It seemed absurd to follow up the superlative Mt. Whitney with level Iowa, but I was in nearby Wisconsin for an event and took the opportunity when I could.
I arrived in the midst of summer flooding, and as always stood stunned for a moment when I disembarked the plane, bowled over by the unrelenting green of the land. My home in Arizona was tanned a dry dusty yellow from the drought, and desert-dwellers will chat obliviously about subtle changes in the shades of green around them as the lethally sharp local plants fade from chartreuse to lime to seafoam with the seasons. Here in the Midwest was a bold in-your-face green, aggressively swaggering like a fratboy, a boisterous green occluding all other colors to monopolize and dominate the landscape.
I drove through Iowa over swollen rivers and into marshy bloated farmland. Rainclouds were never out my vision but they floated through my path, first enveloping me in a dark driving rain and then easing away to reveal a snippet of rainbow in the dappled sky. I tuned the radio to a college station and it squealed with reports of flood warnings and bridge closures along the eastern flank of the state. I continued west into the late-setting sun, giant wind turbines spinning lazily over the lush green earth. Fat earthworms squirmed across the road to bake in the brief flashes of sun.
The highpoint was advertised well in advance and was clearly being promoted as a Destination, newly cut muddy paths snaking through piles of freshly-sawn trees in what would eventually be a campground or some kind of public park. I parked and crossed a dirt road onto private property for the Destination, past a little barn staged as a farming museum, one of those head-in-hole photo ops of a farmer couple, a short but secure staircase built up around a grain silo to make a lookout platform, a granite rock marker, a display of license plates from different states, a mosaic stone marker, a flagpole, a flower garden, and a series of tall spire markers listing directions and mileage to the other 49 state highpoints. Iowa was my most self-aware highpoint yet, and I walked the grounds in amazement at what looked to be the commercialization of a gently rounded hill in the middle of a nondescript farm, the cornfields glowing just as green as the rest of the state.
About the beer:
I was in beer
snob aficionado Madison WI when I started asking about Iowan beers, and the name Toppling Goliath came up again and again, with far-off dreamy eyes in their beardy faces. A few of the brewery’s offerings were mentioned, but PseudoSue (younger sister of Sue, the dinosaur) was the most popular. I checked in at a local liquorstore and they laughed. “We had five cases come in on Thursday” — I reached for my wallet– “but they were gone within three hours.” It was the same story up and down State Street. The stores’ Facebook pages were filled with posts from artsy profile-pics begging for the brew.
The build-up was too much. I drove to the brewery, a half-day out of my way. It was an unassuming tavern in unassuming Decatur, populated by a friendly barmaid with an outstandingly dense midwestern accent and three middle-aged locals watching baseball. “oh yah, we’ve got just three left.” she told me, pulling all three out of the fridge for me. I paused for a moment and bought only two, imagining the next desperate customer coming in to hear there was Just. One. Left.
After a day of anticipation I climbed up the silo at the highpoint to crack it open, and I get it, this is a tasty beer. It’s a very smooth APA, very easy to drink– I could’ve guzzled it on a hot day– with a florally hibiscus smell and a sweet melony aftertaste like a cantaloupe, a little sweeter than I would have normally chosen, but nothing overpowering, and a pleasant treat here above the green-gorged floodplains.