Heady Topper & Grapefruit Sculpin

Due to equipment limitations, Mac is taking a short break from brewing (both of my primary fermenters, and one I borrowed from fellow home brewer Mike Matulich, are in use; no additional primary fermentation space available).  But that doesn’t mean beer indulgence comes to an end.  No, in fact I’m enjoying lots of high quality craft brews right here at Mac’s Brew Pub.  Here are reviews of two India Pale Ales for your amusement.  As a reminder, please read responsibly!

Heady Topper: The Alchemist, Waterbury, VT.  8% ABV               heady_topper

If you Google, “Best Beer in the World”, one of the first sites that pops up is Beer Advocate.  They list Heady Topper as the #1 beer in the world.  Rate Beer also has it listed in it’s top 100, but I could not find their numerical ratings (all the beers were listed in alphabetical order by brewery), so I don’t know where in their top 100 Heady Topper falls.  Both of these websites  base their rankings on customer reviews, so these are not necessarily rated as such by experts, but rather by popularity.  Let’s just agree, however, that Heady Topper is one of the world’s great beers.

Heady Topper is not widely available, in fact I understand they only distribute within 30 miles of the brewery.  Now, I know you’re asking, “how did Mac get a can of Heady Topper?”  My answer of course is, I have powerful and influential friends, some of whom travel far and wide and bring back world class beers to California.  In this instance, that would be Scott Vandeventer – a fine fellow, generous to a fault, and a man who recognizes and appreciates good beer.

Heady Topper is a hazy golden color with a white head.  The aroma is citrus (grapefruit) hoppy and tropical fruit.  The flavor is very bright; it’s slightly sweet but grapefruit bitter is the overwhelming flavor sensation.  It has medium body and nice mouth-feel.  This is not the hoppiest IPA I’ve ever had, nor the biggest.  It’s a Double IPA, but the malty sweetness is well balanced by the grapefruit hopiness.  The aftertaste is all citrus/grapefruit.

This beer came in a 16 oz. aluminum can.  The instructions on the can suggest drinking it directly from the can (in order to keep the hop aromas from dissipating in a wide mouthed glass).  I poured about one oz. into a glass in order to view the color of the beer and the head, and to take in the aroma.  I drank the rest from the can, and I think I agree that the direct-from-the-can approach made for a very hoppy experience.

This is a REALLY GOOD IPA.  I was prepared to be somewhat disappointed after reading all of the hype about this beer.  After drinking it, however, I must say Heady Topper matched its reputation.  It’s not as bitter nor as dry as Pliny The Elder, and I think I like it as much, if not more, than Bootlegger’s Knuckle Sandwich (my favorite IPA).  Wish I could try them side-by-side (Scott, do you have another can?  If you do, bring it over and we will share it along with a bomber of Knuckle Sandwich.).  Heady Topper is refreshing and thirst quenching.  Be careful, however, at 8% ABV, a 16 oz serving can do some damage (especially on an empty stomach).

As I said, it’s a great IPA, but not the best beer in the world.  That honor, in my opinion, still belongs to The Bruery’s “Black Tuesday.”  As far as IPA’s go, however, it’s right up there at the top.

Grapefruit Sculpin: Ballast Point Brewing, San Diego, CA.  7% ABVgrapefruit_sculpin

Sculpin IPA, by Ballast Point Brewing, is a world class IPA, and is widely available in Southern California.  It’s on tap just about everywhere in San Diego.  Grapefruit Sculpin, however, has limited availability.

Ballast Point has added natural grapefruit flavors to their flagship IPA to make this beer.  It pours a clear golden yellow with a slight cream colored head that faded rapidly.  The aroma is citrus-hoppy/grapefruit.

The flavor is a nice bitter citrus hoppiness with a slight grapefruit presence, but the grapefruit is not overwhelming.  It has medium-light body and is slightly dry.  The maltiness is subdued; this is all about the hops and grapefruit.  At 7% ABV, it packs a punch, but the alcohol is not detectable in the flavor.  There is a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste, inviting your next swallow.

Grapefruit Sculpin is a thirst quenching and very satisfying IPA.  I purchased a 6 pack of 12 oz. bottles at Total Wine for $7.99 – a very reasonable price for such a nice beer.  If you like IPA’s, this is one you will want to look for.  You can definitely taste the grapefruit vs. the regular Sculpin, but it’s not overpowering.  Good job, Ballast Point!.

Well, that’s it for now, beer lovers.  Again, I must give special recognition to Scott Vandeventer for graciously sharing a “hard to come by” can of Heady Topper.

Stay tuned for more beer reviews in the very near future.  Next up are my thoughts on some special Bastards from Stone Brewing.  Cheers!


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