By Patruus Inebrius
Heady Topper is a bit difficult to get one’s hands on. Brewed in Stowe, VT, the popular beer can be bought in four packs, with a limit of four of those when it’s in stock. It’s hard to get because it’s damn popular. One of the highest rated beers on RateBeer and Beer Advocate, it’s one of those “legendary” beers that people stand in line for whenever there’s a hint of a store getting some. You would think, since The Alchemist cans this lovely 8% ABV brew year round with it’s carefully guarded secret combintaion mass of late-added hops, that it would be fairly simple to obtain. But the quality of this brew means that demand will probably always outstrip the supply the small craft brewer can provide. Jen Kimmich, one of the founders of The Alchemist, told Men’s Journal “A lot of people have this idea that we’re really small and that we’re purposely not making more to keep demand there. That’s crazy! We’re making Heady Topper every single week of the year, as much as possible.”
This golden brew comes in 16 ounce silver cans. It proclaims repeatedly “Drink it in the Can!” around the top edge. According to the script on the can’s back, this is because some of the hop oils settle to the bottom of the can, so the brewer recommends drinking directly from it to get the flavor they intended. That said, I tried a bit from the can, but then poured it into a glass to get a better view of this elusive brew. It’s a light golden color with a strong white head. The beer itself is slightly cloudy, undoubtedly from the aforementioned hop oils that escaped when I dared to pour it from the favored can.
Heady Topper has a very smooth aroma. The plentiful hops are present, affirming that this is indeed a double IPA.
The taste, however, is something a bit more remarkable. Most IPAs put forth a bitter now, bitter later hop profile that, while tasty, often proves brutish. Heady Topper earns its high rankings by being heavily hopped, but not overly bitter. The hoppy flavors are there, but have divorced themselves from the typical accompanying ratio of bitterness. There is some slight bite, but the bready flavors, malt and citrus put on a stronger showing. Definitely a complexity of taste that will keep you coming back as you try to come to grips with the beer tasting dichotomy Heady Topper seems to represent.
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After enjoying a can, there’s little mystery as to why Heady Topper has achieved its near legendary status. It’s a credit to the craft of brewing. A heavily hopped IPA that lacks the usual battering of bitterness.