The last time I was in Waterbury Vermont, I was cycling twenty miles a day from Inn to Inn with Vermont Country Cyclers. This time, the road trip was in a car with a Coleman cooler in search of beer, specifically, Heady Topper, the American Imperial or Double India Pale Ale that is wicked hard to find, and wicked tasty.
IPA started out as an English pale malt beer in the 18th century that would sit in a cask for up to two years. The malt was roasted differently than most resulting in a lighter or paler brew. By the mid 19th century, it had changed character closer to what we know today. IPA became a standard export to India because Bow Brewery extended credit longer to the East India Company and other traders. It wasn’t as legend tells us – that IPA was the only beer that could survive the journey and the heat of India because the hops preserved it. It was really, simply, an issue of credit.
Heady Topper is an unfiltered unpasteurized double India Pale Ale. It needs to stay cold or it will explode. For all you drunks and bitter lovers, it’s has twice the hops and twice the alcohol. Yee-Haw! Most beer is about 4-6% alcohol by volume. DIPA, which is an American invention, thanks to Russian River Brewing Company in California, is usually clocking in at 8% by volume. And for those keeping score of the International Bittering Units – Heady Topper comes in at 120 IBUs and that’s as high as she goes.

The first time I had Heady Topper, it almost blew my mind. Hops are the flowers they put in to bitter the beer – but I swear I think one of the “hop” flowers they added is a “hemp” bud. Not only does the beer have an unusual flavor, but it will give you a wicked rush too. There is an almost pot like flavor in its astringent finish along with the conventional notes of grapefruit and pine that are found in IPAs. Heady Topper’s website says they use a proprietary mix of six hop varieties to flavor their Double India Pale Ale. If you like IPA’s this one is worth trying, if you can find it.

The Alchemist Brewery which offers Heady Topper as their flagship brew is a family run business. They opened their bottling plant in 2011; about the same time that their brewpub washed away from Hurricane Irene. Ever since they started canning their brew, they’ve had trouble keeping up with demand.

A friend brought some for Christmas and turned us on to this amazing elixir. If you want to watch a middle aged man drink a beer, check out the Beer Whisperer and if you make a “Holy Crap In a Basket,” tee-shirt, I want one. Though, I agree with him, I didn’t drink mine quite as fast as the Youtube guy.
The Alchemist Brewery‘s Tasting Room and Shop are open seven days a week 11 AM – 7 PM. 
The Alchemist Brewery, Waterbury, VT