It’s August 1st, aka, IPA day! IPA, or India Pale Ale, is best known as a hoppy, bitter beer. While that’s not always the case, it’s definitely one of the most hop-forward styles. The Brewers Association site tells us American-style IPA was the most popular style at the 2012 Great America Beer Fest (GABF) with 203 entries. It’s stronger cousin, Imperial IPA was next with 128 entries.
Traditional English IPAs can be hoppy but typically well balanced with an earthy, herbal hop character. American IPAs are bolder with high hop bitterness and big piney and citrus hop flavors. Dry hopping, or adding hops in the fermenter, add bright hop aromas. (Most beers get their hops in the kettle and dry hopping is usually reserved for hoppy beers like IPAs.) Think of an imperial IPA as an IPA on steroids. Bigger taste, bigger hop IBUs and bigger ABV.
Last year on IPA day 2012 we told you about one our favorite IPAs, Bell’s Brewery’s Two Hearted Ale. This year, we’re cranking it up to 11 with a Heady Topper review. Heady Topper is a Double or Imperial IPA from The Alchemist brewery in Waterbury, Vermont. Alchemist’s own website describes the Double IPA as “Loaded with hops, this one will put hair on your chest.” It weighs in at 8% ABV and has “plenty” of IBUs.
Heady has a perfect 100 on RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, which is a rare accomplishment. It’s a beer connoisseur’s favorite, many consider it on par with Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. Heady Topper is meant to be enjoyed from the can, but we poured a small amount into a tulip glass to check out the appearance of the beer. Trust what it says on the can, it tastes better straight from the can, just like PBR.
- Aroma: Poured in a glass, you get more floral, grapefruit and citrusy notes. But from the can, it’s a pine resin blast.
- Appearance: It’s unfiltered and unpasteurized, which contributes to its murkiness. The color is somewhere between pale and gold, but more towards the pale end.
- Flavor: There is a nicely balanced dance between the malt and the hops. You taste the piney hops, but you don’t get the overpowering bitterness you find in IPAs. There’s no doubt it’s a hoppy beer, but it’s very drinkable. Dangerously drinkable!
- Mouthfeel: You don’t expect creamy and rich from an IPA, but Heady Topper is. It’s got medium carbonation and finishes dry, with a lingering piney aftertaste.
- Overall: It’s a very straightforward double IPA. Nothing about it is extravagant, it just does double IPA perfectly. While a very hoppy beer, it doesn’t punch you in the face with hops. A Pliny contemporary? Absolutely.