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.