Focal Banger | The Alchemist Brewery and Visitors Center

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Focal BangerFocal Banger
3,849 Ratings
Focal BangerFocal Banger

Brewed by:
The Alchemist Brewery and Visitors Center
Vermont, United States

Style: New England IPA

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.00%

Availability: Year-round

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

Added by koopa on 07-06-2010

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,849 |  Reviews: 501
Reviews by farrago:
Photo of farrago
4.02/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Two fingers of just off-white foam, decent density and an even surface, retention a bit above average, lacing starts off with broad splotches, however, there’s not much stick to it. Full haze to the yellow hued liquid, light enough that it remains somewhat transparent, good amount of tiny bubbles but no beads. Grassy, peppery nose, the white grapefruit juicy but still adds to the direct, erect posture, softened around the edges by cocoa and malted milk ball notes, gets danker as it warms which blots out some of the ripe pineapple, mango, peach fruit scents, overall the herbaceousness is dominant. Medium-bodied, the carbonation active from the first sip and helps extend palate coverage to completion. Tangerine, pink grapefruit prominent, turning to more sour white grapefruit through the finish. Tar, resin, damp herbal matter anchor it, pine deepens towards the end. Leaves a bitter, tacky residue behind. More doughy than malty per se. The fruit flavors lack clarity, a mixture of peach, apricot, papaya and other tropical fruits, neither too sweet nor tart. Its thickness slowly wears you down, two cans in one sitting might be the limit.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of yarnbomb
5/5  rDev +9.4%
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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Photo of Jason
4.53/5  rDev -0.9%
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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Photo of daudelin2000
4.9/5  rDev +7.2%
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 jzeilinger
4.36/5  rDev -4.6%
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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Photo of Vidblain
5/5  rDev +9.4%
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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Photo of mig100
4.7/5  rDev +2.8%
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.

(Score also based on many cans over the years).

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Photo of Prospero
3.75/5  rDev -17.9%

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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Photo of DavidR_9
4.5/5  rDev -1.5%
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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Photo of CoffeePorter
4.58/5  rDev +0.2%
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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Photo of puboflyons
4.08/5  rDev -10.7%
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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Photo of yesterdayfaraway
3.97/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

L: clear yellow with a finger of foam.
S: Citrus hops, but not a huge aroma.
T: slight citrus and pine on the finish. This is heady's watered down twin
F: easy drinking slight bitter and dry finish.

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Photo of Troybrewing
5/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Awesome smell of juiciness ,citra & mosaic hops. Med. mouth feel and nice bitterness . Had this beer when I was in Vermont. I think you only get it in pubs,but that may changed since Oct when I was there. VERY SCARY EASY DRINKING goes down fast.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.74/5  rDev +3.7%
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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Photo of metter98
4.41/5  rDev -3.5%
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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Photo of MikeyBadnews
4.16/5  rDev -9%
look: 1.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

This beer has more ups and downs than a roller coaster, certainly an experience worthy of review.

Look is atrocious, it looks like someone blew their nose in a Coors Light, or to be less disgusting a well shaken snow globe. I know I know "DRINK FROM THE CAN" but you cant properly assess look and aroma from the confines of a 16 ounce can.

Aroma doesn't hit all the right notes either. Smells like someone farted on a fruit salad. Is it more fart than fruit? Not sure, it's certainly unique.

Taste, well the most important category knocks it completely out of the park, it's fresh, crisp pear, cantaloupe, blueberry,... dank. Everything for everybody an incredible taste, washes down a little bitter but flavors persist, Shocked to see such a disparity between nose and taste. The dirty gaseous fusel fruity bogus-ness vanishes and a delicious flavors takes its place, complex and GREAT!

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Photo of Dolphinsmarlins1
4.59/5  rDev +0.4%
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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Photo of Back_in_the_Saddle
4.63/5  rDev +1.3%
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 Frudel
4.2/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500ml Can. Yellowish liquid with a decent white head with nice retention, some yeast particles inside the glass as well. Nose is hoppy as F*ck, citrus, pine, grapefruit, floral. Taste is medium bitterness, light sweetness, well balanced malt presence and hops, tasty! The mouthfeel is gorgeous as well, medium body.

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Photo of swedishmailman
4.61/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Drinking the first 1/3 or so from the can and then pouring the rest into a Dogfish IPA glass.

Appearance is a hazy golden, straw yellow with lots of sediment floating around. I can see through the beer the tiniest amount when I hold it up to the light. The head is slightly off white, with tight bubbles that cling and stick to the edges of the glass, but dissipates slightly from the initial pour. Lacing looks inviting. From the first glance, I wouldn't think this was an IPA.

Aroma is really pungent, lots of citrus; mostly orange. The aroma is just pouring out of the can. I get a bit of a malt backbone, but it's mostly just huge hops on the nose. Real dankness.

Taste has a nice hop bitterness up front, but nothing overwhelming. The middle of the mouth takes a huge turn into piney goodness that I wasn't getting on the nose. There's a lingering bitterness and pungent flavor on the finish. The flavor doesn't quite stick around in your mouth as long as Heady does, but it's still a fantastic beer.

Mouthfeel is medium, leaning towards the thinner side. Really creamy carbonation that is probably my favorite characteristic of this beer. Extremely drinkable. If it were just a little bit more full, I would give the mouthfeel a 5.

Overall this is definitely a super drinkable IPA that I would buy regularly if I were able to. Not quite up there with my favorite IPA's but definitely world class. Worth trading for and will continue to search for more. Cheers!

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Photo of ryan1788a5
4.51/5  rDev -1.3%
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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Photo of jwhancher
4.99/5  rDev +9.2%
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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Photo of Bruno74200
4.81/5  rDev +5.3%
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 manfromanotherplace
4.24/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A very nice IPA, better than Heady Topper for sure, there's a lot more going on in here than Heady and its definitely a little fruitier, however this is still overrated and simply usnt up to the standard of ipa being set by the likes of treehouse, grimm, finback etc. How this is #8 in the world is baffling. Very good but seek out the breweries i mentioned and you'll find better alternatives.

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Photo of q33jeff
3.67/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5


Drank most from the can as suggested. Poured the middle third into a snifter to better assess aroma and appearance.

LOOK: clear yellow color, small white head.
AROMA: tropical fruits, mango, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon,

TASTE: some floral and and fruity notes, but mostly dry hair spray.

FEEL: good carbonation, light to medium body, easy drinking.

I thought i was starting to understand some of the ipa craze, but this is one beer I thought I would really like, but I think it is only ok. It is certainly not bad, the mosaic hops give it decent flavor, but not what I would expect from the 30th highest rated beer on BA.


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Focal Banger from The Alchemist Brewery and Visitors Center
Beer rating: 4.57 out of 5 with 3,849 ratings