Heady hysteria comes to San Diego

FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2013, file photo, cans of Heady Topper roll off the line at The Alchemist in Waterbury, Vt. As craft brews gain an intense following, a black market has bloomed. A Burlington woman was charged with illegally selling five cases of Heady Topper for $825 on Craigslist. Heady Topper, which retails for $3 a can and $72 a case, was recently ranked No. 1 by Beer Advocate magazine out of the top 250 beers in the world. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)
(The Associated Press)

Cans of Vermont’s most sought-after beer, Heady Topper from The Alchemist, landed in San Diego last week and I was fortunate enough to snag a pair at O’Brien’s pub in Kearny Mesa. On first sip, this marvelous double IPA is an easy-drinker despite a slamming 8 percent alcohol content, as zesty carbonation counters the booziness. Fresh hop notes wrap around mango and pineapple flavors, then reassert themselves for a sharp finish.

Delicious? Yes. Over-hyped? Absolutely. At some outlets, 16-ounce cans sold for more than $20.

This Heady Hysteria is reminiscent of the Coors Cult. In the 1950s and ’60s, Coors was hotly pursued by California beer drinkers for one reason: you couldn’t buy it here. Once “the Banquet Beer” was distributed on the West Coast, it lost much of its sheen.

Heady, a world-class double IPA, is no Coors, a leader in the global quest to make beer taste like water. But if Heady were as available as Coors — or Alpine’s Pure Hoppiness, Societe’s The Pupil and many other hop-forward San Diego ales — I suspect we’d see it for what it as an excellent beer, but not the world’s finest.

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