The hype of Heady Topper

In Waterbury, Vermont, Jennifer and John Kimmich own and operate The Alchemist Brewery, home of the highly-sought after double IPA Heady Topper.

RALEIGH, October 1, 2012 — Heady Topper double IPA from Waterbury, Vermont-based The Alchemist Brewery is becoming more ubiquitous.

I had to find out more about the story.

“We have pretty clear division of labor - he is the artist and I am the business person. It works out well,” explained manager Jennifer Kimmich who co-owns the brewery with her husband and head brewer of The Alchemist Brewery, John Kimmich.

It must work out very well, because the partnership at The Alchemist is having a hard time keeping up with the massive demand out of their 15 BBL brewery. Jen says that there is a large number of retailers are on the waiting list to get the next fresh shipment of the unfiltered IPA.

The Alchemist is no newcomer to the state of Vermont. The brewery started as a brewpub back in 2003 with a seven barrel output of beer, including Heady Topper. With enough success garnered in the northern Vermont town, they were able to begin expanding into the current 15 BBL cannery in early 2011.

An expansion is planned and once completed, The Alchemist will be able to double the output of Heady Topper and head brewer John will be able to produce 30 barrels of monthly limited-release beers.

Of these include December’s El Jefe, which is a dark IPA. The plan is also to regularly distribute to the Boston area as well. Until then, the beer is only available in Vermont, and the focus will be placed into meeting the demand.

“Our biggest challenge right now is keeping everyone content until our expansion is complete and we have enough beer to go around the state,” explains Jen. “The funny thing is, we haven’t spend a penny on advertising. The demand has been created organically via word-of-mouth.”

So what is it about Heady Topper that consumers can’t get enough of? The beer market is absolutely flooded with IPAs, and more just seem to be joining the pack. To differentiate from the rest is an arduous feat to achieve, but when asked why Heady Topper is doing so well, she makes it clear that it’s all in the hops.

“Most of our hop additions are made very late in the brewing process so that we extract all the great flavors and aromas of the hops instead of boiling the heck out of them to create an overly aggressive beer,” she says.

The end result is an IPA that is indeed hoppy, yet very drinkable and able to avoid the “bitter” label that most IPAs have to endure. Heady Topper is also brewed at draught level, which makes for a lower carbonated IPA. With these factors mixed, Heady Topper is changing minds of even the least-likely beer drinker.

When visitors enter The Alchemist tasting room, trepidation floods their mind at the thought of an IPA. The bitter reputation often causes presuppositions, yet the result tends to take even the most unlikely beer drinker by surprise.

“Most of these people end up enjoying Heady Topper and say that they have never tried a beer like it.” She continues to state one of the proudest moments of the brewery. “We love turning wine drinkers into Heady drinkers.


Mike Lamardo blogs about the craft beer industry, the efforts, and community. He also provides content for various business, marketing and tech sites like The Five Stir, TVover-Net, and others. He would also really like to try Heady Topper sometime, but that will have to wait. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeLamardo.

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Michael Lamardo

Mike Lamardo is a beer writer based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. During the day, Mike works as a writer and Internet marketer for Direct SAT TV. He is also the sole writer for Craft Beer Chat.

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