Focal Banger
The Alchemist

Focal BangerFocal Banger
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New England IPA
Ranked #16
Ranked #52
4.6 | pDev: 7.17%
The Alchemist
Vermont, United States
Focal BangerFocal Banger
Notes: An American IPA, hopped judiciously with Citra and Mosaic.
Reviews: 576 | Ratings: 4,153 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by Papaloth:
Photo of Papaloth
5/5  rDev +8.7%

Papaloth from Indiana, Jul 14, 2014
More User Reviews:
Photo of yarnbomb
5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Is it really that good? Yes. It certainly is. You want fruit? You got it. Want hops? They're there. Fancy bitter flavors, galore. It really is all that.

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yarnbomb from Vermont, Mar 24, 2015
Photo of Jason
4.53/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

STYLE American IPA | ABV 7.0% | AVAILABILITY Year-round

Bitter, Grassy, Rind, Piney

Yeah, I know, “Drink From The Can!” I had to take a look though. Pours very hazy with a beautiful dense head. Smells and tastes like fresh squeezed hops if that was even possible. Bitterness is there but never reaches the level of no return and the palate has to deal with wave after wave of extra juicy, citrusy, piney and grassy hop flavor. Yes, it’s better than Heady Topper.

Review from BeerAdvocate magazine issue #102 (JUL 2015)

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Jason from Massachusetts, Jun 08, 2014
Photo of daudelin2000
4.9/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Is it possible that the Alchemist can brew a beer better than Heady Topper? Yes! At least, in my opinion although I'm probably in the minority. The Alchemist doesn't offer much for variety so they can focus on a couple of beers and really perfect them. And perfect them they have.

Focal pours a light golden color and is very hazy, much like Heady. But that's where the similarities end. Aroma is citrus juice and candied fruits. Taste follows. Very juicy and very citrusy with a slight candied fruit taste. The finish is dry with a moderate bitterness. I get a lot of grass and pine from Heady, but not Focal. It's more of a straight up juice bomb. Mouthfeel is medium with perfect carbonation. What an amazing beer. It's a shame they don't distribute it to the same stores as Heady.

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Photo of Vidblain
5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

While I understand that bitterness is not everyone's cup of tea, it seems that Focal Banger is the IPA's community's new darling specifically due to the softer, less bitter mouth feel (vs. The Alchemist's original golden child, Heady Topper). The beers do not seem to vary greatly in any other aspect.

That is to say - as Heady is fantastic, Focal is also an incredible beer. A tiny bit of head to the beer, a lovely, hoppy nose, and a soft, juicy mouth feel - The Alchemist has another winner here. I like both beers over Crusher (a contentious opinion, I know...).

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Vidblain from Minnesota, Dec 15, 2017
Photo of jzeilinger
4.36/5  rDev -5.2%
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.

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jzeilinger from Pennsylvania, Nov 12, 2016
Photo of mig100
4.7/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Fresh on tap, direct from John Kimmich/The Alchemist at FW Invitational. Bright and radiant sunshine glow with dense 3 finger head and sticky, bubbly lacing remaining all over the glass. Dank, delicious, pungent marijuana aroma with huge blasts of tropical citrus and resinous earthy hops that coat the palate and linger. Next level shit. Consider my focal banged.

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mig100 from Texas, May 30, 2015
Photo of CoffeePorter
4.58/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I picked this up in a trade with BostonHoppa on 4/26/2015.
A: Hazy, bright yellow in color with a thin, white, foamy head that doesn't dissipate.
S: Dank resin, mild citrus notes, piney/grassy. Some malty sweetness to it.
T: Similar to nose, tasted zero alcohol, very balanced IPA, the malty sweet backbone balanced perfectly with the bitter hop kick to it. Has a nice grapefruit aftertaste. Picked up some dank stickiness mid sip.
M: Medium body, medium carbonation, mild to moderate bitterness.
O: I thought it was an extremely good IPA, not the best I have ever had, but it's definitely up there.

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CoffeePorter from Massachusetts, Apr 27, 2015
Photo of ryan1788a5
4.51/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

16oz can poured into a globe.

A: Sunshine golden color with a heavy haze. Creamy fine-bubbled head retains at an inch in height throughout. Thin broken rings of lacing.

S: Pungent and heady. Pineapple, papaya, mashed mango, white grapefruit, sweet cannabis, Lemonhead candy, earthy, wet leaves. Rustic edge. Doughy.

T: Raw hops. Earthy, leafy, herbal, peppery. Sweet cannabis. Passion fruit. White grapefruit, mango, pineapple. Stiff bitterness. Doughy and slightly honeyed. Gritty and earthy hops lay down herbs and freshly cut grass on a long finish.

M: Medium-thick body. Round and velvety texture. Ridiculous smoothness. Acutely sharp carbonation. Gritty hop astringency is minor.

O: This is every bit as good as Heady Topper. Raw, rustic, and bursting with hop flavor. The Alchemist has really honed the art of crafting an excellent ipa. This is about as good as it gets. God I love Citra and Mosaic.

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ryan1788a5 from Massachusetts, Feb 09, 2015
Photo of Bruno74200
4.81/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Very pale yellow. Very not that hazy. And very nice foamy head. Great lacing.

The mosaic is very strong here but the citra does its part too. Great passion fruit notes. Bubblegum wheat, mango, guava.
Incredibly intense, the taste follows with a great bitterness making it a real pleasure. Some coconut noted. Resinous and herbal notes.

It tastes like fresh hop juice

Oily, dry to semi-dry, fine carbonation

Overall this is definitely not a softer version of heady topper. This is a beer on its own and it's a great one. The hops seems fresher and more expressive but the whole thing is a bit less balanced and more hop forward

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Photo of remingtonsteele1987
4.49/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured a 16oz can into a snifter, sorry not consumed out of the can. Nice, light orange color and slightly hazy appearance with a white two finger head. Loads of pine, resin, yeast, and papaya aromas. Some lemon, orange and dankness breaks through as it warms in the glass. Flavors totally mirror the aroma with hoppy bitterness and subtle fruit sweetness. Nice, hoppy bitterness lingers for some time. Great IPA!

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Photo of puboflyons
4.08/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From the one pint can that was delivered to my store on 7/30/18. Sampled on August 2, 2018.

It pours a murky, milky looking pale yellow underneath a boisterous, soft and foamy white head that linger and laces.

The aroma brings out elements of pine, citrus, grapefruit, and grainy sweet malts. Only 7% but perhaps a hint of booze.

Medium to full body and effervescent.

Big bitterness is the short description of the taste. Yeah, I get a little smooth malt sweetness but the eruption of bitter citrus and pine hops send those to the showers right off. Lingering bitter finish. To me, this feels more like a traditional IPA rather than a so-called New England IPA.

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puboflyons from New Hampshire, Aug 02, 2018
Photo of larryi86
4.53/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Thank you jhavs for this
16 oz can, half in a teku, half in the the can.

A- A hazy golden copper with a large white head.

S- Pineapple, mango, tropical fruits, some grapefruit, very dank, hints of malt sweetness.

T- Super dank resin hops, very bitter finish, nice pineapple/mango thing going on, hints of caramel malts, some grapefruit/citrus. Probably the dankest beer I've tried.

M- Smooth, medium body.

O- A great IPA worth seeking out. With that being said it is not the fruitest IPA out there, definitely considering it is brewed with citra and mosiac, but isn't as overwhelmingly dank from the can. Very drinkable, taste lingers beautifully.

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larryi86 from Delaware, Sep 19, 2016
Photo of DavidR_9
4.5/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Cans from 8/3/18. Also tastes better and less muddled after a week or so in the can.

Really solid IPA, a sharper and thinner citrusy flavor than Heady Topper, more dankness, but not as much lingering flavor and thickness in mouthfeel.

Once again, this is a bitter but tasty Vermont IPA, NOT a hazey juice bomb.

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DavidR_9 from California, Aug 25, 2018
Photo of EMV
4.5/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a tallboy can into a Dogfish Head tulip... love the artwork (got the tee at the visitor's center to boot).

L: Slightly cloudy golden pour with 2 fingers of foamy white head. Spectacular lacing.

S: Citrus rind... resin and notes of pine. Smells a lot like a Heady.

T/F: Dry grainy malt backbone forms the base upon which is layered a classic Alchemist hop profile. Bitter grapefruit, herbals, pine, and very light tropical notes. Deliciously bitter... balanced... medium to light in body. Well carbonated.. and the finish is bitter citrus rind.

O: Really enjoyed this beer. We got to have it on-tap as well at the brewery... and for what it's worth I think Heady Topper is the better beer on draft. In the can... Banger may get the nod. Slightly lighter... similar delicious flavor. Just awesome beer.

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EMV from Pennsylvania, Dec 29, 2017
Photo of Prospero
3.75/5  rDev -18.5%

Nice white head, great golden straw color, aroma & flavor of citrus. Great overall beer with nice mouthfeel and think it's quite sessionable but the hop flavor and aroma seem a tad muted versus other IPAs that are similar. Much prefer Alpine IPAs, but good IPA regardless.

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Prospero from Colorado, Sep 06, 2014
Photo of jmasher85
4.96/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

In the world of beer, there are objective truths. Some beers are so good, anybody who doesn't love them it is not truly an appreciator of beer. Sure, there are people who don't like IPAs at all and maybe this isn't the beer that will convince them. But if you like IPAs even a little, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better one. In short, if you don't love this beer, you are wrong about beer. If you love IPAs and this isn't at least in your top 3, yeah, you're also wrong.

I would attempt to break down and describe the positive elements of this IPA, but the answer is all of them. Everything you like in an IPA is in this beer. It's all perfectly balanced, perfectly realized, perfectly done. Bitter, but not too bitter. Fruity, and in the most deliciously, drinkabley fruity way. Piney and a little dank, but just the right amount to balance the fruit. Creamy, soft mouth feel that still leaves a crisp prickle on your palate.

Are you a fan of both action movies, romantic comedies, and profound psychological drama? Imagine all those elements appearing in a movie together and it's your favorite movie in the world. That's where this beer is. And if you are reading about this beer instead of drinking it, you're doing everything wrong. I don't even know why I'm wasting time writing this review for you. Once you taste it, you already know everything that I've told you is true. from the can or from the glass, I would even challenge and then it doesn't matter. Hell, go half and half and see for yourself.

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jmasher85 from Maryland, Feb 15, 2019
Photo of Footballtennishockeygolf
5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Strong citrus flavor highlighted by lychee and grapefruit with virtually no bitterness. One of the better beers I've ever tasted

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Photo of mschrei
4.79/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured into snifter. Big particulates floating with moderate lacing. Big danky smell. Hoppy and malty balance with a moderate bitterness. A great beer.

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mschrei from Illinois, Sep 05, 2016
Photo of Greywulfken
4.74/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Citra and Mosaic IPA at 7% abv - almost like cheating - medium gold and hazed, drank the bulk from a pint, finished the remains from the can - big aromas of citrusy pine followed by a wallop of bitter hop action crashing across the tongue. Suggestions of earthy, musky citrus fruit and with herbal pine around the edges, keeping it tight with tongue-clenching bitterness. Medium-light body, ample carbonation, and a clean, crisp feel. Finishes with a craving for me, but here in NY, I'm lucky I even got to try one. I like it more than Heady...

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Greywulfken from New York, Oct 23, 2016
Photo of Dolphinsmarlins1
4.59/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

As someone said in line while waiting at The Alchemist, "Heady may be the beer that built this house, but Focal is king." I'm so happy this is becoming more readily available, and I think others will agree soon enough that this one rivals, if not bests Heady Topper.

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Dolphinsmarlins1 from Massachusetts, Jul 26, 2016
Photo of Back_in_the_Saddle
4.63/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Can at Burlington Airport - The Skinny Pancake.
I asked for a glass, sorry John Kimmich, I wanted to give it a "correct" review.
They gave me a stemmed pilsener. Hmmmm...not sure how this is gonna go given, wrong glassware. Here's the rest based on observations.
The appearance was the typical TA unfiltered look, yes, the floaties John likes to hide. Muddled brown to orange color. One finger white foamy head that dissipated in about a minute. Some stringy lacing here and there.
The smell had a big burst of the grapefruit to piney oily hops. Resinous and pounding my nostrils in a harsh way.
The taste was sweet yet bitter and pounds at my taste buds nicely. Lingering resinous aftertaste slides into the finish.
The mouthfeel was sharp with the resin hitting my tongue in a pronounced yet profane burst. In trying to say "uncle" to the beer, I think I fell off my chair.
Overall, in every way known to mankind, there are IPA's that do their respect to be bittersweet. But this one just takes the cake to the extreme, wooeee. Send me to bed, momma, of course I'd have this again.

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Photo of jwhancher
4.99/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow....I think I like this one better than Heady Topper. When you pop the can, it's just like opening up a pack of fresh hops. There is so much citrus and dank green hop aromas going on. Can't see what it looks like cuz I drank it straight from the can as instructed but the artwork is killer and top notch. Tastes great. So much ripe dank hop goodness. After this and a Heady Topper previous to this one, the alcohol is going straight to my head.

This is really an awesome beer. Glad I made the pilmagrige to the Alchemist today. John is really running a top-notch operation. Cheers!

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jwhancher from Pennsylvania, Jan 31, 2017
Photo of metter98
4.41/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Can at Hellcat Annie’s, New York, NY

A: The beer is slightly hazy yellow in color and has a slight amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a short white head that quickly died down, leaving lacing on the surface and a narrow collar around the edge of the glass.
S: Moderate aromas of grapefruit are present in the nose along with notes of pineapples and hints of pine.
T: The taste follows the smell and starts off with juicy flavors of grapefruit and pineapples and finishes with piney hops. There is a moderate amount of bitterness.
M: It feels medium-bodied and crisp on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is kind of like a blend between a New England IPA and a West Coast IPA as it combines the juiciness and pineyness from the hops.

Serving type: can

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metter98 from New York, Dec 02, 2017
Photo of Mjwasserman
5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is a what an America IPA should taste like. Hits you in the face in the best way possible. Bit of an old school malt bill. I would take this over any of the juice bombs flooding the market these days. They went big and came up with something spectacular that still hasn't gotten old. I have been drinking this for years and it is just as mind blowing as the first time I had it--can't say that about many beers. If I had to choose a beer to represent America this would be it.

Flavor: Pure dankness
Aroma: Smells like weed and English malt
Appearance: Plenty hazy, perfect head retention
Feel: Appropriate for an intense IPA

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Mjwasserman from New York, Sep 02, 2018
Focal Banger from The Alchemist
Beer rating: 100 out of 100 with 4153 ratings