“The last time I turned down a beer, I didn’t understand the question.” (modification of a quote by a friend of John Hansell).
I’ve only met a few beers that I didn’t like. I seem to prefer stouts and barley wines recently, but Belgian beers rarely disappoint and I would never shy away from a Scottish or Scotch Ale. I even really dig the Black IPA. DIPAs, for the most part, don’t really float my boat, save The Alchemist’s Heady Topper and Lawson’s Finest Double Sunshine. Pliny the Elder is also a fantastic beer, especially on tap at the source, but in my humble opinion, not up to the taste of Heady Topper and Double Sunshine. I’ve tried countless other DIPAs and struggle to understand their appeal. Obviously, there are those, including the Brew Sirdar that absolutely LOVE the DIPA and need very little provocation to expound on the virtues of this monstrosity of a beer. For me, the double IPA is one of my least favorite beer styles, although that doesn’t seem very true when TheBrewSherpette and I drive 6+ hours to Vermont, about every 6 weeks, to replenish our stash of both of these Vermont beers.
I prefer to drink my Heady Topper out of my Alchemist glass that holds exactly one can Heady Topper. Despite the adamant warning to “DRINK FROM THE CAN!!!!” it seems a bit suspect that The Alchemist sells a branded glass that holds exactly one can of the beer. I understand Mr. Kimmich’s command to drink from the can, but choose to ignore it on the grounds that once I’ve purchased the beer, it is mine to do with as I please. I dig drinking beer from the glass of its brewery, I guess it’s a character flaw.
Heady Topper is not the prettiest beer I’ve ever seen. Although there are far less chunks than in years past, it’s still a cloudy beer and, truth be known, one of the things I like best about it. Perhaps I’ve fabricated it in my mind, but when I drink Heady Topper, I have a sense that I’m drinking a beer that was designed to taste great with little regard for anything else. Color? Clarity? My mouth doesn’t care about either of those qualities and once the beer hits my tongue, the memory of what the beer looked like gets drowned in the bliss of what it tastes like. Candidly, Heady Topper could be neon-purple with red chunks swimming in it and I would care less if it tasted the same.
Immediately, a big bouquet of floral hops blossoms from the glass, alerting EVERYONE in the room’s nose that you’ve just opened a Heady Topper. Co-mingling with these strong floral notes are also grassy and tropical notes that add some complexity and depth that “tractor-beams” your mind into orchestrating a mouth full of the beer. The first sip is bodacious and juicy, full of citrus and bitterness — a monumental hop rush. The alcohol — 8 percent by volume — is well hidden. This beer slides down and drinks easy. A 12+ hour round trip for a style of beer I don’t generally dig makes perfect sense by the second sip. This shit is great, please excuse the vernacular.
It becomes obvious to me after two cans of Heady Topper that any comparison to another beer is ridiculous. This beer is great. PERIOD. There are other great beers also. Some people think there are beers greater than Heady Topper. Some people prefer Shemp over Curly. Some people like pie over cake. I think that we can all agree, in principal, that The Alchemist’s Heady Topper is great. All that is left is to argue is the measure of its greatness. I think it’s a 12+ hour round-trip winner.