Morning Delight 2017 Release

Morning Delight 2017 package | Kale and Ale


Saturday I went 3 hours away to the beautiful town of Decorah, Iowa. For about 2.5 hours. And then turned around and came home. All in the same day. It takes a lot for that to happen. And the reason was a beer release. Not just any beer release, but Toppling Goliath’s Morning Delight beer release. This is consistently one of the highest-rated and most anticipated beers in the world, and I couldn’t pass up the fact to experience it.

Valerie Morning Delight 2017 release | Kale and Ale

When I saw the lottery was open to win a ticket to attend the release, I registered. And I won! I would have the opportunity to purchase a 4-pack of 12 ounce beers and two glasses. Morning Delight is an imperial stout brewed with coffee and balanced with maple syrup. It has a great, thick mouth feel and is nicely balanced. Not my typical type of beer, the fact that I won a spot to receive a package of the beer and experiencing the release was enticing, but it really is a good beer.

RELATED: Road trip to Decorah, Iowa, for a weekend.

I haven’t been to many specialty beer releases, but this is run about as smooth as one can expect. Winners have to bring cash and two forms of ID, and come at an assigned time. Parking was easy, it was clear where to go and the event was organized. I got my beer, sample and extras that were for sale (in my case, Supa Sumo, another fantastic beer that is only being sold in Northeast Iowa) and was in and out in less than 30 minutes. I know it takes trial and error to get to that point, I’ve heard about past Morning Delight days and, having lived in Florida, have heard how Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day has evolved, so I appreciate the process.

Morning Delight 2017 Toppling Goliath | Kale and Ale

The big learning experience between going to Decorah on Saturday and even my experience at Surly’s Darkness Day in 2015 is to learn how much you can about what’s going on for the event. In Decorah, bars and restaurants were having special releases and concurrent events for people who didn’t get Morning Delight tickets or who were waiting for the brewery to open after the release. One bar had seven pours of rare and special release kegs for $25. A great, fun deal if we didn’t have to turn around and drive home.

Point is, find out as much as you can about the release, any food trucks or special releases, etc., you can before you arrive. I would make an overnight trip of it next time, and even if you don’t get the special release of Morning Delight, you can still get to town and try it (as I could when I went to Darkness Day). Find someone who has been there before, check the internet and message boards, ask on social media, etc., to “know before you go” so you can roll into the event like and experienced fan of the release.

Have you ever been to a specialty release? What was your experience like and what tips do you have?

Road Trip: Decorah, Iowa

Decorah, Iowa, is located in the northeast corner of the state, 15 miles south of the Minnesota boarder among bluffs. Best known for the eagles, liberal arts college Luther, Norwegian pride and Toppling Goliath Brewery, it’s an outdoor haven of small-town living. Having only passed through it once 18 years ago, I decided to head down Highway 52 and explore the big hiking and beer options in this small town.

Aaron and I visited over the long Memorial Day weekend, and be warned: The town shuts down on the holiday. There were only two places open downtown for breakfast, but more on that later.

Beer and Food Options in Decorah

Oneota Coop Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Oneota Community Co-Op

We arrived in Decorah around lunchtime, so we headed straight to the Oneota Co-Op, recommend by my dad. The shop itself isn’t large, but the cafe portion includes a salad and hot bar and pressed panini sandwiches. I was hard pressed (hilarious, right?!?!) to pick between the magic mushroom and chipotle tofu sandwiches, but ended up with tofu simply because I knew I would appreciate the protein from it and the two slices of cheese on it later when I was hiking and drinking. And the sandwich was amazing, featuring slices of tofu in an amazing sauce between two melty, flavorful slices of cheese. We ended up stopping at Toppling Goliath Brewery for lunch, eating on the patio and washing the food down with a hoppy beer.

Seed Saver Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Seed Saver’s with heritage seed area in the front

After lunch we made our way to Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm to view the gardens and hike the grounds. There is a lot of ground there, so it was fun to walk around past an orchard, through a prairie and in a pine forest. Beyond the hiking (of which there are many miles of trails with varying degrees of difficulty, pick up a map in the visitor center to find out trail features, length and difficulty) are the gardens. There is a great herb and decorative garden, but my favorite part is where Seed Savers is trying to identify possible duplicate types of produce to properly name and identify foods and to save the heritage seeds. The farm is free to visit and interesting, worth a few hours of time.

Pulpit Rock Brewing Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Pulpit Rock Brewing and chill patio

Next we stopped at Decorah’s other brewery, Pulpit Rock Brewing Company. It had a great, large patio with a great view of a city park. It was warm, so it was great to hang out outside. People kept filling in and out, ordering beers and enjoying themselves. We, however, weren’t that impressed with the beer. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t impress us, feeling like we could take it or leave it. So we left it, but like I said, many people were taking it.

We made out way to Hotel Winneshiek, the restored turn-of-the-century hotel, to drop off our things and freshen up, and walked around the cute downtown. The Decorah Hatchery clothing and outdoor store came recommended, but was already closed for the day when we made it there, as it had very limited hours on Sundays. We walked down Main Street, passing historic buildings and looking at some interesting houses featuring large gardens and solar panels.

Main Street ends at the Upper Iowa River and an entry point for the well-maintained paved 11-mile trail around Decorah, running alongside the well-known Fish Hatchery and Raptor Resource Project, home of the Decorah eagles. We plan to bring our bikes next time and explore the trail in full.

Toppling Goliath | Kale and Ale

Tons of small-brewery charm at Toppling Goliath

This time we didn’t have our bikes so we walked back to Toppling Goliath. I recommend walking because parking isn’t great (both in size of lot and that you have to go down a steep drive to exit) and the beers are so damn delicious you won’t want to limit yourself. Pro tip: Belly up to the bar and chat up the servers to find out what fun beers they have had recently (we scored samples that way) and to learn about what beers are in the works. See current beers on tap.

Mabe's Decorah Iowa Beer Gnome | Kale and Ale

Beer-drinking gnome at Mabe’s, the best kind

After trying enough beer, dinner was in order so we walked back downtown to Mabe’s, It was a good choice for after-drink dinner, with a homey feel and delicious food. And the casual family vibe and large dining room meant we felt we could linger. From there we went back to the hotel, tired from a long day, and needing to rest for more hiking the next day.

Lots of Hiking in Decorah

We ate breakfast at our hotel restaurant, Restauration. It was only one of two places open for the holiday, but by going there we weren’t settling; it was a fantastic meal. It focuses on homemade and local food, which is a warm welcome in a hotel restaurant. I got the blue plate special (served on a blue plate!): eggs, potatoes, fruit (instead of meat) and toast, and the potatoes where smashed and fried with the skins on, seasoned well, and the eggs were local. Very filling meal for around $6.50, great to keep me nourished while hiking, and good coffee, too.

Dunnings Springs Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Dunnings Springs is totally worth the stop

Right inside town are three parks next to each other, each worth exploring: Dunnings Springs, Ice Cave and Palisades. Each is worth a stop, even a quick one, on its own. The spring can be seen from parking and is very impressive, and there are benches to sit and view, so it’s a great spot to visit no matter your athletic ability. View hiking options in Decorah.

Decorah really has a little of everything I look for in a getaway, and I can’t wait to return.

Growing tomatoes: Seeds purchased

I'm going to try and grow heirloom tomatoes this summer.

I’m going to try to grow heirloom tomatoes this summer.

This week, I came across packets of seeds, and decided to give growing something a go. I’ve never successfully grown anything, but I really want to grow something that produces food. And last week, Megan at Deck Gardening encouraged me to give a shot to growing plants in pots. (You need to check out her site, her pictures and growing results are beautiful!) Based on my desire and her results, I decided to buy a packet of seeds.

But the real selling point was the seeds themselves. They are Seed Savers Exchange seeds. Per its website:

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. Since 1975, our members have been passing on our garden heritage by collecting and distributing thousands of samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners.

How great is that?!? And you can visit the exchange, located in the northeast Iowa town of Decorah. I really would like to go sometime.

Right when I saw the Seed Savers Exchange name on the packet, I knew I needed to buy something and give it a try. But there were so many options, it really was difficult to pick something. I decided on Lemon Drop tomatoes which, interestingly, came from Florida. But these seemed like a good starting plant because they are cherry tomatoes that can produce in cold, wet growing conditions, making them easy to grow in a small space (a pot) up north (Minnesota).

So, I’m giving it a grow this year growing something. But, as noted, I’ve never been successful at growing anything so any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Stay tuned, I’ll keep you updated here. Hopefully it’s good news with a lot of updates!