Last week I traveled to Burlington, VT, one of the most exciting beer hubs in the country. I was fortunate enough to have a Heady Topper in my hand within 15 minutes of arriving in Burlington, owing entirely to my friend Dave, who resides just outside of Burlington in Essex Junction.
Dave, like many other Vermonsters (to steal a Ben and Jerry’s creation made with 20 scoops of ice cream), has access to numerous high quality beers. But these beers come at a price. Timing. Dave knows which gas station and beer retailers sell which beer on which day. Heady Topper is in such great demand, that you need someone like Dave in your life. And Dave hooked me up.
Heady Topper arrives at different stores on different days. The brewery is closed to the public (located right down the street from Ben and Jerry’s), so you have to rely on truck chasing and schedules, and Dave. On their website, The Alchemist, creator of Heady Topper, posts a list of places that receive beer shipments each day. Here is a sample from the Wednesday schedule.
There are certainly enough places to buy Heady, but you need to have the timing down. And it doesn’t hurt to become friends with the retailers and gas station clerks. Dave and I also went to Mule Bar on Wednesday in Winooski, where we were able to drink as many Heady Topper’s as we could muster for $5 a can! What a simply amazing price! They also had some Focal Banger in stock as well (a 7% Heady clone). The folks at Mule Bar could easily get $7-9 a can. Kudos to them for not price-gouging customers. And here’s another fact: the owner at Mule Bar doesn’t even know how many cases he will be receiving on any particular Wednesday. They wait, like everyone else, like Dave, to see how many cases of Heady they will get that day. Mule Bar has certainly earned my loyalty with $5 Heady cans.
So why is this beer so popular? Certainly, any beer that has a reputation as good as Heady speaks for itself. And if Heady were not a top notch beer, there is no way my friend Dave or anyone else would chase trucks and schedules to get their hands on some. But the truth is: Heady Topper really IS that good! Here are some pictures of my Heady Topper:
The Alchemist: Heady Topper
Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
Rating: #2 in style, #2 in top 250 at Beeradvocate.com
Yes, I realize that I was not supposed to pour Heady into a glass. And most of the time I would not. But for research reasons and this write-up, I did pour just one Heady into a glass. And just this one time. Let’s analyze this beer further.
Heady Topper pours (although not supposed to be) a unfiltered hazy dark yellow. The aroma is as if you were in the brewery smelling this beer being brewed: fresh, hoppy, popping out of the can with robustness. Tropical fruit, citrus, pine, you name it. All the great aromas hops are known for. The taste is a bit contrasting when compared to the aroma, but fantastic and complementary. The beer coats your mouth with delicious resiny flavors of hops. The bitterness strikes first but slowly and gently subsides into pleasant fruit flavors and sweet malts. The mouthful is medium to full, with a pleasant sticky sweetness and a honey-like lip-smacking finish.
What else can be said about this beer that hasn’t already been said? I’ve heard people say Heady is slipping in quality a bit, but I disagree. There is nothing I can find wrong with this beer. It’s not the strongest beer at 8%, and the alcohol content isn’t even noticeable until you are a couple cans deep. And even then you begin to wonder if it’s the alcohol that’s making you feel good or just the experience and hype of drinking one of the best IPAs in the country. Of course it’s the alcohol, but the thrill ride of drinking a couple of these amazing beers is staggering as well.
The trademark silver and black can is iconic. The beer itself is also iconic. Heady Topper rightfully holds the distinction as one of the best IPAs in America. The beer is fantastic. And I can’t wait to go back and visit my old friend Dave and my new friends at Mule Bar on a Wednesday night in Vermont!