Far From India: India Pale Ales in the 21st Century. The Alchemist Heady Topper, Stowe, Vermont; New England IPA
Date: March 13, 2019
The Story— We have little to add to the well-known story of this cult beer. We received a can from a friend at work (wonder why we don’t retire?) which was far easier than the rigmarole that most people have to go through to get the elixir.
We’d know about it for a long time before Lucia was kind enough to save us an expedition to upper new England. Beer connoisseurs that we talked to split right down the middle between “overrated” and “overwhelming!” We can see both arguments. We leaned to the “overwhelmingly good” more for the audacity of creating the style — and for finding a niche that hadn’t been exploited– that for the intrinsic brilliance of the beer.
It’s curious, though, that the beer that set off the “New England” revolution that so often features huge hops up front and AWOL bitter in back sprang from a beer that claims 120 IBUs, a rating that most authorities argue is far beyond the ability of the human to register. We remember a vigorous debate between Bert Grant (Yakima Brewing) who claimed to have brewed the world’s first 100+ IBU beer with brewers at a Brickskeller tasting who claimed it couldn’t be done. We’re pretty sure the palate can’t taste the upper limits, but we’re also sure that calculators can measure them.
The New England style has moved to low bitter / high flavor hop profiles. All in all, we’d prefer Heddy’s heady hopping. It’s a path-breaker, and actually, a danged good beer.
The Beer— They ask that you drink it out of the can. We did, reluctantly. That increases the CO2 bitter and eliminates the chance you’ll see how hazy it is. The taste is metallic with lots of hops on a very clean malt. The bitter sets up in the aftertaste. Tasted as instructed from the can – maybe creamier and duller in a glass. Can may add to the bitter. Points for defining the style.
Value — In 2013 a woman was arrested for selling a case of Heddy Topper on Craig’s List for $825. That was not a bargain. If you can find this beer for under $5 a can, it is.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.