The Beer Internet likes to be angry. The same could be true of many other special-interest groups, but I suspect the problem is particularly acute in the online beer world, because of our high concentration of relatively affluent white dudes who aren't comfortable having their opinions challenged. Or maybe we're all just a bunch of mean drunks. Whatever the reason, we usually manage to blow up at least one molehill per week.
Last week, we were all supposed to be apoplectic about a Super Bowl commercial in which Budweiser poked fun at overly fussy brewers. I have still not seen the ad in question, as I am one of the few remaining purists who watches the Super Bowl strictly for the game and the dancing sharks. But based on the instant social-media overreaction, I knew I was supposed to be either vehemently for or against Budweiser mocking people who make and drink good beer. I was all set to flip my coin when I remembered that it is technically legal to not have a firm opinion on any given topic. Even for bloggers!
This week, our boxers are knotted over some guy claiming that the rise of gose equals the fall of craft beer. The revolution is over, because this one person doesn't like this one niche style of beer. Now, I know the writer; he's a smart and reasonable man, but I can't get too worked up over his opinion of gose, and I regret that the matter has distracted us from what should have been this week's real beer outrage.
Yesterday, Robert Parker, the wine guy who might be the world's most influential critic in any field, tweeted his fondness for Hill Farmstead's Dorothy. As my pal The Beermonger pointed out, if we think trophy beers are too expensive and hard to find now, wait until the superrich winos get a hold of them.
That got me to thinking about this Alchemist story I read on the front page of the Boston Globe a few Sundays ago. It's a pretty thorough overview of the Heady Topper craze, and the detail that stuck out the most to me was the math: Alchemist brews 45,600 cans of Heady per week. It's only available at a few dozen stores in Vermont, where it retails for between $4 and $5 per 16-ounce can. It sells out almost instantly at every single store every single week, which suggests Alchemist could raise the price a buck a can and take in an extra $2.4 million dollars a year. Unless I'm embarrassing myself by missing something really basic, that would be almost pure profit, right? I realize it might be somewhat off-putting to loyal customers, but a moderate price increase could be seen as smart business rather than just a naked cash grab. If the Alchemist owners ever needed to make a quick $10 million on the way out of Dodge, they could just sell a month's allotment on Craigslist. So kudos to them for keeping things reasonable.
Many people consider Heady Topper to be the best beer in the world. I'm not qualified to weigh in other than to say the claim doesn't seem crazy. The shit is seriously spectacular. I tease the people who drive to Vermont to hunt it down, because I think that's a silly way to spend your time, but I get excited the couple times a year that a can or two trickles into my fridge. I had some a little while ago, and this is how it went down.
The fairly ugly can is cluttered up with words, including a sternly worded request not to pour the beer into a glass. I don't know why. I prefer canned beer to bottled or plastic-baggied beer, but I always like to use a glass if I've got one lying around, and, on account of my wife's steady income and civilizing influence, I often do.
Heady Topper pours a deep, hazy orange, not unlike many other double IPAs, yet somehow prettier, since it damn well better be given the hassle. It smells and tastes like all that is right with the world: pine, lemon, orange, nectarine, mango, grapefruit, pineapple, peach, quite likely apricot (though I'm not sure I've ever had a fresh apricot, so I can't be certain), more pine, fluffy kittens, the intro to "Holy Diver," whatever your heart desires.
I know this is where I'm supposed to declare Heady Topper either the most wonderful liquid ever produced or an overrated fraud in aluminum clothing, but I just can't bear to blow that hard about beer today. All I can tell you in summary is that it's fantastic, and if there's something better out there, then we're all in luck.
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Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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