Drink Craft Beer
For years, one IPA in New England has had a reputation that was head and shoulders above the rest: The Alchemist’s Heady Topper. The only problem? To try some, you had to get yourself up to the brewpub in Waterbury, VT. Then, recently, the beer gods smiled upon those who care about these sorts of things and The Alchemist announced that they would be building a new canning facility so that people could enjoy their beer off-site. Unfortunately, shortly after they built a new production brewery in 2011 focused solely on brewing Heady Topper, Hurricane Irene devastated the region of Vermont that The Alchemist is based in...including the brewpub itself. It was a total loss and the brewpub is now shut down for good. It turns out, though, that the cannery was built on higher ground and survived the storm.
What does this mean to you? Well, this means that The Alchemist, a former brewpub with a diverse range of beers you could drink on-site, is now a one beer production brewery that cans its flagship (and only) beer for off-site consumption. How can you get it? You can go buy it by the 4-pack at the brewery in Waterbury; It’s in some bars in Vermont, so you can travel up north; Or, they’ve recently begun shipping small allotments down to bars in the Boston area. Luckily, I had a friend going up north for a weekend who offered to bring me back a 4-pack from the brewery. Read on to see how it is!
Careful pouring this one, Heady Topper has a bit of chunkage is you’re not super careful! Don’t worry, though, it won’t hurt you. It’s just yeast left over from fermentation. It’s what turns hoped sugar water into delicious craft beer, so yeast is everyone’s friend. But seriously, this thing is so hazy I almost think I’m drinking a hefeweizen. It’s golden, but just a shade to dark for the aforementioned style, though. The head on this one is nothing to write home about, a rough pour garnered me less than a finger and it fades fast. I was able to pour a full 16oz can into my Drink Craft Beer pint glass (a true pint, by the way) fairly quickly without having to wait for the head to settle. That said, I could smell it the whole time and couldn’t wait to bust into it!
The Heady Topper can clearly states, “DRINK FROM THE CAN!” Foolishly, I dismissed this imperative and poured this fine IPA into a glass. The aroma is the same in character but, that send, when I stopped to smell the can before pouring, the beer was significantly more pungent from the can. Now, the team over at The Alchemist says this is a result of pouring causing many of the volatiles that create the delicious smell to be released...well who am I to argue with that. Smell wise, I say drink it from the can!
The actual aroma, though? It’s wonderful! Everything I hope for in a IPA. It smells clean, crisp...and the hops! They smell sweet, floral and citrusy with just a hint of pine towards the end. From the can it smells like you just walked into a hop harvesting facility. From the glass it smells like a delicious IPA. There’s almost a bit of honey in the aroma with malt no where to be found.
Flowers and citrus are the first things I taste when I sip this brew. It doesn’t feel oily but the beer just coats your mouth with delicious hop goodness that sticks around and hangs out on your tongue, the roof of your mouth, your cheeks and anything else it touches! For a beer of 8% abv it’s surprisingly dry, but the bitterness isn’t that strong. Heady Topper is all about showcasing the hop flavor and it’s done masterfully. When it first hits your tongue it’s almost orangey but, as you swallow, it switches so a pineyness that dries out your whole mouth. It’s definitely an intense IPA with a lot going on. The hops are pretty in your face and the bitterness builds as you drink it. This is a great one to start, or end, a night with! No doubt it’s a delicious beer. It’s just started showing up in the Boston market at bars in the can, so keep your eyes peeled for news about where it is, as it goes quickly when it comes in.
Also, I have one left, so I’m going to try drinking it from the can to see how it differs.
Have you had Heady Topper? What did you think? Did you drive up the Vermont to get some, or did you try it in a bar in Boston (or elsewhere)? Let us know in the comments below!
Heather from Honest Pint grabbed me a 4-pack of 16oz cans of this craft beer at The Alchemist Cannery in Waterbury, VT.
So November is the month we've added a new section to the Beer of the Month Clubs reviews. We're now getting the Beer of the Month Club from Amazing Clubs, and we'll review it for you every month. This way, you Craft Beer Drinkers can see what kind of quality they're sending and make the most informed decision possible. We're really happy to be able to bring you this information on DrinkCraftBeer.com.
"The Frosted Mug," Amazing Club's monthly newsletter, give you a history of both breweries each monthly and some tasting notes on all four beers. You'll be able to find the answers to most of your questions about these beers here.
This month, Amazing Clubs sends us two local favorites (local for us, not necessarily for you!). Sherwood Forest our of Marlborough, MA and Shipyard from Portland, ME. We're quite familiar with both breweries, having been drinking both for a few years now. Sherwood is represented by their flagship Archer's Ale and the Maiden's Blueberry Ale. From Shipyard we're drinking their Prelude Special Ale and the Longfellow Winter Ale, both winter seasonals.
And, like always, if you want to join this club go here: Click to Join.
Sherwood Forest Archer's Ale
Appearance: Red-amber with a bone white head.
Smell: Creamy malt with mild hops.
Taste: Nutty malt with some mild hops. A sessionable interpretation of an English Pale Ale. It's good, but not phenomenal.
Note: So Sherwood Forest is brewed right in our backyard, based in Marlborough, MA. It's definitely a nice beer to revisit. We've always enjoyed it as a good local session beer. We're very glad to see people outside the area getting a chance to try it!
Shipyard Longfellow Winter Ale
Appearance: Dark dark brown with red tinges at the sides. Light brown head.
Smell: Figs, chestnuts and spices. A good winter ale smell. Dark fruit in there.
Taste: Dark cherries with a light chocolatey finish and some roastiness. Light on the tongue, but finishes full. A very nice winter ale from Shipyard.
Note: Again, this is a beer brewed locally for us (Maine). It's nice to see some local breweries getting exposure all across the country in these clubs. That's why we love these things. There's enough "hype" beers out there. People need to see theres a lot of just good drinkable beers all over the country as well.
Sherwood Forest Maiden's Blueberry Ale
Appearance: Pale straw color with a white fluffy head.
Smell: Blueberry. You can smell it from several feet away. But authentic blueberry, not fake blueberry flavoring.
Taste: Tastes like heated blueberries (except it's cold)... meaning it tastes like the blueberries in pancakes or pie. Honestly, we went into this skeptical expecting not to like it. We opened one between five of us... and ended up immediately opening a second beer upon tasting it so we could each have more. Nice biscuit flavor backing up the blueberry. This isn't one we'd have a bunch of, but we're definitely enjoying this! Much more than we expected. And we don't normally like fruit beers. Check this one out. Also, be on the lookout for a waffle recipe involving this beer. We're currently perfecting the concept.
Shipyard Prelude Special Ale
Appearance: Red... Straight up deep garnet with a tan head.
Smell: Dates and raisins. Dried sugary fruit... Fruitcake.
Taste: Bold and robust malt with some biscuit and light roast. Mildly spiced in the back of your throat. We almost want to chew it... like a gingersnap cookie. There's some molasses in there. This is a very solid winter ale that will warm you up on a cold night!
There's really something to be said for trying a beer without any preconceptions. I don't just mean that you've heard it's good or bad, but rather having no idea what you're drinking; it forces you to evaluate a beer in an entirely different way. If someone tells me a beer is an IPA I can't help but looks for hops in the aroma, but what if someone just hands you something with no description? I first tried Pechish Woods at a beer festival with absolutely no idea what I was trying. When I first got a sample I was instantly blown away by the aroma, tons of sour notes popped followed by subtle hints of fruit, vinegar and oak. I was excited at this point because I love a good sour. My first sip confirmed what I had smelled, this beer is fantastically tart with subtle white whine and vinegar flavors and just a hint of peach...yes peach.
As you can see from the label the bottle is clearly marked "Ale aged in oak barrels with peaches added". Had I seen this in a store clearly labeled that the beer was made with peach I don't know if I would have bought it, and that really would have been a shame because this beer is incredible. Peaches can often be really cloying, and the idea of peaches in a beer conjures up images of gooey peach pie syrup oozing from the bottle, but that couldn't be further from what is actually in this amazing bottle. Pechish Woods is fantastically light and crisp and nothing in this beer is overpowering. Yes it's sour but not so much so that it makes you pucker. Yes there's hints of oak but not so much that you feel like you're sucking on a tree. And yes, there's peaches but just hints that help balance out the sourness while never distracting from the beer as a whole. This has quickly become one of my favorite beers, and it's a must try for anyone who likes sours.
Let us guess...you didn't buy tickets to Beer Advocate's Extreme Beer Fest in the first hour that they went on sale and now you don't have tickets? Who knew they were going to sell out so fast?!
This is an awesome fest that you're not going to want to miss and, luckily, we bought two extra tickets that we're going to give away to one lucky reader!
But, to take a phrase from the television infomercial guys, that's not all! We've also teamed up with one of our favorite sources of quick food in Boston, the official Pre-Beer Fest Lunch of Drink Craft Beer, B. Good. In addition to two tickets to Extreme Beer Fest, we'll treat our winner (and whoever is using his or her second ticket) to a pre-fest lunch at B. Good's Darthmouth Street location with Devon and Jeff from Drink Craft Beer.
How To Enter
Entering is simple, it's only two steps:
- Subscribe to our email list using the form below.
- Like Drink Craft Beer on Facebook
If you're currently a member of the Drink Craft Beer email list, just respond to the email we're sending out shortly and make sure you like us on Facebook!
Already have tickets to Extreme Beer Fest 2012? We've got another giveaway coming up specifically for people like you, so stay tuned!
Tickets are to the Saturday afternoon session (Saturday, February 4th 2012 from 1-4:30pm).
We'll alert the winner via email, so make sure your email address is correct.
We're going to give the tickets to the winner as we go into the fest; these tickets are non-transferable. You cannot sell them.
You MUST be 21 to enter or win. You only win tickets. Transportation, any lodging you need, or anything else is not included.
Subscribe to our mailing list to win two tickets:
Thanks to everyone who entered, this contest is now closed. We'll be announcing a winner at early-midday on Wednesday, February 1st 2012.
Syracuse beer Week will kick off with a private gala hosted at the Landmark Theatre,
the Clydesdales will be present to greet guests, on Sunday, 11/2, 6-9 PM. Each day
of the week will feature 3-5 events. They have already schedule tastings and dinners,
as well as a pub crawl in one of our suburbs. Rich Doyle will do a University
series, and our local beer expert, Don Cazentre will do a night about Syracuse's
rich brewing history. Please visit the calendar at www.syracusebeerweek.com to see
our specific listings. The calendar is changing every week.