Lifestyle

The 10 Best Heady Topper Alternatives For When You Just Can't Get It

Published On 10/29/2014 Published On 10/29/2014
The best Heady Topper alternatives
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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.

VT Beer

1. Long Trail Limbo IPA

ABV: 7.60%
BA Score: 92
It's still got that area code, and it picks up where their Double Bag left off. More hops.

Flickr

2. Lagunitas Sucks

ABV: 7.85%
BA Score: 97
Originally just a substitute for that Brown Shugga ale, it became one of their best-regarded brews.

Beer Chatter

3. Surly Brewing Company Abrasive Ale

ABV: 9.00%
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.

Great Brewers

4. Victory Dirt Wolf Double IPA

ABV: 8.70%
BA Score: 95
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.

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5. Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Sunshine IPA

ABV: 8.00%
BA Score: 100
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.

Insurance Guy Bear Blog

6. Hill Farmstead Abner

ABV: 8.20%
BA Score: 100
Another Vermont Imperial/Double IPA, some people think this one is even better than HT. That's for you to decide, though.

Blogspot

7. Racer 5 IPA

ABV: 7.50%
BA Score: 93
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.

Beer47

8. Ballast Point Brewing Company Sculpin IPA

ABV: 7.00%
BA Score: 98
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.

Ithaca

9. Ithaca Beer Company Flower Power IPA

ABV: 7.50%
BA Score: 94
Bringing those fat citrus notes to the hoppy goodness, Ithaca got people through many a HT drought. It can help you too.

Tell Me All About Your Day

10. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

ABV: 7.20%
BA Score: 93
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.


Ethan Wolff-Mann is an editor at Supercompressor. He lived the first 23 years of his life in Vermont. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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