Alchemist Beer’s Heady Topper
At Bert’s, customers inquire about few beers more often than Heady Topper. A product of Alchemist Beer in Waterbury, Vermont, Heady Topper is regarded by many (myself included) as one of the top craft IPAs in all of New England, and by some others as one of the finest in the country.
This brew, in its demure polished metal and black one-pint can is one which is, quite sadly, only sold in and around the Waterbury area. As such, it is not only one which I – on an almost daily basis as a New Hampshire beer seller – must inform my clients that is not available outside of said area, but one which is even reported to have inspired black market smuggling and illegal sales within some darker corners of the craft beer world.
So naturally it fell to me as not only a mere treat, but a duty to sit down with this celebrated member of New England’s own holy triumvirate of craft IPA’s (those being Heady, Lunch and Stoneface) and give it a thorough once-over.
To begin with, unlike its New Hampshire or Maine counterparts, Heady Topper insists that you drink it from its can. The fact that it comes canned, while perhaps being a matter of industrial practicality, also serves the added purpose of prolonging the brew’s life by way of ensuring zero light pollution as well as potentially better carbonation. But these nuances to packaging aside, to not pour this hazy golden IPA and to instead sip straight from the one pint tall-boy is somewhat striking, if only in that the typical enthusiast appreciates a fine glass and the chance to look upon his beverage.
However naturally it is not the can, nor the instructions, nor even the exclusive nature to the brew which makes it properly stand out, but rather, as always, its taste. Unlike many more common IPA offerings, Heady Topper is not dedicated to beating you senseless with hoppy bitterness. Quite the contrary, while such is very present within each sip, it is complemented by an underlying, almost malty sweetness. Unfiltered and unpasteurized, Heady lays out its flavor profile, from hop to yeast to malt, all in a brilliant and well balanced order that is both distinct and refined.
As much as breweries may strive for such when making lighter fares such as pale ales, IPAs and lagers, few succeed quite as thoroughly in conveying a feeling of freshness and crispness as these New England craft IPAs. And of them, Heady Topper is most certainly one of the best crafted. With its unique hop experience and every so slight resiny aftertaste, it is almost impossible not to appreciate the care which goes in to the brewing of this beer. With a respectable 8% abv, you could – if you were able to get your hands on enough of them – seek to enjoy a string of Heady Toppers before losing the plot too much.
While USA Today’s piteous but well-intentioned “25 Beers To Try Before You Die” article did fail to reference or recommend many of the frankly astounding brews that we here at EveryJoe have managed to bring to you, their incorporation of Heady Topper was not the least bit unearned. Should you find yourself within a hundred miles of the Waterbury brewery, you would be remiss not to take the drive to obtain some of this wondrous craft ale.
Nicholas Goroff is a beer lover, writer, actor, ex-political professional and devoted anti-ideologue. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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