35 Crossroad, Waterbury, Vermont, 05676
Closed to the Public
Alchemist Pub & Brewery Established 2003; production brewery established 2011
The Alchemist brews superior beer. Despite limited local distribution, Heady Topper is an international phenomenon. The brewery demonstrates innovation, craft industry leadership, and a commitment to the community that is the benchmark for other brewers to follow.
Notable IPA Offerings:
Heady Topper — ABV 8.0 / IBU 100
Focal Banger — ABV 7.0
The Crusher — ABV 9.6
Past or Limited Offerings:
Beelzebub — Imperial Stout; ABV 8.0
Luscious — Imperial Stout; ABV 11.1
Celia Saison — Gluten free; ABV 6.5
Petit Mutant — Wild Ale; ABV 6.0
Holy Cow — IPA; ABV 5.1
Rapture! — Imperial IPA; ABV 9.6
Ouroboros — Imperial IPA; ABV 8.8
El Jefe — Black IPA; ABV 7.0
Alena — American IPA; ABV 6.5
Pappy’s Porter — ABV 5.42
Owned and operated by John & Jen Kimmich. John was once a protege of Greg Noonan, craft beer pioneer of Vermont Pub & Brewery and NH Seven Barrel Brewery fame. Kimmich has a thing for freshness; The Alchemist produces only what it can sell in short order via its limited distribution network.
Here’s a bit of history. Heady Topper was an occasional offering at The Alchemist Pub & Brewery, which opened in Waterbury VT in 2003. It quickly became the modest brewpub’s most sought after beer. For the first seven years it was unavailable elsewhere, and never “to go,” as Kimmich was and perhaps still is not a fan of growler distribution.¹
Nature, of course, abhors a vacuum. Beer fans filled the void by sneaking drafts into the restrooms and doing their own ad-hoc bottling. The bottles were then spirited out of the pub, taken home and traded in a burgeoning black market.
Kimmich eventually caught wind of this and while he did call it “flattering,” it potentially put his liquor license in peril. He decided to offer 22 ounce bottles in 2010, and at the time said, “hopefully a release of 600 bottles will get that need out of peoples systems.”²
He had no idea.
Less than a year later the Kimmichs had a remote brewery and canning facility in production for about a month when Hurricane Irene blew through. The original Waterbury pub was decimated, but the new brew house was relatively unscathed. They refocused on the Heady phenomenon, and never looked back.
Production started at around 600 cases/week. The Kimmichs doubled it by 2013 and have since grown further. By November 2013 traffic at the rural brewery was so intense they announced that the retail sales & tasting counter would be closed. Their web server promptly crashed.
Plans to open a new retail outlet have yet to be realized, but demand for the Heady continues. The original Waterbury pub location has since been restored and reopened as the Prohibition Pig. The mere location seemingly gave Pro Pig instant credibility.
The popular “where can I buy Heady” question is answered quite clearly on the company’s website, complete with store locations, addresses, and schedules. You simply need to be there! Therein lies the rub; the locations are mostly in the Burlington – Barre corridor, and a few up and down Route 100. For example, if you can be at the Mobil Mart in Richmond Vermont on any given Tuesday, you can find the Heady — if it isn’t sold out.
The search for Heady, actually the participation in the search, has become the quintessential New England beer experience.
¹The Alchemist was planning to offer some production in stainless steel growlers prior to closing the retail location; Noel, JB, “The Best Beer in the World” Chicago Tribune April 22, 2013.
²craftbeer.com/featured-brewery/the-alchemist-pub-brewery; October 26, 2010