Heady hysteria comes to San Diego

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.

Read more from Peter Rowe’s weekly column here.