Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How Toppling Goliath Stumbled into Oshkosh

If you’re one of those craft-beer geeks who haunts rating sites hunting for exceptional beer, then you’ve probably already heard about Toppling Goliath Brewing. The buzz surrounding the Iowa brewery at websites like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer is intense. The brewery’s limited output (approximately 6,000 barrels annually) and confined distribution have helped to increase the chatter. Over the past two years, its beers have become some of the most coveted in American craft brewing. So how is it that we’ve started getting Toppling Goliath’s beer in Oshkosh? There’s a story...

Two years ago, Adam Carlson of Gardina's in Oshkosh was among those trolling the beer forums when word of Toppling Goliath began bubbling up hard. As the beer buyer for Gardina’s, Carlson wanted to see if he could get a cut of the brewery’s limited output. “I was still a little naive about what’s entailed in the really limited craft beer world,” Carlson says. “I just called the brewery and said, ‘How do I get your beer?’ They told me that they don’t make very much and what they do make is gobbled up extremely quickly.”

The brewery also didn’t have a truck bringing product to the Oshkosh area. “I kind of pushed the envelope further,” Carlson says. “I asked them ‘What if I came to you?’ They told me they didn’t have the production then to support another account. It was basically a no, but to check back later.”

Carlson persisted. “That's how most of my success with beer has occurred,” Carlson says laughing. “I stalk people.” Eventually he got in touch with Chad Opfer, a salesperson and delivery driver for Toppling Goliath who services the brewery’s Wisconsin accounts in Madison and Milwaukee. “I finally got through to them to give me a shipment of beer last year,” Carlson says. It was another year before the next shipment came through, but over the last couple of months, Gardina’s has been able to bring in two of the brewery’s top-rated pale ales, PseudoSue and Lightspeed.

“I'm hoping we'll have a more consistent supply now,” Carlson says. It’s still a limited one, though, and it goes out quicker than it comes in. The last shipment of eight cases of Toppling Goliath beer sold out in a matter of days. “For a place my size that is pretty incredible,” Carlson says. “And that was with limiting people to four bottles of PseudoSue and two bottles of Lightspeed to prevent people like Jeff Potts from hoarding.”

In the meantime, Carlson still drives down to Madison to meet the delivery truck and hauls the beer back to Oshkosh himself. “I'm hoping we'll have a truck coming up here eventually.” he says. Carlson isn’t the only one. “I know about a dozen hard-core beer guys around that would take a case of PseudoSue and use that as their daily drinker,” he says. “It’s a great beer.”

Gardina’s is currently out of Toppling Goliath beer, but there should be more on the way before too long. Hang in there.

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