Taste it if you can… Heady Topper from The Alchemist


The last time we reviewed this fine beer it was alongside its cousin from the west coast, Pliny the Elder. We called it “The Impossible Tasting” because at the time it was close to impossible to get those two together in your home. If you lived out West, Pliny was plentiful, but Heady Topper was only sold on draft. In the East, you might wander by Waterbury, VT and taste Heady Topper, but Pliny the Elder is non-existent up there.

Fast forward eight months and The Alchemist has opened the Cannery, churning out 16 oz tall boy cans of one of the best beers in the world. $12.99 buys you a four-pack, arguably the best bargain in beer shopping. If you love hoppy beer and live in New England (or upstate NY), you owe it to yourself to schedule a pilgrimage to Waterbury to pick up a case (or four… share with your friends).

The first thing you’ll notice is the ALL CAPS slogan “DRINK FROM THE CAN! along the top of the can. It’s a note from brewer John Kimmich and he’s not kidding. From the note on the back of the can:

Why do I recommend that you drink from the can?

Quite simply, to ensure a delightful, hop experience. The act of pouring it in a glass smells nice, but it releases the essential hop aromas that we have worked so hard to retain.

And you know what? He’s right. I experimented with pouring vs. drinking from the can and there’s no doubt, it’s better from the can. For the purposes of this review I poured some in a glass to give you a look, but I typically drink it from a can now.


When you first crack it there’s a rush of grapefruit on the nose. A little lime maybe too, but I have a hard time spending too much time just smelling… it’s on to the taste. Just an explosion of citrus and subtle malt with the first taste. What continues to surprise me about this beer is the actual waves of hops that arrive as you swallow the beer. It just keeps coming and coming. No bitter aftertaste and it’s scary easy to drink. Just one of the most balanced imperial IPA’s you’ll ever taste.

Run, don’t walk. Run to get yourself some Heady Topper. It’s worth the trip.

Taste: A+. If you like hoppy beers and don’t like this, I think you need to have your head (or palate) examined.

Drinkability: A. I’m always surprised when I get to the bottom of the can. It’s such an easy to drink beer, but be careful.

Vitals: ABV = 8.0, IBU = Plenty. I drank it from both a glass and the can tonight at ~45F. Give the can a try, I think you’ll like it.

Special Note: The Alchemist Pub and Brewery lost their entire operation in downtown Waterbury, VT when Hurrican Irene rumbled through. The Winooski River swelled and flooded their pub and the surrounding neighborhood halfway up the first floor walls. By chance, luck, divination, they opened the Cannery (up the road and out of harm’s way) just a week after the flood. It doesn’t take away the heartbreak and hard work of picking up the pieces and putting it altogether again, but it sure helps. So go get yourself some Heady Topper, and help them bring the pub back to life. This article provides a great back story to the challenges John and the folks from The Alchemist faced and still do face. I hope you enjoy their beer soon.


4 comments on “Taste it if you can… Heady Topper from The Alchemist

  1. I’ve still yet to have this, I’ll be sure to get some on my next trip north. I do love the fact were getting some more availability on these great northern vt beers. I heard a rumor that Heady will also be making it’s way our way via Berman / clown shoes distribution. Also, the color of that beer looks great.AO

  2. I can finally comment on this post as an experienced Heady Topper taster. As a huge IPA fan overall I probably had built this beer up in my head way too much, mainly because you had so highly recommended it. Having secured my four cans from such a generous person (yes, again, you) it was onto strategically determining when and with whom to enjoy this beer.Fortunately it turned out to be quite easy during a visit with my sister and bro-in-law, the latter being a craft beer fan himself. I gave him a bit of the history and why I was cradling the four cans as if they were my children, and the tops were pushed back.You immediately can smell the grapefruit and lime, even without dipping your nose through the aluminum can. But when you take that first sip your tongue tricks your mind into thinking you just bit into some fine piece of citrus just plucked off a Florida tree. Damn.This beer not only lived up to high expectations, it surpassed them. That is great praise, for a great beer.Now, onto planning my next trip up north to support those guys in their rebuilding efforts!

  3. Aaron – I have to get some cans in your hands. Let’s make that happen. Kyle – Glad I was able to share with you. Now we just need to make sure your lil’ lady can enjoy some the next time she’s up in this neck of the woods. Cheers!

  4. A friend who lives in burlington and works at green mountain coffee brought me to the new alchemist location on the way up to stowe last winter. My lord – there is no better beer than the apres ski beer and this one was top notch. My judgement may be colored by this experience, but i think that this is a special one. And a frickin cool looking can as well.

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