Monday, 13 May 2013

Some Delightful Beers From Our Southern Neighbour - But Especially Heady Topper

Canadians have many preconceptions about American beer.  One of these once had a basis in truth: that the race to the bottom towards more cheaply made, mass-produced, flavour-muted, adjunct lagers was exemplified by the poor quality of beer there.

What they were and are wrong about are:
1) That our cheaply made, mass-produced, flavour-muted, adjunct lagers were any better;
2) That ours was (or is) stronger (since American beers used to measure alcohol by weight, while we always measured alcohol by volume and... guess what?  4% ABW = 5% ABV!
3) That things haven't changed immensely.

As a Canadian, and as one who only grew to love hops, it took me a while to realize the American craft beer scene topped the world.  But it does, and we all owe their excellent craft brewers a nod, some deference, and a toast.  I hope we all catch up, because the best thing for good craft beer is more of it!

Recently, I not only traded for some Heady Topper, but also made a trip to Buffalo's Premier Gourmet, where I carefully sifted through their insane selection to pick out those I most desired to try.  These brief reviews consider the best of those.  Alas, none are regularly available in Ontario or Quebec, but let's bug the LCBO and SAQ to at least bring some of them in seasonally, if not regularly.

Heady Topper, a very limited run beer from small Vermont brewer, The Alchemist, has a remarkable reputation.  It allegedly sells out is days after weekly shipments meaning it is more frequently UNavailable, is only (un)available extremely locally even when stocked, is (like all Double IPAs) best consumed fresh, and makes beer geeks guffaw as it consistently receives raving reviews and currently tops the beeradvocate charts as the highest rated brew in the world (a title that varies by fad amongst the crowd-source, of course!)

Well?  It is delicious!  The can requests consumption from the can, which to me seems simply blasphemous as it would seemingly hide the nose, so I tried half of my first can in a can and the other from a tulip glass.  And... it does, oddly, show at least as well in the can!  I figured they said this since it is unfiltered and chunky with six types of hops presenting a chunky particulate visible within a glass, a description and image that some may find unappealing in their brew (but not I!).

The brewery describes Heady Topper as "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... just enough malt to give this beer some backbone, but not enough to take the hops away from the center stage."  And...  deliver on that promise, it assuredly does!

This is truly a showcase of hops evolution that indeed does come in waves that transform expressing herbal, floral, piney, citrus, and resinous notes in various dimensions from the remarkable aroma through the dry, but not lingering or astringent finish.  Though far from balanced, it isn't excessively bitter; it is rather expressive in solid ways, if not quite malty enough for my usual DIPA preferences.  It doesn't, in other words, present that well-back-boned, balanced, yet dry typical DIPA profile, instead opting for neither excessive hops nor a substantial malt base as it truly does what it claims offerings waves of hop diversity without excess.

This post has been in draft for some time, but as the rest are left to notes and my memory falters, I will simply say that of many, the following impressed the most:

Stone Ruination IPA

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

Great Divide Espresso Oak-Aged Yeti

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Troegs Nugget Nectar

And just a step further down the delicious line, but still in the realm of great, I'd add: Monk's Cafe Flemish Red Ale, Green Flash Rayon Vert, and both Clown Shoes' Brown Angel & Eagle Claw Fist.

Grab'em if and when you can and if they fit your tastes!

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