Note: The above photo is of the new Alchemist site in Stowe. The article below was written thirteen years hence.
In the valley eleven miles south of Stowe lies the pastoral village of Waterbury, home of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and since Thanksgiving 2003, top-notch midtown brewpub, THE ALCHEMIST, visited November ‘06. A cheery abbot figurine sits atop tap handles at right side bar across dining area and fronting billiards table, serving as a cool mascot.
Unfortunately, a flood hit The Alchemist in 2011 and shut the pub down permanently. Thankfully, the owners were able to secure a 15-barrel brewing system and cannery for their universally renowned flagship beer, Heady Topper IPA. (The following notes are from my 2006 visit.)
Brewer John Kimmich began his brewing career at the famed Vermont Pub & Brewery working alongside beer prodigy Greg Noonan. Kimmich’s basement tanks served wonderfully diverse beers-ales with fine general pub fare. While diacetyl peppery-hopped corn-husked wheat-chaffed vegetal-tinged Lightweight German Pilsner will suit novice thirsts, intermediate drinkers may prefer nutty-topped dried-fruited mocha-coffee-bottomed Donovan’s Red and dry nut-chocolate-roasted phenol-coarsened Dunkler Stern.
Better yet were frothily black coffee-embittered, cocoa bean-soured, walnut-backed Pappy’s Porter and Pinot Noir cask conditioned Petit Mutant (with its sour grape esters wafting above tart oak-dried cherry-cranberry nuances).
Even more intriguing were two dry piney-hopped India Pale Ales.
Red-yellow-fruited floral-pined alcohol-astringent Holy Cow IPA really impressed.
But who’d guess the lusciously charismatic Heady Topper would gain enormous worldwide acceptance, alongside Pliney The Elder, as one of the most sought after India Pale Ales. Its briskly pine-sapped hops embraced captivatingly rounded spruce-tipped fruitfulness and an elegant floral bouquet above creamy sugar-spiced Vienna malting, scintillatingly promoting tangy cherry-bruised grapefruit rind, orange, peach, mango, nectarine, tangerine, guava and lychee tropicalia in a well-integrated, balanced manner.