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Published: 11/7/2013 - Updated: 5 months ago

GROWING PAINS COME TO A HEAD FOR BREWER

Neighborhood chaos prompts retail side of operation to close

Popular Heady Topper beer closes Vt. retail site after neighbors' complaints

ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Alchemist brewery’s distinctive Heady Topper has become so popular its sales have grown 600 percent in two years. With success comes growing pains for the Vermont brewer, which will close and move its retail operations to avoid legal problems with its neighbors. The Alchemist brewery’s distinctive Heady Topper has become so popular its sales have grown 600 percent in two years. With success comes growing pains for the Vermont brewer, which will close and move its retail operations to avoid legal problems with its neighbors.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

WATERBURY, Vt. — A Vermont microbrewery that makes one of the world’s best beers plans to close down its retail operation to head off the trouble that’s brewing with its neighbors.

Heady Topper cans roll off the line at the Alchemist brewery in Waterbury, Vt. Sales have grown 600 percent for the company. Heady Topper cans roll off the line at the Alchemist brewery in Waterbury, Vt. Sales have grown 600 percent for the company.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

Customers lined up at The Alchemist brewery on Tuesday to buy cases of Heady Topper, the double IPA that Beer Advocate magazine recently ranked No. 1 out of the top 250 beers in the world.

The hoppy concoction is so popular — sales have grown 600 percent in the two years since the brewery opened on the outskirts of Waterbury — that owners Jen and John Kimmich plan to shutter their retail operation on Nov. 15 to avoid a neighborhood dispute.

“We’ve had complaints from neighbors,” Jen Kimmich said. “We would have had to fight to keep on going. ... We decided to close down before it turns into a large legal battle.”

The couple plan to re-open the retail outlet as soon as possible and is looking for other locations in Waterbury, Ms. Kimmich said. While the retail end of the business is closing for now, the brewery will continue operating and will keep its staff of 25, she said.

The Alchemist has become a jewel in the frothy crown of Vermont microbreweries that had spawned a new sort of beer tourism, in which connoisseurs from around the world would come to sample prize-winning brews of Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Waitsfield, the Shed in Stowe, Hill Farmstead in Greensboro, and others.

Even a temporary closure was a disappointment to fans stopping by the shop.

“It’s a sad situation, it really is,” said Andy McLenithan of Manchester in southern Vermont, who with his co-worker Scott Senecal had driven an hour out of their way on the trip home from building a baseball diamond in St. Johnsbury to stop at the Waterbury brewery.

While news of the closing was greeted with grief-stricken comments by customers who crashed the Heady Topper Web site Tuesday afternoon, it drew a big sigh of relief from Amy Kinsell, who owns the house next door to the brewery,

“The busier they’ve gotten, the more chaotic my life has gotten,” she said in an interview on her front porch. Beer lovers can be more boisterous than considerate at times. The driveway at the Kimmichs’ business is easy to miss, and Ms. Kinsell said there was one half-hour period last summer when 26 people turned around in her driveway.

When she parked a vehicle across the entrance to her driveway to slow that traffic down, people turned around on her grass, she said. Then there were the smoke and odors from the brewery’s operations, and noise from the refrigerated trucks in its backyard.

There was no drowning her sorrows in her neighbor’s product, Ms. Kinsell said. “I’m not a beer drinker, not a fan of any beer.”



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