The Daily Iowan

Craft brewery delivers to Iowa City by canoe


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Craft-brewed beer is not new to the Iowa City market, but beer delivery by canoe might be.

Clark Lewey, owner and president of Decorah-based Toppling Goliath Brewing Company, delivered 24 "bombers" — 22-ounce bottles — of the company’s famed Golden Nugget India Pale Ale to John’s Grocery, 401 E. Market St., Tuesday afternoon. He was accompanied by Nick Murphy, the company’s general manager.

The pair paddled their canoe — with the nearly 85 pounds of handcrafted ale aboard — upstream on the Iowa River from the dam on Burlington St. to the IMU, where the two unloaded the precious cargo and carried it six blocks up Market Street to John’s Grocery.

Lewey said the canoe delivery was a symbol of Toppling Goliath’s dedication to preserving watersheds in northeast Iowa.


"I grew up protecting watersheds," he said. "It’s a big mission for me."

Watersheds are areas of land where surface water from precipitation drains into rivers and lakes. The water from these plots is often polluted, which can be a problem for small brewing companies that rely heavily on local sources of water for brewing.

Lewey also said he has purchased watershed land for preservation.

"I’ve worked in a family business in the beverage industry for 24 years," he said. "We invest all of our profits from that business in northeast Iowa real estate, specifically watersheds."

Toppling Goliath marketing director Madison McMullen said the company will release its Watershed Wheat beer next week, with 100 percent of profits from the batch going directly to watershed projects in northeast Iowa.

"It’s really important to us to keep our rivers and our streams clean," she said. "Everybody brews downstream, and if the water’s not clean, you can’t make good beer."

Doug Alberhasky, the "Bier Guy" at John’s, said "good beer" is exactly what Toppling Goliath delivers.

"It’s very refreshing to see so many of the Iowa Breweries really stepping up their quality and making some really world-class stuff," he said.

Alberhasky said he was excited to be one of the recipients of the Golden Nugget bombers — the brewery’s first bottling début outside its Decorah taproom.

"I’ve been very anxious to finally carry the Toppling Goliath beers," he said. "This is something they filled by hand, capped by hand, and labeled by hand — When you talk about something that is craft-brewed, this is it."

Alberhasky said the beer — priced at a cool $13.99 per bottle — will be limited to one bottle per customer, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Lewey said the limited quantity of bottles available is an intentional move by Toppling Goliath to bring customers back to local bars, where they can get the Golden Nugget on tap.

He also said the company is very selective when it comes to allowing establishments to carry its beers.

"We give our accounts a tool that is unique," he said. "We’re typically the most expensive-priced beer in there because we’re small-batch, and you can’t get it anywhere but a few select accounts."

Since it became available in Iowa City last March, Toppling Goliath beer have been a resounding success in the Iowa City market, Lewey said. He said the craft beers are currently available on-tap in Iowa City at a handful of locations, including the Sanctuary, Red’s, and Joe’s Place.

"It’s been a long time coming," said McMullen about the limited bottling run. "Even at this point, we’re going to keep bottling small."