Toppling Goliath Brewing Company

Place Score:
Toppling Goliath Brewing CompanyToppling Goliath Brewing Company

Type: Brewery, Bar

310 College Dr
Decorah, Iowa, 52101-1336
United States

(563) 387-6700 | map

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Added by emerge077 on 07-15-2010

View: Beers | Place Ratings | Events
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Reviews: 48 | Ratings: 249
Photo of Billquirk
4.7/5  rDev +8.5%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.25

Awesome place. Great experience to come and visit here. People behind the bar were excellent and very helpful. The locals are very nice. Started an impromptu share when we visited with some beers from back home, and someone broke out a MD. Quite an experience.

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Photo of Barracudas
4.75/5  rDev +9.7%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4.75

This small place is in the middle of nowhere, but the quality of the beer made the trip worthwhile! Pseudo Sue on tap is great! King Sue on tap is EXCELLENT!

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Photo of Docrock
4.3/5  rDev -0.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

Visited around lunchtime on a Friday and the small tap room was nearly empty. Only a handful of stools at the bar and enough tables and chairs for about 20 more. 2 guest taps and 6-7 TG selections available. There is no food in house but a nearby grill/cafe will deliver. Staff was very friendly and helpful, good atmosphere for such a small place. Most beer available to go in growler. Definitely worth the stop if for some reason you are in the middle of nowhere IOWA.

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Photo of Degeneffe
2.76/5  rDev -36.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.75 | service: 2 | selection: 2

After all the hype my wife decided to surprise me with a weekend away to try some of the best beer in the world. It was about 3 hours from where we live. The brewery is pretty small but has some cool whiskey barrels and decor inside. The service wasnt outstanding. You have to order at the bar and the servers dont seem to care much. I was extremely taken back to find only 7 beers on tap! With all the hype and really high ratings you would think they would have beer to sell for all the people traveling. Turns out they are outsourcing production now to somewhere in Florida. I tried all 7 beers (none of which rank as the world famous) and they were good. Each had a unique flaror and the consistency was creamy. I did enjoy the beer, just dont think it lives up to the ratings. Maybe it used to, but I certainly wouldnt make the drive again.

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Photo of Kurmaraja
4/5  rDev -7.6%
vibe: 3.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4

Selection skews very heavily to the hoppy territory; when I was there they had 6 or so APAs / IPAs / Hoppy Wheat / English IPAs on ... and I think one lager (Dorothy's) and one oatmeal stout (Rover). This is something of a minor quibble since I'll happily drink 4 or 5 pints of Toppling Goliath hops but it does need to be noted that diversity isn't a strong suit.

Service can get overwhelmed due to the small bar and the steady demand for bombers / growler fills.

Ambiance is minimal; no real personality or flair, just your standard small brewery feel. They seem to welcome bottle sharing at a small scale which is nice as a compensation for the relative lack of diversity in the taps.

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Photo of Cheesy_McDuck
4.43/5  rDev +2.3%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25

Toppling Goliath, what a cool brewery, world class which I don't say lightly. Arable soil, Dan Gable, Toppling Goliath, and a few other things. The service is ok, but not great, but the beer is outstanding. I went canoeing with friends nearby into a river spread be delicious spring water, I wonder how big of a factor the water is in the quality of the beer there.

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Photo of medbadger
4.75/5  rDev +9.7%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

I love this beer. I want to make friends with the people that work there so we can play cards on the weekend and drink this beer. My wife and I have date nights and every time I get to pick the place I head down the road to TG brews.

To be honest the place is just alright. Nothing special about it, kinda looks like it is in a old pizza hut building. There is always a few people sitting at the bar having some beer. But what is lacks in sexiness it more than makes up for in quality and service. Great people and great beer, that's what a brewery should be about.

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Photo of Strike00
4.33/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.25

Great atmosphere and great beer. Really busy and the tap room was on the smaller side, but the service was still pretty good. Can't wait to get up there again.

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Photo of amano_h
4.53/5  rDev +4.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5

Toppling Goliath is an enigma of its own.

With a name like "Toppling Goliath," you would automatically assume that they are like pubescent young men dressed presumably in pre-1 AD Jewish attire, equipped with a slingshot mighty enough to take down the biggest and the most infamous villains of biblical scale -- yet they are far from what their name wants to suggest. You cannot profess yourself to be a beer geek without having tried PseudoSue, the legendary Citra Pale Ale. You also cannot profess yourself to be a regular on the RateBeer forums without having ISO'd KingSue, PseudoSue's more limited yet superior cousin, or one of their many other outstanding hoppy offerings like Sosus (Mosaic), GoldenNugget (Golden Promise Malt + Nugget Hops), Zeelander (Nelson Sauvin), LightSpeed, so on and so forth. You also absolutely cannot profess yourself to be a regular trader on BeerAdvocate without having once offered almost half your beer stash for a single bottle of Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout, or its non-Barrel Aged cousin, Mornin' Delight.

If the above beer geekery didn't make any sense, just know that Toppling Goliath has put the little drive-by town of Decorah, IA on the map for many many beer enthusiasts -- to the point where there is now inter-state interest on taking vacations to Iowa. Iowa, of all places.

Sorry, didn't mean to go full-on fanboy there, but my point being, that unlike what their name might suggest, TG is a pretty huge deal in the craft beer scene. Unlike their huge deal-ness, however, TG is incredibly humble about their success and it really shows.

Since its opening, Toppling Goliath has situated itself atop the same hill at the edge of College Drive. Other than the fact that they have now moved most of their production to a production brewery somewhere down the road, nothing about the brewery has evidently changed; their interior looks like a converted pizza joint or one of those "we cook everything from burgers to spaghetti stores," and still only sits a limited amount of people despite their huge success. Unlike some of the more high-profile breweries with which TG shares fame, there are no frantic employees scrambling to serve people and get them in and out as soon as possible, but just honest, welcoming, hard-working people, trying to spread the fruit of their labor; one of the employees was striking up a very heated debate about beer with one of the patrons, which ended with the patron exchanging phone numbers with the employee with promises of trading beer in the future.

Anyway the point being, Toppling Goliath COULD be that one brewery/brewpub that has grown too big for its britches and now has fans arguing over whether they're the best thing since sliced bread or whether their quality has fallen off -- but they're not. They COULD be that one brewery/brewpub that has gotten so big that they now own multiple restaurants and sell merchandise all across America -- but they're not. Instead, they're the same brewery that they were from the moment of their conception, churning out bottle after bottle of beer that's "good to the last drop," solely focused on providing nothing but the best they can offer without compromise -- and that's about all the fanboy you're going to get out of me today.

As aforementioned, TG's storefront is very limited between the serving area, the refrigerated storage area (where they sell bottles of their hoppy goodness) and the back area where they still do a portion of their brewing, so there is no kitchen; there is however, a gas station across the street, and a few restaurants that deliver to Toppling Goliath (whose menus are conveniently located by the side entrance)

Like most breweries, TG does have a rotating selection so check their website prior to visiting to steer away from too much disappointment (although I can say with about 99.99% confidence that they will always at least have PseudoSue on TAP) and you can also pick up TG paraphernalia like T-shirts, snifters, stickers, etc at the same place where you pick up your to-go bottles.

Oh and try the samplers. I definitely guarantee that they'll have more beers than you'll like.

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Photo of Rifugium
4.14/5  rDev -4.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.25

Long drive to get here from pretty much anywhere, but after all these years, I'm pretty much used to that kind of thing. The place is small, well-organized. The bar seats maybe 10 people, with several tables, and an outside area. The service was fine, and the two ladies I saw there seemed to know everything they needed to about the brewery and the beer. There is no food here, but you can ask for menus and order out from local places, one of which is within extremely easy walking distance...they will bring food to you, but it's so close I just put a coaster on my glass and picked it up myself. The crowd was small but diverse, from old people who didn't know what a growler was, to middle-aged ladies on a destination beer trip, to brosephs, and even a brewer from another brewery in MN.

The beer here is all pretty good. Nothing really wowed me. I've had a few like Assassin (and now KBBS and MD) and PseudoSue before, but it was nice to see the latter on tap, along with the likes of Dorothy, Golden Nugget, Morning Latte (a parti-gyled Mornin' Delight), and a few others. Lots of cool merch, and a few bottles for sale too: Dorothy, Rover Truck, Nugget, and something else. Sampler flights for the win!

I'm sure the largest crowds come out when the bottle releases happen, but I suppose making a trip to Decorah is worth it even if there isn't a release. I drove from Minneapolis, so it was about a 2.5 hour trek, and mostly easy-going. While in town, you might as well check out Pulpit Rock Brewing also, which is about a quarter mile down the road, so also easily within walking distance.

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Photo of DSWeller
4.66/5  rDev +7.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

Excellent establishment that offers multiple world class beers in a small Iowan town. Staff is always friendly and the beer is even better. This is a must stop for any beer connoisseur that is in the relative area. Only challenging part is getting there in time for any moderate to rare beer release.

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Photo of Benjhilmer
4.48/5  rDev +3.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4

What a strange place this is. I drove right past it on my first approach. It's very unassuming; you'd never know they make some of the world's best beer here. When I arrived, they were showing the Indiana High School Softball Tournament on TV; they don't even televise that in Indiana! Bizarre. I visited later in the day, so not everything was available. Still, I got to enjoy some great beer on tap. Their brews are worth the stop no matter what.

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Photo of AnalogErik
4.59/5  rDev +6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.75 | selection: 4

Finally made the pilgrimage this weekend to get some King Sue bottles to haul back home. Surprised to see how small it is, but its awesome, the two people working were awesome and helpful, and everyone seemed to be beer geeks. Had Nelson on tap still, but we got there late so there were some things off-tap already, which was a little disappointing.

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Photo of YodersBeerEmporium
4.86/5  rDev +12.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

Special events are EPIC!!! Everyday beer selection has really improved in the last few months as well. Most of the standard TG hops beers are on tap most of the time. Bombers usually available for purchase as well.

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Photo of ILMbrew
4.78/5  rDev +10.4%
vibe: 3.25 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

If you find yourself in Iowa this is a must-do, no matter how far. It's situated in a small former pizza joint in the middle of small town Decorah but man is this a hidden gem. 10 beers on tap when we visited; yes pseudo Sue. We did two flights and a couple pints to cover everything and grabbed a few bottles on the way out; yes pseudo sue. It was a Monday afternoon so the place was pretty dead but mean was this some awesome beer. Seriously everything on tap is world class. You can't get the full experience without going. Pseudo Sue is great but so is everything else. You've got to check it out if you're anywhere in range.

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Photo of chrisjws
4.53/5  rDev +4.6%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.75 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

Nothing impressive about the location (middle of nowhere), the taproom (dinky as hell) or even the overall appearance of their offerings. Don't go there expecting to get a bunch of the top 250 checked off your list. Most of the ones they have on there are super limited.

With that said, appearances aren't everything. They just about always have Pseudo Sue on tap and it's a winner. It's cloudy as hell and served up in a frosted glass. It doesn't look special until you start drinking.

The beers here are all good. You don't get your name all over the 250 by making a handful of great beers. You get on there a lot by making tons of great beers and a few are good enough to enter into the upper echelon.

This was a long drive and I was skeptical. In the end it was worth it and there's no question. These guys are awesome people. They make amazing beer. Don't judge by appearances because you'll miss out. Hit this place if you can.

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Photo of BillRoth
4.4/5  rDev +1.6%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5

Stopped in on a Wednesday afternoon on my way to La Crosse. Very nice place. Lots of wood and natural light. Kind of part tasting room and part small bar. Lots of room and places to sit and chill besides sitting at the bar. Some table games and good music piped in. Place was pretty quiet, but still had a number of people and small groups stopping in for a few brews.
As hoped had my first PS on draft, and it was awesome. Had about 6 other TG beers on tap, and 2 guest taps. Todd the manager even pulled out a bomber of Pompeii that a few of us shared. Grabbed a few bottle of PS and Golden Nugget on the way out.
Great little place to stop and as expected the beer was just amazing.

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Photo of mothman
4.53/5  rDev +4.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5

I like the brewery. It is pretty chill. Good service. Good beers. They provide free pretzels which in nice. Decent prices all around. I'll be back for more.

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Photo of KillerJigger
4.25/5  rDev -1.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3

Very small place with even smaller parking lot. The beer is out of this world but I'm wishing they will expand a bit. Bring your own food or order out and have it sent to TG not a problem so that is nice. If they had Assassin, Mornin Delight, and KBBS on tap always it would be near heaven. They do have a Furkin once a month which is an experimental IPA or what have to try. I personaly have had one that was out of this world and one that was OK. Call before you visit because they sell out quite often and its worth buying some to go so make sure they have some to sell. Cheers!

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Photo of cbutova
4.38/5  rDev +1.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.25

Visited during an 8000-mile road trip over the summer. Stopped here after a very long day of driving and camped near the river in Decorah (a great spot!).

Clean and bright taproom with cheap flights and pints of extremely high quality beer. Yea not everything will be a BA Stout or hyped hop bomb but from what I had I found all the styles to be well-brewed and flavorful (Pale Ale, Golden Lager, Irish Red, IPA, Stout) That is by far the most important part. The to go selection was good and it seemed like they did reasonably priced growler fills of most beers. I did not expect even PseudoSue bottles to be in stock so that might have changed my experience.

Small tasting room overall but the quality of the brews makes up for it. When we were there it was not busy at all (maybe 10 other people) but I could see how it could become cramped. If you are in the area (within an hour or two) it is a no-brainer to visit TG if you are a huge beer fan or are into taprooms in general. Do not expect to be leaving with limited releases (although I'm sure people get lucky once in a while).

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Photo of nilesschmidt
4.8/5  rDev +10.9%

Great atmosphere and very friendly staff. Not much to say about the beer that hasnt been said; its phenomenal. Just wish they had some harder to get beers occasionally on tap, but then again the size just cant support that type of rush or volume. Hope to return again.

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Photo of MilwaukeeCrusher
4.5/5  rDev +3.9%

Judging on the brewery experience this isn't a perfect score. While their beers are world class the venue is quite small. I heard developments are in the works to address this. Onto the beer, did a sampler as as expected they were excellent, especially the IPAs and the base stout, none of the limited releases where available as expected. Place was congested, as this place struggles to keep up with demand. Perfect beer, less than perfect venue.

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Photo of PhishNoC
4.5/5  rDev +3.9%

Not a huge place. Several people were there enjoying the Iowa game, but we were still able to immediately sit down and have some of their great beer. When the game was over, the place cleared out pretty good. Definitely a staple for the locals in the town. Everyone was nice and the surrounding area was beautiful. The beers were great, samplers available or full pints. Select bottles available to go, growlers as well of course. Nice relaxed place and terrific beer.

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Photo of stouts4me
4.75/5  rDev +9.7%

If you have been here, then you already know: this place is awesome!! Agreed that the taproom is small,and that sometimes there is a lighter selection of beers, but they are having a tough time cranking these world-class beers out! We have never had a bad time at the taproom, maybe that's because we go with the intent of having a good time with whoever is working, and anyone else we can include in what we bring.

Can't wait 'til they get the releases out at the brewery, camping, beer, it will be great!

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Photo of jwjon1
3.34/5  rDev -22.9%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3

Disclaimer: came into town the weekend of the Great Taste of the Midwest, so my experience was abnormal. But it was nevertheless my experience.

Flew into Minneapolis on a Saturday and made the three hour jaunt south, super excited to try many of the beers listed on the website as being on tap. It's a beautiful drive down through rolling Midwest country hills and Amish farms. Much of it two lane country roads with very slow drivers.

Planned to hit the brewery to grab a pint and some bottles, check into my hotel, and then walk back to the brewery for the real fun! Didn't really have any expectations of what the brewery/tasting room would be like, but certainly felt confused pulling into the parking lot. Was I at the right place? Looked more like a local Mexican restaurant than a tap room--it was just missing a fake palm tree out front. Walking into the tap room helped ease my confusion a bit--but still felt like I should see a tub of coronas in ice on the bar. They did an okay job with the renno but the soul of the place was still lacking. Underwhelmed, to say the least. But hey, the beer is the star here, right?

At least, I assume the beer is the star. On my one experience, it was not. I excitedly grabbed a seat at the bar and glanced up at the tap list. It's a chalkboard list, and there was a lot of eraser marks on it. 40% of the taps listed on-line were removed--most of them the "fun" taps that you won't see around town. The remaining taps were beers I later found were very common around town. I'll get to that in a bit.

I grabbed a sampler tray (four samples of the six total taps) and asked what bottles were available. None. Bummed on that account as I was hoping the brew shop would keep a regular stock. They do not. After finishing the sampler, made the decision to go to the hotel and forgo returning to the tap house. That in itself sucks: TG was the reason I came to Decorah. If not for a non-cancelable hotel room, I probably would have turned around and drove back. This was my one shot to get down here, and I was underwhelmed--especially as the website tap list set unmanageable expectations.

Fortunately, a number of bars in town carry TG kegs. Ironically, I was able to try a larger variety TG beers on a mini bar/restaurant crawl than I could at the tap room--everything in the tap room was seen about town, plus a couple extras. And, FWIW, the town was quaint and charming in its own right and the locals were quite friendly.

Net, I'd not return based on my experience. It wasn't worth the drive or hotel room. I totally understand wanting to bring great beer to a great beer fest--and would do the same thing myself. But IF I already had a reputation like TG for producing world class beers, I don't think I'd make the trade off of upsetting brewery customers for what is ultimately marketing. I'd only do it if I had enough product to go around. At least, I don't think I would--hard to say not being in TG's shoes!

Last (two) comment: maybe this is normal in the Midwest, but I was surprised to see pints being served at the taproom in chilled glasses. I've not met a fridge yet--even industrial--that doesn't have some type of smell (good, or bad). Why add an uncontrollable aroma component to the beer? And why shakers? There is so much aromatic expression in these beers just waiting to be released with the use of better glassware. Glassware does make a difference. Customers may complain--especially the mug club members (who, save for shot glasses, drink from the least expressive glassware on the planet), but once they are educated, they may never go back.

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Toppling Goliath Brewing Company in Decorah, IA
95 out of 100 based on 48 ratings.