You should go to Vermont to drink beer. Focus on the north of the state in particular, where there’s Burlington, a lakeside college town with some top breweries and bars; south of there you’ll find Fiddlehead Brewery; there’s also Hill Farmstead (see post 13); in Waterbury there’s Prohibition Pig, a brewpub that also has Hill Farmstead taps and often beers from Lawson’s Finest (another Vermont must-drink brewery), including their exceptional Sip of Sunshine Double IPA. The Prohibition Pig is also important, as it was there that The Alchemist’s beers were born and where John and Jen Kimmich brewed until the pub was drowned by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
Drink At The Alchemist Because Not Much Tops A Heady Photo Gallery
The storm came through at what was already a turning point for The Alchemist, a soggy serendipity (or perhaps an omen if you’ve read the my blog with the same name as the brewery) that led them to turn even further than originally planned. They’d been brewing in the pub since 2003 and making a Double IPA called Heady Topper since 2004—that beer got a lot of attention every time it was released. By 2011 the Kimmiches had decided to build Alchemist Cannery, a 15-barrel brewery and canning line not far from the pub, where they would just brew and can Heady Topper. They filled the first cans two days after the pub flooded, while still assessing the damage and before realizing that the pub had to close.
So their focus changed by necessity. The pub was no more and all their attention went into perfecting Heady Topper, a beer that was already close to perfection for most drinkers. It’s a Double IPA of vibrant fruitiness, upliftingly tropical but not sweet; there is mango and pineapple and some savoriness at the edges, plus a dry bitterness to balance the full, hazy body. It’s only available in cans (apart from in one bar, Hen of the Woods, in Waterbury), all their hoppy stock is turned in a week to ensure freshness, and it’s only sold within a short radius of the brewery.
From being a small-batch brew in a small pub basement, the beer has gone on to grow the Cannery and, in 2016, build a new brewery in Stowe, Vermont that you can visit (all the Heady is still brewed in Waterbury, by the way). At Stowe they brew Focal Banger IPA, Crusher Imperial IPA, and Beelzebub Imperial Stout, plus others, and you can visit and get three samples (one each of the three main hoppy brews) to taste and buy four-packs to take away.
Heady Topper is one of the world’s best IPAs, a beer that’s sought after around the world, but one you need to travel for if you want to drink it fresh. Go to Stowe, have some tasters, and buy fresh four-packs, before heading to Waterbury to drink in the Prohibition Pig and the Blackback Pub, working your way through their excellent beer lists. Then find somewhere to go and drink the cans of Alchemist beers as fresh as possible, ideally with a wonderful view of the Vermont countryside. Some Beer Bucket List ticks are as simple as drinking fresh beer near where it’s made, and this is one of them.
John and Jen Kimmich at their brewery.
WHAT: The Alchemist
HOW: Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am-7pm (www. alchemistbeer. com).
WHERE: 100 Cottage Club Road, Stowe, Vermont 05672, USA