Wednesday - Heady Topper, The Alchemist Brewery (Double IPA 8%) – Let me start by saying that Heady Topper is a really good beer. Exquisite actually. I’m not an expert, but it’s one of the best beers I have ever had. If I had access to it, I would drink it a lot more often. Now that’s out of the way, let me say Heady Topper is not the best beer in the history of mankind. I don’t even think it’s the best beer coming out of Vermont and it won’t be best beer on this list of 40. However, if you go on the internet, you will be lead to believe that Heady Topper is perfection and it possesses magical powers. You can only buy it at select retailers in Vermont on certain dates and people wait in long lines for it. Its cult status was recently profiled in the Boston Globe. The beer geek website, Beer Advocate, which I visit roughly 50 times a day, lists Heady as the number one beer among its users. Tracking down a couple cans in New York City was not easy. I searched Craigslist every day and communicated with more than one jabroni who wanted to charge me more than $50 for a four-pack (ironic since the phrase “Don’t Be a D-Bag” is actually printed on the can). I finally found a guy who was selling it a reasonable price. Heady retails for $80 a case, but I understand a mark-up for the convenience of not driving to Vermont and waiting in long lines. I can’t tell you how Heady pours because the instructions on the can say not to pour it in a glass. So, I didn't. The mark of a good IPA or DIPA is how well the “hoppiness” balances with other flavors (in this case citrus and pine) and Heady balances very well. It has a very smooth finish and…listen, I’m not going to go on and on about how Heady Topper tastes. It’s all over the internet. It’s good. If you like IPAs it’s a must try. But after you've tried it, you can go back to something easier to find and equally as good like a Green Flash West Coast IPA.
Thursday – Grapefruit Sculpin, Ballast Point Brewing Company (IPA 7%) – Fruit beers get a bad rap thanks to Budweiser’s line of “-aritas”. I generally approach all fruit-flavored beer with skepticism since even some of my favorite breweries make fruit beers that I have poured down the drain. But nothing goes better in an IPA than grapefruit. If you like your beers bitter, the combination of hops and such a sour fruit is pure perfection. Plain old Sculpin is one of the best easy-to-find IPAs you can buy and the addition of grapefruit pushes it over the edge. This is an incredibly delicious and incredibly drinkable brew.
Friday – Big Bear Black Stout, Bear Republic Brewing Company (Imperial Stout 8.10%) – My introduction to good beers started with Sam Adams and Guinness. Guinness was the first beer I became a regular drinker of and even today, I’ll defend it to the death against its many detractors. It’s also the reason the stout is my favorite style of beer. I seek out good stouts now and when I found this one on the shelf of my local grocery store, I grabbed a bunch. Big Bear gets a 100 on Beer Advocate and rightfully so. It has coffee and licorice smells and malty, caramel tastes. At the same time, it’s not overly sweet and it doesn't mask the alcohol so much that you could drink several in quick succession.
Saturday – Void of Light, Gun Hill Brewery (Export Stout 7.90%) – Two days. Two stouts. I’m embarrassed that this is the first New York City beer of the 40 Beers 40 Nights challenge. I first tried Void of Light at a bar in the East Village as we drowned our sorrows over being rejected from a surprise Foo Fighters show at Irving Plaza. This beer nearly single-handedly made up for missing the show. You can only get Gun Hill on tap locally or at the brewery in the Bronx. They brew a bunch of different beers, but I like this one too much to try another when I wander into a bar that serves Gun Hill. Void of Light is a fitting name because this stout is very dark. It tastes like black coffee and chocolate, two things I like almost as much as beer. I want to drink more of this because I am not sure I can even describe it at this point because it’s so complex.
Monday – Nugget Nectar, Troegs Brewing Company (Amber Ale 7.5%) – Troegs makes some great seasonal beers. What’s Christmas without a Mad Elf? This is their spring beer that does not taste at all like spring. But, I’m not sure it’s supposed conjure up thoughts of flowers and birds. This is a very malty tasting Amber that is neither remarkable or offensive. On a warmer night, this would be good to drink on the patio after a long day at the office, but it’s not something I’ll actively seek out.
Tuesday – Gonzo, Flying Dog Brewery (Baltic Porter 9.2%) – When I want a dark beer, 9 times out of 10 I’ll go for a stout. I ended up with this porter because I had been staring at the beer selection at the grocery store for far too long and I was about to get slapped with a loitering charge. I grabbed it to complete my six pack and didn't even notice it was a porter until I got home. That’s not to say there aren't good porters out there. I have just always found porters to be more “bubbly” and not as “thick” as stouts. That’s super complicated beer terminology I just used. That said, this beer surprised me by how heavy it was. It was hoppier than a stout, yet still had a really nice coffee taste. It worked very well on a night where it felt like winter just won’t end.
On tap next week: Perhaps the best beer I’ve ever had.