Our little jaunt into Iowa.

This Saturday, before the snow, the wife & I went venturing into Iowa(& a bit of MN) with our friends, Chance & Katie, to visit a few area breweries.

Our original plan was to go to PIVO, Sylvan, Toppling Goliath and Pulpit Rock, but sadly, Pulpit Rock’s tasting room is not currently open. So, we didn’t make it there, but were able to make a quick stop at Rock Filter Distillery in Spring Grove, instead.

Unfortunately, I suffered a minor panic/anxiety attack on the way to our first stop. I was able to take my prescribed medication, but it definitely put a damper on my mood for the first half hour of our trip.

We decided to go to PIVO brewery in Calmar first. It was a really cool spot with a ton of their own beers on tap. I think we counted over twenty of their own brews along with a few guest taps.

They also have a kitchen and the food we saw looked delicious. We’d planned on eating at TG, so we didn’t have anything at PIVO other than beers and they definitely didn’t disappoint.

Of course, I went with the dark stuff, checking out Bluffton Black Lager and the Calmar Milk Stout along with Balltown Chocolate Stout. All of them were really well done and I’ve got a “Meowler” of the Lawler Irish Red in the fridge just WAITING to be opened.(tonight, of course).

Really looking forward to going back to PIVO in the spring or summer to enjoy more of their beers and try some of the food. They’ve got a nice little gift shop and an art studio.

Next, we went to Toppling Goliath in Decorah. I definitely wouldn’t describe it as a “craft” brewery. It’s rather large and I felt like I did when we first visited Surly Brewing in Minneapolis. I wasn’t very excited about the beers at TG because it’s a LOT of IPAs, and as you know, I hate IPAs. But, I was really looking forward to the food, because I’d heard a lot of good things about it.

I went with the “Morning Latte” Imperial Coffee Milk Stout and was not disappointed. Not too boozy, not too cloying. We opted for the meat lovers pizza, even though I had my eye on that Reuben burger.

The pizza was delicious and I would definitely go back to TG for a special event or unique beer release and to try that Reuben burger!

After Toppling, we traveled to Lanseboro, MN for a newish brewery, Sylvan Brewing Co.

This was BY FAR, the best stop on our trip. It’s got all the qualities I look for in a craft brewery.

Unique building, decent beers, great atmosphere, friendly people, and that certain magical quality that lingers after you leave. I couldn’t stop thinking about how happy our visit to Sylvan made me and how much I was looking forward to another stop there.

The wife & I are truly excited to go back to Sylvan this summer. We plan on camping somewhere in the area, taking advantage of the fishing & tubing, and of course, visiting the shops, restaurants, and the brewery.

We tried six of their seven beers on tap and every one of them was a solid interpretation of the style. Nothing too crazy, nothing too bland. I even mildly enjoyed their “Daisy Hazy” IPA.

I also snagged a growler of their “Gnarly Old Ale” for Puck and a growler of the Porter for myself.

We even met one of the owners, Andy, who graciously gave us a tour of the building and brewing area. Sylvan has a main bar area, a second indoor/outdoor seating area, and a nicely-sized outdoor patio with heaters.

I hope they continue to have success in the future and can start to add more beers and incorporate some unique offerings.

Our last stop was at RockFilter Distillery in Spring Grove. This was mostly for my buddy, Chance, as I don’t really drink liquor unless it’s Jameson straight out of the bottle.

But this place has won several awards and had a quaint tasting room and some damn fine drinks on the menu. They also appear to have a larger room for overflow seating and events, but no one was sitting in there at the time of our visit.

Chance had a flight of the bourbons & whiskeys, while I chose the pink sparkler and it was damn fine! But I will certainly be trying their smoked Bloody next time we visit.

Also, I look forward to talking to the owner and/or distiller about this really cool distillery and their process.

It was a nice trip through an area that we don’t get to visit very often and we will be making our way back in the spring or summer!

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Brian Simpson

Unapologetic fan of the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins & Celtics. Lover of powerful, dark beers. Married with NO kids. Ever. Lover of doggos. Not so much cats.

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