Monday, April 23, 2012

Beercation Part 2 - The Alchemist

Part II of our northern Vermont journey sees us heading straight for the town of Waterbury. Here, one can visit two amazing places within short walking distance. That’s the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream factory, and The Alchemist Cannery.

After a brief visit to Ben and Jerry’s to ingest creamy, fatty, deliciousness, we waddled into The Alchemist. The Alchemist used to be known as a loved brewpub, and it sat at a different location in town. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene wasn’t kind to it. The storm blew through Waterbury and flooded many businesses, including The Alchemist, which could not re-open in its original state. (Note – The Alchemist’s original space is now open as another pub called Prohibition Pig, run by different people).

Thankfully, Jen and John Kimmch, owners of The Alchemist, previously began building a cannery at a location spared by Irene’s wrath. Perfect timing. The cannery opened days after Irene checked out of town.

The Alchemist cannery is a modest building located on a quiet side street off of a busy Rt 100. As you drive up to it, you’ll notice a tall, skinny, simple sign at first that simply says “brewery.” This is where John Kimmch does just one thing; brews his double IPA (DIPA) named Heady Topper.

The facility has a small tasting room and retail shop where one can buy Heady Topper in four-packs, though many people buy it by the case. This beer is extremely popular among beer geeks, and after I had my first taste of it just weeks before, I saw why. Heady Topper is not the most bitter or alcoholic DIPA (8% ABV), but it offers serious layers of citric hop goodness with astounding drinkability for the style.

It’s interesting – if you were on a white-sand Caribbean beach, a stronger beer style such as a DIPA is not typically the alcoholic drink you’d fancy, right? Heady Topper disrupts this idea. Its hop flavors remind me of tropical vacations with a touch of northern pine and raw tea leaves. If I could buy Heady Topper on the next tropical beach I lay on, you would have a hard time convincing me that life gets any better.

Heady Topper costs you $12.00 for a four pack of 16 oz. cans. Or, you can buy one can (if you’re lame) and pay $3.75.

That’s right, their beer comes in cans. Why? Cans are an often misunderstood vessel in the beer world. They’re associated with mass-produced, sub-par beer and craft brewers don’t often use them. But canned craft beer is becoming a trend, and many beer enthusiasts argue that it’s a more ideal way to package beer. Cans are said to better protect beer from sunlight (beer’s enemy), and don’t leak oxygen as easy as bottles.

“Our state-of-the-art canning line allows us to preserve and protect our beer against the impact of UV light and oxygen,” states The Alchemist. “Our cans are environmentally friendly. They take less energy to produce, ship, and recycle.”

One last element to Heady Topper’s personality that’s worth mentioning is the claim that’s written near the top of the can. The words “DRINK FROM THE CAN!” are written in bold, capital letters. This goes against what almost every beer geek practices and it causes debates.

Us geeks always pour our beers in glasses to appreciate a beer’s appearance. This allows the formation of head to occur which releases the beer’s aromatics. I’ve come to enjoy this element of beer consumption just as much as tasting it. So where does Heady Topper get off telling us to drink straight from the can without letting it decant and develop in a proper glass? I don’t know, but I love it. I drank it from the glass and I drank it from the can; when something tastes so supremely good, it doesn’t matter how you consume it. And after the debates subside, that’s something many beer fans can agree on.

After visiting The Alchemist cannery, and skiing on slush for two sun-drenched days, DBNE continued its brewery tour at a place that exhibits grandeur and Austrian charm - The Trapp Family Brewery. 

The Alchemist Cannery
35 Crossroad

Waterbury, VT 05676
Phone: (802) 244-7744

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