Death by Beer Geek. Birth to Localism.

The Alchemist - Heady Topper

Heady Topper – A really, really, really great beer.

My least favorite season is winter.  I hate the snow.  I hate the cold. I suck at skiing.

Every winter, I’ve made the quest with my significant other from to her stomping grounds of Massachusetts and Vermont.  The snow and the skiing have nothing to offer me in New England, but the beer has always been a crutch for me (when I’m almost on crutches after a piss poor attempt at skiing).

Three years ago, while her family was barreling down Mad River Glen (they are shareholders at this independently owned mountain), I hopped in the car and ventured to Waterbury and Burlington on a beer quest.  I had mastered a plan to hit as many Vermont breweries and beer bars as I could, but my heart was set on visiting the Alchemist.  I drove into Waterbury, found a place to park and quickly checked in one Facebook so friends would know I had been there. Only one problem, it was closed thanks the Hurricane Irene and major flooding by the Winooski River.  I pressed my face against the window in disappointment and trudged through the snow back to the car.  I came back to the ski house empty handed and buried my sorrows in the offerings from Smuttynose, Long Trail, and Wachussett.

A year later, things were different.  The Alchemist opened a cannery producing nothing but 16 oz. cans of Heady Topper, their double IPA and most acclaimed beer from the brewpub.  This is going to be the best Christmas vacation ever I had thought.

Then I fell down a fucking mountain.

The day after Christmas, I went on a snowy trail run which led me to a picturesque view atop Mt. Watatic.  I could literally see the building of Boston more than 60 miles away.  On the way down, I stepped on a patch of ice and found myself lying on the ground with a sore knee.  Not much blood showing through my tights, so I cautiously got down the mountain and ran the four miles back to the house.  Went to get into the shower, pulled my tights down and say my kneecap looking back at me. Shit.  You’d be amazed how busy the emergency room is the day after Christmas.

With a leg stitched up and stiff as a board, I was encouraged by in-laws not to make the beer trek and instead stay in the ski house.  Twenty minutes later, I was standing in the cannery, sharing some Sun King and NABC beers with the head brewer and drinking Heady Topper.  I was all-alone in the cannery for at least an hour.  This would soon change.

Last year, a snowstorm almost detoured our stop at the Cannery, but we made it through blinding snow and a speedometer which didn’t tick over 30 mph for a few hours.  Case limits had changed from three cases per person to one case.   The place was crowded.  In the parking lot, I was approached and asked if all three of us were going to buy a case.  Get a life buddy.  It had come to this.  The beer was that good.  No longer were people buying it just to drink, rather they bought it to seek for trades and show their one-upsmanship to other beer geeks.  The exact opposite of what The Alchemist owners wanted.

If you didn’t know where you were going in Waterbury, you’d drive right by the cannery multiple times.  Now those beer geeks coming in from out-of-state will be driving by it as well and not stopping.  The Cannery will be closing its doors on November 15th to the public.  Not because sales are down or they are losing money, but because it’s gotten to be too much for the Kimmich’s.  No longer can locals get the beer, rather out-of-staters were driving up daily and taking as much as they could to trade or hoard.

You can read why John Kimmich closed the here.  The website crashed after the announcement went viral.  Yes, it’s that good.

For an ever better explanation of why John closed, read the here.

“Basically, it’s been too much”, states Kimmich.  Demand outweighs the supply and some of the local businesses are the ones feeling the pinch.  The same local businesses that receive more business based on the fact that they carry Heady Topper.

So is this death by beer geek?  Have beer geeks taken their extremes too far?  Did Kimmich realize his idealized brewery operation isn’t what he wanted to be and just shut the doors?  Pretty much.  Kimmich will be selling the same amount of Heady Topper (if not more in the future), but now more is going to his local business surrounding the Waterbury, Stowe, and Burlington area.  Which means, more people will be going towards those areas than ever before, instead of going to the cannery where 70% of the Heady was formerly made.  Let the Heady scavenger hunt begin folks.

Of course, beer geeks complained.  That’s what we do.

Drink from the can. Don’t be a douchebag.

  1. Good work. “That’s what we do” — so, do you think your point of view in this essay represents an evolution of thought? I didn’t bother reading comments about the brewery’s decision because I know that most of them would be narcissistic. John, where are you?


What's your take? Please comment below.