‘Beercation’: Thousands descend on Toppling Goliath in Decorah for beer release
Thousands packed Toppling Goliath Brewing Company in Decorah for their 2019 Mornin' Delight release. The Des Moines Register
Buddy White’s girlfriend thinks he’s crazy. Tom Kucala’s wife thinks he’s “absolutely nuts.”
Why? They traveled to Decorah from Louisville, Kentucky, and northern Illinois, respectively, to each secure two bottles of Toppling Goliath Brewing Company’s 2019 Mornin’ Delight, an imperial stout brewed with coffee and maple syrup that’s considered one of the best beers in the world.
“Beercation is the right word,” said White, whose group stopped at some St. Louis breweries on the way.
Saturday’s Mornin’ Delight release event was the largest in Toppling Goliath’s 10-year history. About 4,000 people traipsed through its new brewery and taproom to spend $100 on two 22-ounce bottles of Mornin’ Delight, the commemorative glass and a small pour of the inky brew.
“It’s delicious, it really is,” Kucala said.
Toppling Goliath brewed between 8,000 and 10,000 bottles for the event, said Sarah Hedlund, the brewery’s marketing director. To buy the bottles, attendees had to win a ticket lottery, but anyone else could drive in for a taste.
The taproom was overflowing with out-of-towners like White and Kucala, some making their first visit and others making what’s become a frequent pilgrimage from Minnesota or Wisconsin. Several also patronized a morning release at Decorah’s Pulpit Rock Brewing Company, making Saturday a doubleheader.
Parking lot license plates represented at least 14 states, including each of Iowa’s neighbors and more exotic locales such as North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
“It’s a really good feeling to know that this many people will plan their weekend around this event, and so many of the faces are familiar, friendly faces that we’ve seen that have been supporting Topping Goliath since we started,” said Clark Lewey, the brewery’s co-owner.
The Mornin’ Delight purchasers were split into nine sessions, so they and their friends, family, babies and dogs spent much of the day lounging in the taproom or out on the patio. The visitors outside Toppling Goliath’s 19-state distribution area made sure to stock up, filling cardboard boxes with King Sue, Pseudo Sue and Mornin’ Latte four-packs.
Patrons also tried a pair of the brewery’s draft-only barrel-aged stouts, a Mexican hot chocolate brew and a variation with pecan and coconut flavors.
“People will definitely go a long ways to drink these beers,” Hedlund said.
A shortage of area lodging made that a little harder for those not close by.
Megan Schifrel, 29, from Ocomomowoc, Wisconsin, made the 190-mile trip to Decorah with her husband to add to their “cool beer” collection. They’d planned to stay in or near Decorah, but that quickly evaporated when they couldn’t find private, non-camping lodging six weeks ago, she said.
“Beer culture” is following wine’s lead, Schifrel said, so the only surefire way to get the premium brews is to go to the source, even if the hotel is in the Wisconsin Dells on Saturday morning.
Rodney and Tami Flowers, from the Kansas City area, were able to snag a room at a local hotel after securing their tickets, unlike a few of their friends who couldn’t find a place to stay after winning the lottery. But Rodney planned to share the wealth.
“I got a group of guys in my neighborhood that I generally share with,” he said of his Mornin’ Delight. “... It’s more fun for me.”
Most of the nearly 20 Mornin’ Delight buyers who spoke to the Register said they’ll look to drink, share or trade their new beer. No one said outright that they’d plan to sell it, even though Toppling Goliath beer can fetch a pretty penny on resale sites.
After he and his buddies collected their Mornin Delight, White, 44, said he was going to meet some more friends for a “share.” Then the beercation rolls on.
“We’re gonna go out of our way to go home tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll go through Wisconsin and go to New Glarus (Brewing) and maybe even stop in Chicago somewhere.”
Austin Cannon covers the city of Des Moines for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 515-284-8398. Your subscription makes work like this possible. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal.