Monday, August 13, 2018

Special Episode 1: Heady Topper with Smilin' Mike Mason and Brent Treash

I. Introduction

The F-Bomb Unicorn.

This is our first special episode where, instead of reviewing our normal run-of-the-mill macro- or meso-brews we're checking out one of the legendary microbrews, the nearly impossible to find (outside of Vermont).  Strap in kids, cause this one is a roller coaster ride, the tale of an 8% ABV double IPA with an IBU of 120. 

The theme for today is Bo Carter's "Your Biscuits are Big Enough for Me." recorded in 1939

II. Our Guests, the Genteel Smilin' Mike Mason and the Uproarious Brent Treash

One of the most universally renowned beers ever made, enjoyed as it was always
meant to be, in the happy confines of Toilet-Kitchen Studio. 
III. Rubric

BeerAdvocate: 4.71 of 5 (#4 in the world)

RateBeer: 4.25 of 5 (#26 in the world)

Untappd: 4.6 of 5 (#25 in the world)

ABV: 8%

Origin: Exclusively made in on brewery in Waterbury, Vermont for The Alchemist (aka Alchemist Brewing) whose other brew-works and tasting center are just down the road in Stowe, Vermont.  Produced since the early 2000s with a steadily increasing output.

Ingredients: Barley, yeast (a propriety strain called "Conan" derived from an English strain), local water, and hops (all American types, principally - reportedly, at least - Simcoe, released by Yakima Chief Ranches in 2000).

Cost: $$$ Not cheap, but not offensively overpriced either - currently a four-pack sells for $10.  For folks outside of Vermont, though, the real cost lies in getting to Vermont - the only place it is sold (within about 25 miles of the brewery).

IV. Our Reviews and Talking Points

Appearance: Golden, unfiltered, low carbonation.  When poured (against the brewers recommendations) into a glass there are few legs and the head dissipates fairly quickly. Somewhat translucent but not transparent.

Aroma:  Powerfully hoppy, complex, full of citrus and piney notes, especially when breathed in from the can without pouring.

Flavor:  A further expression of the aroma, but adding further complexity and depth.  Impressive in the variation from initial sip to final swallow, and the aftertaste is wonderful.  Profoundly hoppy, citrisy, and piney without becoming overwhelming - the balance is frankly startling. (A personal note from Eric - I had a profound craving to have this beer at my side with the best possible rare steak I could find.  I know, maybe that is a little exceptional but the flavor profile made me think the simple elegance of the two would marry well - perhaps someday I'll get to find out).

Mouthfeel: Smooth, unfiltered without any grittiness, not too dry, few if any noticeable bubbles.

Authenticity, Marketing, and Other Factors: Still made the way it always was, ecologically, socially, and locally ethical, still available only in its home community, universally renowned while remaining humble (whether by strategy or inclination).  They support regional artists with their posters and can designs, but keep things simple and to the point.  No negatives here.

Overall: Mr. Treash gave Heady 4.75 of 5 stars, Mr. Mason bestowed an obscure 4.625, and Prof. Smith gave it a 4.9.  Collectively, a heady (see what I did there?) 4.76 of 5 stars.

V. Plugs

Bristol, Tennesseee

Bristol, Virginia & Bristol, Tennessee

Hiltons, Virginia 

Elwood Mason (Age 3) with his Dear Mother and Darlin' Sister

Tom Standage's 

Stowe, Vermont 

Essex Junction, Vermont 

Wesley Boggs: Gentleman. 

Abingdon, Virginia

VI. Recommended Reading and Viewing

Kristen Fountain. August 1, 2013. "Heady Topper Hits the Black Market." Waterbury Record.

Nick Hines.  September 22, 2017.  "12 Things You Need to Know About Heady Topper." Vinepair.

Joyce Marcel.  July 15, 2018.  "Jen and John Kimmich: 9/11, The Alchemist, Irene, and Heady Topper."  Vermontbiz.

Josh Noel. April 22, 2013. "The Best Beer in the World."  Chicago Tribune.

Sam Riches.  March 2017. "The Story of Heady Topper, America's Most Loved Craft Beer." Longreads and Food & Wine Magazine.

Also, check out the art of Dan Blakeslee, the artist/musician responsible for the visible look of Heady Topper beer and paraphernalia.

VII. Our Hero

Mr. Mason, engaged on in-the-field research in Vermont.

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