Tag Archives: Pale Ale

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 serving clients in San Diego California.

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Chicago Area Breweries – Half Acre and Un Annee

Half Acre

Half Acre is more established than the other two breweries I visited for IPAs. Their beers have a bit more of a classic feel than the others. Daisy cutter is one of their core offerings and it is a classic pale ale with prominent citrus and a crisp finish with a light malt base. Space was slightly hazy with a caramel malt base with light notes of coffee and mild bitterness. Though a bit hazy this is fairly traditional English style.

Pony pilsner was excellent with light fruity character, biscuit malt base, and a crisp clean finish. I brought home some cans of this one. Daisy Toronado is a more modern take on daisy cutter with tons of juicy hop character at the front and light onion hop character at the base. Vallejo IPA had an interesting mix of note of grape and plum that I don’t usually get in an IPA. I didn’t really care for the hop profile of this one.

Half Acre is a bit more classic in approach than many other breweries in the area for the hoppy beers. They also have a young sour program that is getting some acclaim. I got a small taste of one of their sours and it was quite complex and delicious. I am excited to open the bottle I brought home with me.

Known for:
Half Acre is known for their pale ales and IPAs though they also have a young sour program that is worth checking out.

Un Annee

Un Annee is known for its barrel aged and fruited sours as well as their hazy IPAs and imperial stouts that they put under a different brand. They are located in a strip mall so that before you enter you may wonder if this is really a brewery. Once you step inside you get the feel of a standard tasting room. They are also a long drive out of town and best to visit only if you have a strong preference for sours. I started with their sours and then tried a few of their other beers. With so many on tap I asked the server to pick three of his favorites to start, which got me a few of their bigger barrel aged sours.

My first 3 tasters of various sours.

Le Grand Monde 7 had a nice mild oak base and a great balance of cucumber, mint, and other flavors that I rarely experience in a sour without too much acidity. I paired this with some grilled fish from a Filipino restaurant we got to bring to the brewery and it was delightful. Le Grande Monde 4 had such an intense hibiscus character that it was jammy and a highly acidic base. An enjoyable beer. Le Grande Monde 2, a flanders red style sour had good caramel notes with hints of molasses and tons of acidity.

The elderberry Le Seul VI was jammy and mildly sweet with light acidity. Overall the sours I tasted were quite impressive and I left with a few bottles to take home. Their hazy IPA, Hubbard’s Cave, was soft and creamy with light pine and herbal character with mild bitterness. It had notes of candied mango and peach as it warmed up. Though it could have been softer, it was an impressive hazy IPA and should satisfy any hop heads dragged there by sour fans.

This shows the wide variety of beers they had available to go when I visited.

Known For:
Un Annee focuses on sours but also has stouts and hazy IPAs available. The bottles range from $13-25 for a 750ml bottle, which is within the norm.

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 serving clients in San Diego California.

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Rouleur Brewing – Carlsbad San Diego

Rouleur is one of two breweries in the brewery igniter space in Carlsbad fairly close to Arcana Brewing and Culver Brewing. Sadly their neighbor, Wiseguy Brewing, closed abruptly. I initially visited while I was trying beers at Wiseguy but since I didn’t try very many beers that time I returned for a second visit recently. Overall Rouleur is a solid brewery and should make for a fun stop for people in the area.

Hazy/Juicy IPA

I only had three beers at Rouleur in my first visit because I had just finished 8 tasters next door. Rouleur has a nice small tasting room and a wide number of beer options. I focused on their Dopeur hazy IPA though it wasn’t to me particularly juicy or hazy. The beer was strong with herbal character and had very little tropical fruit or citrus that would make a beer juicy. It was also a bit too bitter for the style. My server indicated that it is normally less bitter and that they were having some issues with the yeast. As indicated below, the brew is no longer as intensely bitter as I experienced initially and they have updated the description and now simply call it a juicy IPA.

The saison was fairly standard with notes of white wine, citrus, and white cake, nicely balanced. The Bonkeur Pale had notes of peach and grapefruit with much more juicy nose and flavor than the Dopeur. All 3 beers were light in color and clear. I enjoyed the three beers at Roleur and was especially glad to see that they intentionally do 4oz pours in their 5oz glasses to leave room for head and aroma. They brew hoppy beers closer to the local trends than Wiseguy next door and have the dry-hop techniques down as well.

Tap list as of October 9, 2017

I returned to Rouleur after their neighbor Wiseguy closed to give them a more in depth try. I gave the Dopeur another try to see if it was any different now that they had released it in cans. The bitterness that put me off before was now gone though the beer still tended towards herbal hop flavors with some mild fruit to balance it out. It is a tasty IPA for sure but not my preferred flavor profile. The blackberry blonde was subtle with light berry character that balanced nicely with the fruity base beer. It had a clean dry finish but after the intense fruit I had at wild barrel it didn’t grab me that much.

The red ale was nice and balanced with notes of biscuit and dark fruit and some subtle hop character. This was one of my favorites of the day and a refreshing take on the style that I normally don’t care for. The dark ale on nitro was a bit drier than I prefer with notes of cherry and roast but overall very subtle malt flavors. I would have preferred more punch to it. The double IPA was strongly malty with notes of pine and resin, a medium bitterness, and notes of black tea when it warms up. Though I wouldn’t characterize it as a malt bomb, it was still more malty than I prefer. To their credit they do note on the board that this is a more malty double IPA.

Their cycling theme is furthered by this crazy display.

Top 2:
Amber Ale
Dopeur IPA

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 serving clients in San Diego California.

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Viewpoint Brewing – Del Mar San Diego

Viewpoint has the distinction as the first brewery to open in Del Mar. Many in the area resisted the idea of a brewery and tasting room so they made a compromise and exist as a tasting room only until 4PM and then at 5PM they open as a restaurant. Since even the people of Del Mar drink alcohol with dinner they are satisfied and the brewery gets to open. This is a unique thing for a San Diego brewery.

I ordered a flight of all their tasters while looking across the water to the racetrack on the other side. The view allowed me to forgive the wait for someone to take my drink order that you get when you aren’t sitting at the bar. I also recommend you don’t do a flight on a warm day because the beers warm up too quickly and the last quarter of the taster is going to be too hot if you take your time tasting.

My husband enjoying the fresh air.

The beers available focused mostly on the hops with three pale ales, a session IPA, a saison, and a red rye IPA. The choice to focus on lower alcohol beers probably has something to do with their location. Experiment A Pale, made with experimental hops, was smooth and balanced with biscuit malt base. It had some mild ester character and a mild bitter finish. Of all the pale ales this one is was the least hoppy.

The SMASH Chinook pale had a dank marijuana nose and tons of dank resin and pine on the taste with hints of marijuana. It had a mild sticky body fitting with the resin and a fairly low bitter finish. I enjoyed this one a lot but it is recommended for the big hop heads. The mandarina pale had notes of tangerine and bitter grapefruit and a stronger bitterness than the other two pales. It had some herbal character as it warmed up.

The session IPA was dank and resinous with strong pine on the finish and a medium bitterness. It was slightly darker than the pale ales but not overly malty. The saison was solid with lots of ester character, notes of vanilla, spice, and white wine. I didn’t get much hop character here even though smash in the name suggests it had some hops added. The red rye IPA was nicely balanced and not too bitter. The beer focuses on classic bittering hops as opposed to aroma and compared to the rest of the beers it seemed out of place.

The gorgeous view.

Viewpoint has an open patio mostly covered. If you sit at a table prepare for a slight wait to order beers and get them served. I was slightly disappointed that with so many beers they didn’t have them in an order that suggested tasting order though none of them was so bitter it would wreck your palate. If you aren’t into hoppy beers, they have plenty of guest beers on tap as well from various small local breweries. If you know what you like, I recommend trying a splash and ordering a full pour because they don’t warm up as fast as the tasters.

Top 2:
Chinook SMASH pale
Mandarina Pale

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 serving clients in San Diego California.

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Breweries in Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin, Karben 4, Vintage, Raised Grain, Good City, Black Husky,

I normally get my information about which breweries to hit in a city from Beeradvocate and Ratebeer forums. This sometimes works out wonderfully, when locals give a list of tons of places that I have to pick the cream of the crop from. Other times this is not so great when there aren’t a lot of well-recommended breweries in an area. In that case I may miss a few places or skip over local favorites entirely based on the opinions of people on a message board. Sadly in Madison, Wisconsin this meant I didn’t make the trek out to New Glarus (45 minutes outside of town) and didn’t visit Vintage brewing because I didn’t ask my friend for recommendations. Thankfully I got some crowlers from Vintage because my friend shared the wealth.

Karben 4 came highly recommended in Madison and I agree with the praise. Out of the Milwaukee breweries, Raised Grain was a clear winner though the locals indicated that they are still in somewhat early stages.

Karben 4

Karben 4 was the most recommended brewery out of all the Madison breweries and so it was my first stop, and turned out to be my only stop. I had a number of tasters and almost everything was excellent. They have a medium-sized tasting room with a kitchen and tons of variety.



I started with the Champagne Tortoise English mild style ale and was immediately impressed by the clean beer bursting with flavor. The beer was smooth and fruity and lightly sweet, without any noticeable bitterness. The Tokyo Sauna pale ale was bitter and mildly soapy/herbal with a smooth malt finish. I didn’t care for the hops in this one. The Nightcall smoked porter was smooth and balanced with tons of chocolate and caramel and a mild smoke on the finish.



The Fantasy Factory IPA was fruity with tons of citrus and a smooth malt backbone that was balanced by resinous hops. It was a solid IPA. Lady Luck imperial red was fantastic. I was glad to find an imperial red that wasn’t hopped to intense bitterness. The beer had tons of caramel and dark fruit with a mild roast at the finish. I could easily order more of this quite regularly if I was a local. Dragon Flute pale ale had tons of bright fruit showcasing tangerine and pineapple over a low malt bill and mild bitterness. I finished with the Idiot Farm double IPA, a delicious sticky sweet double IPA with tons of citrus and a balanced malt-backbone.


Since I didn’t get the scoop on other local breweries while I was there I might have just gone back to Karben 4 for more because of their impressive lineup. Though I didn’t like all the hoppy beers, they had two that were quite excellent. And one of the ones I didn’t like may have just been an old keg.

Top 4:
Champagne Tortoise English Mild
Lady Luck Imperial Red
Dragon Flute Pale
Idiot Farm Double IPA

Vintage Brewing

Though I didn’t visit Vintage Brewing I did get to try four different beers thanks to a friend. It helps that they have a crowler machine so the beers stayed fresh over a few days.

The oaked pale was a fantastic smooth blend of a malt-forward IPA and a smooth oak bite at the finish. The oak removed any intense bitterness and the beer was quite popular among a group of people at a party who generally don’t like IPAs. The Toy Boat Toy Boat double IPA was deliciously fruity with a smooth balanced malt backbone of English malts. Hops came on strong with tons of sweet melon notes. I would love to visit the brewery the next time I am in town.

Raised Grain Brewing

Raised Grain is a ways to the west of Downtown Milwaukee but well worth the drive. I tried a number of different beers from them and almost everything was excellent. They have a nice medium-sized tap room with plenty of bar seating and a number of tables. They had sports on their TVs and you could tell the locals have become regulars.



The Naked Threesome was a delicious fruity pale ale with tons of grapefruit and a sticky caramel malt backbone. The Anniversary Stout was nutty with tons of vanilla and a smooth finish. Quite the tasty beer. The porter was an interesting mix of spice, cherry, mild smoke, and some burnt caramel notes. I found the cherry to be a bit much for my tastes though. The coffee stout on tap was delicious with tons of nutty coffee on the nose and the taste and a mild caramel finish. This was quite an excellent coffee stout.


Before I left, the bartender offered a smaller pour of their staple imperial red IPA. It was deliciously balanced with tons of citrus and pine from the hops and some mild caramel and bread notes from the malts. With so many red IPAs being total malt bombs this was quite refreshing. The scotch ale was smooth and fruity wish some mild oak at the finish.


Top 2:
Coffee Stout
Paradox Imperial Red IPA

Good City Brewing

Despite the name, I found only half of the four tasters I ordered here to be drinkable. They started out strong with a mosaic pale that had tons of tropical fruit and hints of mango without significant malts or bitterness. The session IPA was bursting with papaya and creamy malt backbone with a crisp dry finish. If the rest of the beers were as good I would be praising them along side Raised Grain. Sadly, the next two were not very good.


The Pale Lager had some notes of peaches and cherry with some quite prominent alcohol taste and a strong bitter finish. Though there was some mango in the finish as well, the bitterness and strong alcohol flavor killed it for me. Similarly, the double IPA had strong flavors of onion and a sticky sweet malt backbone. Though it had some fruity hop notes on the nose I got none of it in the taste. I was even more surprised to see that the brewery charged me just under $4 for the taster of this double IPA and almost $3 for each of the two IPAs. If I had noticed the $4 taster price on the board I would have passed it up out of principle. Charging twice as much for a pint as they do for a taster is ridiculous and hurts visitors who aren’t interested in ordering a full pint.


Though I didn’t care for the second half of my flight, the first two beers were quite impressive and show that the brewer knows how to work with hops and can get the right flavors from them at least some of the time. I will give the brewery the benefit of the doubt and assume that they messed up with the double IPA though I question selling a beer so clearly off the mark. Still, paying $12 for essentially one pint of beer just because they are in tasters is a poor way to treat customers who aren’t going to buy a pint until they have had a few tasters.

Top 2:
Mosaic Pale
Session IPA

Black Husky Brewing

Black Husky doesn’t offer typical 4oz tasters but instead 7oz tasters, which makes their pricing slightly more reasonable even if they still annoyingly price things essentially against the people who order anything but a full pour. Visitors aren’t going to order full pints of things if they are visiting multiple breweries in a single day. It just doesn’t make sense. So because of their large tasters I went with essentially half pours of their two IPAs.

The IPA with Citra was smooth and presented tons of tropical fruit notes from the hops. The IPA with mosaic had tons of bitter grapefruit with hints of lime in the finish. Both IPAs were made well though they were noticeably quite similar in the malt behind them. I would have tried more beers there but the styles available didn’t pique my interest.

Black Husky has a very nice theme going and some relaxing seating in the tasting room. Sadly, the tasting room also got quite loud even when it wasn’t completely full. This didn’t make me want to stay very long. They are worth dropping by if you are craving a good IPA because the two IPAs I tried were nicely done.

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 serving clients in San Diego California.

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