Heady Topper VS Les Trois Mousquetaires’ Double IPA – A Comparison of Hop Brilliance

2013-09-04 16.40.44You might be asking why I’m covering Heady Topper – one of the most renowned beers in the world – alongside something brand new, unrecognized, and barely tasted by anyone. Well, since Les Trois Mousquetaires’ Double IPA was released a few weeks ago  (in very limited quantities), Quebec beer geeks have been losing their minds over it, and comparing it to Heady Topper. Over the last six months, Quebec’s previously dismal IPA scene has exploded, and we are now seeing some really solid American style IPA’s hit the shelves. Because I love IPA’s, and Quebec beer, I wanted to make this comparison in order to see how this new beer would hold up against a Goliath like Heady Topper. That being said, this blog isn’t about discussing what beers are better than others,  so I’m not going to be crowning a winner here;  rather this article will be more of a comparison, outlining similarities between these two specimens.

Heady Topper. Where to begin? Heady Topper is a Vermont-based 8% Double India Pale Ale whose ratings have been growing steadily over the last few years, and currently holds the spot as best beer in the world on beeradvocate.com.  Anyone and everyone interested in beer wants to try it, and generally once they do, they want more.  The brewery producing Heady Topper is “The Alchemist” and they can’t meet the consumer demand for their product. T.J. (Beerism correspondent) naively drove to their brewery earlier this year looking to grab a few cases. Without doing the proper research, we presumed – like anyone – that visiting the brewery would result in getting some beer.  We were gravely mistaken.  He also visited a local beer store in order to find some Heady, and was pretty much spoken to like a fool, receiving the response,  “You can’t get Heady on a Sunday!”  Well duh, of course not, how absurd of us for thinking we could. So yes, although the brewery only brews one beer (Heady Topper) – and is constantly brewing it – getting your hands on some takes a little bit of planning, but is certainly possible.

2013-09-03 20.50.05Being a beer geek from Montreal, I’m often perusing Quebec-based beer trading forums, looking to grab something rare. Heady Topper is by far the most thrown around name on these pages. Being that Heady is from Vermont and that Montrealers can drive down to get some, Heady Topper has basically become the Quebec beer world’s version of cigarettes in prison. It’s essentially a currency now, where people bring back cases of the stuff to trade off for other rare bottles. “Two Headys for this… four Headys for that…” These are the phrases that I read constantly. And perhaps with good cause, but I simply don’t know, because until today, I haven’t been able to get my hands on any of these slippery bastards. A friend and fellow beer blogger was kind enough to hand deliver two of these bad boys to me after a trip to the States. Thank you Malty Tasker!

So according to everyone, and the packaging, Heady topper should be drunk from the can. Yes, that’s right, the can! It’s written in giant bold letters across the top of the silver canister, and there is also a whole explanation written on the can from the brewmaster, telling us why we should enjoy the beer in this way.  It states  “…Why do I recommend that you drink it from the can? Quite simply, to ensure a delightful hop experience. The act of pouring it into a glass smells nice, but it releases the essential hop aromas that we have worked so hard to retain. If you MUST pour it into a glass, you may find that some of the hop resins have settled to the bottom – leave them in the can when pouring. This beer is perishable, and at its best when young, fresh, and hazy. Keep it cold but not ice cold. Drink this beer immediately, we are always making more. – John Kimmich, The Alchemist, Waterbury, Vermont.” I’ll admit, I’m still wary about drinking it from the can, I really like getting my nose in there and I just don’t see how that’s possible in a can. However I have two, so I’ll do one from the can and the other in a glass!

Heady Topper

Alright, so lets do this drinking the best beer in the world directly from the can thing. This is proving to be a bit of a challenge as Emery (my son) is running around the table, managing to get into every photo I try to take. He is also going for the can now – and has succeeded. He is clearly as excited as I am. Wow, as soon as I crack it open I can smell the hops from a foot away – and I’m outside. I stuck my eye into the hole and, well, I can’t see anything. Just darkness, oh well. Now I’m hovering my nostrils over the can, and I’m getting massive – and I mean massive – citrus hop aromas. They are piney, with loads of lemons, and tons of other tropical fruits; this is really just an explosion of hops. The hops are richer than I’m used to, with an earthy, resinous character that screams freshness and quality. It has a certain unexplainable hop character that I have never experienced, and is kind of hard to explain.

good Heady writting

So let’s taste this undisturbed bad boy. Again, wow, this is pretty much a hop explosion, very impressive. It is Incredibly tangy, with a slight citrus sourness to it; this is not something I’m used to in an IPA. It is also much dryer than I expected, leaving a grapefruit finish that is quite brilliant. It’s not overly bitter, but certainly present. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it pretty much tastes like lemonade and grapefruit juice combined. The hops carry a certain acidity to them, while your palate is hit with waves upon waves of hop goodness. Stepping away form the citrus, I’m getting notes of star anise, mixed with a hint of strawberry. You can certainly taste the alcohol, although well hidden against the citrusy tropical punch. The bitterness is there as well, and not shy; it also helps mask the alcohol. The freshness was uncanny, and a grassyness really comes out as you continue to drink it. It actually reminds me of when you cut the lawn, there is that wet, grassy, earthy aroma everywhere. You can get that from fresh IPA’s of a certain caliber, and this one is certainly fresh.

LTM Double IPA

2013-09-04 16.42.15Last week, just outside Montreal, a shit ton of beer enthusiasts lined up outside a brewery called “Les Trois Mousquetaires.” Why? Because they were releasing a very small batch of their new Double IPA. They sold out in under two hours. Les Trois Mousquetaires have been producing exceptional beer for years.  Most of their line up have been German styles, which I always found refreshing in a very Belgian beer inspired place like Quebec. There are exceptions of course; they have an American Pale Ale, and a Baltic Porter that are both delicious.  As well, they recently released a deliciously hopped up American Barleywine, so it only makes sense that a double IPA be their next step. This DIPA was brewed with eight different hop varieties, and dry hopped four times. I’m not sure if this batch is a preface of more to come, or simply a one-off that we might never see again. Either way, I’m excited to try it!  David Atman of “La Décapsule des frères Atman” was kind enough to give me two bottles from his 2-4, thanks David, you are the best!

It pours out a foggy bright yellow with some chunks of what I can only presume is hop sediment. I had it laying on its side and there was a bunch of sediment lining the bottle. As I’m pouring it out, I can smell the wonderful hop aromas. I get my nose in there I’m hit instantly by a huge citrus bomb, mixed with grassy hop resins and a slight earthy funk. This oozes freshness, with lemons, oranges and grapefruit right off the bat. There is as slight boozyness in there as well, mixed in with the hops. There is a particular aroma here, almost like fermented oranges, with a slight white pepper thing, and a tad more of a yeast presence than the Heady.

On to the tasting. As expected, there are hops up front with loads of citrus, and that tangy bitter finish similar to the Heady. There is some alcohol, but dangerously balanced against the hops. The bitterness is big, but not overbearing; you can taste the hop resins resting on the back of your tongue. It begins with overripe blood orange and lemon, followed by some potent earthy grass elements, and then onto a tangy & tart – bordering on sour – finish, with the bitterness and alcohol complimenting it beautifully. It’s basically a citrus fruit punch, an indescribable fruity mess filled with blood oranges and lemon lime grass funk, with just a tiny amount of sweet to balance. You know that lingering flavor you get from a blood orange, that slightly fermented citrus taste? I get that here and I also got it with the Heady as well. The hop pungency here is unlike anything I’ve had, with the exception of the Heady and Hill Farmstead’s double IPA.

Well, I’m very glad I compared these two as they were A LOT more similar than I expected. Each with their own charm and particularities, both of these beers are exceptional and deserve much praise. I’d also like to put point out that this was Les Trois Mousquetaires’ first attempt to do a double IPA and if they were not only able to pull it off, but blow it out of the water, God only knows what they could have in store for us down the road. I will certainly seek out Heady Topper again, but I’m more excited with the idea of having a comparable DIPA brewed in Montreal!  Please give us more!

An Article by Noah Forrest

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