Currently I'm fortunate enough to have two amazing examples of how to do a great IPA. Heady Topper from The Alchemist and Head Hunter from Fat Head's Brewery both have an almost cult like following and for good reason. Mind blowing hops, super hype and limited distribution create a real want from those in the beer world. Having both beers in house presented the perfect opportunity for a head-to-head (sorry couldn't resist) comparison.
For those of you who have had Heady and taken the time to read the can know that I broke one rule in conducting this tasting, I poured it into a glass. Sorry HT purists I needed an equal playing field. Besides why hide that spectacular golden pour. As pleasing as it is to the eye, upon opening a can, the aroma of super juicy green hops is completely intoxicating. Smelling this beer is instant joy for any hop head. What starts on the nose continues with the first sip. Boom, big tropical flavors of grapefruit, mango and pineapple. It's all there with the accompanying sweetness holding back any bitter punch. No fear the sweet side is pleasant and never cloying. Even though some pine bite comes around in the finish there's no harsh ending here.
Not nearly as accomplished along the hype trail as Heady, Head Hunter is still no slouch. Previously only available on draft, it was bottled for the first time this year. For good reason it became a monster seller right out of the gate. The hops are working overtime in this one. While the aroma blast out of the glass isn't epic, the pine bite is immediately detectable. Wet grass, pine and citrus (pineapple and grapefruit) are all present. The bitter side moves right in and the sweetness that shows stays in the background to keep everything in check. A wonderful bite along with flavors of citrus and pine flow from start to finish.
So which is better sweet or bitter? Heady or Head Hunter? As always personal preference will be the judge. I gravitate towards DIPAs/IPAs with a sweet side that blend in enough bitterness to prevent everything from becoming a cloying, headache inducing mess. Heady does this perfectly. Head Hunter is fantastic but Heady is tops in this match-up.