clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Can you ever replace Kirk Ferentz? // B1G 2019: Iowa Potluck #1

Heading off the beaten path for beer, and a well-worn path to 8-4.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Northwestern v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

It’s Iowa Week!

In true Iowa fashion, we had to punt on first down. Stew and Creighton have hustled off, though (literally. we don’t know where Creighton is. please advise), and we’re going to grab a beer, vamp for time, scribble in our notebook, and see if we can’t go 1-0 next time.

Today we’ll introduce Iowa football in 2019, we guess?

Just kidding, we’ll get drunk and laugh at the state of the Iowa athletics department.

Question #1: Where the hell is Decorah?

On my most recent drive back to the Twin Cities from Grand Rapids, MI, I came to a realization: I was really, really, really tired of driving through Chicagoland and wisconsin. I spend enough time in Milwaukee as it is; another 5-6 hours on some combination of I-90 and I-94 didn’t appeal to me. Originally, my planned route was the Upper Peninsula, where I’d not been for a dozen years; up through Mackinac, a nice stop in Escanaba, then down through Green Bay and Wausau back to MSP.

Then I thought: “Why more wisconsin?” That’s never the answer. I resorted, instead, to a drive through Chicagoland, then as I reached Rockford on I-39, I turned left onto US-20 and headed through the rolling hill and bluff country of the Driftless Area that stretches into northwestern Illinois and eastern Iowa. Quick through Dubuque, then into the up-and-down-and-up-and-down of northeastern Iowa until I came to Decorah, Iowa.

Home to Luther College and...not much else (who wants to go to school in a little hick hill town, anyways?)...Decorah does have at least one—OK, two—appeals: BREWERIES. You won’t do much better than Decorah’s Toppling Goliath Brewery in the state of Iowa, and in a pinch, Pulpit Rock in downtown Decorah does its share of good stuff, too.

So we ask you, writers: Is there a Toppling Goliath beer the readership HAS to have? Is there a more “Iowa” thing than merely being “hey, at least it’s not wisconsin” on a road trip? What’s the off-the-beaten-path trip for beer you’d make in your state?

BrianB2: Being the red, yellow, black and white headed step-child that I am, I have never been to Iowa or even heard of Toppling Goliath brewery.

According to Google Maps, you can drive from the most south-eastern tip of Maryland to the farthest reaches of north-western Maryland in a smidge over five hours, without traffic. Obviously, you would hit traffic, but the places in Maryland that could be considered “off-the-beaten-path” are few and far between. Those places don’t have breweries.

The best example I can think of would be to head down Route 4 to Prince Frederick, MD and start your day at Mully’s Brewery. Mully’s is pretty average, but it is about as in the middle-of-nowhere Maryland as you can get. Then on your way back to civilization you’d hit up Scorpion Brewing, which definitely has some decent brews to offer, and certainly has that off-the-beaten-path rustic feel you may be looking for. Then you could end your trip at Calvert Brewing Co. near Bowie.

WSR: In spite of my reluctance to have IPAs because you can’t spin around in a liquor store and fall down without crashing into a pile of them, I will say that I really enjoyed Pseudo Sue. Impressive can art, well-balanced beer where you’re not choking on the hops trying to drink it.

And as for Minnesota, I’ll pass on the easy opportunity to say Schell’s (even though getting to New Ulm, especially in the spring when 169 is inevitably flooded around St. Peter) and go with Castle Danger in Two Harbors. Why? Because it’s really good beer and getting to Duluth can suck.

Andrew: Hahaha well friendo, I’m about to give you the most Midwestern answer I can, which is

~~~I’m not sharing my secret places because then they’ll get popular and crowded lol~~~

No but actually, far up on the Lake Huron (most perennially underrated Great Lake) in Alpena, you will find Austin Brothers Beer Company. Their 45er IPA is probably their best-known product, but Woody Wheat, especially if you can find it on nitro, is fantastic as well. I don’t know that they distribute out of Michigan, but if you’re looking to spend a weekend in the north 45, don’t feel like it has to be Traverse City to find good drinks.

Boilerman: Hell, until whatever poll that was where we supposedly voted on the best beer from our respective states, I didn’t even know Toppling Goliath existed. To be even more frank, I’m not sure I can even buy it in Indiana and if I could, there’s probably 30 other choices that would distract me before I’d consider plunking some cash down for some at the local liquor store.

If you want to get off the beaten path, there’s a craft brewery in Greymouth, New Zealand called Monteith’s. Yes, it’s not even in North America, but it is fantastic and worth the 18+ hours of flying and several hours of driving to get there.

Thumpasaurus: Thank goodness for Chicago and Metro East. Those are really the only things separating Illinois from Iowa as a state.

As for the beer question, most of the breweries I love are conveniently located. I do often make a detour to Grand Rapids between Detroit and Chicago due to the proliferation of Founders taproom exclusives. There is usually a driver change after these visits.

Stew: I’ve had every beer that TG makes except the elusive Kentucky Bourbon Brunch Stout. It’s the barrel aged version of Mornin’ Delight, which I currently have a few bottles in my basement stash. My very favorite is SR-71, which was like drinking a bourbon, chocolate brownie. But those are all their giant stouts which are available, at best, once a year by lottery. Of their more standard fare, I’ll take their Zeelander and Sosus.

Beez: I’ve never had toppling Goliath, but I’m sure they’re all perfectly fine. I went about an hour out of the way (and/or didn’t realize how far away it was) to go to Aviator Brewing in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina once. All unfiltered beers and the brewery was in an old airplane hangar. It was pretty cool, the beer was pretty good, and an airplane hangar is kind of a terrible place to have a brewery in the summer in NC.

Nothing about Asheville (aka The Beer Capital of the East Coast) is off the beaten path, but if Wicked Weed ever opened a second Funkatorium I’d probably drive to wherever that is to get their actually-really-good-and-not-just-light-beer-with-fruit-juice-in-it sours.


I feel comfortable guessing that a number of my breweries are off-the-beaten-path enough—unless you’re going to Mandan or Brookings or Marshall any time soon—but I did drive about an hour round-trip from Brookings even further into the wilds to Hendricks, MN (pop. 573), home to Bank Brewing Company.

Bank—so named because...duh—is on Main Street, such that one exists in Hendricks, and man, it’s worth the trip, but have another driver. The beer itself...well, they serve their imperial porter in a pint glass for $5, so really, are you overly worried about quality? (It’s good, though—maple and booze and more maple. Yum.) I am also a huge believer in their Sour Bomb, and their Smoke Bomb is a hefty rauchbier as well. Worth it, if you’re ever in Marshall, MN, and think “I’d like to get out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life.”

BRT: I’ve purchased TG for others on Stew’s recommendation, and they’ve never been disappointed. Unfortunately for me, they’re really IPA-heavy, and that’s often what I’m able to find, and I don’t like IPAs, no matter how world-class they are. Unrelated to beer, they also have really beautiful can art.

Two of my favorite breweries in Nebraska are both outside of Lincoln and Omaha, so I suppose that counts as off the beaten path. Kinkaider originated in the small town of Broken Bow in the middle of the state, and certainly qualifies as off-the-beaten-path. However, they have tasting rooms in Grand Island and Lincoln, so you can give them a whirl if you’re visiting for a game. I also really enjoy Thunderhead Brewing in Kearney (pronounced like Carney because it is), which, in addition to good beer, also has surprisingly good specialty pizzas.


You’re trying to get the hell out of town and drink a beer. Which of these do you go to?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Mully’s in Prince Frederick, MD
    (4 votes)
  • 14%
    Castle Danger in Two Harbors, MN
    (16 votes)
  • 10%
    Austin Brothers Beer Co. in Alpena, MI
    (11 votes)
  • 16%
    (18 votes)
  • 8%
    Aviator Brewing, mostly so I can hang out with beez
    (9 votes)
  • 10%
    Bank Brewing, in Hendricks, MN
    (11 votes)
  • 9%
    Thunderhead Brewing in Kearney, NE
    (10 votes)
  • 28%
    Sure, I’ll go to New Zealand for the beer.
    (31 votes)
110 votes total Vote Now

Question #2: Football and the Ferentz Family

“Hey, at least it’s not wisconsin!”

That’s about the kindest thing I could summon up in 2015 to say about Iowa football, and it’s still the kindest thing I can manage for the Hawkeyes today. That is, in no small part, thanks to the mind-numbing predictability of Iowa football in the Kirk Ferentz Era: Cover-2, run the ball, waste your first-round NFL draft tight ends. Go 8-4. Repeat.

Lately, though, Ferentz has received the cover of an athletics department, under Gary Barta, that has been exceptionally terrible in its management: Gender discrimination on the track and field team in 2013. Gender discrimination toward a senior athletics department member. Gender discrimination on the field hockey team. The good ol’ boy radio announcer trashing a player on a hot mic, and somehow even mismanaging that. Some lunacy with the volleyball coach, Boyd Shymansky, and low-grade NCAA violations. Hell, he’s got a fucking heading on his Wikipedia page titled “Controversy while at Iowa”! He is a disaster.

But the diamond mines keep producing, field hockey or volleyball or Title IX be damned.

And the chief beneficiary, besides Gary Barta? Mobutu Sese Ferentz keeps running the football program on its steady course of atrocities against football and occasionally-humorous atrocities against stronger Eastern powers. On and on and on it goes, 8-4 or 7-5; nobody knows. But the checks keep clearing.

So we ask, writers: Can a peaceful tyrannical dictatorship ever have a peaceful transfer of power? Can Iowa transition to a democracy and keep its figurehead ruler, or in 20 years will Brian Fujimorentz be running on the legacy of his father’s achievements?

Bonus: Tell us about nepotism in your school’s athletics programs.

WSR: No. As we have learned from multiple regimes in 3rd-world countries like Mobutu in Dr. Congo, Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti, and Bobby Bowden in Tallahassee, once the strongman dies a power vacuum is created and the incompetence of the son will be revealed. No matter how loyal some at the top are, eventually they will be deposed because they’re idiots that whine about P.J. Fleck’s recruiting too much while doing pretty much the same thing at a far less effective clip.

And hoooooboy. Nepotism at Minnesota? Well I guess it’s time to dredge up the memory of Saul Smith. The spawn of Tubby sat on the bench with an iPad while the adults were talking and kept a job here for the entire span of his old man’s reign. And good God was there no benefit from it whatsoever. There are supposedly now rules in place at the University of Minnesota to prevent people from bringing in their kids and stealing a check like Saul and Tubby did.

Dead Read: Regarding the hermit kingdom in Iowa City: A monopoly position leads to monopolistic behavior. The Hawks are stuck with the Ferentzi until at least the 2030s.

I cannot think of any nepotism as far as hiring Nebraska coaches goes (it may have happened, I just don’t remember it). Several sons of coaches end up on the football team, though. This is usually fine and the kids fit in - their fathers were players at Nebraska and the football genes were passed down. One former coach, Barney Cotton, had three sons play for Nebraska . That family tradition set the table for this timeless moment in football history.

Clearly, pre-snap penalties are a dominant trait in the Cotton bloodline. That’s just science.

Also, younger brothers of star players sometimes got (get?) full rides. Charles Fryar and Guy Rozier come to mind, but those two developed into fairly good players - just not as good as their legendary brothers. That was quite a while ago.

Andrew: I guess it all depends on whether Ferentz I outlasts Barta or not. If Kirk decides to hang it up in the next year or two, why would Barta ever go away from the money-printing machine his current setup has proven to be? There’s also no guarantee Barta’s successor makes a clean break with Ferentzian football at Iowa, either. Would there really be a “safer” hire to succeed Kirk than his own hand-trained large adult son?

It’s probably not nepotism in the strictest definition, but Dantonio did hire his old mentor Jim Tressel’s nephew Mike as an assistant. It’s working out fine, though, as after an adjustment period, Tressel had last year’s defenses looking like Dantonio’s best vintages.

Boilerman: At this rate, I expect a Ferentz to still be at the helm 60 years from now when I’m beyond old and back in diapers (assuming I’m not dead).

I don’t know if you’d call it nepotism or not. Purdue, under Morgan Burke, had a strong tendency to keep things close to the Purdue coaching tree/family when it came time to hire new coaches. Whether it be Danny Hope (former OL coach under Tiller), Matt Painter (former player under Keady), or Sharon Versyp (former player under Ruth Jones), during his tenure, there was a fair chance when a position came open, the person was going to have a strong Purdue tie.

Thumpasaurus: This absolute monarchy will continue until Kirk XVI is overthrown by a popular revolution. As for Illinois, I’m sure there have been some examples of nepotism somewhere in their history, but none come to mind

Beez: Is it nepotism when every grandson of Wisconsin AD plays on the football team? It sorta seems like it, but then again it’s not like Barry’s grandchildren (just watch any Wisconsin’ll get mentioned 100 times) are terrible players.

I didn’t really follow Wisconsin football all that much until Bielema’s last year/Andersen’s first year, but it seems like the transition from Big Ten Godfather and All Around American Herlo Barry Alvarez to not-Barry Alvarez went pretty well? Without doing a ton of research, it doesn’t seem like there are/were huge stylistic differences between every Iowa fan’s favorite Head Coach to brag about/take credit for and Ferentz. If Wisconsin can go from a legend to continued, maintained top 20-program success, surely Iowa can go from an overrated, overpaid “legend” to continued, maintained, top-50 program success.

Stew: The current president of the university of Iowa was installed via executive fiat by one of the biggest sports boosters, who is also buddy-buddy with Gary Barta and Kirk Ferentz. His nephew was also installed as the punter for Iowa for a few seasons in which Iowa was one of the worst punting teams in the country. So, as long as those guys are around any semblance of typical athletic administration is right out. I think Brian is a capable coach, I also think a line of succession is Bad Idea Jeans, but I think that’s what we’re likely stuck with,’s hoping he’s not so dogmatic to the outside zone.

BRT: I’m not sure if Ferentz the Younger will be any good as a coach, but I hope he’s not, and yet continues to get the eons-long contracts that are his birthright. That’s the kind of stability I’d like to see in Iowa City.

This discussion reminds me though of a fad that we saw in college football about 5-10 years ago of “coaches in waiting.” My sense is that this has sort of petered out, yes? Either the coaches didn’t work out well or they got tired of waiting and left for greener pastures, and everyone just kind of realized this was a dumb idea. Are there any “coaches in waiting” situations in programs other than Iowa City right now?


Who will succeed Kirk I?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Brian I; long may he reign
    (74 votes)
  • 19%
    Kirk II: Electric Puntaloo
    (28 votes)
  • 30%
    The puntletariat will seize the means of puntduction and topple the Puntiff, embracing the tenets of Puntestantism.
    (45 votes)
147 votes total Vote Now