Most of the Aleheads earned their diplomas within a quick strike of The Alchemist Pub & Brewery in Waterbury, VT. If it weren’t for one minor issue, chances are high that road trips to the brewpub would have been frequent and disastrous (Slouch Sixpack would most likely have been banned from the premises within 12 minutes of entering the front door). Alas, through a quirk of the time-space continuum, the exceedingly well-regarded ale factory did not come into existence until 2 years after the Aleheads left northern New England (sadly, it was right around the time yours truly departed his homeland and moved to ‘Bama by way of California and DC). So it is with much sadness that I report the death of The Alchemist at the hands of Hurricane Irene. The Aleheads never even got a chance to sample her wares.*
*Many of us celebrated our 10-year reunion earlier this summer and I had planned a trip to The Alchemist that Saturday. Unfortunately, getting to the brewery required the participation of at least one sober driver. Needless to say, we did NOT get to Waterbury.
Vermont, as most of you have been reading, was hit hard by Irene. The landlocked state, rife with picturesque mountains, valleys, and winding roads has always been vulnerable to flooding, but hurricanes rarely hit the Green Mountain State. Irene had different plans than most storms, however. And while the devastation that was expected in her wake did not occur in other parts of the country, Vermont and parts of upstate New York couldn’t escape her wrath.
The Alchemist, in lovely Waterbury (home of Ben & Jerry’s and adjacent to the excellent Stowe ski resort), has become a darling of the craft beer world recently thanks to their Heady Topper, a DIPA that has received almost universally rave reviews. As the legend of the Topper grew and as the Alchemist opened up a cannery to begin distributing the beer to an eager populace, the brewery’s reputation has skyrocketed. They were positioned to become the “next big thing” in the craft beer world and the timing of this disaster couldn’t have been worse for them.*
*Fine, I suppose it COULD have been worse if it had happened a week after they first opened their doors, but we’re big on hyperbole here at Aleheads.
Now, of course, there are more important things to consider than the destruction of a brewery. People’s homes and lives have been turned upside-down by Irene. Entire towns are cut off without access to basic medical services or emergency aid. Clearly the loss of the Alchemist is not the “big” story here. But there are far more
reputable professional well-funded news organizations out there to talk about the bigger picture. We’re a craft brew site, so for us, the Alchemist is THE story here. When I heard what the floodwaters had done to the place, my regret at not frequenting their establishment earlier this summer became palpable.
Fortunately, the Alchemist WILL be back. John Kimmich, the brewmaster, Tweeted earlier this week that “like a phoenix from the flames, we shall be reborn…” The clean-up efforts will take time, but the Alchemist staff is committed to getting the brewpub back up and operational in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, I’m asking our loyal Alehead Army to support the Alchemist in the only way we know how…
Today, the Alchemist’s cannery (which is located a few miles from the brewpub and was thankfully spared from Irene) will be releasing the Heady Topper in cans to the general public. You can get a four-pack of pounders for $12.00, a single for $3.75, or a taster for a buck. So for any Alehead within a reasonable driving distance to Waterbury, get thee to the cannery! I want the Alchemist to sell out of that beer so fast that they have to start transferring brews directly from the canning machine into your hot, little hands. Remember, the faster they sell their beer, the faster the Alchemist gets up and running again. Do it for you ol’ buddy, Barley. Because life is too short to be filled with regret, and the next time I’m in New England, I want to be able to enter the Alchemist 2.0, belly up to the bar, and order a glass of hoppy bliss.