Ohio vs. the World Part I – Bodhi vs Heady Topper vs Sip of Sunshine

Do you ever wonder how your favorite local beer stacks up against the most sought after beers in the land?  Is Massive Malt Assault by Local Boyz Brewing really as good as Founders Breakfast Stout?  It’s hard to know for sure because on the one extreme we can all be guilty of a little nepotism when evaluating our local favorites, while at the other end of the spectrum it’s hard not to take that which is always available for granted.  So starting today I’m rolling out a new series that I call Ohio vs. the World, where local favorites square off against beers whose mere mention in a company of beer geeks triggers a Pavlovian urge to form a line and break out a credit card.

The comparisons will of course be done via blind taste test, and because the results are only as good as the palates of the tasters I’ll be recruiting judges who know their beer inside and out – beer bloggers, writers, tour guides, and brewers. For this tasting I’m joined by none other than Cheryl Harrison, creator and editor of Drink Up Columbus, and organizer of the Beers and Board Games Club of Columbus, and Nicholas Dekker, who writes about beer and food for various local publications (Columbus Alive, Crave, Dispatch and Columbus Monthly), leads tours for Columbus Brew Adventures, and is the man behind the blog (and the book) Breakfast with Nick.

For the launch of this series what could be better than a showdown between local favorite Bodhi, a Double IPA (I’m sticking to that classification in spite of its bronze medal winning performance in the American IPA category at last year’s GABF) that many consider to be the best Ohio-brewed beer, and Heady Topper, the legendary DIPA from Vermont that is the highest rated beer, bar none, on the BeerAdvocate website.  Just for fun we are going to throw a third white whale of a beer into the mix, another Vermont brewed DIPA that comes in 16 ounce tall boy cans—Sip of Sunshine by Lawson’s Finest Liquids.  Like Heady Topper you have to go to the right store on the right day of the week at the right time of the day to score a 4-pack of Lawson’s (see my post on Hunting Double IPAs in the Wilds of Vermont for details).

SoS_Bodhi_Heady

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a big shout out to my friend Spencer Porter who recently returned from Vermont and agreed to ferry back 4-packs of Heady Topper and Sip of Sunshine.  Spencer’s mode of transportation for the journey was the bus. Not the lower middle class luxury of a Greyhound mind you, but a more economical option whose agents are more fluent in Chinese than English. The route from Columbus to Burlington includes a stop in New York City that requires a transfer on the metro system.  I think we can all agree that the subways of New York are not the most convenient place to be schlepping your luggage, laptop, and a backpack full of the most exquisite hop elixirs in the free world.  Thanks Spencer!  Also thanks to Cheryl’s partner Scott Ziegler for pouring the beers so that we could taste them blind.

The Contestants

Here is the tale of the tape on the beers that will be squaring off today.

Bodhi

  • Brewery: Columbus Brewing Co. (Columbus, OH)
  • ABV: 8.5%
  • Freshness/Form: Poured from a growler purchased at Weiland’s Market on the day of the tasting
  • Price: $16-$18 per 64 oz growler
  • BeerAdvocate Weighted Rating: 4.48 (Holds the #72 spot on the BA list of the top 250 beers in the world, and the #1 spot on the BA list of the top beers in Ohio)
  • Notes: Bronze medal winner 2014 Great American Beer Festival, only available on tap at bars and growler stores in central Ohio

Bodhi

Heady Topper

  • Brewery:  The Alchemist (Waterbury, VT)
  • ABV: 8.0%
  • IBU: 75
  • Freshness/Form: Poured from 16 oz tall boy cans delivered to the store and purchased four days before the tasting in Burlington, VT
  • Price: $12 for a 4-pack of 16 oz tall boy cans
  • BeerAdvocate Weighted Rating: 4.74 (Holds the #1 spot on the BA list of the top 250 beers in the world)
  • Notes: Brewed with a proprietary blend of six hops and just enough malts to give the beer a backbone, available only in Vermont at the locations and days given on the Alchemist website

Heady Topper Cans

Sip of Sunshine

  • Brewery:  Lawson’s Finest Liquids (Warren, VT)
  • ABV: 8.0%
  • Freshness/Form: Poured from 16 oz tall boy cans delivered to the store and purchased four days before the tasting in Burlington, VT
  • Price: $12 for a 4-pack of 16 oz tall boy cans
  • BeerAdvocate Weighted Rating: 4.56 (Holds the #40 spot on the top 250 beers in the world)
  • Notes: Available only in Vermont at the locations and days given on the Lawson’s website

Sip of Sunshine

Tasting Notes

Let me begin by saying that these three beers are much more similar than they are different. We sampled them side by side, which was essential to tease out the differences.  If you had them weeks or months apart it would be challenging to describe the differences. Hell even when you are drinking them side by side it’s not that easy to tell them apart.

As you can see in the picture below all three beers are light golden and hazy.  Sip of Sunshine was the least hazy of the three while Heady Topper was the haziest, with Bodhi occupying the middle ground.  The aroma is where these beers really shine, a potpourri of smells that hit you with nearly the entire spectrum that can be coaxed out of aromatic American hops—citrus fruits, tropical fruits, pine forest, and some notes that stray over to the dank side of the force.  Here Heady Topper starts to differentiate itself a little from the other two, with a nose that is more fruit forward with notes of lemon and lime that are not easily found in the others, whereas Bodhi and Sip of Sunshine have some darker, danker notes.  The brewers don’t divulge the mixture of hops used in these beers but to my palate both have a bit of the dank cattiness that I typically associate with Simcoe hops.  Interestingly the same molecules register as sharp Parmesan cheese in Nick’s olfactory system.

SoS_Bodhi_HT_tasting glasses
Left-to-right the tasting glasses contained Sip of Sunshine, Heady Topper, and Bodhi

 

The similarities between Bodhi and Sip of Sunshine carry through to the taste, with flavors of freshly squeezed grapefruit leading the way in both beers.  Sip of Sunshine is a touch more bitter with notes of pine emerging mid-palate and a bone dry finish. Bodhi has slightly more fruitiness, a touch of sweetness from the malts in the mid-palate, and like SoS finishes very dry leaving you yearning for the next sip. The alcohol is well hidden in all three beers but the extra 0.5% abv in Bodhi can be detected if you concentrate.  Heady Topper has a slightly different taste profile, it’s very fruity with flavors of lime and lemon taking the lead, while the grapefruit is subjugated to more of a supporting role. There is also peppery spiciness at the finish that is very appealing and not present in the other two beers.  The malts are largely an afterthought in all three beers, but Nick did identify sweetness in Heady Topper that he likened to the presence of honey (as in Bell’s Hopslam, Seventh Son’s Golden Ratio, or Great Lakes Chillwave).  To my knowledge honey is not used in Heady Topper, but it is fair to say that the hop/malt integration is a little more harmonious than the other two, which makes for a more balanced finish.

Results

After tasting in silence, followed by a dissection of the merits of each beer, each panelist rank ordered the beers as follows:

  • Cheryl – Heady Topper (#1) > Sip of Sunshine (#2) > Bodhi (#3)
  • Nick – Heady Topper (#1) > Bodhi (#2) > Sip of Sunshine (#3)
  • Pat – Heady Topper (#1) > Bodhi (#2) ~ Sip of Sunshine (#2)

So Heady Topper defends its title as World Champion Double IPA in a unanimous decision.  As an Ohio beer blogger I was rooting for Bodhi to pull off the upset, but the results have to speak for themselves. All three beers are a showcase for glorious fruity, funky American hop varietals, but Heady Topper just has a certain je ne sais quoi that sets it apart.  It’s a little more fruity and the dank notes in the aroma are less prominent.  I guess it’s the highest rated beer in the world for a reason.  To be honest even in a side by side comparison I had a difficult time differentiating Sip of Sunshine and Bodhi.

What’s the lesson here?  As Ohioan’s we shouldn’t turn green with envy of those who reside in the Green Mountain state, because Bodhi is in the same league as one of the best beers in the world and it’s available year round in Central Ohio.  On the other hand if you happen to find yourself in the verdant mountains of Vermont I highly recommend seeking out some Heady Topper.  The brewers at The Alchemist have concocted a sublime beer that showcases new world hops in all their glory.  It’s worthy of a spot on your bucket list.

If you’ve got suggestions for future rounds of Ohio vs. The World I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment here or on your social media platform of choice.

5 thoughts on “Ohio vs. the World Part I – Bodhi vs Heady Topper vs Sip of Sunshine

Add yours

    1. I agree that really hop-forward beers like these don’t tend to age well. Although aging and traveling are two somewhat different things. When doing comparisons like this I try to get beer as fresh as possible and give details as I have them on the age of the beer. In this case both Heady and SoS had been purchased only 4 days earlier, and from my experience neither sits on the shelf for very long.

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