List Topper

Brewery and Country of Origin: The Alchemist of 100 Cottage Club Road, Stowe, VT 05672, USA

Date Reviewed: 7-08-16

Before we start raving about this publicly hyped beverage, let's take a moment to honor Lion Stout, a beer which we've probably marketed more in the US than the brewery themselves. For over five years, this Imperial Stout topped our rating scale even before we built this unimpressive website (we're still thinking about upgrading this after we finish upgrading The Pubway site). Part of the reason we've created this site was to track our progress in finding a new beer which we found to be better than Lion Stout. It took 1,967 days and 1,268 beers to find such a brew, and nothing against Lion Stout, but we're happy to announce there's a new king of the jungle. Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing our newest highest rated beer ever, Heady Topper from The Alchemist. Unlike Lion Stout, this is probably a beer you've actually heard a bit about. This beer is consistently rated as one of the highest beers in the world on many websites like Beer Advocate and RateBeer. Many news articles and press releases have been written about it. Yet funny enough, it's usually extremely difficult to get your hands on a can of this beer, as it's produced in amounts of 1800 cases per week (or about 174 barrels/wk) and distributed to a small region of a small state. There is an increasingly fast growing demand for this beer. So much in fact, that the beer routinely sells out at retailers within minutes of delivery. For us, we were able to get our hands on a four pack from a friend who made the trip up to the Green Mountain State specifically for the purposes of procuring some gourmet fermented malt based beverages. We were a bit skeptical at first, but here we are. Despite our best efforts to remove the buzz surrounding this beer from our own personal experiences, we couldn't help but come into this one with some lofty expectations. Fortunately, they were surpassed with no difficulty. Heady Topper is the stuff dreams are made of. We know that may sound like a bit of hyperbole, but really, this is a beer with character and complexity that was inconceivable less than two decades ago, in an art form that's been with us for more than seven thousand years. This is an unpasteurized, unfiltered beer which is currently distributed in small quantities on specific schedules throughout Vermont to a limited selection of small retailers listed on their website, so finding this beer when you're not living in the local area is a feat within itself. But of course, great things come to those who are- persistence pays off- to try again... or however it goes. Either way, the important thing to know is that yes, it is generally accepted by most that this is an impressively good beer, but there are those out there that disagree, and we welcome that. Like we always say, everyone has their own tastes, every beer is at least one person's favorite beer, and every beer has its time and place. Heady Topper is no exception. While this beer may now be at the top of our list, it may not be even in the top quarter of yours and that's ok. We are in no position to tell anyone they're wrong, because after all, taste is a matter of opinion. But while a 4.37 on a 5.00 scale may not appear to be all that astronomical, thus far, with the nearly 1500 beers we've tried to date, this beer is as near to perfect as we've had according to our own tastes. At these heights on the scale, we're no longer depicting shortcomings of beers, but rather leaving room above for beers we find to be somehow better in the future. And that's why we do it. The point of this site isn't to settle on which beers we think are good. It's to find out which ones out there are better, because unless you've had every single beer currently available, there can always be a better beer. Let's just hope it doesn't take almost two thousand days to find the next one.
Date Sampled: 7-05-16 At: 7 Priscilla Road, Brighton, Boston, MA 02135, USA
Beer Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
Alcohol by Volume: 8.00%
Serving Type: 16 oz Can, 16 oz Can
Rating: 4.37


Though this beer's can clearly states that you should drink straight from the can, we poured a small portion into a glass to give you appearance details so you wouldn't have to. This is a service we provide to the world. Heady topper pours smoothly with a below average amount of carbonation action, producing a thick, half inch tall white colored foam head with a medium low density and a high retention rate. This is an unfiltered beer which contains a high amount of very fine sediment producing a hazy appearance which has a bright pale golden colored glow and a dull shine in light. This beer shows off a medium high amount of effervescent effect, no settling, and a small amount of lacing on the glass.


This IPA has a rich and complex hop oriented aroma full of fruity citrus notes like lime, melon, and grapefruit and a good amount of lighter pale malt to balance. This aroma also contains more delicate, floral, coriander, and grassy secondary notes. Despite the richness of this beer's buttery hop aromas, there are no overpowering or commanding singular aromas. Despite an elevated alcoholic strength, there is also no alcoholic or metallic smell. Overall, this beer's aroma is rich, full of depth, has an above average strength, and helps to enhance this beer's flavor profile.


This is a medium full bodied beer with an average amount of weight, a medium viscosity, and an above average amount of carbonation, which makes this beer mostly a sipping beer good for all seasons, especially the months between mid spring and mid autumn. This is a pretty smooth beer with an almost milk like texture which fully blankets the entire palate with a creamy like presence. There is no added texture from this beer's sediment. This beer finishes dry, cool, and crisp with a barely detectable, but still noticeable alcoholic bite. This is a mostly laid back beer with a high level of drinkability for the style.


This is an extremely well balanced beer full of citrus and tropical fruity hoppy notes with a good deal of underlying pale malt sweetness and aromatic grassy character to counteract. This beer's fresh fruity character features notes of grapefruit, melon, grape, banana, and lime citrus. There is also a small amount of coriander and yeast apparent on the back end. This beer does an exceptional job covering the taste of alcohol from the overall flavor, in spite of an above average alcoholic strength. This beer is full of buttery and floral American hops with high oil content. This beer finishes dry with a fully hoppy bitter aftertaste and a subtle malt linger.

Our Take

Aside from all of the hype among the beer world's tech savvy, and the endless torrent of organic word of mouth marketing, we knew this beer had to be a good one. New England, has been leading a quiet, yet growing charge against the seemingly endless drive to gratuitously make beer as hoppy, bitter, and nasal clearing as possible. It was a movement that was alienating non-hop heads and casual craft beer drinkers. And the people at The Alchemist knew this was happening. This beer has been brewed in some form or another since 2003, and with offerings from other popular, yet small scale breweries like Trillium in Boston and Tree House near Springfield, high end New England IPA's have been characterized with a more fruity, "juicy" profile than their extremely bitter "120 Minute" "Quintuple hopped" "Quad IPA" contemporaries. And that's what we have here in Heady Topper. This is a beer that has all of the richness, complexity, and depth of a monster leviathan beer, without the harsh acidic top notes and extremely high alcoholic strength that you found crowding the Imperial IPA market only a few years ago. This beer could be described as being more "mellow", "restrained", or "drinkable" than the others, but truth be told, this is a powerful beer which is only comparatively subdued to the rest. This is a very well balanced beer which has a citrusy and fruity bouquet of hoppy notes, mixed in with a nice lighter malt undertone, and finishing off with a crisp, dry, and refreshing finish. We would highly recommend making the side trip to a retailer (while tailing the distribution truck, of course), to pick up a four pack of these. You certainly won't regret it, even if stronger IPAs aren't necessarily your thing. It really was going to take something genuinely special to usurp Lion Stout from its throne, and this was certainly the beer with the premise to do it. With that said, the quest to find a better, higher ranking beer never ends. It's out there, and we just need to keep trying new beers to find it. But for now, credit where it's due, the small team at The Alchemist should be extremely proud of what they've done, and the joy they've been able to bring to those lucky enough to try their product. This well balanced beer makes for a versatile pairing option, best suited for Vermont based sharp cheddars, cured Iberian meats, spicy BBQ pork, and Samoas Girl Scout Cookies.