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Thirsty Thursday: Toppling Goliath Brewing Company’s King Sue

Photo By Ed Miller

Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops. 

Certain beers, often ones that are harder to obtain, can only be discovered by word of mouth because, let’s face it, there’s a plethora of top notch breweries.  Not only that, specific breweries only distribute to certain areas thanks to limited releases, hyper-fresh offerings or geography. If you’re a beer nerd like me, when you hear rumblings of a heavy-hitting brewery now distributing in your area from a fellow wannabe beer snob, you find out how to get your greedy mitts on it.  But I actually got lucky with this week’s selection, as a friend saved me one from their four-pack – he was well on top of this midwest brewery spreading out and distributing on the east coast. The beer I’m talking about is King Sue and the brewery is Toppling Goliath Brewing Company.

While I wasn’t familiar with Toppling Goliath a month ago, apparently it’s been a heavy-hitter in Iowa and the surrounding states for quite some time, proving to be an up-and-comer brewery, one some people will make a destination on their travels to stop and load up.  Don’t believe me, well BeerAdvocate ranked it as the world’s second-best brewery in 2015.  It’s surprising for a brewery not in a hotbed spot like California or Vermont.

Founded in 2009 by Clark and Barbara Lewey in Decorah, Iowa after a successful stint homebrewing, Toppling Goliath has built a reputation of superb IPAs, stouts and barrel-aged offerings, with four regularly available flagship beers and another 30 rotating in kegs and cans throughout the year.  Since it’s construction, the company’s 100-barrel brewhouse has left quite a local economic impact, even increasing Decorah’s population by 25 percent. That’s what happens when you make the world’s best beer of 2015.

King Sue has been a staple of Toppling Goliath’s lineup for a while now.  It might’ve reached my area through distribution, like states such as Florida, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to grab a bunch, since my local bottle shop, and several others in the area, had a one can limit or one four-pack limit.  There’s no denying this 7.8 percent ABV, 100 IBUs DIPA is one of those holy grail beers on many drinkers’ lists. King Sue, which recently transitioned to 16-ounce cans last summer, has even been tinkered with, leading to Double Dry Hopped and Galaxy Dry Hopped pale ale versions called Pseudo-Sue.

As eye-popping as it’s success might be, the artwork on the can is just as noticeable.  

With a red, yellow and orange theme, the can features a humongous Tyrannosaurus rex belting out a Jurassic Park-like roar with a yellow background and red volcano at the bottom.  And, unlike some of the recent Thirsty Thursday efforts, Toppling Goliath slaps an explanation of what drinker’s are about to enjoy on the label: “This lusciously hazy double IPA gains its hints of mango, orange, and pineapple from the use of the delicious Citra hop. All hail the king!”

I had the perfect glass for this one, my teku from Kane Brewing Company.  When I popped the tab on the can, I immediately got a burst of hoppy citrus notes, as it emitted strong aromas of mango and orange as well as a little something sweet – it also had a very enjoyable dankness.  Then it came time to pour. Pouring King Sue proved to be exquisite, with an abundantly cloudy yellow color that had a complete opaque of haze, giving it the look of a New England IPA, and a ton of slowly dissipating off-white fluffy head.  Pouring it lazily would’ve proved slightly costly.

The taste of King Sue was just as good as the pour, thanks to a medium-bodied mouthfeel with a citrus-forward mango and orange taste, mixed well with a light, hoppy bitterness.  I didn’t notice any of the pineapple as mentioned on the can but that’s not surprising. It finishes just a little dank, which helps make it refreshingly crisp while maintaining its robust flavor.  One wasn’t enough and, to be honest, I wish I had picked up a four-pack of my own because it’s not just a great summer beer, it’s a blueprint for what DIPAs, and similar-tasting NEIPAs, should be.

Because I got this beer from a friend, I’m not sure what it’ll run you in stores, though I have to imagine a four-pack is somewhere in the typical $18-$22 range.  When I checked out BeerAdvocate, I noticed the website gave it a perfect 100 score – and also ranked it as the No. 40 beer – and almost 2,700 ratings gave it an average score of 4.63.  King Sue is practically as good as Heady Topper, the top-ranked Thirsty Thursday beer to date at 9.7, but not quite able to climb past it.  I give it a reigning endorsement of 9.3 because it’s pretty, it’s delicious and it’s refreshing. You’re not going to find too many DIPAs better than this one out there.  Hopefully, some of Toppling Goliath’s other more limited efforts make their way to my area.

Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.