What We're Drinking: The Alchemist Heady Topper

It's the most highly rated beer ever. Question is, does it live up to the hype?

This may be the most hyped beer of all time.

There are plenty of other mind-blowing, highly coveted beers with sky-high review scores, but Heady Topper holds a special kind of mystique with craft beer drinkers -- probably in no small part due to its rarity and title as Beer Advocate's most highly rated beer. In and around the small Vermont town where it's brewed and exclusively distributed, deliveries sell out almost immediately.

If you can get your hands on a can, you'll see why. It's a double IPA that packs wave after wave of bursting hop flavor through your tastebuds, but stays completely balanced with plenty of bitterness (but not so much that it dominates the taste). Even with plenty of competition in today's IPA-heavy craft beer market, Heady Topper's delicate but powerful payload of hoppy flavor stands out.

A lot of that deliciousness comes from the fact that these cans sell out so quickly. Hop flavors don't last very long in beer, especially not when they're overloaded to this extent, so you want to drink a big IPA like this while it's as fresh off the line as possible.

Appearance: The artwork is very insistent that you drink this beer straight from the can so that you taste the full force of hoppiness rather than having it released into the aromatic foam from in a pour. So... it looks like a can.

Smell: Wow. Just... wow. Even from the can, there's a powerful burst of sweet and citrusy notes that are downright captivating.

Taste: A bitter cascade of tangerine and grapefruit flavor plus sweet malts create huge hop flavors that still taste totally drinkable and balanced. There's not an ounce of harshness here, despite both the absurd hop levels and the 8% ABV.

Mouthfeel: Moderate carbonation, and a tongue-coating resinous feel.

Overall: This is the perfect example of a "juicy" IPA. The hop flavors are so well used that you get a fresh, intense rush of sweet citrus with every sip. But that's not to say it's one-note; the flavors dance around your tastebuds in waves that will keep you easily sipping despite the oversized hop and alcohol levels.

If you live within driving distance to Waterbury, VT, this stuff is worth making a pilgrimage. If not, try looking for Cigar City Jai Alai or Stone Enjoy By, both of which have similar (though not quite the same) juicy hop flavors, so long as you get fresh ones. Or seek out double IPAs by breweries near you, where you can drink them right off the line.


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