The infamous “Heady Topper” from Vermont’s The Alchemist brewery is one of the most sought after beers in the beer geek pantheon. There is an active black/grey market out there for this beer. I, however, got my can legally through a super limited deal one of my favorite bars/bottleshops worked to “import” some Vermont beers legally (all the proper channels were followed from source to destination). I walked in on a totally unrelated errand and my friend working the bottleshop counter pulled a can out from behind the counter, said “I have been authorized to sell you one of these,” then put it back under the counter so no one else would see it. I’m guessing the limited amount of cans of this white whale were being held for friends of the business.
Heady Topper is a double IPA and often compared with the other highly sought after double IPA, Russian River Pliny the Elder (My Review). These two beers are often, in beer geeks’ minds, locked in a battle of who is the best Double IPA. Personally, I don’t care. I try to write about beers I like and describe them in a way that will hopefully relay the nature of the beer to someone else who may want to then go drink that beer. This beer review will be no exception.
The can strongly advises you to drink the beer from the can, I drank it from a glass. The reason the brewery recommends you drink from the can is to preserve the bitterness. Drinking from the can will isolate the bitter flavor, but will lower some of the more delicate hop aromas. On a more practical note, you won’t be able to see the liquid and the floaties. Some people don’t care for sediment, even though it’s a perfectly natural thing in many beers and can add to the flavor.
Appearance: Hazy Copper/Orange with an off white head. Good retention. There are obvious “floaties” in the beer. This is the hop resin and other beer byproducts. They won’t harm you. This beer is unfiltered.
Aroma: Dank hops, resiny pine, citrus undertones, spicy.
Taste: Citrus, pine resin finish, hop sweetness. Spicy and earthy.
Overall Impression: The beer’s medium body finishes with a long, resiny finish. The mouthfeel has a bit of “grittiness” due to the sediment (it’s not off-putting, just one more sensation the beer possesses). I liked this beer. I’m not a person who actively seeks out every IPA. Heady Topper is a really great example of a Double IPA. It’s bitter without being overly aggressive. It’s flavorful and hoppy without being a one-dimensional IPA. Most of all, there is a nice level of neutral but present maltiness to help balance the beer. This beer is all about the hops, but the malt definitely is used correctly to showcase the hops.
Availability: Limited to the Upper Northeast of the US.
Notes: There was no date on the can to indicate freshness. I was assured it was a fresh batch. It tasted quite fresh.