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The Beer Circle » Beer, Imperial IPA, The Alchemist » The Alchemist Heady Topper

The Alchemist Heady Topper

There are many great debates within craft beer circles (see what I did there?) such as: What spices are used in Sierra Nevada Celebration? Is Hopslam less hoppy this year? Are growlers better after being thrice-shipped? Is [insert IPA here] better than Pliny the Elder?

Tonight, I can evaluate that last question a little bit as I try one of the hottest up-and-coming IPAs coming out of The Alchemist Pub & Brewery of Waterbury, Vermont. A small operation, The Alchemist used to only offer Heady Topper on tap, but much praise, hype, and a flooded cannery later, Heady Topper is now available for sale to go. I was able to get my hands on a 4-pack of this, so let’s dig into it!

The Alchemist Heady Topper
Despite the instructions on the can, I decided to pour this into a glass. As a result I am greeted with an extremely cloudy, hazy goldenrod color with a denseness that keeps you from seeing very far into it. A 2-finger, white head builds after a slight delay, but it doesn't have a very lasting impact as it quickly fades. However, the sticky foam does clump to piece together a respectable lace. Actually, when I pour my second glass, there is a ton of floating sediment bobbing around within the liquid, thanks to the hop resins.
The bouquet instantly floods my head, filling the air with lush, juicy, tropical fruit combined with lemon zest, pine sap, and a touch of peppery spiciness. It's mostly full of grapefruit and citrus, but it does have some malt support.
As the nose would lead you to believe, this is a hoppy, heady beer. It walks a fine line between refreshing and bracingly bitter, with the more tropical fruits give it a juicy tinge, but the grapefruit kicks in to remind you that this is a no lightweight. The way the flavor develops is interesting, since the initial bite is intense, but it gradually mellows out, almost as if it's rewarding you for sticking with it. The spiciness appears to fall away here, replaced with a bumped up pine and floral note, and the malts are relegated to clean-up duty.
Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with decent carbonation. A little bit heavy at times but it doesn't come across as thick or syrupy, despite the somewhat low carbonation. This could be attributed to the bold, juicy flavors. The hops impart their signature numbing on the palate once you approach the end of the can. Drinkability is moderately high. The flavors of the hops are all spot-on here and raise the bar that much higher, but I did find the bitterness to be a distraction. Despite being a hop-bomb, the malts add just the right amount of 'balance', if you can call it that.
I had to trade for this since the Alchemist has very limited distribution within its own state, let alone Pennsylvania. But retail, this costs around $12 a 4-pack, which I think is a fantastic price for a DIPA of this magnitude. Plus, they are 16oz cans.
Overall, this is a solid, solid beer from a nanobrewery and thankfully they started canning it so craft lovers around the country can enjoy it! I have a few extras, so I'll see if drinking it straight out of the can makes any significant impact to how it tastes (I can only imagine it hindering the aroma). I also got some Pliny the Elder in this week too, so maybe a head-to-head is in order...

Beer Stats
Style: American Double / Imperial IPA
Serving: Can
Size: 16oz
ABV: 8.00%
BA Score: 100
RB Score: 100

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Written by Greg Bruce

While studying at Penn State, Greg learned that beer could serve a much better purpose than a means to an end for a good party. Delicately brewed Belgians acted as a stark contrast to the almost watery beer that had been so popular and began the journey towards craft beer. From that launch point he always seems to land on something new. Greg approaches each beer, whether it is an aggressively-hopped West Coast IPA or an English bitter (and everything between), with a clear mind and open opinion, ready to analyze, compare, and ultimately, enjoy. While always fond of stouts (especially barrel-aged) and IPAs, Greg is slowly but surely drifting towards various soured beers. Find Greg Bruce on Google Plus

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