Tag Archives: Tap and Barrel

The Alchemist’s Heady Topper: Extreme beer with heady demand

Is Heady Topper from the Alchemist brewery all that the hype suggests? Read on.

1076943_10151716463748180_129518285_oThe Facebook come on from the Tap and Barrel, a specialty beer bar in Smithtown was irresistible:  “Come by Tap And Barrel tonight to watch the MLB All Star Game at 7 p.m. We will be receiving a fresh shipment of Heady Topper b4 the game  …”

I had planned watch the game at home, but was hooked by the opportunity to sample the rarely found, highly rated brew from the Alchemist, a small brewery in Waterbury, Vt.  Having read and heard so much about this highly sought after beer — it received a perfect 100-point score on BeerAdvocate.com — this would be a chance to determine what was behind all the hype.

I didn’t get to Tap and Barrel until the third-inning of the game, about 8:45 p.m., and propped myself on a bar stool. I asked for “The Beer.” Sorry, said owner Anthony Celentano. “It’s on its way down from Vermont.” Celentano had dispatched one of his crew to Waterbury to bring down cases of the canned beer for the occassion. I ordered another beer to hold me over until the celebrity beer made its appearance.  An hour later, Celentano said, “It’s on Long Island. It’ll be here in 20 minutes.”

Sadly, the sound on each of the four flat screens showing the All Star Game was off. I was losing patience and feared turning into a pumpkin before Heady Topper arrived.  Well, 20 minutes turned into another hour and 15 minutes. Finally, at 11:02 p.m. Celentano told me, “It’s here.  I’ll get you one right from the car.” And he did. On the house.

With an early morning wakeup call the next day, I slipped the shiny, silver can into my jeans pocket, and as I prepared to depart, Celentano offered me a taste from his own can.

Heady Topper, an unpasteurized, unfiltered, 8 percent abv, double, or imperial IPA, is the only beer produced by the Alchemist, which has been brewing since 2003. It’s a beer focused on the flavors and aromas of humulus lupulus. Alchemist brews 120 barrels a week in eight 15-barrel batches.

The brewery recommends sipping the beer directly from the can, less blasphemous today for a beer geek than perhaps a decade ago.

Opening the can releases a bouquet of fresh hops. Tasting through the ring-top hole imparts more of the same: pungent, earthy, citrusy hops with some malt sweetness. Medium bodied, it’s surprisingly drinkable.  Not a 100-point beer for me, since I’m not a hophead.

The brewery says pouring into a glass releases the essential hop aromas as well as lots of sediment. That proved true as it offered less intensity and looked a turbid gold with a soapy white head when poured into a sampling glass.

Heady Topper is well done and less extreme than one might be lead to believe. But I still don’t get the craziness—except that we all crave that rare thing that we can’t obtain.

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The Good Life pub raises $22,000-plus for Hurricane Sandy relief


The Good Life owner Pete Mangouranes during Hurricane Sandy relief benefit.

The Good Life has a good heart.

The Massapequa Park, Long Island, gastro pub, was packed to overflowing Tuesday evening due to the promotional efforts of owner Pete Mangouranes, who promised to donate every penny spent at the pub that evening to Hurricane Sandy Relief. Indeed, by the time The Good Life closed its doors Mangouranes had collected $22,090.

The monies, including purchases by The Good Life’s patrons, servers tips and more will be split among local churches and the Tunnel to Towers Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, said Mangouranes, who put every penny of his night’s sales into the pot.

The Good Life owner Pete Mangouranes, left, looks at the scene at his bar.

The scene was a testament to Mangouranes’ social media outreach campaign.

The crowd was five deep at the bar, where the servers included Massapequa Park Mayor James Altadonna Jr., the wait for a table in the dining room ranged up to three hour. Meanwhile, dozens more imbibed drafts from a trailer on loan from Manhattan Beer Distributors on the sidewalk in a heated tent donated by Top Notch Tent Rental.

Captain Lawrence, Saranac, Great South Bay Brewery, and Ithaca Beer Co.  donated kegs of beer and Roberto Bobby Rodriquez, an award-winning homebrewer, contributed a keg of his Zombification, a hard cider made with molasses and Belgian ale yeast. A local bakery, Sugar Rush, sold cupcakes and cookies and donated rolls for sausage and pepper sandwiches sold on the sidewalk. The publishers of “Question of the Day” books pitched in too, selling their books for the charity event.  Mangouranes also raffled off a surfboard and took in donations of gift cards, clothing and other items.

Other beer-related charity events are on the calendar. On Nov. 14 The Loyal Dog Ale House in Lindenhurst, is holding an open bar from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. for those who contribute $20 to the Red Cross. And Tap & Barrel in Smithtown on Nov. 25 holds a $50 per person benefit to aid Oceanside-based Barrier Brewing, which was effectively wiped out by the storm.

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