After a quick trip up to Hill Farmstead for the PBS Weekends with Yankee shoot, it was back on the road home. My friend had an early day the next day, so he was a sport in agreeing to a quick stop at the Alchemist in Stowe. I wish I thought to take some pictures but it really was a quick grab and go. Next time. My haul was some Heady Topper, The Crusher, Focal Banger and a four pack of Skadoosh and Alena.
Beer #: 1,121
This nonsensical word was used by Po, the main character in Kung Fu Panda. Apparently, it means “goodbye” or “peace”. On-line references say that this term is often used right before you beat someone’s ass. So, I assume the assaulting bitterness of this brew are appropos. There are progressive versions of Skadoosh, I believe this is version 12 as I see some on-line commentary about number 12 at the same time this was purchased. I’ll give Skadoosh 88 points.
The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead and Lawson’s Finest Liquids have long been held as the triumvirate of the Vermont beer scene. Craft beer pilgrims snatch up their beer as quick as these brewers can make it. Heady Topper from The Alchemist is widely considered the world’s best beer, however there are those that shun its popularity in favor of touting their own regional IPA (see Green Diamonds, Hop, Drop & Roll, 077XX, Yellow Rose and Dinner). I’m a little guilty too as recently I did a side by side comparison between Heady Topper and Lawson’s Sip Of Sunshine only to call it SOS by a nose. Second Fiddle by fellow Vermont brewer, Fiddlehead Brewing Company elicits the same type of comparison. Here again, it’s not hard to find those that prefer Second Fiddle over Heady Topper.
As with any IPA – freshness is key and this sixteen ounce can of Second Fiddle was packaged fifteen days ago. Like its Vermont cousins, Second Fiddle has huge aromatic hops. Wonderful fresh dank vegetive flavor and discernible resin quality. The hop bitterness certainly pales in comparison to Heady Topper or Sip of Sunshine but Second Fiddle’s hop presentation is a mellow grapefruit. I can see why people prefer Second Fiddle. While Fiddlehead’s Second Fiddle is delicious and entirely drinkable, I can’t put it past Heady Topper or Sip of Sunshine. All in all Fiddlehead’s offering gets an easy 95 points from me.
There’s this east coast – west coast thing in beer. Funny, there seems to be a east coast – west coast thing with a lot of things. Can you say west coast offense versus smash mouth football? It’s been long held that the west coast has Pliny the Elder and the east coast has Heady Topper. I might be a bit biased but I see more and more east coast regional gems from the likes of New England Brewing, Second Fiddle, Other Half, Carton, Kane, Maine and more. Add these contenders to the giants of Vermont – The Alchemist, Lawson’s Finest Liquids and Hill Farmstead and the east coast has amassed a powerful arsenal of world-class IPA.
I’ve attempted to acquire Sip of Sunshine (SOS) via trade for months but to no avail. One trader suggested that he liked SOS more than Heady Topper – that’s heavy praise in my book. Ultimately, I was able to acquire four cans of Sip of Sunshine and stopped by my friend Mike’s to pop open a couple. I was absolutely blown away. Even so much that I might slide Sip of Sunshine ahead of Heady Topper in my rankings. I thought to myself, that I’d love to do a side-by-side with Heady Topper just to see if one stands out more than the other. The problem was that I couldn’t imagine having two equally fresh cans of each contestant.
Well, I guess the planets aligned and I find myself with multiple cans of both beer…
Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine on the left – a bit darker than the Heady Topper on the right. Really these two beers are nearly a dead ringer for each other. Although the differences are subtle, I’d say Heady Topper carries a bit more bitterness and Sip of Sunshine carries a tad bit more juicy sweetness. Both are outstanding. I’ll put Sip of Sunshine at an equally impressive 97 points but I guess if push came to shove, I’d have to give the slight edge to Sip of Sunshine.