Alchemist Heady Topper the Best American Beer? Best Beer in the World? Really??

Hop flavor and aroma sensation from Vermont

Hop flavor and aroma sensation from Vermont

The “it beer” for 2013, this “Double IPA” craft beer has become a hop-head sensation all over the US. Made by The Alchemist in Waterbury Vermont, Heady Topper has the top beer rating on the website BeerAdvocate.com, with a perfect “100 score”.

Originally brewed at the Alchemist brew pub, in 2011 production was moved to the 15bbl “Alchemist Cannery” – where it’s the only beer they brew – and they can’t keep it in stock – not even close. It routinely sells out it’s entire weekly 120bbl production well before that week is out – with people coming from all over the country to buy the four pack of 16 oz cans.

Fortunately for me, my friend Brian Jones was in Vermont with his lovely family – and he patiently scouted out the brewery until some of the “liquid nirvana” was available – and brought me back a four pack. Making a grand presentation Brian’s wife Joanne built a special “Heady Topper friendly menu” of blue cheese, pulled pork with “creme brulee cheesecake” for the occasion.

So, is it really worth all the hubub? Well, I can tell you it’s pretty special – if you like hops – and lots of it. Lots of aroma, lots of floral, citrusy, herbal sensations. As advertised on the can – it’s not really that bitter, with an unfiltered medium body and no noticeable alcohol burn. It reminds me a bit of one of my other favorite hoppy beers – Ithaca’s “Flower Power” but then sort of juiced up on PED’s. The 8% ABV was more than enough to give it strength.

Of course I enjoyed the heck out of it – even though I stubbornly poured mine into a glass (around the top of the can label it shouts: DRINK FROM THE CAN! over and over). Even in the glass the fresh hop essence assaults your senses immediately – it’s like opening an envelop of fresh hop pellets right under your nose.

Now I understand that this is not an everyday beer – in fact, a brewer friend of mine – Brian Hunt of Moonlight Brewing in California – would say it’s not really a drinkable beer at all. He decries the endless array of hoppier and hoppier beers pushing aside more balanced brews with less assertive alcohol and hop bitterness. He told me that people who drink those triple IPA beers think “Oh man, it’s really hoppy – it must be a great beer”. Well, I hear you Brian and I do agree – there should be diversity and balance, and options for all beer enthusiasts. That understood – Geeze this is a fun beer to try!

So, if you can’t get to Vermont yourself (on the right day of the week) see if you find a friend who is going up there, and beg them to get your some Heady Topper – just so you can pop a can and inhale what is currently driving American Beer Appreciators hop-crazy.

Brian carefully cradles the "Best Beer in the World"

Brian Jones carefully cradles the “Best Beer in the World”