On January 25, the first place in Illinois to tap Toppling Goliath‘s coveted PseudoSue pale ale won’t be a bottle shop or beer bar; it’ll be The Field Museum. The Decorah, Iowa brewery will enter the Chicago market later in the year, but until then, a natural history and culture museum will be the only place to sip PseudoSue. (Find it on draft at the museum’s second-floor bar and restaurant, or take a bottle home from the museum’s gift shop.) Toppling Goliath will also brew a beer exclusively for the museum to debut in 2017.
This arrangement actually isn’t as odd as it seems, if you know The Field Museum. Megan Williams, the museum’s director of business enterprises, has overseen brewery-museum partnerships that go far beyond cross-promotion and fundraising. The Field has brewed two beers with Off Color Brewing and one with Two Brothers Brewing and Chicago chef Cleetus Friedman under the umbrella of a “museum collection of beers”; all are inspired by and connected to the museum’s collections and mission.
“It’s an opportunity to bring people who love beer and love learning together,” Williams says. “We can say ‘Hey, you don’t just have to learn about a culture through a book or an exhibit panel, but you can drink it; you can taste it.’ Isn’t it great that two local organizations or companies can come together to do this? We’re not just putting a museum label on something—though there’s legitimacy in that—but taking it one step further with people who have a passion for something.”
Williams seeks partnerships with breweries who “speak the museum’s language” and are interested in using the museums’ collections and resources as the start of a new beer.
“You could do a beer based on a culture or based on a specimen or based on a time period. There’s so many different directions a brew master could take,” she says.
The first beer in the museum’s roster was Tooth & Claw, a dry-hopped Czech pils whose name pays homage to SUE, The Field Museum’s sharp-witted (and -clawed) T. Rex. Off Color then brewed Wari, a beer based on Peruvian chica, a corn-derived beer native to areas of Central and South America; researchers at the Field Museum have spent years excavating and studying the Wari site in Peru. (Off Color will also brew another new beer for the museum in 2017, according to Williams.) The Two Brothers/Cleetus Friedman beer, Cabinet of Curiosities white IPA, was a reference to the phrase once used to describe The Field Museum’s collections, which were a treasure trove of specimens for botanists, naturalists, biologists and other scientists.
SUE the dinosaur was also instrumental to the partnership with Toppling Goliath, in a more complicated way. Williams first reached out to the brewery when she noticed SUE’s likeness on PseudoSue’s packaging: “In full transparency, we kind of took note of it from a legal standpoint,” Williams says. “SUE is our image; she’s trademarked and we need to make sure she’s portrayed correctly.”
The tone of the conversation wasn’t confrontational, though; it was a meeting of like minds. “These guys really know what they’re doing and they’re really into history and science. Rather than looking at it negatively, I wanted to talk to them,” Williams says. “Pretty much instantly, we realized we had a really strong connection. They adore the Field Museum and they love science and history and culture. So I said ‘What do you think about making some beer together?’ They were doubly jazzed.”
And so the seed of another Field Museum beer was born. That Toppling Goliath-brewed beer won’t be released until later this year, but PseudoSue will tap at the museum as a gesture of friendship and, of course, a toast to SUE herself.
“SUE is fascinating to everyone for different reasons. Being the icon that she is, the story of how she was found in her completeness right here in America, in South Dakota, adds to her mystery,” Williams says. “Who isn’t fascinated by a dinosaur?”