Taste Test: Double IPA ~ The Alchemist Heady Topper vs. New England Brewing Gandhi Bot vs. Russian River Pliny the Elder

Posted: August 20, 2012 in Taste Test Results

As has almost become custom now, anytime I am staying in the Poughkepsie/Newburgh NY area, I manage to meet up for an impromptu tasting with BeerAdvocate CaveDave and some of his homebrewing friends.  Pulling BA Fujii13 out of Albany NY and new friend BA Sandman5478 out of Danbury CT to join the festivities, it turned out that we had 3 highly rated Double IPAs for our tasting and decided to stack them up side by side.  (Please note:  It is important to drink any hoppy beers as fresh as possible.  As the beer ages in its can/bottle, it has a tendancy to lose that great Floral, Citrus, Piney, Resin nose and taste… Gandhi Bot was about 3 1/2 weeks since canning, Heady Topper was just over 4 weeks since canning and Pliny was about 3 1/2 weeks since bottling, so all beers were nearly equally as fresh when tasted).

We had 6 indivudals to participate in this challenge, all with various beer backgrounds (2 strictly homebrewers, 2 craft beer drinkers/homebrewers, 2 strictly craft beer drinkers), it was definitely a well balanced test group.  With the guys doing a simple, First Second Third ranking, to determine a winner of this particular challenge, here were the results…

The Alchemist Heady Topper (VT) ~ 8.0% ABV
First Place Votes ~ 4
Second Place Votes ~ 2
Third Place Votes ~ 0

Russian River Pliny the Elder (CA) ~ 8.0% ABV
First Place Votes ~ 2
Second Place Votes ~ 3
Third Place Votes ~ 1

New England Brewing Gandhi Bot (CT) ~ 8.8% ABV
First Place Votes ~ 0
Second Place Votes ~ 1
Third Place Votes ~ 5

Heady Topper was the clear cut winner on this particular day for this challenge.  Now before I get any nasty tweets, texts or emails about east coast bias or ‘You should drink (insert beer) when its super fresh, keep in mind that all the beers were relatively canned/bottled at the same time and it is not unreasonable to assume they will be consumed with 4-6 weeks for packaging.  Also, the two strictly homebrewers barely new anything of any of the beers sampled, let alone origin or brewer.  Personally, I thought this particular bottle of Pliny was a little thin in comparison to my previous experiences with that beer and had that seconded by Fuj as well.  Besides, our little experiment has coincided with the Beer Advocate Imperial/Double IPA rankings which are as follows:  Heady Topper ~ Ranked 2nd.  Pliny the Elder ~ Ranked 3rd.  Gandhi Bot ~ Ranked 44th.

All three of these are great beers on their own and have been strong pillars of their respective breweries for years now. Just because a beer did or didn’t rule the day, they should all be equally enjoyed.


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