Every year around the time Firestone Walker’s Invitational Beer Festival rolls around in June, random delicious beers from out-of-market participants in the world-class-event seem to show up randomly on store shelves. You see, in order for out-of-state brewers to pour legally at the Paso Robles festival, they need to pull a temporary license with a California distributor to make it legit. Along with this, they’re able to send a burst of a few pallets to SoCal markets, which is a great opportunity to try their beers ultra fresh, straight from the source. Even though some might not be participating in the event this year, seeing the yearly tradition still take place is always a treat to check in on a beer with such high ratings.
One of the past participants of FWIBF, The Alchemist out of Vermont, is probably best known around beer trade circles for Heady Topper: a wicked New England double IPA that’s known for its hazy appearance and is probably danker than Tommy Chong’s mustache after a few rips.
The problem is, I’ve always snagged cans via beer trade, and their brewery-fresh cans lack any sort of dating code, so judging one that is presumed fresh is always a best-guess situation. By taste alone, I never did get the hype; often just shrugging off my lack of being blown away by a possibly old can or something that may have been heat-damaged during shipment from some random schmoe.
This week, I grabbed a can at Pour Vida Latin Flavor in Anaheim, ordered an Anaheim burger taco, and cracked it for review. Traditionally, craft beer is best enjoyed poured in a glass, but this beer warns to drink directly from the can. The nose hole instantly lets you know this is nothing like west coast IPA. There’s a distinct grassiness followed by some smoky lemon peel you might find in a craft cocktail. It actually made me sneeze with goosebumps! The flavor sparkles around sticky bitter hops, finishing with hints of black Persian lime, and a forest of pine. The hop resins hang around for a while, prepping your palate for further softer sips as you acclimate. Overall, it’s great to try an east coast IPA so fresh, even though its not my favorite, it’s a classic that still holds up among the nation’s best.
Grab cans while they last at Hollingshead’s Delicatessen, Provisions Market, Pour Vida Latin Flavor, or wherever good beers are sold.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!
4 Replies to “Alchemist Heady Topper, Our Beer of the Week!”
Do you even NEIPA, bro? New England Hazy IPAs and Hazy DIPAs are here to stay, despite all of the skeptics and haters on the West Coast.
There are many craft breweries in Orange Country that produce Hazy IPAs/DIPAs which definitely stack up well East Coast products: Offshoot, Bottle Logic, Unsung, Beechwood BBQ, Chapman, Stereo, Artifex – to name a few, as I am sure you are familiar with.
It’s not just on the coasts. One of the finest Hazy IPAs hails from Greeley Colorado, with Weldwerks Brewing Co’s Juicy Bits. Plenty of other craft breweries across the nation are serving up stellar Hazy IPAs.
A little more detail to Hazy IPAs and the respect they deserve in the OC and abroad would be nice, and give you some more credence when evaluating IPAs.
I wondered how many murk-heads read this site. Glad to hear from you! I do enjoy a good NEIPA from time to time and have written about a few noteworthy local examples that I think are great. The problem with writing about them is the description is a copy/paste of the last one for the most part, where “it tastes like white birthday cake and a general hop schmear of either dank or tropical hop juiciness.” Tag me IG @ocbeerblog if you see any that are showstoppers!
Thanks Greg. Will do. Cheers!
I Look forward to trying that one