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Not that long ago I reviewed one of my favorite double IPAs, Pliny The Elder, and after a number of requests, decided to review what some may consider the "rival" to Pliny - Heady Topper.
Like Pliny, Heady Topper is renowned as one of the best double IPAs in the world, and is a frequent line item in most beer drinkers "bucket list." It's been brewed by The Alchemist brewing in Burlington, VT since 2003, and despite how much they brew, it's relatively difficult to get your hands on if you don't live nearby the brewery.
Spoiler alert! This beer is fantastic, and you should absolutely snag some if you're able to. Keep reading for my review and tips on how to get your hands on some.
Name: Heady Topper
Brewed by: The Alchemist
Style: Double IPA
Price: Roughly $12 to $15 per four pack, or about $4 per can, depending on if you're buying from the brewery or a retail location.
I talked about "hype inflation" in previous posts, but do yourself a favor and forget about beer ratings when you have this for the first time. The thing that's so fantastic about Heady is how well-balanced it is... It's the epitome of a "Goldy Locks" beer, one that hits juuussttt right.
I'm drinking a Heady while I write this review, and was trying to figure out how to explain it's overall flavor profile, and I realized there was no way I could do better than what they have written on the back of the can:
"This beer is not intended to be the biggest or most bitter. It is meant to give you wave after wave of hoppy goodness on your palate. Tremendous amounts of American hops will creep up on you, and leave you with a dense hoppy finish in you mouth. So drinkable, it's scary. Sometimes I wish I could crawl right into the can."
That description is spot on, so let's get to the details.
Heady Topper pours a light gold, or pale orange color. It's not a clear beer (it does has a slight haze to it0, but it's not nearly as cloudy or dense as most of the Hazy IPAs you find on local shelves these days. It leaves a nice white head and you'll notice the lacy legs stick around as you drink it.
I know it says "Drink from the can" on the label (more on that later), but do yourself a favor and pour this beer into a glass. The nose on this beer is nothing short of spectacular. You're first hit with bold - albeit balanced - notes of floral, citrus, and piney/resiny (re: dank) hop aromas. You also get slight hints of pineapple and tangerine.
This beer is so well-balanced and has so much flavor that it's tough to hone in on one single profile. There's malty sweetness at the front, but the grassy, hop profile comes quickly to balance things out. It's not a "hop bomb" but you still get plenty of that resiny hop flavor, and it finishes crisp and clean. There are subtle but clear hints citrus and fruit notes - mainly pineapple and tangerine. It's finishes with a slight tinge of alcohol, but you won't notice you're drinking an 8% beer.
In a word: impeccable. I'd describe it as medium bodied, but a tiny bit towards the lighter side. The carbonation on this is absolutely perfect, and it's not too chewy nor too watery. It's clean, and it makes you want to keep coming back for more.
Fortunately, The Alchemist is making more Heady Topper these days, but it's still not easy to get your hands on. There are generally three ways to get Heady:
If I had a nickel for every time I posted a photo to Instagram with Heady in a glass and someone said "YoU'rE SuPpOseD to DriNK iT frOm ThE CaN" I could buy another case of Heady.
I get it. It clearly says it on the can, and you want to do right by the brewery, but please just know that you do NOT need to drink from the can, and in fact, drinking for a glass will probably give you a better experience.
"But Mark, THEN WHY DOES IT SAY IT ON THE CAN?!"
Marketing, plain and simple. There is nothing unique about Heady Topper that makes it different any of the thousands of other IPAs on the market that should be consumed fresh (and in a glass), and there is nothing unique about the cans or the canning process The Alchemist uses to give credence to that claim.
"Geeze, Mark, you're so transparent. You're just saying that because you run a glassware company."
CURVEBALL! I was doing some research, and actually support what this genius Redditor recommended all the way back in 2017 - just shotgun that shit.
This is an amazing beer, and if you have the chance to try it you should. It's unbelievably well-balanced, and it's one of those beers that once you try it, you understand why it's as highly rated and sought-after as it is.
I am not paid by anyone to review beers, and I don’t accept free beer from breweries to review.
I want to hear from you. Are there beers you want me to try? Local or not, I’d love to hear it so let me know!