The Alchemist Heady Topper

The Alchemist Pub and Brewery

Waterbury, VT

Heady Topper Double IPA

8.0% ABV

Having heard lots of good things about Heady Topper, the continually-made-yet-still-impossible-to-find imperial IPA from Vermont’s Alchemist pub and brewery, I was a bit giddy when a friend pulled out two four packs at my recent bottle share. I was even more excited when he gave me a can to take home to enjoy all for myself. While the beer has fallen off a bit in the two weeks since – it’s definitely a beer to enjoy as fresh as possible – it’s still easily one of the best imperial IPAs I’ve ever had.

The brewery recommends you drink the beer straight from the can. Because it’s bottled with real bits of hops, the resins and oils dissipate when you pour it into a glass. They stay concentrated when you drink it straight from the can. After cracking it open, I tried a few sips from the can, and the taste is definitely noticeable. There’s a bit more mellowness to it straight from the can and a light hop bite.

But a picture of a can doesn’t make for a good photo for the review, so I broke the rules.

In the glass, Heady Topper has this real deep yellow sunset color that shines bright around the edges of the glass. There’s a small head on the top that dissolves pretty quickly. And all the flecks you see in the photo? Hops. I teared up a little the first time I saw it.

This thing is the definition of a hop bomb. The dank, resinous pine smell from the hops overpowers everything else. It smells thick and sticky. There are a lot of herbs and spicy notes too, and kind of this really chewy breadiness too. But first and foremost: hops, hops, hops.

Did I mention there are hops? Because there are a ton of hops, especially on the mouth. The bitterness in this is incredibly concentrated on the front of the tongue. The stinging astringency gives way to this really thick malt backbone mid palate, but that gives way to … you guessed it: hops. I remember it stinging a bit more when I first had it, but this can was much more mellow.

In closing: Hops.


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