Nestled in northeastern Iowa and a stone’s throw from both the Wisconsin and Minnesota borders sits Decorah; population: 8,127. While most wouldn’t think of such a small place as a hotspot of tourist activity, beer drinkers around the world disagree, and I had the recent opportunity to learn why.
Opening its doors in 2009, Toppling Goliath Brewing has taken the beer world by storm, winning numerous accolades and becoming a globally recognized brand among craft beer enthusiasts. With so many quality beers being released by TGB, I had a hard time settling on a specific one and instead opted for a flight of 4 beers built on the recommendation of the friendly and knowledgeable tap room staff. Consisting of Dorothy’s New World Lager, Murph’s Irish Red, Rover Truck, and the Naughty 90, I enjoyed each more than the last, with Rover Truck and Naughty 90 being my favorites. Though I found Dorothy’s to be a bit dull for my taste, its simplicity and drinkability make it a favorite of TGB loyalists and it’s considered their flagship beer. Rover Truck, an oatmeal stout, offers a nice cohabitation of almonds and chocolate while maintaining a smoothness not often found in other oatmeal stouts; I enjoyed it so much that I now look for it at every grocery store I go to. The Naughty 90 is an IPA with a bourbon soul. Aged on oak as a throwback to shipped beers of the 1800s, the beer provides a nice glimpse into the world of harder alcohol without the after-burn or blurred inhibitions. I thoroughly enjoyed a glass of it but didn’t go back for seconds, as the sweet oak taste lingered a little oppressively.
Not to be outshone is Pulpit Rock Brewing, which launched in 2015 just a few minutes walk from TGB. Don’t let the lack of accolades or reputation scare you into spending all of your time at Toppling Goliath; Pulpit Rock is the perfect place to unwind after an afternoon of drinking at the taproom up the hill. While I also enjoyed a flight here, it was the Pour-over Porter that will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I’ve entered a state of despair knowing it’s not readily available to me . Thick and dark brown, this beer was the perfect amalgamation of coffee and beer and paired well with the appetizers from Mabe’s Pizza (another Decorah staple) we had delivered, as neither tap room has its own kitchen.
If you’re looking to devote a weekend to enjoying Decorah’s thriving beer scene, I’d recommend perusing Airbnb for places to stay, as Decorah lacks a developed hotel infrastructure. We thoroughly enjoyed the place we booked and, weather dependent, it provides walking access to most of Decorah’s offerings.
For breakfast, Ruby’s is the place to go. They claim the best cinnamon rolls and biscuits & gravy in the midwest - I can attest to the deliciousness of the biscuits & gravy. It might even rival my personal recipe.
All told, Decorah is a great hidden-gem for the perfect weekend getaway, and I’m sure we’ll make another trek in the near future. Oh, and don’t forget to feed the fish at the Decorah Fish Hatchery. Don’t knock it til you try it!