DETOUR: Stowe, VT – The Alchemist
"DETOURS" is a travel series by The Hop Review. Being a weary traveler almost always calls for a reward in the form of a pint at the end of the day. Here, we will document those beer breaks–as we travel the U.S. and beyond–with quips, photographs and Q&As. Cheers, to the adventurous beer trekker.
100 Cottage Club Road, Stowe, Vermont 05672
Arrive in Stowe, Vermont and you'll likely have spilled over one hill or another and end up on the aptly named Mountain Road, to the center of the small mountain village. A slight turn off the main road will immediately leave you staring down the prominently and well-decorated brewery that arguably put the state's beer scene on the map. It's here where you will find one of the world's most acclaimed pale ale producers, The Alchemist. The brewery's name alone elicits mystique and wonder, and their highly clamored-for beers beckon travelers from all over the world.
Having recently visited The Alchemist's original and now former home, in nearby Waterbury, Vermont (now home to brewpub Prohibition Pig), we had to see what their new facility looked like. Opened in 2016, the new tasting room (you are allowed free samples of each beer, otherwise beer is only available to-go) and brewery is a shiny beacon on the horizon of Stowe's landscape. Just off the main thoroughfare and tucked up against an open field, the building is a stark mix of black, white and grays–with a distinct pattern of triangular 'shards' climbing its exterior grain silo. As you approach the brewery's entrance, you're greeted with several signs meant to direct crowds and organize lines–in a sign-posting manner that very few breweries have to account for or anticipate.
Upon entering, you're greeted with what can only be described as a densely branded interior. Quite literally from floor to ceiling, The Alchemist's brand is prominent–through illustrated murals, projected videos, fermenter tanks wrapped in can artwork, shelves of merch and several coolers of cans to-go. And it's easy to see how well-oiled the brewery's process of selling cans out the door is. And, oddly enough, the staff is eager to lend suggestions, descriptions and just all around pleasantries, without making you feel rushed.
In the current landscape of opaque IPAs and nothing's-juicy-enough options, craft beer's shift towards trendy has been a seismic one. But none of these hazy IPAs and DIPAs likely wouldn't be here if it weren't for The Alchemist and founder John Kimmich (who in turn can credit his influence to Greg Noonan of Burlington's Vermont Pub and Brewery). In the late 90s, Kimmich began exploring the hazy beer approach, before releasing the first batch of now highly acclaimed Heady Topper in 2003–much to the chagrin of fellow brewers at the time, who considered the cloudy DIPA improper and even lazy.
Now, Heady Topper is a staple in nearly every bottle share conversation or NEIPA comparison around the globe.
What We Drank:
Beelzebub American Imperial Stout – Our first sample wasn't one of the brewery's famous DIPAs, but rather their Beelzebub stout. At 8% ABV, this reminded us of a milk stout meets oatmeal stout...X3. It was a decadent and surprisingly well-rounded beer.
Heady Topper Imperial IPA – The DIPA that put hazy beers on the map, Heady Topper is a beer on many beer nerd's bucket list. This beer is no doubt best while fresh, and what fresher taste than from the brewery's draft lines? It's a cloudy, citrusy and punch-you-in-the-mouth hop bomb at 120 IBUs. When in Stowe...