I don’t chase whalez. But sometimes they find me anyway.
Hunting for whalez — the beer nerd term for difficult-to-find world-class craft beers — can almost be a full-time job. And to me, that runs counter to the notion that even for the most obsessed among us, beer should be fun.
And getting a random text offering a four-pack of Heady Topper definitely qualifies as fun.
Mrs. Crappy’s cousins live near Boston — not quite prime territory to find stuff from The Alchemist, the brewery that makes Heady Topper double IPA, but close enough that finding some isn’t out of the question.
And find some they did. A couple weeks ago, we both got a text with an offer for a four pack of one of the biggest whalez out there. And once we figured out who the text was from, our Heady Topper was being packed in pretty pink bubble wrap and
mailed DEFINITELY NOT MAILED BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE ILLEGAL to us here in Pittsburgh.
(In Re: The difficulty in figuring out who was making this ridiculously generous offer: I know a lot — A LOT — of people named Chris.)
The silver-and-black cans are unassuming, unless, of course, you’re aware of what’s inside. The explanation on the back is pretty cool, though. The brewers urge that you drink this nectar straight from the can, as that is the best way to ensure that the “essential hop aromas that we have worked so hard to retain” are still in your face and on your nose the first time you crack one open. And while I wanted to follow those instructions, I also wanted to see this beer in all of its cloudy-orange-under-fluffy-white glory.
So that was the plan, once the box, filled with pink bubble wrap and four 16-ounce cans, arrived from New England. I wanted to chill them a bit, so we didn’t crack one open as soon as we opened the box, as tempting as that was. But when I did:
There’s the set up. Clean glass, chilled can that has been out of the fridge to warm for a few minutes. Let’s do it.
Those are what I was looking for: A bit hazy, a brilliant orange, a bright, white head that held on until I finished the pint.
How did it taste? Oh, man … Describing the hop profile alone is difficult, because there is so much going on. Bright, acidic citrus? Yep — in fact, multiple sightings of orange, grapefruit, lemon and flavors that seem even more tropical. A more resinous, oily pine? Yep. And then the crazy-complex hop bitterness tempered is tempered by a rich, slightly sweet malt background. Tropical aromas and a brilliant sunset orange pour, cool contrasts with the beer’s origin in Vermont.
And my head is spinning, because this beer is among the best I’ve ever tasted. This is the season for big, hop-forward beers — I’ve had fresh Nugget Nectar and Hopslam in just the last week — and that immediate context makes that judgement even easier to make. Those two are among the beers I look forward to the most each winter, and they’re both very good … but what was in this can of Heady Topper is deeper, danker and more complex. Better. Much better.
It’s always a cool to get an opportunity to taste something like this. It’s a chance to expand what you know is possible in the beer world. It’s a way to place your own favorites in context. And, mostly, it’s simply an opportunity to taste something that is undeniably one of the best in the world. Huge thanks go to Chris for makin sure we had the chance to give Heady a try.
Mrs. Crappy, who is the serious hop-head in Crappyhouse, and I have split a second can of the four-pack, so I have one half-pint left in the fridge. It won’t last the week. And if that’s my last taste of Heady Topper, that’s OK. I know more whalez will find me in the future.