Tag Archives: Stout

Toppling Goliath Brewing – Decorah Iowa, a Visit to the Legendary Brewery

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.

Full pour of Dragon Fandango after finishing my other beers.

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.

Top 2:
Dragon Fandango
Supa Sumo

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Tenaya Creek Brewery – Las Vegas NV

Tenaya Creek has been around since 1999 though only recently moved to their location in downtown Las Vegas. They have a spacious tasting room with excellent air conditioning and a wide variety of guest taps besides their own house beers. I tried seven different beers while I was there and overall quite satisfied.

I started with Hop Ride, their flagship IPA. It was dank and resinous with a bitter bite and notes of pineapple and banana on the finish. While it was tasty, it had a lingering bitterness that I didn’t care for. The Gypsy Fade IPA was much more modern with a minimal bitterness and bright fruity hops that blended nicely with herbal hops on the base. I quite liked this one.

The Magnum Rye was a nice fruity saison with notes of white cake and mild floral and herbal hop character and hints of bubblegum on the finish. The hops are quite subtle here and not anywhere near as powerful as I would have assumed but they work nicely with the base beer. The Howling Oats oatmeal stout blended notes of cherry malt base with tons of roast and finished with a bitter bite. I enjoyed the chewy body and how the cherry flavor didn’t dominate.

The Old Jackalope barley wine had notes of caramel but the hops overpower it with a strong bitter finish that I didn’t care for. I did not finish the taster. The silencer double IPA had a nice caramel malt base that blended nicely with sweet candied mango notes on the finish. Hops were mostly subdued and blended nicely with the flavor of the mango. The Baltic porter was thick and roasty with bitter chocolate and mild notes of smoke. The flavors balanced nicely with hints of cherry giving it a cherry chocolate flavor. This is one of the more complex and delicious Baltic porters I have tried.

If you are in Las Vegas for the weekend and crave some good beers, stop by for a flight and grab some cans to bring back to your hotel room. They had six pack cans of many of their core beers.

Top 2:
Gypsy Fade IPA
Baltic Porter

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Olympic Penensula Breweries – Silver City, Sound, Rainy Daze, and Propolis

I visited the various breweries on the olympic penensula. You can easily visit them all in one day on your way from Tacoma to Port Angeles. Silver City has two locations but I recommend visiting the tap room where you can try some of their pilot batches and experience a more relaxed atmosphere.

Silver City


I visited the Silver City tap room and tried four beers. My typical practice is to stop after four tasters if I don’t taste anything that really stands out. So here I left after the four tasters. From what I had heard I hoped to leave with cans of their IPAs but decided not to after my flight.

I tried three of their IPAs and one of their porters. The St. Florian IPA was resinous and dank with medium bitterness and a biscuit malt base. This is a fairly standard IPA though a bit old school. The porter was solid with a nice light roast and notes of caramel.

The two hazy IPAs were not particularly impressive. The pilot batch session hazy was intensely grassy and piney and lightly acidic. The tropic haze is one that has gotten them a lot of popularity but it didn’t have much hop aroma to speak of. Instead I got notes of cashews and minerals with hints of banana bread. The strong mineral character is common with haze but this one didn’t work for me. After the four I didn’t try anything further and went on to the next stop.

Sound Brewing

Sound was recommended to me based on their Belgian style beers. I would recommend similarly that you stick to the Belgian styles. I started with their porter and Baltic porter. The porter had some light smoke, caramel, and molasses with a dry bitter finish. The Baltic porter had some strong cherry malt character with bitter chocolate and caramel on the finish. Both were drinkable though I preferred the Baltic porter out of the two.

The NEIPA was not hazy in the slightest and had some notes of grass, herbs, and pine with medium bitterness. I didn’t find the beer to be particularly fruity or juicy at all. It was an OK IPA but not remotely NE style. The double IPA was a dark brown color with sweet caramel malt notes, mild bitterness, and some apricot hop character. The beer was far too sweet and malt-forward and tasted more like a barley wine than a double IPA.

 

Things were more interesting when I got to the Belgian styles. The dubel was tasty with notes of dark fruit and caramel on a nice dry finish. My husband enjoyed this one as well even though he generally only likes stouts and porters. The Monk’s Indiscretion is a nice heavily hopped Belgian strong ale. It had intense herbal and grassy hops that balanced nicely with the esters and Belgian yeast character. For 10% the beer hid its alcohol well and had a nice dry finish. The Belgian tripel had notes of banana and clove over a biscuit malt base and a good dry finish.

Belgian style beers tend to be brewed overly sweet in the US but not so much at Sound. If you like Belgian styles I recommend trying some of their bottles if you can’t make it out for a visit to the brewery directly.

Top 2:
Monk’s Indiscretion
Belgian Dubel.

Rainy Daze

Rainy Daze was recommended to me by a fellow beer blogger. The Pourhouse IPA had notes of herbs and citrus rind on a nice soft body with a mild bitterness. The Goat Boater IPA had some notes of citrus and floral hops though the mineral taste on the finish. The Peace hazy IPA had a hazy appearance but hardly any detectable hop aroma to speak of.

The stout had some notes of root beer and caramel with light lemon hop character. The coffee porter was nutty with good strong coffee character on top of mild roast. Rainy Daze had a few decent IPAs but nothing that was exploding with hop aroma or particularly memorable. They were fairly standard.

Top 2:
Goat Boat IPA
Coffee Porter

Propolis

Propolis focuses on wild ales and sours often adding various herbs to them. They charge $3 to $4 for each taster. I had some interesting beers but nothing that was particularly memorable or that made me want to leave with a bottle that they charger more than $20 for.

Mellow had some notes of citrus and herbs on a light sweet funk base. The spruce had notes of honey and light sweetness with berry notes from the spruce. Wild Woods had some berry character from the wine with a dry finish with bitter tannin kick. The Gordin had a light fruit character with some honey flavor.

The Apricot Ostara blended apricot with chamomile nicely with a light acidic finish. The oud Bruin was thin and smoky with an acidic tart cherry finish on a mild caramel base. As far as wild ales go, I didn’t find the beers at Propolis to be particularly complex or flavorful. I finished each taster but nothing made me crave for more either on tap or in a bottle to take home.

If some of their sours sound interesting to you, you can find them as far south as San Diego in the bottles. I recommend trying a few bottles before taking the trip to the brewery directly.

Top 2:
Wild Woods
Oud Bruin

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Wild Barrel Brewing – San Marcos San Diego

Wild Barrel Brewing surprised me as I hadn’t heard a ton about the brewery until a short time before opening. With a brewer who used to work at stone and a keen eye for what the market wants, they launched out the gate with some IPAs, massively fruity kettle sours, and a coffee stout with barrel aged stuff to come in time. You can tell when you walk in that they spent a lot of time on the layout of the space including their choice for the acoustics because it doesn’t get as loud as many breweries do when crowded.

Wild Barrel serves tasters in larger glass to give room for aromas to come through. In the crowded San Diego brewery scene this is fairly uncommon but always welcomed. I was not really that excited when I saw three fruited Berliner Weiss style beers on the board (called here San Diego Vice) but was soon glad i tried them. San Diego breweries regularly make fruited versions of this style but often with minimal amounts of fruit. Not so here. All 3 of them, cherry, blackcurrent, and guava were massively fruity with a light tart bite on the back.

These may be the most fruit flavor I’ve had in any beer of this style, surpassing my previous favorite at Georgia based Creature Comforts. If their crowlers were available I might have left with a couple of crowlers. It is hard to pick a favorite of the three because they were all so delicious.

The two IPAs available were both in the modern style though staying away from the thick hazy style so far. The single IPA was nice and citrus forward with a light bitterness and a dry finish. The double IPA was a bit more dank and resinous with a slightly thicker body and still not a ton of bitterness. The IPAs remind me of the style brewed at Protector in many ways.

The coffee stout had notes of popcorn and coffee on the nose with a fairly thin body and a nice mix of light roast, smoke, and coffee notes. I found the coffee to be a bit more subdued than I tend to enjoy but it is a nice balanced beer.

I am looking forward to see how Wild Barrel develops over the coming months and expect I will be back again regularly to see what flavors of San Diego Vice come up next. They have excited me about a style that has generally been enjoyable but not particularly exciting for me before now.

Top 2:
Blackcurrent San Diego Vice
Cherry San Diego Vice

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Breweries in Prince Edward County – County Road, Barley Days, Prince Eddy’s, and Parsons

My second set of breweries in outer Ontario Canada were all in Prince Edward County area, a small island known for its many wineries in part due to its unique terroir.

County Road Brewing

Immediately on walking up to County Road it had the feel of an upscale farmhouse restaurant with lots of wood in the decor yet open areas letting in plenty of natural light. I got to speak with the brewer while I was there and learned that they had recently shifted their focus more toward Belgian styles and farmhouse ales after discovering their water was better suited for this style of beer. From what I tasted while I was there, this seems to be quite true.

I started with their petite saison. It was dry and balanced with light spice character, earthy apricot notes, and grapefruit hops, with a mild bitter finish. I love how they took the classic style and gave it a hop kick that works well with the style. The standard saison is more true to style with notes of cracked pepper, light puckering tartness and a dry finish.

The pale ale was bitter and piney with a mild malt backbone. The gose was light and crisp with notes of lime and mild salt and a lightly tart finish. The version with added cherry was deliciously fruity and brought out the notes of lime even more prominent. The cherries also gave it a bright red color.

The biere de mars had a dry banana bread flavor with mild grapefruit, caramel, and light tart finish. I enjoyed this one a lot because it is a style I don’t see at breweries very often. The malts didn’t overpower the rest of the beer.

These statements are all about the quality of what I had on tap the day I visited. Sadly, the bottle of saison I brought back home from the brewery didn’t have the same classic style or level of attenuation, though things in the bottle are always unpredictable. The Biere de Miel was still great in the bottle and had a nice balance even if it tended to be a bit more sour than what I had on tap.

Top 3:
Biere de Mars
Cherry Gose
Petite Saison

Barley Days Brewing

Barley Days has a good medium-sized tasting room inside with air conditioning and a nice outdoor seating area. I wasn’t very glad when I saw that they chilled all of their glasses prior to serving. This kept me from getting the full flavor from some of the beers because they weren’t warming up very fast. Still the beers were quite good so it would be worth picking up some to take home and serve in your own glasses.

Their indoor voice European pale was to me a pure classic west coast style pale ale with mild herbal hops, tons of melon and citrus hops, and a mild bitterness and minimal malt notes. Their loyalist lager was crisp and fruity with a nice lager character. The harvest gold was dry and mildly fruity with some biscuit malt notes, perfectly to style.

Their dark ale had some light roast and a dark brown color with mild English hop character, overall very balanced. I also tasted some of my friend’s raspberry hibiscus beer that was delightfully balanced with strong hibiscus and raspberry and a mild tart finish. Though I didn’t expect much from this brewery I was very impressed overall with the quality of the beers. Sadly the owner didn’t care that I was disappointed about the chilled glasses.

Top 2:
Indoor Voice hoppy pale
Raspberry Hibiscus

Prince Eddy’s


Prince Eddy’s has only been open for a short time but they had a solid lineup available and I tried 5 of their beers. Though they are newly opened, they have a good sized tasting room and plenty of seating. Their pale ale was creamy and minimally bitter with a light malt base though not a ton of hop aroma. Their IPA had low alcohol for the style but a nice soft body with juicy pine and citrus character and lots of flavor for 5%.

The white IPA has more of an herbal balance to it that overpowered it and gave it a strong bitter finish of puckering grapefruit. The Belgian yeast seemed to overpower the rest of the beer a bit too much. The stout was tasty with mild lactose and plenty of roast and caramel, nicely to style. Their cream ale is more English style or as my friend called it Canadian style cream ale. It was soft with notes of vanilla and light sweetness. I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would.

For such a new brewery they were quite impressive and hopefully will grow nicely. The IPA and cream ale will both help them to attract a following.

Parsons Brewery


Parsons is one of the more established we visited and they had a huge number of taps in their mid-sized restaurant. Their rye pale was good and balanced but a little more bitter than I prefer, drinkable but nothing great. The coffee stout was mildly bitter and roasty with a dry finish. The coffee was very minimal and should have been stronger.

The Vortex Double IPA was classic English style and far too sweet and heavy on the malts, overpowering the hops. I didn’t care for this one. The two barrel aged beers I had were not very good. Though I found out later that they use a fairly low alcohol base beer, which gave both of them a really thin body.

As you can see they had way more beers than I could try in one visit. Plus this was my fourth stop of the day.

The Legend, aged in bourbon barrels, was super hot with a strong alcohol bite and very thin body. There was minimal roast or sweetness with a smoky dry finish. The scotch aged version was even less interesting and was a pure mouthful of peat and smoke that overpowered the base beer.

Parsons was the least interesting of the day for me though perhaps i ordered the wrong things. Lots of their hoppy beers were too old-school for me.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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