Brew Love: Heady Topper

Heady Topper. Those two words, spoken in succession, can bring a craft beer nerd to his or her knees in sheer excitement. The Alchemist Brewery’s Heady Topper has long been heralded as one of the the top imperial IPAs in the world and even one of the top beers period, whether you’re talking to RateBeer, Beer Advocate or even Zymurgy magazine.

the-alchemist-heady-topper-1After a recent vacation to the Northeast, I attended their first full day at their Stowe, VT brewery. While they assured guests that lines were unnecessary, there still was a steady hour-ish-long line that snaked into the parking lot. As soon as we made it into the brewery, we were treated to samples of their three beers: Focal Banger, Crusher, and Heady Topper. Unfortunately, Crusher ran out before we could buy any, but we bought a case each of Focal Banger and Heady Topper.

So is it really the best beer in the world?

Now, even John Kimmich, founder and head brewer at The Alchemist, warns drinkers to not expect the hoppiest or the strongest beer they’ve ever had. Instead, Kimmich relies on Heady Toppers insane balance between hops and malt. Seriously, this beer is spot on.

the-alchemist-heady-topper-2Waves of citrusy American hops assault your olfactory nerve and your tastebuds while the smooth malty backbone keeps things balanced. At 8% ABV, many similarly alcoholic Imperial IPAs can come across boozy, yet Heady Topper drinks like a beer with much less alcohol. You can easily power through two or three cans if you’re not careful. At Stowe, VT’s altitude of under 1000 feet you won’t notice it, but up here in Colorado, it’s much more noticeable. Anyways, this beer is so good, you’ll want to save the cans for future enjoyment.

the-alchemist-heady-topper-4While Heady Topper may have helped ignite the “hazy IPA” trend that is seemingly making craft beer drinkers believe that haze makes beer juicy, if you drank it according to directions on the can, you would never know. Remember drinkers, haze is a byproduct of the brewing process. Hops make your beer juicy.

Drink from the can

It’s awesome to see Kimmich wearing a Double Mountain shirt…have we mentioned we love Double Mountain?

How to get Heady Topper

Here’s the tricky part. Right now, Heady Topper is only distributed in Vermont. Northeast-located family members who could send you a care package is the easiest way to get it. Then again, Stowe has a great little ski resort, so take a vacation, hit the slopes, and come home with Heady Topper. We recommend taking a trip and checking a bag (or two) on the way back. Here’s my bag from the way back:

A photo posted by Ryan (@ryanhannigan) on

If you’re reading this and Vermont is just a quick drive away, there are easier ways to find out who has Heady Topper. The most obvious is The Alchemist’s distribution page, with a listing of everywhere that has their beer (and some that offer cases!). Also, there’s the website Heady Spotter, a fan-led page that tracks when and where Heady Topper is available.

Remember, don’t be a D-bag—recycle your cans when you’re done with them. Cheers!

Ryan Hannigan
ryan@focusonthebeer.com

A graphic designer for the Colorado Springs Business Journal by day, beer enthusiast and homebrewer by night. It's not what's on your glass, but what is inside it that truly matters. Drink good beer and surround yourself with good people who drink good beer and life will be merry.