I know. The statement is blasphemous.
But I really am. Or just maybe I am over the IPA scene in Atlanta. There are is no shortage of IPAs that I adore out of the Midwest, Northeast and my home in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, this Fourth of July weekend, I am headed to Chicago to restock on old favorites from Pipeworks, Half Acre, Surly and any other goodies.
I was sitting in a bar with a friend and the sports bar we were at had an expansive menu and a pretty good selection of IPAs. I was over every single one of them. I found one that I hadn't had and I tried it. It was good. Nothing to blow me away but it worked.
Here is what I am finding. The market is saturated with IPAs and not all IPAs are created equal. I had one that made me say WTF is this swill and tossed it. I am running into this more and more and it is disappointing and expensive. I have gotten to the point that I would rather drink something that I know is good for the 100th time than try something new. The only way I will try something new is if I know someone who has had it. Untappd has become a great resource for this. If an IPA has less than a 4 star rating I can't be bothered.
I have several breweries that are on my wish list. Treehouse, Toppling Goliath, Hill Farmstead, La Cumbre, Bissell Brothers and Maine Brewing. Other than that I'm not interested in much else. I recently chased a beer in DC from DC Brau. What a let down.
Sours seem to be the way to go these days. The first time I had one I didn't like it but the style has grown on me over time.
Maybe after conquering one of my wish list beers I'll have a renewed interest but for now, I'm bored.
I went to Chicago to restock my beer fridge. Ended up going on a spur of the moment camping trip with friends in Southern Illinois. We drank all the beer and it was a lot. Only one beer made it back to Atlanta. Todd the Axe Man from Surly Brewing. I would be upset but it was good time so it was worth it.
Have you heard the good news?
The Alchemist is expanding their brewery so that means more Heady for the masses. Expected opening will be in July sometime. There is no confirmed date yet.
Here is what you need to know about the opening of their Stowe location.
Hours of Operation:
What can you buy:
Samples, merchandise and beer to go
What kind of beer will be available:
Heady (of course), Focal Banger (great beer) and whatever else they decide on
Oh but there is a catch with how much you can buy:
1 case of Focal Banger
3-4 packs of Heady per customer
Cost: like it matters
$12.50 for a 4pack
$75 per case plust tax and deposit
Will the distribution to other locations continue:
Of course but they will be cutting back on the amount for each location. Just saw that Beverage Warehouse on Wednesday will no longer be selling cases and they cut out one day of having Heady. Check their website for me details.
Feel free to check out all the details directly at the site here: https://alchemistbeer.com/blog/
I'm personally excited for this expansion. It will make my annual pilgrimage a lot easier when I come up there. I had written a previous post on how to obtain this beer when this I didn't know about the expansion. How Bad Do You Want The Heady Topper.
One of the most elusive beers has just become a little more obtainable. I for one am looking forward to it.
I'm going to let you guys in on a little secret. Getting your hands on the Heady Topper is not that difficult. It requires some work up front to acquire but if you plan it out right you can score as much as you would like. By the way. Don't let the negative Nancy's talk you out of going to get this beer. Everyone deserves the chance to taste it and then you can form your opinion from there. There is nothing worse than the know it all that says it's over hyped and not worth it. They can piss off as far as I'm concerned. If you want the pleasure of trying it then you should have it.
Now, with that being said I'm going to tell you how I've done it. If you think trading or black market stuff is invovled you can stop reading now. I'm talking about going to get the beer yourself. Trading is a good way to do it but only if you're an established trader and you have good stuff to trade. First time traders can do it but you better have something really good and expect to ship first and it may take awhile to find someone to trade with you.
The reason why I suggest you go and get it yourself is because the experience of getting it yourself is far greater than anything you'll experience when it comes to beer. If you haven't done the New England beer scene and experienced what they're with IPAs then this trip alone is worth it. Big, explosive, juicy IPAs that can't be touched. Plus,, if you plan your trip correctly you'll not only score some Heady the locals are great about recommending some great VT beers that rival Heady. You should visit Prohibition Pig for their outstanding tap list and food. I had the pleasure of tasting Focal Banger on my last trip. The only other beer that Alchemist brews and they don't even sell it in local stores. It is hard enough finding it in local bars. This is the little brother to Heady. It's a well done IPA. Also, I was able to try Lawson's Sip of Sunshine. Unfortunately, they were out of Hill Farmstead that continues to be on my wish list.
Here is what I can guarantee if you go and fetch this beer yourself. It's not going to be a cheap trip. When you account for airfare, hotel, baggage fees, car rental, the golden picks up of local beer aside from Heady and getting it all back it's going to cost a pretty penny. But, getting your hands on the golden goose of IIPAs, trying new VT beers, visiting Fiddlehead Brewing while you're at is a must, possibly and going to Hill Farmstead makes it all worth it.
I've done the trip twice now. Both times in February. Last year after President's Day weekend which made it a bit harder to obtain but I still got some. Four places and a very generous staff member at Pearl St. The second time I went it was during a random week in February of this year and I scored a little over a case with minimal effort. I was fully prepared to dive deep into my list but I scored at my first location as planned. I plan on doing the trip again mid year to see what works better.
Here are my steps for getting your hands on this beer.
1. Plan your trip. If you try and acquire this beer during the weekend may the force be with you. Not only will you contend with the locals who have the delivery system down to a science but you'll also contend with out of towners like yourself all looking for the same thing. Go during the week! I've gone on a Tuesday and a Wednesday. This works much better.
2. Do your homework. The Alchemist website has done a great job of laying out their delivery schedule. What days of the week, which cities (they only deliver within 25 miles of the brewery), where in those cities and some places even have the time. Most places get their delivery late morning to early afternoon. If need be go the individual websites to see if hey have any info on what time to expect their delivery. Beverage Warehouse does a great job of this.
It's your lucky day though. I'm going to give you my notes from my last trip. I copied and pasted my notes from Evernote from my last trip. I scored a case at Beverage Warehouse, on Wednesday, arriving at 7:30pm when the delivery was 8pm. I was cutting it close but my flight arrived late in Boston and I had to haul ass! There were 7 people in line in front of me and several people behind me. We all got what we came for. A case each. It cost around $76 if my memory serves me correct. If you have the opportunity to get a case do so.
After I paid for my beer I put it in my car and did some more shopping. When I was done I headed down the street to Pearl Street Beverage hoping to score more. They helped me out last time last year. Unfortunately they were sold but I scored on the Sip of Sunshine that I wanted plus some local goodies recommended by the guy working. Burlington Beer Company is a winner in my book.
Beers being chased:
Sips of Sunshine
Tree House Brewing???
Maine Lunch and Dinner
Heady Topper Monday:
Beverage Baron: 411 North Main St., Barre (cases available)
Healthy Living: 222 Dorset St., Burlington
Red Hen Bakery: 961 US Rte 2, Middlesex
Route 7 Liquor: 2659 Shelburne Road, Shelburne
Heady Topper Tuesday:
Pearl St. Beverage: 240 Pearl St. Burlington
Richmond Beverage: 56 Railroad Street, Richmond
Waitsfield Village: 4348 Main Street, Waitsfield
Beverage Warehouse (10am release time can buy cases): 1 East Street, Winooski, VT
Heady Topper Wednesday:
Craft Beer Cellar: 3 Elm Street, Waterbury
Cross Road Village: 52 North Main Street #1, Waterbury
Fairground Beverage: 103 Pearl Street (RTE 15), Essex
Waterbury Village Market: 80 South Main Street, Waterbury
Beverage Warehouse (8pm release time): 1 East Street, Winooski, VT
Heady Topper Thursday:
Winooski Village (can buy cases): 1 East Street, Winooski
Beverage Warehouse (10am release time): 1 East Street
Lawson's Finest Tuesday:
Waitsfield Village Grocery: 4348 Main Street, Waitsfield
Waitsfield Wine Shop: 4330 Main Street, Waitsfield
Mehuron's Supermarket: 5121 Main Street #6, Waitsfield
Craft Beer Cellar: 3 Elm Street, Waterbury
Lawson's Finest Wednesday:
Healthy Living: 222 Dorset St, South Burlington, VT
City Market: 82 South Winooski Ave, Burlington
Pearl St. Beverage: 240 Pearl St. Burlington
Lawson's Finest Thursday:
The Butchery: 170 Mad River Green, Waitsfield
Heady Topper and Lawson's Finest at same shops:
Waitsfield Village Grocery (both beers on Tuesday): 4348 Main Street, Waitsfield
Pearl St. (Heady on Tues) (Lawson's on Wed): 240 Pearl St. Burlington
Craft Beer Cellar (Heady on Wed) (Lawson's on Tues): 3 Elm Street, Waterbury
Visit Prohibition Pig to drink Hill Farmstead and Heady Topper
Open 4-12am, Tues-Thurs.
23 South Main Street, Waterbury, VT.
Wed it will be serving both Lawson's Finest and Heady Topper
Canton (32 mins from airport): 110 Shawmut Road
Fort Point (5 mins from airport): 369 Congress Street
Mon-Thurs from 4-7:30pm
Thursday from 12-7:30pm
403 Hill Road, Greensboro, VT 05842
Wed to Sat from 12-5pm
Tree House Brewing
160 East Hill Road, Monson, MA
Wed from 12-6pm
Thurs and Fri 5-8pm
If you're on Twitter check on the Heady Spotter feed. Or, you can go directly to their website. They've made an art out of tracking this beer.
Twitter account: https://twitter.com/HeadySpotter
3. Plan on doing some driving. If you don't score at your first option be willing to drive to the next option and maybe another after that. A lot of places are close to each other but others could be 10-25 minutes away depending on where you are going.
4. Talk to the locals while you're out about town. Don't worry if you've done steps one through three you'll get some Heady. I was able to score some Foley Brothers Fair Madien, Tribute 14th Street, Burlington Beer Company light in the window and other local goodies. All with trying. I was skeptical when the guy that worked at Pearl Street suggested 14th Street and that it might rival Heady. He wasn't wrong. Damn good beer.
5. Visit Prohibition Pig.
6. If you fly into Boston you must go to Trillium Brewing. What they're doing there is amazing. Their beers are big and juicy with lots of hops. Go to The one in Canton though. Found that out from a local from Boston on my last beer trip. The one downtown is a nightmare to get in and out of. I walked into the one in Canton scored all the goodies I wanted with no problem. The staff is awesome. If time permits try to get to Treehouse Brewing.
There you you have it folks. Good luck beer hunting. This beer is probably much easier to obtain than Zombie Dust, and a lot of stuff from Fiddlehead.
If if you like the info please share with fellow hop heads and definitely let me know how did.
Last year a good friend of mine became a flight attendant. Much to my surprise they listed me as a companion on their airline. To the shock of my wallet I've enjoyed the perks of being able to fly anywhere their airlines go for FREE!
My dream job or rather paid internship was posted to the World of Beer website. Travel the country and world drinking and talking about beer. Where do I sign up? For the better part of a year or so I've been doing that and now there is a chance to get paid to do it. I've been all over the country tasting beers and chasing them to bring back to Atlanta. I've been a slacker, I know. I've enjoyed drinking the beer more than I've been writing about it. I will work on being better about that. In the mean time check out the 30 second video I made for the internship. Let me know in the comments what you all have been drinking lately.
You know as I was telling my tale of scoring the Heady Topper I realized that this is better in a book format than a blog post. There are so many details that need to be filled in and I still haven't gotten to the point where I chased Zombie Dust all over Schaumburg, IL for a day. I hope you enjoyed the tale of getting the Heady Topper.
Please feel free to share your story of how you went all over the country or the world to find your favorite beer. Better yet how you traveled to some far off place to try a beer not knowing if you would like it or not.
Day 1 Still Going On: On my way out the door I was extremely excited about my score that I forgot my phone inside. A guy came running out and said I think you might want this. I laughed and said definitely. How else was I going to find the rest of the beer. I proudly put my beer in the trunk of my economy car and headed to the next brewery.
I thought this story was going to be a simple blog post. As it turns it out it is turning into quite the story. I am still writing about day 1 and I haven't' even gotten to Chicago where I was chasing Zombie Dust. That was a shit show in a half but I did finally meet my beer buddy while I was there. As long as this is taking I hope you're enjoying the story. Work is drawing me away from me completing this in a timely fashion but I will continue to give you snippets as the week goes by.
Day 1 continued: I headed towards the freeway thinking of what Vermont would be like once I arrived. The drive went by fairly quickly and I was in awe at how beautiful Vermont was. I was pissed that I had to fill up my economy rental car. I guess a car that only holds 9 gallons isn't going to get you very far. Visiting Vermont in the fall is still on my bucket list. It didn't disappoint in the winter either.
A debate raged in my head about where to go first. Should I visit Fiddlehead Brewery knowing I couldn't get Second Fiddle because they were sold out. I still wanted to visit the brewery, though, to try Fiddlehead IPA and Beer and Pizza Ale. The thought was immedatiely dismissed when I realized I needed to acquire the Heady Topper first and then go and visit the brewery. You may be asking yourself why I didn't go to Waterbury where the brewery is located to get my beer. The Alchemist Brewery became too popular and the locals weren't happy about all the traffic. The brewery is now closed to the public. I had to study their "where to find our beer" page to map out where it was sold.
First stop on my list to acquire the Heady Topper was Route 7 liquor store. Excited about finally trying the top rated beer on Beer Advocate and knowing how popular it is on Untappd I was all smiles. I smiled at the guy at the counter and headed to the cooler. Looking at all the beers that I had tried and not tried. No Heady Topper. My gleeful search turned into panic. I scowered the coolers for a few more minutes. I finally headed to the counter to ask the guy. He said they had sold out yesterday, Monday being President's Day, and the sign behind me said they were sold out. Asshole! I thanked him and left. I still had the Shelburne Meat Market on my list. It was a minute down the road. As I drove I noticed a familiar sign on my right hand side. Did I really just see Magic Hat Brewery? I knew it was close but not this close. Stay focused Wells! Up on my left I saw the Shelburne Meat Market. Once again excitement flooded my body. Two guys were working the counter. I had no time to waste in looking myself. I asked for the Heady Topper. They apologized for being sold out. Their delivery normally last all week but because of the President's Day holiday they sold out earlier than usual. As the guy behind the counter finished talking I checked my phone. Maine Brewing was on my list of beers to get. I asked if they carried anything from them. He said they did. I was only interested in two beers. Lunch and Dinner. They had neither. I thanked him for his time and went to my car. My go to stores had come up short. I had checked the Alchemist website again for more stores. Bingo! Another store down the road had gotten their delivery. I rushed down the road about ten minutes from where I was.
The towns were small so it was easy to get around without having to deal with a lot of traffic. After parking I tried to coolly walk into the store. Each person that entered before me was a potential Heady Topper customer. Like most stores I headed towards the back and worked my way from there. The beer aisle ended being in a back corner on the right hand side of the store. The beer aisle wasn't very big so I became extremely nervous. After several attempts at finding the beer on my own I asked the young guy stocking the shelves where was the beer? He apologized as he explained to me that they had sold out five minutes ago. Trying to hide my disappoint I thanked him and walked on the store again. Back to the drawing board. I sat in the car and went back to the Alchemist website. Pearl St. Beverage was around the corner. Google maps said it was one minute away. Excitement once again surged through my body. What should have been two minutes took me ten minutes. Google maps was on some bullshit. I screamed in the car and yelled fuck a lot. Finally, I defied her and decided to go left instead of right when she commanded. As I drove down Pearl Street a great feeling came over me. I knew this place would have it. I quickly parked the car and got out. Once again I tried to walk coolly up to the store. I entered and walked immediately towards the back. I was greeted by a young college kid who asked if he could help me. I explained that I had flown 3000 miles on a redeye, drove 3.5 hours to get the Heady Topper. He smiled and said that they did have some in stock. They usually limit the take to two per customer but he made an exception for me. He directed me towards the cooler where they sat stacked in all its glory. I felt like Indiana Jones when they found the holy grail. It was glorious! As I stood in awe of the Heady Topper the college asked if I had heard of Tribute double ipa. All I could think of how dare he interrupt this moment of glory. I looked up at him and replied no. He went on to explain that it was right on par with Heady Topper. I highly doubt it I thought. But, I had my beer so why the hell not. I had 16 Heady Toppers and four Tributes. He was nice enough to carry my beer to the counter and introduce me to some other Vermont beers. I asked for Lunch and Dinner by Maine Brewing Co. but they didn't carry it. I finally tapped out with Foley Brothers Fair Maiden. We went to the counter and I smiled. I didn't care that I had spent close to $80. It was well worth it. I thanked the college kid and headed out the door.
Avid fan of awesome beer and awesome people. Anyone who has good taste in beer is all right in my book.