Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Double Dry Hopped pseudoSue

Toppling Goliath
Decorah, IA

Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.8%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

Seems like only yesterday when I reviewed my last American craft beer. In fact, it would be yesterday if I’d spent the past two years in a coma, but as far as I can recall that didn’t happen. It’s been two actual calendar years… or, to use current pop lingo, “it’s literally been two years”. Two incredibly chaotic, whirlwind years that were made much more tolerable thanks to the continued growth, diversity, and availability of American craft beer.

The best of intentions never came to fruition over the course of my review hiatus. I could name at least two dozen brews off the top of my head that I had every intent of putting on computer screen paper. I forced myself to participate in the past two International Beer Months, which is ironic since really the only time I drink international beer is during the month of February with the intent of reviewing it. Since this was intended to be a website focused on American craft beer, specifically that from the Midwest, it’s about damn time I got back to our roots.

What better way to get back in the game than to review one of the highest regarded and fastest growing breweries in the Midwest, and choosing a style that is very much in vogue right now. Toppling Goliath Brewing is neck and neck with bacon as the best thing to ever come out of Iowa. Other great things produced in Iowa: the movie “Field of Dreams” and, uh… I think that’s it. Unless you dig the smell of hog farms (pre-bacon stage) and a landscape completely devoid of trees.

As is the case with many of the nearly 5000 craft/micro/nano breweries that dot America, Toppling Goliath started small. Opened in May of ’09, for two years TG built a cult following in the small town of Decorah. When brewing capacity increased in 2011, TG’s following began to expand beyond northeast Iowa. I first heard of Toppling Goliath in 2012, at that time still over two years away from seeing the first bottle hit store shelves in Milwaukee. TG continued to increase distribution and by early 2015 had expanded to the point that there was a consistent trickle into Madison and Milwaukee. As the supply increased, so did the following. When I spotted my first TG display in Milwaukee (I believe in early 2015), I was like a kid in a candy store. Bottles of pseudoSue, Golden Nugget, Rover Truck, and Dorothy’s were flying off the shelves.

As a Hophead extraordinaire, pseudoSue and Golden Nugget quickly became favorites. A move to Madison in late ’15 put me 70 miles closer to TG’s home base in Decorah, and bombers of different TG brews, many of which were hop-centric, gave me plenty of reasons to frequently check in with local purveyors of fine suds. Zeelander, 1492, X-Hops Gold, Pompeii, and Lightspeed upped the ante for TG. Cans of pseudoSue, Golden Nugget, Dorothy’s, and Rover Truck became more prevalent during 2016 year thanks to contract brewing in Florida, so many craft beer connoisseurs remained on the lookout for the rarer, Iowa-produced bombers.

With the announcement this past summer that Toppling Goliath is expanding their brewing operations in Decorah with a new facility set to open later this year, the hope for more continual supplies in southern Wisconsin as well as other parts of the Midwest no longer seems a pipe dream. In fact, still months away from that facility opening, the distribution of "rarer" TG brews has already increased. For Midwestern craft beer aficionados, the latest bomber from TG is the ultimate find, and many stalk social media and local craft beer stores awaiting the latest shipment.

While I try to avoid any type of stalking (court-ordered, it’s a long story), I do keep my eyes peeled for the latest new/rare craft beer drops locally with the hopes that I can get there before it’s gone. When I saw the craft beer shop down the road post a picture of a mountain of fresh TG bombers, including Nugmo(Golden Nugget brewed with Mosaic hops), 1492, and X-Hops Gold, I couldn’t get in the truck fast enough. 10 below wind chills be damned, I’m gettin’ me some hops!

Tonight’s selection was the biggest score. While pseudoSue has become, along with Golden Nugget, the most common of TG’s offerings thanks to the aforementioned contract brewing, an alternate version, which is double hopped with the Citra hops that Sue is known for, is a new- and still rare- treat.

Citra and Mosaic are the “hops du jour” in the current age of American craft brewing. As someone who cut his teeth on more bitter, piney American hops (Cascade and Centennial, later Simcoe and Amarillo), I initially found the newer strains of American hops to be an acquired taste. Citra and Mosaic are much less piney, much more citrusy and floral. After adjusting to their light, aromatic profile and sweeter flavor, I realized they can be used masterfully in well-crafted ales, or overused to cover up flaws in less well-crafted beer.

Original pseudoSue is a textbook example of a well-crafted American Pale Ale singularly brewed with Citra hops. Original Sue is dry hopped, with a light, floral scent and flavor that combines with huge notes of tropical fruit and a clean, crisp finish. Well balanced with the right type and amount of malt, it’s easy drinking and approachable.

Double Dry Hopped pseudoSue (DDH Sue) is, obviously, the original Sue but with twice the Citra. While this takes away some of the balance between floral, citrus, and earthy flavors that make original Sue so approachable, the execution of DDH Sue has me preferring it to the original. That’s saying a lot.

DDH Sue pours well, with a pillowy white head that slowly dissipates to a lace that lingers throughout and a turbidity reminiscent of what has become the latest “it” style, the poorly named New England IPA. I always assumed the cloudiness that defined IPA’s in the Northeast was due to the poor water quality found in the metroplex, but apparently that’s not the case. If you removed the head and lacing brought on by the carbonation, DDH Sue would essentially look like a giant glass of grapefruit juice.

As is the case with any Citra-bomb, DDH Sue has a crisp, clean, powerful aroma that will blow you away. My love of classic Northwest hops was partially due to the bitter, piney aroma they gave off. Citra takes away the piney and inserts the citrus, while maintaining that bitter kiss at the end. If you sample a Citra-bomb like DDH Sue that’s fresh, give it a voracious pour and take a big whiff… you’ll be hard pressed to find a more unique, pleasant aroma in a beer.

As with any Citra-heavy brew, freshness is key. While I was disappointed to see that my bomber of DDH Sue was bottled last year (December 30th), I figured this being January 6th, I could probably make it work (as a side note, props to TG for dating their bottles… EVERY craft brewer needs to do the same). While “juicy” is a buzzword many use to describe the current crop of fresh Citra and Mosaic hopped ales, I feel it an accurate description of DDH Sue. The flavors of orange zest, grapefruit, and tropical fruit are heavy, with the bitterness that used to define American hops coming through subtly in the background. There’s an effervescent feel on the tongue that is refreshing and satisfying… and very difficult to describe. Rather than a biscuity malt, the balance in DDH Sue is more grassy, which, when combined with the fruity notes, makes you wonder if this is what a pineapple tastes like when fermented. Poor analogy aside, it works. Light to medium bodied and with a moderate ABV, it’s an easy drink that’s packed with delicious flavors and aromas.

All told, DDH Sue emphasizes the best qualities of Pseudo Sue and takes them up a notch. The famous T-Rex at Chicago’s Field Museum that is the namesake of this brew surely would be proud, despite having been dead for 65 million years. Which, to bring this full-circle, makes my two-year hiatus from reviewing an American craft beer seem not so bad. I could not think of a better way to get back in the game than with a treat from Toppling Goliath, and once again they failed to disappoint.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on January 11, 2017.
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