Focal Banger | The Alchemist

332 Reviews
Focal BangerFocal Banger

Brewed by:
The Alchemist
Vermont, United States

Style: American IPA

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
An American IPA, hopped judiciously with Citra and Mosaic.

Added by hillvt4me on 01-30-2014

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 332 | Ratings: 2,771
Photo of Mikedhoppy
4.84/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Was lucky to score a single can a couple weeks back. Following directions and drinking from can so no comments on appearance. Nice mouthfeel. Taste is great! Not malty just a super hopped IPA that lives up to its reputation.

 224 characters

Photo of Meyers1023
4.71/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured a golden wheat color with ample amounts of white head. The smell has a ton of pine in it mixed with citrus fruits and a good bit of malt. The flavor is very balanced. The combination of piney dankness, fruity sweetness, and malty bread works perfectly in this beer. The hype around this one is well deserved.

 315 characters

Photo of c_tails
4.63/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

had in can at Owl Farm NYC around a day after they got a delivery of it.

bar tender poured it into a wine glass but left a few ounces left in the can

not sure what there is to say about this that hasn't already been said but i was excited to try it.

i didn't intensely scan it, but i didn't see any floaties that a number of reviews have mentioned.

with all the dankness, bitterness I loved how smooth it was. nice medium mouthfeel. crisp. really bright and lively feeling of freshness.

its an intense beer that i thoroughly enjoyed, i'd gladly drink it again if i could find it. hopefully they are more available at bars in NYC now!

 642 characters

Photo of brewale4me
4.89/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Appearance: light gold, white head
Aroma: fruity, grassy fresh hop, mango, grapefruit, pine, yeasty biscuit
Taste: grassy, dank, grapefruit, pine, mango, sticky lupulin resinous, biscuit malts
Mouth feel: medium to full bodied. The carbonation brings the experience to your senses.
Overall impression: YUM!!! GREAT FOR ANY HOP HEAD.

 336 characters

4.91/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

The Alchemist Focal Banger

A: This single IPA from the legendary Vermont brewery that arguably started the NE IPA craze pours a pale, lightly hazy golden yellow. Lacing is excellent, and the two fingers of virgin snow head stick around forever, eventually settling into a densely-packed half finger of foam. This would be a perfect appearance of it were not for the ridiculous levels of yeasty, hoppy detritus; it looks like a beer snow globe as it is tossed around by the above average carbonation, and if it all were to settle, there would be over a finger of sediment at the bottom. Many will find this off-putting, and it is less aesthetically pleasing than the truly hazy (as opposed to packed with chunks on chunks on chunks of floaties) NE IPAs that have come around since The Alchemist (arguably) first broke that ground. 3.5/5

A: Even though this uses two of the fruitiest hops around in Mosaic and Citra, what wafts from the glass and empty can is pure, resinous dankness. Pine, grass, pungent marijuana, and earthy spiciness lead the way, but it is not all brutality. Juicy grapefruit, orange flesh, citrus peel, bitter pith, white grapes, blueberries, mango, pineapple, passion fruit, lemon, and lime. Lightly honeyed malt is hardly present at all, as this is a clear showcase for the hops and nothing else. 5/5

T: Shockingly, the flavor comes off significantly fruitier up front than the aroma led on, but the balance remains impeccable. Candied pineapple, juicy mango, orange, white grapes, white grape skin, tangerine, clementine, papaya, passion fruit, ruby grapefruit, mandarin, lemon, lime, and blueberries are all noticeable. There is a surprising amount of sweetness that really makes the fruitiness pop. Building throughout each sip is that moderately high dank, piney, earthy bitterness, which had added a hint of garlic and onion to cover basically every hop flavor possible. Truly a magnum opus of hoppiness. 5/5

M: Continuing perfection, Focal is on the lighter side of medium, yet it still comes off creamy, slick, and slightly sticky. The finish is almost entirely dry with the above moderate bitterness. Carbonation is moderate, right where it should be. Each sip remains interesting for the duration and beckons for another drink. Wonderful. 5/5

O: For my money, no single IPA is better than this. Some are equal (Hill Farmstead offerings mainly), but apart from the comparably lackluster appearance, there are no flaws to be found here. This beer contains the best of both sides of the IPA spectrum and everything in between in aroma, taste, and mouthfeel. It is bitter enough to satisfy West Coast hop heads yet juicy enough to hang with the best NE IPAs. Additionally, this is also better than Heady Topper thanks to the more svelte malt bill (which also helps it crush The Crusher). The Alchemist is still king, accept no substitutes. Pair with the similarly ahead of its time high watermark "Obscura" by the inimitable Gorguts. 5/5

 2,970 characters

Photo of bigdaddymick
4.88/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer is much better than heady topper in my opinion. If you have to pick between the two, I would opt for this one. Can't review the look because it's supposed to be drunk from a can but the smell is very intense and pungent hop notes with citrusy characteristics. This beer strikes the perfect balance between flavor and carbonation. Shyttt is bomb

 354 characters

Photo of JohnnieB71
4.44/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a fantastic NE IPA. A delightful hop bomb with a crisp mouth feel. I could probably drink these all day on a hot summer day and not get tired of it.

 156 characters

Photo of Amguerra305
4.58/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Had this back to back with Heady and this one is better. Pours a very hazy orangey golden color with a bunch of thing suspended in the beer. Smell is generalized citrus with grapefruit predominating. Whereas Heady had the more complex smell, this one has the more complex taste. Taste follows right along with smell. Citrus yet it has a dry finish and is not at all sweet. Very balanced and not overly bitter on the back end. Feel is medium. Overall this is a great beer, mostly due to the hop profile. Classic NE IPA.

 527 characters

Photo of oldsailor
4.45/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This beer stays true to The Alchemists level of brewing. It is a world class beer with the flavors and mouthfeel you come to expect from them. Never would turn this down and always want more!

 191 characters

Photo of Gavage
4.54/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: pours a hazy golden yellow color with a 2" head that lasts a while. Mild lace paints the glass.

Smell: citrus and some herbal tones rise from the glass.

Taste: grapefruit, lemon zest, pear, and a perfectly balanced bitterness.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied. Crisp from start to finish with a slight dry ending.

Overall: this is a very tasty and refreshing IPA.

 371 characters

Photo of Krishmish
3.75/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

I was honestly let down by this beer. Crusher is one of my all time favorites and obviously Heady is one of the best out there, but focal banger was a huge let down. Too boozy without much flavors to offset it. It's not so bad that I would turn it down, but wouldn't go out of my way for it.

 291 characters

Photo of HopLover1
4.68/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I have had heady on a few different occasions and was pleasantly surprised at how much different focal was. Upon opening the can the aroma jumps out at you and after tasting, the flavor to me, is the best part! Very well executed east coast style.

 247 characters

Photo of jzeilinger
4.36/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Many thanks to millerbuffoon for this can of hoppiness.

A - Pours a hazy medium gold color with a very frothy, white, creamy head. Carbonation is moderate and steady.

S - Weak nose. Herbally, yeasty, with some citrus. The nose is nothing special. (Contrary to the label art.)

T - Balanced from start to finish. Citrus, grapefruit, yeasty, some spicy citrus rind and ends with some moderate piney/citrus bitterness.

M - Heavy medium body with light prickly carbonation that quickly gives way to a creamy finish.

O - This is a really solid beer but a "100" rating is over-stated.

 586 characters

Photo of dgmirelli
4.65/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

most excellent probably like this much more than Heady, poured a little in to a glass to view, mostly yellow and light. the deep smell and taste of an alchemist beer, deep flavor citrus and a very balanced offering, wish access was consistent would have this often. less carbonated then heady and this is a good thing. great great beer.

 338 characters

Photo of SeanBond
4.85/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

(October 2016) Everybody loves a good citra-mosaic mashup, so it's not surprising that the Alchemist has one. The aroma on this one is pretty bright in the way you'd expect, and the taste is awesome, bursting with citra-mosaic goodness. The thing that really puts Kimmich's beers over the top, in my opinion, is the nice malt balance he gives the beers; they've all got substance that really adds to the fresh hop flavors.

In terms of look, this is probably the only beer that I can genuinely see an argument for drinking out of the can. I'll still always drink it out of a glass, but the sediment in the Focal can is thick enough that it's genuinely off-putting. Not really a mark against the beer (outside of literally when I'm ranking beers based on look), but I can see the argument here.

Either way, this is the beer I'd always get, were I at the Alchemist. Tastier than Heady, and slightly less bitter than Crusher, this is a new favorite of mine. All 3 are great beers, but Kimmich really hit it out of the park with this one.

Note - I've raised the "look" category to a 4.5 to reflect the fact that that portion of the rating drops the beer down slightly more overall than it deserves. The look is at best a 4.25 to me (if that), but since this is one of my top 5 DIPAs all-time (to date), there's no reason to let the look get in the way.

 1,350 characters

Photo of WunderLlama
4.58/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Can poured into a Sam Adams glass

Solid , creamy three finger white foam head. Could float a bottle cap on it. Great lacings. Translucent yellow orange with loads of micro carbonation. One yeast thread clings new the bottom of the glass. Hence the instructions to drink it from the can.

Great aroma , smell orange citrus when I pop the can. More citrus on the pour

First sip from the the can tastes of citrus and pine hops. Orang and citrus hops dominate from the glass pour.

Suds up very well , creamy smooth, a hop bite that lingers on the tongue.

Great beer

 569 characters

Photo of MikeyMcD86
4.5/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Alchemist says drink it from the can and I can see why! My fiance and I split the can so I poured it out into two glasses and we got a huge lump of sediment plop out of the can. BE AWARE WHEN POURING THIS BEER!

Look: I'm going to try to overlook the chunks of floating sediment. Beer comes in a light golden color with medium to medium minus haze. Nice even bubble structure but not much head.

Smell: Can definitely tell this is a derivative of Heady of Topper. Less Pine than Heady. The lemongrass which was very much in the background with Heady is the predominant aroma here along with that wonderful yeastiness that I got in Heady Topper as well. It also has a nice herbal/mintyness.

Taste: Very refreshing. Lots of citrus but it's pithy as opposed to juicy. A little pine on the back end but it is still just hitting me with over the top pithy bitterness.

Feel: Not the thinnest IPA I've ever had but I would not call this beer creamy.

Overall(Style points): While this beer screams Alchemist its not as much of a juice bomb as I was hoping for. 91 Points.

 1,068 characters

Photo of DIM
4.36/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very enticing, delicate tropical fruit and juicy citrus aromas with scant sugar cookie balance. Unfortunately that tropical fruit was largely missing behind some surprisingly strong citrus rind bitterness. This is a damn good ipa, just not on par with the other two ipa's I've had from the Alchemist.

 300 characters

Photo of LAp
4.89/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Nosed from the can, it's straight pine and marijuana. Poured into two separate teku glasses (yes, yes, I know, flaunting the instructions on the can), we see a hazy orange beer, with a one-finger white head. Nosed from the teku, it's dank as dank can be. This beer smells like pure marijuana, in a way that is unlike any DIPA I've ever tried before. The palate......wait. Wut? This beer tastes like week. I think they replaced humulus lupulus with cannabis for this canning. Pine and weed blend in an incredibly savory beer, accented by a faint undercurrent of honey-sweetness from marginal malt addition. Mouthfeel is solid medium.

I'm pretty sure this beer could be poured into a bong, smoked, and would induce a high. This beer is unique. Unlike anything I've tried before (even The Crusher and Heady Topper don't have the same bold MJ note of this beer). It's singular. It's incredible. It's absolutely world class.

 934 characters

Photo of Zonk
3.55/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Got a ton of onion on this unfortunately, Will definitely try it again soon. Think it may be a personal issue as I have been getting a lot of onion off beers recently.

 168 characters

Photo of mattmarch
3.98/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured a sample from the can and drank the rest straight.
Slightly hazy golden straw color.
Smell of strong pine and onion, earthy and maybe a little mango.
Taste of bitter pine sap, tropical fruit mango and orange peel. Very bitter piney finish.
Definitely a hop bomb.

 272 characters

Photo of jooler
4.43/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

look is like a juice bomb, hazy orange.
smell is extremely hoppy and citrus.
taste is amazing. really hoppy and citrusy. some mango and melon comes through.
feel is just right on the carbonation.
overall, an amazing Ripa but only issue is that the aftertaste has an unpleasant bitter bite.

 290 characters

Photo of BeerGuy8315
4.46/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

No can date, but it's a few weeks old if my info is correct.

A: Poured a small amount into a glass to rate appearance and drank the rest out of the can. Hazy, yellow-gold in color with a large foamy white head with short retention. Foamy white lacing.

S: Aromas of lemon and citrus fruits. Pineapple and passionfruit. Piney and resinous hops.

T: Starts off with milder notes of grapefruit and melons followed quickly by strong notes of piney, earthy, and resinous hops. Very hop-forward with an extreme lingering bitterness. Tropical fruit notes become more evident as the beer warms.

F: Light to medium bodied, crisp, and fairly dry. Good carbonation.

O: Overall, a great IPA. Straight hop bomb. Love all the hops, but the fruitiness that comes forth as the beer warms is a refreshing balance. Would love to try this fresh from the source. I did try another can earlier and remember enjoying it much more than this, but I didn't write review notes for that one.

 967 characters

Photo of Zythophile
4.31/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Can Date: purchased 10/14/16
Palate Contaminants: none

The look is a slightly opaque, light gold with plenty of head.

The smell is pistachios and mango, mostly. There's a little citrus and a little pine, but they're in the background. It has a really nice balance of savory and sweet.

The taste up front is a blast of tropical fruit, mango and papaya. It's slightly acidic, but it's not particularly citric. From fruit, it turns to moss, then to hoppy bitterness and malt that also has a bit of white wood. It really does show up in phases.

The carbonation is very well integrated. I just wish the aftertaste was more complex, it's just the woody bitterness that's also the last flavor before swallowing.

 708 characters

Photo of wbizbot
4.59/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

In a time not so long ago there was a beer called Focal Banger It seems at first, It was only available in local bars and restaurants. Well, being a local, I got used to this. Then, as quickly as it came, it vanished from the greater Burlington area. Rumor on the street was that it would be available exclusively at the retail location in Waterbury. After several months of listless pining, I felt I had finally grown to accept this new reality. Nevertheless, I found myself occasionally compelled to request it at places where Heady Topper appeared on the menu. I knew the anwser, but asked it anyway- perhaps as a sort of symbolic gesture or solemn ode, to the beer that once existed so prominitely in the geography of my daily life. Then suddenly it happened. An anwser I did not expect. From the most unlikely of casual chain dining reauraunts inbetween a movie theatre and Best Buy. Yes. We do have Focal Banger, she replied. In disbelief, I had to ask the waitress to repeat this. And she did. And it was true. And she wisked off. Then there it was- that mythical black and silver can, all shining and gosaamer. And I drank it. And it was good. And it reminded me if the old times, when everything was right with the world.

 1,238 characters

Focal Banger from The Alchemist
4.58 out of 5 based on 2,771 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.