appears to focus on hazy IPAs and kettle sours with lactose. I was quite impressed by both of the styles. Depending on what is available at Toppling Goliath on a given trip, it would make sense to visit Pulpit Rock at the same time. They have crowlers available of some of their beers on occasion. I already had maxed out my luggage space with Toppling Goliath beers or I might have added a crowler or two of their hazy IPA.
Though it was cold as hell outside, maybe 45 degrees, I sat out on the patio with my beers because it was really loud inside with a full crowd and hardly any space left. After Toppling Goliath I really needed the quiet time though I did drink my flight a little faster than I might have otherwise because I wanted to get warm inside.
Toppling Goliath got a big name after they were rated some of the best hoppy beers in the world by Beer Advocate. They have a focus on IPAs but they also have some small release stouts and delicious kettle sours. The crazy thing about the brewery is that the closest major airport is Minneapolis St Paul so you may end up driving 2 and a half hours to get to the brewery after flying across the country.
The brewery itself is a fairly small space given the big hype associated with it. On the Saturday afternoon when we visited there was a Football game going on that drew a loud boisterous crowd. Seating is fairly limited but in the area you can fairly easily find some bottles that may have sold out at the brewery. I preferred their hazy double IPAs and kettle sour over the other beers though they had some tasty lighter beers. They serve their beers in chilled glasses so I would recommend asking for non-chilled tasters if you go. This seemed silly considering it was 40 degrees outside.
The galaxy dry hopped Sue was creamy and subdued with light fruity notes. I found the beer to be nothing special. It didn’t have a ton of hop character or taste that much better than the average hoppy pale. The DDH sue was a little better with notes of bubblegum and vanilla and a creamy mouthfeel with minimal bitterness. While it was up there with some of the better hoppy pales it wasn’t anything revolutionary or unique. After returning home with some cans of Sue, the closest thing I compare it to is a pale ale from El Segundo Brewing Company. It isn’t that the beer is bad so much as the California brewers have been making similar quality low alcohol pale ales for quite some time.
Pomepeii was resinous and sticky with notes of ripe fruit and had a ton more flavor than the Sue. It was a bit above average and quite a delicious beer. I brought back a bunch of fresh bottles of it and in the bottles I got a ton of orange peel character of the sort that I rarely taste in a beer of this alcohol percentage. Nugget had notes of pine and grape with a light bitterness. For a 6% beer it was very crushable. Overall it was nicely balanced.
Rover Truck, their oatmeal stout, was excellent with a mix of smoke, roast, and light cherry. It was smooth with a medium body and at the time I visited the only dark beer they had on tap. If I didn’t have the limited space in checked luggage I might have brought a few four packs back for my husband. The X Hops Gold had a mix of light pepper and vegetal hop character with mild citrus and an excellent balance. It was a well-balanced beer and quite good.
King Sue, a hazy double IPA was creamy and soft with notes of vanilla, tropical fruit, and peaches. It was above average as far as hazy double IPAs go and up there with some of the best. The Supa Sumo was creamy and soft with tons of citrus and light melon. It had a bit more hop aroma kick than the King Sue and was my favorite IPA of the day. I left with a 32oz growler of this one, though I also found a bottle at a nearby shop to enjoy that night. Dragon Fandango is their kettle sour that at the time I visited had dragon fruit and passion fruit. Before I knew what fruits it used, I tasted tons of strawberry and raspberry. It was juicy and lightly sweet with a light tart finish. This was my favorite beer of the day and I brought a small growler of this home as well.
Though I had hoped that Toppling Goliath may end up being in a class by itself compared to other breweries, I found that they rank among the top for breweries in their category. Their hazy double IPAs were up there with the best I’ve had in the country and their kettle sour was one of the best I have had anywhere. Despite the long distance from the nearest airport I found the visit to be worth it especially when you add in their neighbor, Pulpit Rock down the street. Unlike other breweries known for hazy double IPAs, you are more likely to find their hazy beers in 22oz bottles than cans for $9. This makes the beers more expensive per ounce than the average $22 4-pack of hazy double IPAs out there.
Considering the various breweries out there making fantastic hazy IPAs, visiting Toppling Goliath is likely to be a one time thing for me. A stop at other major Hazy IPA breweries is generally easier and involves less driving, especially for breweries like Tree House or Trillium.
I visited a number of breweries in 2017. Some have amazing beer but can be quite hectic to visit. A smaller number both serve excellent beer and have a welcoming tasting room that you could easily spend hours enjoying. Out of these breweries, one might be unfamiliar to readers in the US who haven’t heard of a small Canadian brewery in an even smaller town. This list also specifically focuses on breweries outside of San Diego. Each of these also has a full blog post, which is linked to in the name of each brewery.
Located an hour drive west of Portland Oregon, De Garde is a brewery visited mostly by fans of sour beers enthusiastic enough to make the drive outside an already exciting city of breweries in search of excellence. The brewery is located in an area selected specifically for the microflora in the air for their wild ales.
What makes a visit to De Garde so special is the delightful patio and bright indoor seating area where you can order numerous vintage bottles for on-site consumption. While there are beers on tap as well, there is something magical about sharing a vintage bottle with someone you just met. Visiting the source is also the most economical way to get bottles, that are priced quite reasonably at the source.
Since my visit, we have started getting occasional bottles from De Garde in San Diego but I still look forward to a future visit. I also quite enjoyed staying overnight in the area and soaking in the beauty of the Oregon coast.
My visit in 2017 was prompted by some ratings listing American Solera as one of the best new breweries. This should come as no surprise for those familiar with Prairie, the brewery where the head brewer got his start. Located in the small town of Tulsa Oklahoma, American Solera is nestled in an industrial area outside of town and for many will be the main reason for visiting the area.
Tulsa is so small that taking Uber around is cheap, making it easy for a solo traveler to visit. American Solera wowed me not just with their excellent sours but with their hazy IPAs, imperial pastry stouts, and barleywines. This is another spot where you would do well to order one of the vintage bottles for on-site consumption. If you are lucky, the person next to you will be a regular and can suggest a favorite.
The tasting room is relaxed inside and has some outdoor seating as well. Many locals visit the brewery regularly and the quality is such that you wouldn’t mind this being your primary brewery available.
I visited the small town of Kingston, Ontario solely based on a string of coincidences but the quality of the beers surpassed all expectation even with minimal hype behind it. Stone City is the only one on the list that served food as well and I quite enjoyed their hummus plate with my beers. To get to Kingston, most people will take a train from Toronto. My friend who lives in Kingston does not recommend the bus. Like others on this list, they are in a tiny town.
Stone city had some excellent examples of juicy modern West Coast IPAs like you find at Fieldwork when they aren’t making hazy beers. What really blew me away was their delectable gose, hazy and soft like a hazy IPA but balancing gentile ginger and lime flavors. The whole line up of beers was impressive, all favoring subtlety over intense flavors. I sat in the brewery for 4 hours on that day and loved both the feel of the place and the conversation with fellow beer-enthusiasts, both locals and those on beer vacations.
Holy Mountain and Jester King, my last 2 on this list, are the only ones I have visited multiple times. Both are so impressive that I can’t help but visit them when I am in their respective cities even if only for a short visit. Holy Mountain is in an area of Seattle that is not easy to get to by public transit but as soon as I walk in I am energized by the bright open tasting room with the rich wooden bar. My first visit I was blown away by the quality of their wild saisons and lagers. On returning, they had managed to blow me away with their hoppy beers, embracing the hazy trends while eclipsing many regulars.
Like others on the list, it is easy for me to spend hours at a time enjoying the variety of beers on their menu. With the price of half pours slightly higher per ounce than full pours, I often end up drinking numerous full pours. Since my most recent visit they started canning their hoppy beers as well. Holy Mountain oozes excellence out of every beer served and always delights.
Jester King is quite the drive outside of Austin and typically we rent a car to get there up the winding country roads. As soon as you get close to the entrance and see the wooden picnic tables out in the grass, the country charm takes over. Jester King is primarily a spot for fans of farmhouse ales and sours though they occasionally will tap a stout.
Each time I visit, I love the feel of sitting outside in the open air while enjoying the various beers available. Most of the time my tasters are purchased to help me decide if I want bottles of the various beers they have to-go. I am always impressed by the quality of beers both on-tap and to-go in bottles even though I haven’t even snagged some of the more sought-after fruited sours that sell out quickly. Since Austin is a quick flight from San Diego I try to visit Jester King every year.
LIC Beer Project is in Long Island City. It is close to the subway stop making it easy to get to from Manhattan. Since I was staying in the Lower East Side of Manhattan I was able to get there along the F without transferring. They don’t serve tasters but will allow you to get a splash of beer prior to ordering a full pour. They were originally focusing on Belgians but now their tap list has added tons of hazy IPAs that they release in cans fairly regularly. The photos included in this post were sadly taken on my phone because I lost my camera I had the day before my visit.
I started with the Gal Friday Berliner Weisse. It had a cloudy yellow appearance and was super juicy with flavors of intense guava and mild passion fruit. The beer was mildly tart and quite impressive. The Higher Burning IPA was creamy with light vanilla, hints of bubblegum, and bright citrus flavors with mild hop acidity.
The Hollows DIPA was soft and creamy with intense citrus and medium hop acidity. It ended with notes of grass and mango. The barley wine had notes of cherry and grape on the nose with a light caramel taste that mixed nicely with bitter chocolate and occasional hints of dark fruit. It could have been a little sweeter but as it was I enjoyed it quite a bit.
I’m glad I made the trip out to LIC beer but I would have liked if they had offered flights so I could taste more of the beers in one visit. I look forward to returning in a future visit to New York City.