Heady Topper Can

Review: The Alchemist Heady Topper

In Beer Reviews by Karl

The Alchemist says:

We love hops – that’s why our flagship Double IPA, Heady Topper, is packed full of them. Heady Topper was designed to showcase the complex flavors and aromas these flowers produce. The Alchemist has been brewing Heady Topper since 2003. This Double IPA is not intended to be the strongest or most bitter DIPA. It is brewed to give you wave after wave of hop flavor without any astringent bitterness. We brew Heady Topper with a proprietary blend of six hops – each imparting its own unique flavor and aroma. Take a big sip of Heady and see what hop flavors you can pick out. Orange? Tropical Fruit? Pink Grapefruit? Pine? Spice? There is just enough malt to give this beer some backbone, but not enough to take the hops away from the center stage.


The Alchemist Heady Topper
Double IPA, 8% ABV

Did the internet need another review of perhaps the most famous, infamous, lusted-after DIPA on earth? Judging by the near-70,000 responses that result when you search for “Heady Topper review” the answer is a resounding “no.”

But since we got our hands on one and drank it and took notes on it, screw it: here’s one more. When Ryan informed me that somewhere along the line, this was going to be on the docket, I was simultaneously excited and a little apprehensive. I mean, this is like, the best beer in the world, right? What if I think it sucks? What if I feel obligated to say awful things about it? When we tried the Westy 12, I thought it was fine, wasn’t completely on board with calling it the Best In the World. Would this too be the case?

It really didn’t matter, because it’s an excellent beer. (I know, shocking.)

Bracingly bitter and bright with a healthy dose of what seemed to be watermelon sweetness, this is an amazingly fruity DIPA, and I can see why so many people react strongly to it. It’s hugely upfront with flavor, and at points this is briefly so happily bitter that my entire palate goes into shutdown. It’s not a palate crusher, it’s a rebooter.

I was recently listening to a GBH podcast with Chris Quinn, where he talks briefly about people writing beer reviews. I’m paraphrasing, but it’s to the effect of “If something tastes like Skittles, say it tastes like Skittles!” I have to imagine that this is the beer Chris was thinking of when talking about this, because goddamn if it also doesn’t taste like candy, fruity, sharp and sweet Skittles.

Heady Topper: Drink the rainbow.

The orange-y color reminds me of a creamsicle, with a swirling haze of unpasteurization floating about. You’ll be unsurprised to find that there’s a blast of hops on the nose along with a super crazy long tail that (to murder the candy metaphor) is an Everlasting Gobstopper of bitterness.

Strangely enough…I found this beer refreshing. A lot of Double IPA’s leave you spent, lifeless, unable to consider even a mid-IBU pale ale in its wake. I could probably sit down with a few of these and be pretty happy. That may be the Heady Topper’s real secret.

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About the Author



Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago, AskMen and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, is now available via Amazon and other booksellers.If you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.

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