Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The Alchemist - Heady Topper
So what is the new number one beer in the world? It's a Double IPA from Vermont called Heady Topper. Ever since it was canned in 2011, this beer has been rocketing up beeradvocate's Top 100 (now 250) list until it claimed (and ran off with) the #1 spot last year.
I've been trying to get my hands on this beer for a while. I even enlisted the help of my sister, who lives in nearby Boston. But for all our efforts, this beer has proved very, very elusive. The brewers of this beer, a brewery called The Alchemist, are completely devoted to making this one beer, but they don't make so much of it that it escapes the state of Vermont on a regular basis. If you want Heady Topper, you pretty much have to go to Vermont or make friends with someone there. Luckily, I didn't have to do either.
I've been going to a store in Santee called Beverages 4 Less for a few years now. The owner, Freddy, always manages to surprise me with the beers he brings into the store. He may not be the most popular guy on beeradvocate, but Freddie has been nothing but friendly to me since the minute I stepped into his store, so I keep going back. If it wasn't for him, I would never have gotten to try a lot of amazing beers that don't usually come near the state of California, including Heady Topper. A few weeks back, I got an email from him saying that he had gotten Heady Topper in. I thought it had to be a misprint, but when I went in a few days later, he showed me an empty can and told me it had sold out almost immediately. "Don't worry," he said, "I'll make sure you get to try it. I'm getting more in a few weeks." Fast forward to Monday when, after getting off work, I checked my email and saw he had just gotten more. After an Andretti-like performance down the 52, I ran into Beverages 4 Less to see a smiling Freddie and my first full can of Heady Topper. At last! At #1- Heady Topper.
The Alchemist puts labels all over this can telling you to drink Heady out of the can. But I had to see what this puppy looked like, so I took a few glorious sips from the can and then poured it into what I felt was the appropriate glassware. After a few ounces had left the can, I could see why The Alchemist would want you to leave it in there. This may be a fantastic beer, but it's no looker. Heady Topper pours an insanely cloudy dark golden color with a thin off-white head. The dark gold turns a foreboding brown near the edges of the glass. The coloring and murkiness are probably better suited for an unfiltered wheat beer, but I had been warned about this beer's appearance beforehand, so I soldiered on and gave the beer a smell. Holy...Balls! Mango, papaya, citrus and pine explode from the glass (and the can) and mingle together so perfectly, you'll swear your nose just climaxed. Mint, grapefruit and some biscuity malt are in there as well and it...is...glorious.
The taste, somehow, is even better. Right away, your tongue is walloped with a big dose of pine and citrus. Those start to fade to a bit of a bready malt taste, but just before that can take over, another wave of hops hit. This time, the hops show more of a piney, grapefruit pith note before falling into a fantastic resinous finish that is intensely hoppy without being that bitter. The word that hit me over the head again and again as I was drinking this beer was "balance." It's perfect. You just can't make a beer that is more balanced and layered than this. It's got so many elements that it hits you with and yet they're all so wonderfully restrained. It's not the hoppiest, boldest, or booziest Double IPA I've ever had, but it is definitely the best. If you ever find yourself in Vermont, make a point to seek out this beer. Then you, too, can see how far cans have really come.
Final Grade: A+
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 116