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The Clay County Advocate - Press-Flora, IL
  • The Beer Nut: The Alchemist has a Heady business

  • Heady Topper. Say those words to a beer geek, and they are likely to start drooling. I’m not talking about just a little wetness at the corner of their mouth. I’m talking full on rivers of drool coming down their faces.

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  • Heady Topper. Say those words to a beer geek, and they are likely to start drooling. I’m not talking about just a little wetness at the corner of their mouth. I’m talking full on rivers of drool coming down their faces.
    Heady Topper may be the hottest beer in the United States right now, or at least on the East Coast.
    It is also the only beer brewed by The Alchemist, a former brewpub in Vermont that is now a cannery only.
    The popularity of this double India pale ale is insane — it is almost a cult. I hear stories of people making six-hour roadtrips to the cannery in Waterbury, Vt., to buy cases of this beer.
    I can’t say I blame them. I’m a junior member of the cult of Heady Topper. Whenever someone goes to Vermont, I ask them to buy me some. That goes with the two four-packs I bought in October on a trip up there.
    The popularity is stunning, but Alchemist founder John Kimmich is not all that surprised.
    “It was wildly popular from the day we first started brewing it,” said Kimmich, who founded the original brewpub in 2003 with his wife, Jen. “Heady Topper is just a scrumptious beer. There are a lot of double IPAs out there in the world, and there are a lot of them I’m a fan of, but there are few and far between that are scrumptious.”
    Here’s a brief history of the Alchemist. In 2003, it was founded as a brewpub, and it quickly gained regional notiarity. Due to the popularity of some of its beers, particularly Heady Topper, in 2010 the Kimmichs began planning to open a production brewery off site, just to brew Heady Topper.
    In September 2011, the brewery, which packages Heady Topper in 16-ounce cans, was finally set to open. However, on Aug. 28, five days before the opening date, Hurricane Irene slammed into Vermont, and the pub was flooded. Ultimately, the Alchemist never reopened, and a new bar is now in its place.
    The cannery still opened on time, and has been running straight out, brewing hundreds of gallons of Heady Topper every week.
    “We’re limited by capacity — we have to hold accounts back,” said Kimmich. “We ration our beer, because if we didn’t people wouldn’t get it. We don’t take any new accounts. We only touch a fraction of Vermont. When we get extra, we send it to other places. We get emails every day, and people have had it, and they’re dying to get it.”
    Later this year, he said he hopes to double the brewing capacity at the cannery.
    Page 2 of 2 - But all of that doesn’t explain Heady Topper’s popularity. I think it is a combination of things — canned beers are hot right now and there aren’t many (there are a few) double IPAs in cans. Double IPAs are always popular and for a while, it was hard to get Heady Topper, making people want to get it even more.
    Or maybe Heady Topper is popular because it is a darn good beer and I’m over-thinking it. Find it, pop the top and enjoy.
    Norman Miller is a MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, email nmiller@wickedlocal.com or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut/.
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