Paleontologist. Back when I was seven or eight that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m pretty sure every little boy that grew up in the nineties wanted to be a paleontologist at one time or another thanks to Jurassic Park and the The Land Before Time. But now that I’ve grown up I’ve found myself far away from hunting fossils. And yet for the past couple of years I’ve hunted a dinosaur of another kind.
Decorah, Iowa, is a town of 8,127 in northeast Iowa. It is not the type of place one would expect to find world class beer. And yet this is the home of Toppling Goliath, a brewery that has incited a frenzy with its whales like Mornin’ Delight, KBBS and Assassin. A local resident was once caught drinking bottles of Assassin, refilling them with something else and then shoddily rewaxing the tops and trading the “beers” away for other whales. This year one person offered to trade his 1989 BMW 325i for two bottles of Assassin and a bottle of KBBS. These antics are insane and a bit disturbing.
But beyond incredibly hard to find beers, Toppling Goliath makes one of the best pale ales in the country, Pseudosue. Named after the famous T. Rex discovered in South Dakota, Pseudosue is an American pale ale singled hopped with Citra. Think of it as Iowa’s answer to Zombie Dust (the coloring of the packaging is even remarkably similar).
And for the longest time about the only way to get it was to drive to the middle of nowhere and visit the brewery. But in 2015 Toppling Goliath announced a partnership with Brew Hub, a contract facility set up to help small brewers meet demand that couldn’t be handled on their own small systems. That quick expansion saw Pseudosue and several other Toppling Goliath beers make their way to Minnesota and Wisconsin. And in early 2017 it was announced Toppling Goliath would next be coming to Illinois, spurred on by a partnership with The Field Museum (where Sue is now housed).
In February my wife and I headed up to Lake Geneva for a long weekend. A shipment of Pseudosue had just hit Chicago so I planned on picking up a four-pack on our way through the city when we returned home. But I didn’t even need to do that as I found an ample supply at the local liquor store our first night.
This was a beer that had caused me to try to convince a previous boss to let me run an event in Minnesota with the sole motivating factor being that I could detour to Decorah on my way there. And while my plan had initially worked, a second, more important event popped up that forced me to stay home and miss out on that beer-seeking detour, delaying my dinosaur discovery for a couple more years.
So often the combination of hype and seeking something or someone out can result in let down. Never meet your heroes. There was none of that when I popped the top on Pseudosue. An intense aroma of grapefruit and mango roared out of the can. The citrus and tropical fruit flavors poured out into my mouth, finishing with a mild bite of bitterness more like a Parasaurolophus than a T. Rex. Pseudosue is proof a beer can be juicy, tropical and mildly bitter without looking like a milkshake.
In the end the hunt was worth it. I may never be a paleontologist but I can still hunt out citrusy, grapefruity dinosaurs.