The 10 Best Heady Topper Alternatives For When You Just Can't Get It
If there was a way to officially crown the most delicious beer in the United States, it would probably fall to the Alchemist Brewery's Heady Topper. Brewed in Waterbury, Vermont, this 8% ABV double IPA has a pretty commanding lead on Beer Advocate's Top 250. But none of this really matters, because you probably can't get it. Only sold in cans within a 30-mile radius of the brewery, you have to know the precise hour of delivery to the store, because at $3 per 16-ounce can, it goes fast.
Growing up in Vermont, Heady Topper was the only IPA I actually sought out because it's not so overrun by hoppy bitterness that it snuffs out the other flavors. Living now a good 300 miles away, my life has no Heady Topper—I won't buy it on the black market or for $17 at a Brooklyn bar. It's just not right, and I don't think the Alchemist himself would approve. Plus, $17 for a beer is outrageously stupid.
While the real thing is out of reach, there are some alternatives that can work get you your fix. I must stress, only Heady Topper is Heady Topper. But using friends, forums, and my hometown paper, I've rounded up a list of 10 beers that many have used to pinch hit. Some, of course, are also pretty darn tough to track down in their own right.
1. Long Trail Limbo IPA
2. Lagunitas Sucks
Originally just a substitute for that Brown Shugga ale, it became one of their best-regarded brews.
3. Surly Brewing Company Abrasive Ale
BA Score: 100
It might be a touch more alcoholic than the HT, but it's got that touch that most of the beers on this list don't have—an aluminum can.
4. Victory Dirt Wolf Double IPA
Many seem to say this has one of the best approximations if you're looking for HT—though you still won't get that can experience that puts your nose right into the thick of it.
5. Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Sunshine IPA
Just down Route 100 from the Alchemist lies Lawson's. Their Double Sunshine IPA might not have the name recognition of that silver can, but it's another Vermont double IPA that's a heavy hitter.
6. Hill Farmstead Abner
Another Vermont Imperial/Double IPA, some people think this one is even better than HT. That's for you to decide, though.
7. Racer 5 IPA
Just cause this one is ubiquitous doesn't mean you should overlook it. It might not have that niche appeal of the HT, but it has one hell of a taste.
8. Ballast Point Brewing Company Sculpin IPA
Another West Coast IPA, this San Diego brewery can pinch hit for Vermont if it needs to. It's not quite as alcoholic, but you can just have another one.
9. Ithaca Beer Company Flower Power IPA
Bringing those fat citrus notes to the hoppy goodness, Ithaca got people through many a HT drought. It can help you too.
10. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA
Don't for one second overlook Sierra Nevada here. They might have a sizable distribution network, but they can still churn the good stuff. This might not be quite at the level of HT, but we think it's close, and since it's probably close to you in a geographical sense, this is most likely what you'll be drinking tonight.