Before I launch right into this, I think a quick note of introduction is in order. I spend a lot of my time writing and playing video games for work (and fun), but one of my other favorite things to do is make my own beer. When I don’t have time to do that, I enjoy imbibing craft beer made by others — though not in a “lets crack open a 30 rack of PBR and get shit-tanked” kind of way. No, I enjoy a good buzz like the next person, but homebrewing has opened up my palate to appreciate a wide range of beers. I love trying different brews, and for a long time I’ve been wanting to write about my tasting experiences. Hence: Beer Nerdistry.
For this first installment, I picked a semi-local Vermont-made brew that I was recently introduced to. Located up in Waterbury, The Alchemist – a reportedly slick brew pub – was wrecked by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. However, their cannery was saved. Thank the heavens, because their flagship brew, Heady Topper, is amazing. [Hit the jump for my impressions].
Sold by the four-pack in 16oz cans, Heady Topper is a strong, unfiltered double IPA that packs an 8% ABV that delivers a nice level of fuzzy ooph after you finish a can, as is cleverly warned by the attractive black-on-aluminum artwork adorning the shiny cans.
Aroma/Appearance – While I’d normally pour into a pint glass, I elected to heed the printed message on the label urging me to “DRINK FROM THE CAN.” There’s a good reason for this, since popping one open blasts you with a nose full of piny, citrus-tinged goodness that lingers nicely when you leave it in the can. The hop-force is freakin’ strong with this one, and the potent grapefruit-like aroma makes the mouth water insantly. Since it’s an unfiltered brew, the other reason for keeping it in the can is for appearance. There’s a bit of haze/hop floaty action going on in here that may turn some folks off. I didn’t mind.
Taste – An explosion of tangy grapefruit citrus that’s countered by malty sweetness. For such a hoppy beer with a heavy IBU load, this is a *perfectly* balanced beer. Not too bitter, not too sweet. It’s dangerously drinkable. The taste lingers pleasantly on the palate, which encourages you to keep drinking. It’s hard to put this one down.
Overall– All I can say is WOW. This beer single-handedly turned me back on to strong IPAs – so much that I’m inspired to brew my own take on it. It’s like a grapefruit punch to the face without the pain or swelling.
Didn’t know you were such a connosseur of beer Nathan! If you can recommend any lighter Vermont brews I’d be grateful. I like myself a Sam Adams or a Rolling Rock every now and then but wouldn’t mind switching to a local brew if I could find a good one!
There are a lot of great VT-made brews, and a few you might like. Not all are quite as pale as lagers like the stuff you mentioned, they’re more ales, but aside from a little extra flavor, they’re still super drinkable for the non-beer nerd.
A few brews that aren’t too fancy that I highly recommend:
Longtrail Ale is a good one, and they make a Blackberry Wheat that’s tasty too. I’m a fan of most of their brews, but the IPA, and double/triple bag are probably way hoppier and maltier than what you’re looking for.
Then there’s the Morrisville, VT -based Rock Art Brewery, which makes some great local brews.Haven’t had any since college, so I’m not sure what they’re making now, but they’ve got some great stuff.
Switchback Brewery is in Burlington, and they make a very solid range oif beers, inckuding some light ales that you might dig.
It’s probably harder to find in stores, but the abovementioned Heady Topper is killer. It’s a strong double IPA though, but its pretty awesome if you’re willing to go out on a limb. Tasts like drinking sweetened grapefruit juice do to the high malt and ultra high hop load.
I’m a fan of Magic Hat, though they’re cranking the darker/heavier seasonals right now. Number 9 is a good pick. Pale ale with very subtle fruity notes.
There’s also the very local Northshire Brewery based where I’m at in Bennington. They make a toasted lager that’s is ultra sick, Good stuff.
Lots of options for local brews…if you’re willing to do some taste testing.
I was totally a plain old lager drinker (what most normal folks enjoy for beer) until I started homebrewing. That opened up my eyes to the ridiculous amount of excellent and varied craft beer styles out there. Now I drink a pretty broad range of styles, and they’re awesome.
I think I’ve had the Longtrail Blackberry Wheat before actually. Tis indeedily good stuff. Thanks for the suggestions Nathan!
Longtrail is a consumable session beer, my recommendation by far. Catamount was picked up by harpoon, but may have been relegated to history. A heady topper is a treat of insurmountable artistry, but I am in favor of 8 beers without the mind wandering to thoughts of beer adultery. “Wow, the beer over there has everything I want without the high cost of price now and payment in the morning!” Longtrail… regular beer… regular life. P.S. better to binge puke, than icecream, any day or night. What do you think Nate?