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Local Heady Topper Source

I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but I was wondering if there might be a local source for this? I'm not sure I can wait for ski season to tote it back from Waterbury and could go for some now with the leaves turning.

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    1. re: cambridgeMike

      Ha! Yeah, overpaying on Craigslist or a BeerAdvocate trading forum are really your only Massachusetts sources.

      More seriously: There are no Massachusetts distributors of Heady Topper. You can only buy it in Vermont, and the most reliable source is straight from the brewery in Waterbury. They often sell out of their entire supply on a given week, so it's best to get there before Friday. You can follow their Twitter feed for regular updates.

      Other retail outlets and bars that carry it in Vermont:

      On *rare* occasions, I've seen Heady Topper sold in a few Boston-area bars (Eastern Standard, Lord Hobo, and, eons ago, Atwood's Tavern), but that's always a short-time affair (a supply lasting a few days or hours at best). No area liquor stores sell it.

      1. re: cambridgeMike

        I didn't even look there as it was going for $10+ a can on CL in the spring, which I won't do out of principle. However, $25/4 pack is doable for a taste to hold me over. Thanks for the suggestion.

        1. re: Gabatta

          People pay how much for great bottles of wine? And going out to a bar it's common to pay 7 dollars for a bottle of normal beer. Hype or not, Heady Topper is an amazing beer and at 10 dollars a can isn't really a big deal. When I was living in DC I would always pay 25 dollars for a six pack of Bell's Hopslam when it came out once a year. It's a great beer.

      2. Seiyo in the South End across the street from Toro usually has it, but good idea to call to see if they''ve re-upped since I drank their last can a coupla weeks ago.

        Seiyo, along with its 'South End sushi' and retail wine store, curiously has an exceptional collection of high craft beers. They often have the other highly sought after east coast IPA, Lunch, as well as west coast Pliny seasonally (should be coming soon), but the 40+ list of beers (no taps) goes far beyond and includes an excellent selection of sours, Belgians, saisons, Japanese beers, and limited release collaborations. With Parish Cafe, Estelle's, and Five Horsies, that part of the hood has become a good stompin ground for the beer geeks.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Nab

          I'm assuming you mean they have it to order at the restaurant, and not to buy at the wine shop? Either way, thanks for the useful lead.

          1. re: Gabatta

            I'm not sure, I've only drunk HT on site. But they do sell most of what is on the menu in the retail store. Along with a small but thoughtful collection of whiskies (eg, Black Maple, Col EH Taylor).

        2. IF I had one, I don't think I would be posting it here. ;-)

          1. I think I read somewhere (here, probably) that the bartender at Sichuan Garden II in Woburn has a customer that will bring him a case occaisionally, so that it's catch as catch can there, but they'll serve it when they have it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: justbeingpolite

              I think that's the way that most Boston bars are getting it -- somebody goes up and buys a supply to sell here. However, I've gotta think that just can't be legal, because you're skirting state alcohol distribution laws and taxes. (I'm no expert in this area; just assuming.)

              1. re: huuvola

                Definitely NOT legal.

                I read awhile back that when they expanded the brewery, they were planning to start sending some product in limited quantities down to Boston for distribution but since they have been at capacity without the need to expand the market beyond VT, they put the Boston expansion on hold indefinitely and perhaps forever.

            2. I'm sure they are smart enough not to compromise quality if they expand sufficiently to satisfy the thirsty Boston market. Until then, Heady Topper will become an expensive cult item similar to Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

              1. Eastern Standard sells it when they get it in... Heady Topper by the Alchemist is only made at their single Cannery in Waterbury, they don't have an distribution. So any place that carries it has to go up to VT and purchase it.

                1. Those of you that have spotted bootleg HT at Boston-area bars...is this still happening since they instituted the 2-case per person limit in July (now looks to be 1 case pp)?

                  1. I've gotten a couple of times from Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont. Haven't seen it lately. You pretty much have to be there when the van comes.

                    1. Is the Alchemist subsidized by Vermont Tourism? Seems worthy of a road trip. Perhaps deleting this thread and starting a secret Heddy Topper Society is in order with magic rings and passwords. Heck I'm only the occasional beer drinker, but I do prefer IPA's so am duly intrigued. One thing I've learned from travel is if you love something, keep it close, don't share it, or the masses will come.

                      If this is truly the holy grail of IPA beers. . .

                      10 Replies
                        1. re: jgg13

                          Umm, DIPA or an IIPA is still an IPA

                          1. re: Bellachefa

                            It's a distinct style. Yes, it's a derivative of IPA but it's not the same thing.

                          2. re: jgg13

                            The lines are so blurred these days, the distinction is no longer important as far as flavor is concerned - still some concern with abv (and how much one can drink in a sitting)though.

                            1. re: LStaff

                              Sure, the boundary between any neighboring styles can be blurry. But I bet if i asked you to picture one of each you could do so. The black ipa is also a derivative style, do we just call that an ipa as well?

                              Particularly with the ipa family I wish people would move towards finer, not less distinction. While I enjoy many substyles I'm not a fan if the "dork in his moms basement jamming an ale with too many C hops for its malt bill" that became so popular for a while.

                              I will admit that with the abv increase that's happening with a lot of styles, the classic dipas (like Pliny) seem watery compared to the modern brethren. Jamil has argued for an extra category to help the stratification - I concur

                          3. re: Bellachefa

                            >One thing I've learned from travel is if you love something, keep it close, don't share it, or the masses will come

                            Especially in the FB and twitter age and everyone constantly connected with smart phones.

                            1. re: Bellachefa

                              I'm not sure about holy grail, but it is a very enjoyable brew. This beer isn't really a secret though. if you ever visit the brewery, you will see from the lines that the masses are already onto it. Not sharing is sort of contrary to why people come to these boards.

                              1. re: Bellachefa

                                It's the #1 rated beer on Beer Advocate, so I think the secret might be out.

                                1. re: Bellachefa

                                  I thought the point of chowhound was to share the finds? I understand the temptation to keep a find undercover but I think sharing the goods is why we are here?

                                  1. re: yumyum

                                    I'm with you, yumyum. A secret kept for one's own personal convenience often means a great place that goes out of business. Share greatness so it succeeds, even if it means you then face a three-hour line. Somebody else will see the opportunity, the demand for something that rises above the mediocrity that drives the success of mass-market places, and maybe follow suit.

                                    Heady Topper isn't the greatest example here, but I suspect most Hounds lament the passing of at least one place that might have caught fire if only more like-minded chasers of out-of-the-way or otherwise obscure excellence had talked it up.


                                2. Only local sources I know of are individuals who drive up to Vt or have friends in Vt that drive down

                                  1. I would like to advise those looking for HT to not post or comment about the illegal gray market in which this beer is sold in MA.

                                    Pliny and HT are not distributed outside of the states in which they are brewed so anyone retailing these beers in MA is putting their liquor license in jeopardy.

                                    It would be great if this thread was deleted in order to protect the establishments that are providing this amazing beer to their best clientele.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Unfoodie

                                      Our usual practice isn't to remove this kind of thing other than at the request of the establishments being discussed. We used to, but these days, this kind of information seems to get posted and tweeted about and whatnot by all kinds of people, including sometimes the businesses themselves. If they'd prefer to keep their involvement quiet, they can reach out to us at moderators@chowhound.com but we're not going to try to protect people who very often don't want to be protected.

                                      1. re: Unfoodie

                                        I agree with this. Don't talk up the unlicensed Chinatown joint for its allowance of carry-in beer. You don't want to ruin that for everybody. Share that info only privately, not in public forums.


                                        1. Make friends. People in the Boston community go up to Vermont all the time. Become friends with other beer nerds, join tasting groups, get to know your better beer bars and retailers, and Heady starts becoming available whenever you want it.

                                          Not a very helpful answer for your near term search, but as others have mentioned, there are no current ways to legally acquire Heady Topper for retail or on-premise sale in Massachusetts.

                                          Also, to those saying it's worth it to spend $10 on the can, I'd disagree. Most of those willing to charge that much for the beer, are also willing to not refrigerate it or store it for long periods of time. This beer tastes like crap if left out of a fridge for a week. Well, not like crap, but not like Heady.

                                          If you can't find Heady, skip Craigslist, and try something else instead. If you're a definite hophead, try Wormtown's Be Hoppy or Trillium's new Congress St. IPA (a brand new year-round release that might be the beer I'm most giddy about right now).

                                          When you do go up to Waterbury, remember that the cannery has been selling out by the end of day on Friday most weeks. Same is usually true of the retailers. There is also a one case per person limit in place right now that they have no expectation of being able to lift anytime soon. They could raise their prices but don't. They know the craigslist scammers will move on to something new soon enough and they want to do right by the user base that will stick with them. I personally do not participate in the craigslist beer market because I'd like to see it disappear.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: DrewStarr

                                            I bought some Heady on Craigslist list week. The guy lived a few blocks from me and had just made a run to VT with his roommate the day before. They said they wanted to keep some and sell some to pay for gas etc. The beer tasted as good as what I have purchased directly from the brewery's itself, and I was happy to spend $25 for a 4 pack. No scam involved.

                                            As always, Craigslist is highly caveat emptor, however I welcome it as a secondary market for many items. I found the specific item I wanted, locally and for a reasonable price. What's not to like?

                                            1. re: Gabatta

                                              I'm glad you had a good experience with it, but as you mention it is "highly caveat emptor." It's rare to find people selling Heady (or any beer) at reasonable prices on Craigslist, and I live in a city where bored police (Boston has no gun crime or anything) can't be trusted to not spend time looking to bust innocent, but still illegal, transactions with alcohol. Likely? No, but certainly possible and I don't even think all that improbable.
                                              Disclosure: I say this having 5 HT in my fridge right now, acquired through the aforementioned "make friends" advice. And I buy and sell stuff through Craigslist all the time -- but I avoid high scalpers' premiums regardless of the product. If I'm going to pay more than I should (again, people were mentioning $10/can), I want protections Craigslist can't provide.

                                              1. re: DrewStarr

                                                I just don't understand what is wrong with paying 10 dollars a can. I also bought some last week, probably from the same guy Gabatta got it from. I have a 2 year old son at home and my weekends are packed. As much as I would like to I cannot get to Vermont all that often. I'll easily go out to a bar and pay 6 or 7 dollars for a Harpoon IPA. HT is definitely twice as good and considering how much I would have to spend to go there it's a deal in my opinion. Of course buying anything off CL is a risk but really, you think the cops are going to use a craft beer that most teenagers have never heard of to bust under 21 year olds? They'd have a much easier time if they tried to sell Bud Light.

                                                1. re: cambridgeMike

                                                  Think he was saying the cops would bust you for unauthorized alcohol sales. Can't imagine it's legal.

                                                  1. re: cambridgeMike

                                                    Yes, actually, I do think the cops will check craigslist for illegal sales. Perhaps because they just did that http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/ar...

                                                    1. re: DrewStarr

                                                      That's in Vermont where the police have nothing to do. Haven't you seen Super Troopers? LOL. While it is possible something like that could happen in Boston, if the police are not arresting everyone soliciting sex on Craig's List and other sites, I highly doubt they will bother with someone reselling a few cases of beer. Possible but rather unlikely.

                                                      1. re: Gordough

                                                        Are you familiar with our local constabulary? Allow me to introduce you to some of their craigslist activities http://www.spin.com/articles/boston-p...

                                                        P.S. Super Troopers wasn't a documentary.

                                                        1. re: DrewStarr

                                                          Are you really comparing efforts to curb unauthorized concerts in homes (clearly a public safety issue on numerous levels) to selling a few beers to people of age? Listen, I am not saying it could never happen. But the fact that it happened one time in Vermont doesn't make it any more likely to happen in a large city where the police simply don't have the time or resources to investigate adults selling each other a case of beer.

                                              2. Here's another update from the Alchemist - only going to make it more difficult to obtain:


                                                11 Replies
                                                1. re: meeps2002

                                                  One would think their retail shop would have been quite profitable without a middleman. Curious.

                                                  1. re: meeps2002

                                                    Very strange. Something is up. Maybe the Waterbury residents not involved in the tourist industry were getting annoyed with the constant traffic. Maybe they are having production issues and can't even meet the demands of their existing accounts and this is the only way they can service their retail accounts. Maybe they just got sick and tired of dealing with the beer nerds. But from an economic standpoint, it doesn't make sense. I doubt they are selling to their retail customers for more than they were selling to the walk in consumer.

                                                    1. re: Gordough

                                                      doubt it was a traffic issue with ben and Jerry's about 1/2 mile up the road.....this beer is a perfect example of the old saying "people always want what they can't get".......somehow, what is obviously a well crafted brew has been escalated into something beyond that......I have seen morons sleeping in their cars waiting for the Heady truck to roll in to beverage stores.......probably the same ones that hang out in front of Best Buy at midnight waiting for the latest version of Vice City to be released!

                                                    2. re: meeps2002

                                                      A few months ago they expressed concern over the grey for HT. They told their customers to not buy it unless the retailer had a "Authorized HT Retailer" sign that was given to them by the brewery.

                                                      You don't build good relationships with retailers by selling them your product and then undercutting their price at your own store. When retailers, who have supported you from the start, are out of stock but see you selling 10cases at a time to people from CT they aren't happy.

                                                      PLUS... can you image dealing with those long lines of beer snobs? Talking about the new hops strain or their most recent home brew for hours on end? That would put me over the edge.

                                                      1. re: Unfoodie

                                                        Or you can look at it another way in that the Alchemist brewery themselves could have easily sold off all 1800 cases/wk that they make - (currently selling 1200 cases at the brewery and 600 at retail - both which sell out within days - the brewery hardly ever made it to the weekend with beer to sell) they didn't need to cut retailers into the deal, but they did - so if the retailers weren't happy selling it for a little more than the brewery, their other "option" is to not sell it at all.

                                                        And fyi, early on there was a 8 case limit, then started dwindling down to the current level of 1 case per person per day.

                                                        1. re: LStaff

                                                          Like I said. If they did that they would have alienated the retailers that supported them from the beginning. "Thanks for helping put me on here map.... now go screw."
                                                          The reason they had a case limit was so they could keep supplying their retailers.

                                                          1. re: Unfoodie

                                                            It was the (now-defunct/flooded) brewpub that put them on the map, not statewide HT availability.

                                                            1. re: emannths

                                                              They didn't garner national attention until they started canning HT and it became the #1 rated beer on Beer Advocate.

                                                              1. re: Unfoodie

                                                                Depends on how deep you are involved in craft beer. First national attention came the first year they opened their brewpub and Heady Topper won bronze in the DIPA category at GABF and their double wit took a gold medal in 2004. The brewpub was known by beer geeks around the country and their DONG (draft only, no growler) policy was upsetting to the tickers looking to get their hands on their beers. Then they did a special bottling of Heady Topper in 2010 before the cannery came on line which got traded around the country. The cans just made the beer accessible to more people, hence the climb to #1 on BA.

                                                      2. re: meeps2002

                                                        It's only temporary. They're looking for a new retail location that will be able to handle all of the vehicle traffic caused by high demand for their product. Excerpt from an AP article published today:
                                                        "...the couple say they're closing the retail portion of their business on Nov. 15 until they can find a better location for it. Jen Kimmich says heavy traffic and people turning around in neighbors' driveways have brought the concerns to a head. While the retail end of the business is closing until a new location can be found, the brewery will stay in business and its 25 employees in their jobs."

                                                      3. Glad I was able to finally make it up there last monday to check it out and pick up a case. Not the hoppiest Heady I've had, but still a great beer.

                                                        I thought the layout of the driveway/parking lot and retail store wasn't well thought out for the amount of people that were showing up to buy beer. But when they originally built the place, they still had the brewpub too, so I guess they weren't expecting on having to expand so quickly.

                                                        Wish them luck in figuring this out. Too many customers showing up at your doorstep to buy your product isn't the worst problem you could have though.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: LStaff

                                                          What do you think the percentage of people in the food business who would kill for "too many customers" would be?

                                                          1. re: hyde

                                                            Hello other hyde :).

                                                            There is a term of art in the business literature "lifestyle business."

                                                            Many, if not most, small business owners derived value from the business that is not related to the cash flow. It's best to never presume you know what the owner is trying to maximize.

                                                            There was an article in the Atlantic a while back about Hill Farmstead where the owner mentioned two examples - one were he rolled his eyes about the offers he had received from various people to scale up his operations, and another were you got the impression that he might just shut down the whole thing so he could follow thru on his other interests; cheese making for example.

                                                            In my experience the the business guys typically give an exasperated sigh after saying "lifestyle business."

                                                            Last time I was at Alchemist the guy - who seemed quite exasperated - behind the counter declined to sell a case to a gentleman. He marked the gentleman as only buying it to resell. I found that an admirable example of the supply side challenges of a commitment to local sourcing.

                                                        2. Ok, so who needs Heady Topper....when there's Kiwi Rising? Seriously good hoppy beer - go find some...if you can.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: LStaff

                                                            Kiwi Rising, Larry,Meadowlark, Be Hoppy... To name a few great local IPA/DIPA.

                                                            1. re: phatchris

                                                              Gee, they do contrive clever names for this stuff.

                                                              1. re: Trumpetguy

                                                                I picked up 5 bottles today, no problem whatsoever, $4 a pop.