What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

Instead of chasing down the Alchemist's impossible-to-find double IPA, get familiar with these equally accomplished East Coast hop bombs—before everyone else does.

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Ten years ago, Heady Topper was a nice, tap-only double IPA made by a small brewpub in Waterbury, Vermont. As recently as two years ago, I was able to travel to The Alchemist’s canning facility and buy as many cases as I wanted without a wait. But times have changed—today, Heady Topper is the quote-unquote “world’s #1 beer,” and that honorific has transformed it from a local favorite to a national sensation. It’s no longer available at the brewery—long daily lines became too much of a nuisance to the brewery’s neighbors—and it lasts on store shelves mere minutes before it’s all snatched up.

Let’s be clear: Heady Topper is great—I won’t dare be a contrarian and claim otherwise. But whether you’ve had it or not, my current recommendation is:  forget it. Because I’m going to tell you about the next potential Headys—all brilliant, currently-off-the-radar IPAs and DIPAs made by newish micro- or nano-breweries in the Northeast.

True, none of these are widely distributed, and most have smaller production numbers than Alchemist’s bread and butter. But for the moment, many of them are still easier to get your hands on than a silver tallboy of Heady. Flex your beer geek muscles by giving these East Coast hop bombs a try before everyone else finds out about them. 


Fiddlehead Second Fiddle

nextheady 2ndfiddle What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Shelburne, VT
ABV: 8.1%
Website: fiddleheadbrewing.com
Where can I find it? Four-pack cans occasionally at the brewery

By now, even your Skinnygirl Sangria-sipping mom knows of Vermont’s robust IPA scene. But while everyone’s (justifiably) slobbering over The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Lawson’s Finest, another canned DIPA has quietly landed on the scene—and it’s nearly as good as anything from the aforementioned breweries. Less than a year old, Second Fiddle is fruity, floral, and ready to propel Fiddlehead into the esteemed company of Vermont’s famed troika. (Photo: Facebook/Fiddlehead)

Bissell Brothers The Substance

nextheady bisselbros What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Portland, ME
ABV: 6.6%
Website: bissellbrothers.com
Where can I find it?: At the brewery, and occasionally at bars and stores around the state

Office park neighbors to the legendary Allagash, this less-than-a-year-old brewery is run by 26-year-old brewmaster Noah and his 30-year-old brother Peter. The Substance is the only beer they have produced since their doors opened in late 2013 and it has already gained a cult following, with lines forming on canning days to buy beer that is often just minutes old. Four-packs of cans are self-distributed to about 50 stores and bars in the state in a neon green van the brothers have dubbed “The Green Bastard.” (Photo: Youtube)


Tree House Julius

nextheady treehouse What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Monson, MA
ABV: 6.5%
Website: treehousebrew.com
Where can I find it?: Growler fills at the brewery, and occasionally on tap around the Worcester area

About 20 minutes off the closest major highway, beer nerds can find a bucolic plot of land that’s open to the public a mere 13 hours a week. Visit during those times and you won’t be alone—hoards of hop-lovers flock to Tree House Brewing Co. to buy and fill growlers (only five per customer per turn in line) with the highly-acclaimed Julius. Luckily for folks who can’t get to Monson, head brewer Nate Lanier plans to can Julius “soon” for distribution throughout the state—though his definition of “soon” might actually not be all that soon (he’s thinking the fall).  They’ll instantly become some of the hottest beer-trade bait around. (Photo: Tree House)

Trillium Congress Street

nextheady trillium What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Boston, MA
ABV: 7.2%
Website: trilliumbrewing.com
Where can I find it?: Occasional taps and bottles around the Boston area

Trillium’s Fort Point makes a convincing case for the best pale ale in America, so it’s no surprise that the brewery is equally successful when it cranks up the hoppiness even further. Congress Street is dry, drinkable, and delicious. Unfortunately, it is as of now bottled and released sporadically, and only in and around the brewery’s Fort Point neighborhood, but one can usually score some when it is. (Photo: Trillium)


New England Fuzzy Baby Ducks

nextheady newengland What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Woodbridge, CT
ABV: 6.2%
Website: newenglandbrewing.com
Where can I find it?: Limited-time tap offering at the brewery and local bars

For as famous a double IPA as Heady Topper is, it’s odd that the #1-ranked single IPA on all of Beer Advocate is barely discussed. Perhaps that’s because the beer, Fuzzy Baby Ducks, is from a brewery in Connecticut (not exactly a beer-geek mecca). Or, maybe, it’s because the beer is tap-only. Still, people in the know understand the brilliance of this DIPA, and they line up at an unassuming building in Woodbridge to fill their growlers with this 100% Citra hops beer on the two or three times per year it is released. (Photo: New England Brewing Co.)

Carton 077XX

nextheady carton What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Atlantic Highlands, NJ
ABV: 7.8%
Website: cartonbrewing.com
Where can I find it?: All over New Jersey, and sometimes in Philadelphia and New York City

Co-owner and brewery namesake Augie Carton has made it his three-year-old brewery’s mission to craft beers unlike anything else out there in the world. So far he’s succeeded with such offbeat creations as the mulberry Berliner weisse Monkey Chased the Weasel and the green-apple wasabi Intermezzo. Still, Carton Brewing does make one—and only one— “normal” beer, and it’s one of the better DIPAs on the East Coast. This year-round offering—named after the area’s zip code—is tropical with a slight sweetness and, best of all, it’s now available in 16-ounce cans. (Photo: Beerpulse)


Kane Overhead

nextheady kane What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Ocean, NJ
ABV: 8.2%
Website: kanebrewing.com
Where can I find it?: Taps in New Jersey only (but they’re widespread throughout the state)

Just 30 minutes south of Carton on the Jersey Shore, Kane operates with a simple raison d’être: creating beers simply to make brewhounds freak out. Kane produces an array of hop bombs, wild ales, and barrel-aged boozemonsters, many of which its corks and cages for special releases. Overhead is not one that’s bottled—yet—but the year-round DIPA is a piece of cake to find at New Jersey bars. Heck, I’ve ever seen it on tap at Newark International. (Photo: Instagram)

Rushing Duck War Elephant

%name What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Chester, NY
ABV: 8.7%
Website: rushingduck.com
Where can I find it?: Taps in lower New York state, from around Schenectady to NYC

The Hudson Valley has become one of America’s hottest brewery destinations, and Rushing Duck is leading the charge. Actually, maybe it’s Rushing Duck’s War Elephant leading that charge. Named after ancient Indian elephant cavalries that were fed beer in order to encourage them to stampede their foes, this DIPA is unapologetically pine-y and bitter. And you might have to stampede your own enemies (and even friends) to beat them to the New York state bars that occasionally have it on tap. (Photo: Rushing Duck)


Peekskill Higher Standard

nextheady peekskill What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Peekskill, NY
ABV: 10%
Website: peekskillbrewery.com
Where can I find it?: Growlers at the brewpub, and on tap throughout New York state

Yet another great Hudson Valley brewery, Peekskill is putting out some of the most acclaimed beers New York state has ever produced, especially when it comes to its IPAs. And that’s no surprise, as Peekskill’s current brewmaster, Jeff “Chief” O’Neil, was the inventor of a legendary IPA we guarantee you’ve had before: Ithaca Brewing’s Flower Power. His Higher Standard is even better—a massive imperial IPA packed with stone fruit flavors. Fortunately for hops heads, this beer is not too hard to track down in the state’s better beer bars. (Photo: shelteredgirlmeetsworld.com)

Barrier Daddy Warbucks

nextheady barrier What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Oceanside, NY
ABV: 9%
Website: barrierbrewing.com
Where can I find it?: Taps in New York City area only

Barrier Brewing is known for making an insane amount of different beers (60 in their current portfolio) and rarely ever repeating batches. Thankfully, these cultish brewers knew they had a winner after first releasing Daddy Warbucks in late-2013. A hopped-up version of the closest thing they have to a flagship beer—the also-great Money IPA—Daddy Warbucks can occasionally be found around the New York City area on tap (their have also been three different bottled releases of the ’bucks at the Long Island brewery so far). We’d hope for the bottles to become more frequent and widespread soon, if we didn’t fear that Little Orphan Annie’s lawyers would soon come a-calling. (Photo: Beer Syndicate)

Other Half All Green Everything

nextheady otherhalf What Will Be the Next Heady Topper?

From: Brooklyn, NY
ABV: 10.5%
Website: otherhalfbrewing.com
Where can I find it?: On tap at bars in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens

A few months ago, most New Yorkers hadn’t even heard of Other Half. Now, the Brooklyn newcomer is the talk of the town. This brilliant upstart has a terrific smoked saison and all-Brettanomyces blonde, but the Carroll Gardens-based brewers making hoppy stuff as good as anything coming out of Vermont, San Diego, or Oregon. All Green Everything is a remarkably dry and drinkable “triple” IPA occasionally available at some of the 180 bars in New York City where Other Half distributes. The beer is so pungently tropical that, if you’re lucky enough to find a fresh tap, you might find yourself sniffing and drinking for hours as you order glass after glass of the fragrant elixir. (Photo: Facebook/Other Half)

Aaron Goldfarb (@aarongoldfarb) is the author of How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide and Drunk Drinking.

  • Julie

    Connecticut is actually becoming a lot more of a beer geek mecca then you’d think —Two Roads, Relic, Back East–just to name a few more of the about 20 that are established and 5 that are in the works of becoming active! Not bad for a such a small state.

    • Aaron Goldfarb

      I really like Two Roads. Phil Markowski is a god.

  • Tony

    great list. i would add Gandhi Bot on there as well NEBCO

  • Phil

    This is probably one of the best lists I’ve seen in a while. This guy knows his stuff! cheers

  • paul

    This guy knows his stuff, sure, I’ve had almost all of them. Problem is that the article is very misleading. Every single on of these beers is produced in such minimal quantity that it is far easier to acquire heady, whether it be in trade or in person. To a beer geek these are newcomers but he’s not telling most beer geeks anything we didn’t know already. Maybe when/if they start producing on a heady scale then they would be replacement s but you would go crazy trying to find these unless you lived very very close to the brewery.

    • pawg.hunter

      too many people j/o to the latest “hot IPA” when they can buy something just as good off of the shelves of their beer store. I just think its ridiculous

  • Dan and Kristien

    Wouldn’t quite call out CT by insulting the breweries and beer culture here. Personally, I think it’s an unfair shot that isn’t earned. Yes, there are some breweries here that are barely good, but there are plenty that are putting out some amazing stuff. Plus, there are bad breweries all over, that doesn’t disqualify a state from being a mecca. And with many more breweries on the way, it’s hard to say that CT beer is something to dismiss or disregard.

    • Aaron Goldfarb

      Wow, you sure read a lot into the fairly innocuous statement “Perhaps that’s because the beer, Fuzzy Baby Ducks, is from a brewery in Connecticut (not exactly a beer-geek mecca).”

      Where exactly did I insult the breweries or beer culture of the great state of CT?

      Relax.

      • Dan and Kristien

        It wasn’t innocuous, though. You discounted an entire state of breweries by implying that people don’t think about CT beer or see it as a destination for people who love beer. If it’s not a mecca, what is it? A rest area, truck stop?

        Maybe what we’re trying to say is that comment just seemed out of place considering the topic of your post. There are plenty of people and brewers in CT who would not like what you said.

        We certainly don’t need to relax, as we’re just reacting to what you wrote. You have to expect that people will disagree with you.

        • Aaron Goldfarb

          MECCA: ( often lowercase ) any place that many people visit or hope to visit: The president’s birthplace is a mecca for his admirers.

          *Connecticut has the 29th most breweries of any state.

          *Connecticut has ZERO breweries on RateBeer’s top 100 breweries in the world’s list.

          http://www.ratebeer.com/RateBeerBest/TopBrewers-2014.asp

          *Connecticut has TWO beers on Beer Advocate’s top 250 beers in the world list. (Fuzzy and Gandhi-Bot)

          http://www.beeradvocate.com/lists/top/

          *Connecticut has ZERO beer bars on Draft Mag’s Top 100 Beer Bars list.

          http://draftmag.com/features/americas-100-best-beer-bars-2014/

          It’s not a controversial statement–while NEBC is incredible (and perhaps a mecca in and of itself) and places like Two Roads, etc. are up-and-coming…

          Connecticut as a state is not a beer mecca as of this date in time.

          • Dan and Kristien

            Our point is not that it’s not a mecca, the point is that you took the opportunity to point that out when you could have said something positive. For example, in response to Julie, you show your admiration of Phil from Two Roads, even calling him a god. So, instead of mentioning what CT is not, why not mention what CT is? Why not explain that there is lots of potential with new breweries getting some good recognition? And that breweries like Two Roads are making waves in the Northeast?

            You did mention how Hudson Valley is growing to become a beer destination, so why not paint CT in the same light?

          • Aaron Goldfarb

            Fair enough.

          • Ulf

            Connecticut sucks. Get over it.

          • Dan and Kristien

            You’re just so funny! Congratulations!

          • Sean

            Two Roads is nothing special. NEBCO is the only really great brewery in CT.

      • Mizzy

        Having lived in CT for 6 years now I’ll tell you native Nutmegs have a serious inferiority complex and they take stuff like this super personal.

  • Alex

    This article is bit misleading but you know your stuff. Close to my house theres Powerbank, those are awesome.

  • Josh

    Just wanted to make sure Fiddlehead made it into the comments. AMAZING BEER. Well worth the trip. I make an hour and a half drive weekly for a couple of growlers, or cans if in stock. Their website tells you the dates they are canning Second Fiddle(double IPA), or HoDad(porter). IPA always on tap, and a second, limited selection. Great stuff, way better than topper in my opinion.

  • Bill Toscano

    The War Elephant, and other Rushing Duck beers, are avialable at least as far north as Glens Falls.

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