If you are a serious craft beer enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, Double IPA. If you are a nutbag of a craft enthusiast, then you may have even sampled this elusive, but wonderfully hoppy DIPA. I’m both the former and the later, and was lucky enough to trade for it a few months ago (easier to get in Winter). My conclusion in a nutshell? I want more!
The Alchemist is a small and intimate family run operation, the kind I love the most, and they focus on brewing a wonderfully hops heavy, fresh and unfiltered IPA. What is superb about this small family brewery is that they are wholeheartedly focused (now, having retired all other recipes) on brewing just one craft beer, and doing that with perfection – the Heady Topper, an American Double IPA. I couldn’t imagine anyone putting their name on a can or bottle, specializing in one craft beer only, and that beer not being superb! Thankfully I don’t have to imagine that – Heady Topper IS superb!
If you love craft offerings heavy on the hops, you’ll love Heady Topper, but you’ll also discover that they’ve done a great job at making a hops-heavy Double IPA that is anything but bitter! It’s the very bitterness that many hops-heavy IPA’s have that turns off some beer lovers, and yes, it IS possible to brew a great recipe that is heavy on hops without having that bitter twang that some love.
Alchemist uses a proprietary blend of six different hops when brewing Heady Topper, and they talk about their philosophy on their website much better than I ever could…
We love hops – that’s why our flagship Double IPA, Heady Topper, is packed full of them. Heady Topper was designed to showcase the complex flavors and aromas these flowers produce. The Alchemist has been brewing Heady Topper since 2003. This Double IPA is not intended to be the strongest or most bitter DIPA. It is brewed to give you wave after wave of hop flavor without any astringent bitterness.
For nearly a decade, the only place you could get this wonderful DIPA, was locally at their seven barrel brewpub in downtown Waterbury, VT. However, the family owned operation opened up their Alchemist Cannery in 2011, featuring a 15 barrel brewery and a small canning line so that they could focus on perfecting their recipe for Heady Topper.
Unfortunately, you may recall the damage that Tropical Storm Irene did to their area. The Alchemist Pub and Brewery was demolish by Irene, but a mere 2 days later, they were back at it, rolling out the first cans of their amazing Double-IPA! That kind of commitment speaks for itself, and speaks not only to the quality of their beer, but to the quality of the family involved!
Just some three years later, Alchemist is rolling out 180 barrels a week, and they pride themselves on not storing any beer for a lengthy period, but instead moving their beer as fast as they brew it. That might be tough for some breweries, but not for Alchemist – the quality is there, the demand is there, and people will pay for a fresh, quality Double-IPA, especially when it’s this good! I want more!
The only problem with Alchemist Heady Topper, is that there’s not enough of it for us who live in other parts of the country. As I said, I was lucky enough to trade for some of it, but it took a while to get. It was still great, so I can only imagine how good it is if you live up in Waterbury! You can also get it in the Burlington and greater Burlington areas, Morrisville and Stowe, Montpelier/Barre, and Mad River areas in Vermont. Yes, you’ll need to take a drive, or like me succumb to a simple trade with some awesome person who needs something from your area they cannot get!
Can: Hey, nothing wrong from drinking from a can! In fact, Alchemist encourages it, and that’s appropriate since they produce with a cannery, and have no bottles (yet). The can isn’t particularly eye-catching, with a picture of a full-haired fellow chuggin’ on a brew himself. Can, bottle – bottle, can – in my opinion it’s best served in a Shaker or Snifter, but I got no problems drinking from a can.
Pour: Heady Topper is essentially a medium pour, with a hazy, orange color, and a thick, white head of three fingers or more, especially if poured in the right tool – a Shaker or Snifter. It has good lacing if the temperature is right when served. Great pour, and slightly unexpected for the color.
Aroma: With six great hops in their recipe, fresh and unfiltered, the aroma jumps out at you the second you open the can and pour, or drink straight from the can, as Alchemist recommends! There are some hints of pine and evergreen resins, and highly tropical aromas like quava and nectarines. It smells as good as it tastes!
Flavor: As I indicated in the intro, despite the heavy hops approach to this recipe, it’s not nearly as bitter as you find in most Double IPAs, and is extremely well balanced, with hints of malts and fruit that are always present, but really sneak up subtly before hitting you full force on the back end. Great flavor, and highly enjoyable, without being heavy at all.
Mouthfeel: Because of the heavy hops and fruit ingredients, you’ll feel Heady Topper in your mouth, as even though it pours medium, you’ll know your drinking a memorable beer when you taste it, and have those flavors stick to your palate. It’s like a cross between your favorite dark IPA, and some citrusy popular beer, with all the elements of the former, and none of the weaknesses of the latter.
Structure: Holds together well, with a complex structure you find in most double IPAs.
Food Pairing: This is always a personal choice, but I prefer IPAs, and even double IPAs, paired best with spicy foods of the fried variety! So, if you’re lucky enough to get a Heady Topper, pair it with spicy, fried seafood – shrimp, fish, etc. You cannot go wrong!
Overall Rating Out of 5 Possible Beer Mugs: