Clark Lewey was on a mission to bring hops to Iowa, now the hop-heads come to him.
Five years ago, it was impossible for Clark Lewey to order an IPA at his local bar. For that matter, it was impossible for him to order one at any not-so-local bar in the four-county area spanning northeast Iowa. As far as beer distributors were concerned, Iowans just weren’t interested in hops. So Lewey took his homebrew recipes pro, and opened Toppling Goliath in 2009 in the little town of Decorah, Iowa. Now, drinkers travel across state lines to sip Lewey’s hop-monsters, often considered among the best IPAs in the country. Lewey’s Golden Nugget IPA woke Iowa up to hops, and developed a thirst for other IPAs from Stone and Green Flash. Then, the brewery’s bottled Hop Patrol series—neatly balanced single-hop IPAs featuring varieties like Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy, Riwaka and Mosaic—sparked a feeding frenzy with beer traders across the country. Commercial hop provider Hop Union picked up on the Toppling Goliath chatter, and recently tagged the brewery to test-market experimental hop varieties. Hoppy beer is Toppling Goliath’s calling card, but Lewey’s expanding his portfolio—easier now that his new production facility has quadrupled capacity. Among his greatest feats, the incredibly complex barrel-aged stout Kentucky Brunch drew beer lovers from as far away as California to its release party and seemingly overnight joined the ranks of Three Floyds Dark Lord and Cigar City Hunahpu. The next trend to tackle? Sours, which Lewey’ rolling out in 2014.
Golden Nugget: “This is our breakthrough IPA. One of my customers had bought a house that had hops just for ornamentation; he picked them and brought them in, and I brewed him this IPA.”
PseudoSue: “Though it’s a pale ale, everyone argues it’s an IPA, like Three Floyds Zombie Dust. Ours is hop-forward for a pale ale: The beer’s all Citra hops and part of the Hop Patrol series.” Zeelander IPA “It’s made with all Nelson Sauvin hops. To me, it’s over-the-top unique: Very dank, but also delicate with hints of grapefruit. It’s a really fun beer.”
Dorothy’s New World Lager: “This beer’s named after my Grandma, who introduced me to beer. She passed on, so I made a beer she would like: a California common.” Kentucky Brunch “Our stout is brewed with coffee and then barrel-aged; it’s barrel-aged bliss around 13% ABV. Very few barrels make the cut, but they’re always barrels from Kentucky.”