This was my #1 beer of 2012, but how would it hold up after all this time? Shaun returns as a guest reviewer and the first-ever guest reviewer on a secret episode.
Here's my 2012 text review
4.6AROMA 9/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 9/10 PALATE 5/5 OVERALL 19/20
For some reason unbeknownst to me, certain random beers manage to generate a huge buzz and become the hot beer of the moment. As of this writing, Heady Topper - a double IPA by the Alchemist Pub & Brewery out of Waterbury, Vermont - is the MUST HAVE beer. Those lucky enough to acquire it say it’s the East Coast equivalent of Pliny The Elder, or the best IPA they’ve ever had, or the best beer they’ve ever had (or all three). A friend of mine actually made the 3-hour drive to pick up a case and gave me a can or two. Only a few sips in I understood why beer nerds are going crazy for it.
Despite the plea "Drink From The Can!" I poured a 16oz can into a tulip glass. It cost $3.25 ($0.20 per ounce).
Appearance: Orange to dark orange color; extremely cloudy but translucent. Forms a large, yellow, frothy head which retains and laces very well.
Smell: Massive tropical fruit juice aroma with distinct sweetness to the nose. Dank piney resin is also quite prominent.
Taste: The thing about India Pale Ales is that they don’t tend to be very complex - just very hoppy and that’s about it. But Heady Topper proves you can have genuine complexity even while being a hop monster. As soon as the beer hits the tongue I get intense bitterness - it’s slightly dry, but it’s impossible to ignore. It’s a massive hop bite that wakes your mouth up. It’s immediately quenched by a delicious palate of tropical fruit juices. Grapefruit, passion fruit, guava, mango and orange are all individually detectable and make for a very refreshing taste, ironically enough.
The second half changes on a dime to something much more dank. Intense resin and pine sap emerge to give the palate a whole new type of bitterness. Supposedly the beer is over 120 IBUs and between the sharp tartness of the citrus flavors and the almost burnt rubber-like astringency of the resin I can definitely see that. The aftertaste is slightly sticky - an odd combination of bitter hops and fruit nectar. It never stops being delectable, though.
Mouthfeel: Slightly creamy texture, but otherwise soft and comfortable with noticeable carbonation and a full-bodied palate.
Drinkability: Alchemist Heady Topper is not a difficult beer to drink - it goes down very smooth with a noticeable, but tolerable dry hoppy aftertaste. The 8% ABV is the perfect mass for this beer: heftier than your average IPA, but nothing that only heavyweight drinkers can handle. A great beer to have with a meal or extra sharp cheese, although I think drinking it on its own is much more satisfying so that you can experience and appreciate all the flavor without any distraction.