Among all the hazy New England IPAs, trendy sours, and special releases out there, one year-round beer has captured the hearts and minds of beer lovers: Heady Topper from The Alchemist. The unicorn beer with limited distribution is on nearly every craft beer drinker’s bucket list.
Heady Topper is a double IPA ranked as the best New England IPA and the fifth highest-rated beer overall, with a score of 100 on Beer Advocate after approximately 15,000 ratings. Five-star reviews abound, with one fan declaring that Heady Topper lived up to the hype and is “The best beer I’ve ever had.”
Here’s everything you need to know about Heady Topper.
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
Demand Is Growing, But The Brewery’s Staying The Same Size
The Alchemist opened a second production facility in Stowe, Vt. in 2016, but this hardly put a dent in demand. The second location also brews Focal Banger, another full-bodied IPA, and seasonal beers. Demand continues to outpace production, but the brewery’s owners John and Jennifer Kimmich have no plans to expand.
The Alchemist’s Socially Responsible Culture Is As Good As Its Beer.
The Alchemist is a certified B Corporation with an Action Plan committed to helping contribute to an inclusive, equitable society. The brand has been recognized by the State of Vermont and received the Governor’s Award of Excellence each of the last two years for its efforts focused on wastewater management and sustainable energy.
It Is What It Is Today Because Of A Disaster.
Heady Topper’s origin story begins at The Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury, Vt., known to brew-loving locals as “Waterbeery.” The brewpub was destroyed in a flood in 2011 when Tropical Storm Irene hit the region, shortly after John and Jennifer purchased a canning line. Jennifer was the driving force behind canning the beer, and with her persistence and keen eye for recognizing opportunity, the brand began canning just two days after the flood.
John Kimmich Got His Start Working For Free At A Brewery.
Kimmich graduated from Penn State in the mid-1990s and worked at the Vermont Pub and Brewery in Burlington. Greg Noonan, a homebrewer and writer, trained Kimmich in the technical aspects of beer making for a year on the weekends.
Heady Topper Uses An Extremely Rare Yeast That Only The Alchemist Has.
Along with teaching Kimmich how to brew, Noonan gave him a precious gift — yeast he acquired in the 1980s in England — and made him promise he wouldn’t share it with anyone. This is the stuff of legends, the secretive first step in what Joseph Campbell would describe as a “hero’s journey” that would forever change the New England IPA world.
Heady Topper Was Originally Only Made Twice A Year.
When Kimmich first started brewing Heady Topper, he made it alongside other beers he was serving at The Alchemist Pub and Brewery. The super-hopped double IPA began getting the most attention, though, so Kimmich decided to devote more time to brewing the crowd-pleaser.
Heady Topper Is Designed To Be Drunk From The Can.
The instructions are clearly marked on the tall-boy pint: “Drink from the can.” Kimmich is adamant that Heady Topper dies as soon as it’s poured into a glass. He explains that a layer of CO2 in the can essentially preserves the terpenes, aromatics, and hop essence that make the brew so Heady.
The Relation Between Hops And Cannabis Is Evident When Drinking A Heady.
Those familiar with the slang terms “heady” and “banger” used in The Alchemist’s best sellers will not be too surprised to learn that several published reviews refer to pine, dank, and weedy notes. While the hills of Vermont are home to the band Phish and known for cannabis production, it’s the unique blend of six hops that gives the brew its signature taste.
People Used To Bottle Heady In The Bathroom — Illegally.
For a while, Heady Topper was only sold on tap at the brewpub, so fans wanting to experience the brew at home created their own makeshift bottling process in the pub’s tiny bathroom.
One Dedicated Drinker Flew In From South Africa For A Couple Of Cans.
People do crazy things for rare beer. The Alchemist had to limit on-site sales of Heady Topper shortly after starting the canning line to make sure it could supply inventory to retailers, and beer tourists flocked to stock up on as much as they could. One family took their private jet from South Africa just to snag some brews.
The Alchemist Would Love To Ship Beer To You, But It’s Illegal.
Due to arcane laws surrounding interstate alcohol distribution, it is not legal for the brewery to ship its highly-desired IPAs directly to consumers. While frustrating to aficionados, the elusive nature of Heady Topper only adds to the captivating aura surrounding the brew.
A Woman Was Arrested For Selling Heady Topper Online.
In 2013, a woman was arrested for selling cases of Heady Topper on Craigslist — for $825.
Empty Heady Topper Cans Sell For A Higher Price Than Many Beers.
Empty cans of Heady Topper are regularly offered for sale on eBay at prices that exceed the retail price of craft beers. A four-pack of cold Heady Topper pints costs $12.70 direct from The Alchemist, while empties are priced by resellers at more than $2 a can.
Curbside Pick-Up Is The New Normal.
Anyone within driving distance of Vermont can order Heady Topper online and pick up curbside at the brewery, but supplies are perpetually limited, and orders are capped at 18 four-packs per person. Customers have been known to change clothes in the car and pretend to be someone else in an attempt to bypass this rule.