The Alchemist started as a small 60 seat brew pub in Waterbury, VT in 2003. Alchemist specializes in fresh, unfiltered IPAs.

In 2011 the family run operation transitioned from brew pub to brewery with a 15 barrel system with canning capabilities. They only brewed the famous Heady Topper in this facility.

Fast forward to July 2016, The Alchemist Brewery and Visitor’s Center opened its doors in Stowe, VT. Their second year-round beer, Focal Banger IPA is brewed there, along with other seasonals and rotating series brews. Samples, retail purchases, and merchandise are all available at this location.

This review is on Focal Banger, their second year-round American IPA. This style usually uses American hops with lots of citrus and big herbal presence.

High in IBUs, with average body and a malt foundation that rounds out the beer. Typical abv is 5.55% to 7.5% for this particular style. Focal banger falls within this range at 7%.

It had been a few years since my friend Jim blessed me with a Heady Topper, that my new hockey teammate Mark gifted me this Focal Banger IPA.

A sly smirk on his face as he handed it over, I knew this beer was gonna be a monster. So Jeff (fellow contributor on The Craft Beer Diaries) and I were ready to record our video review.

It can be hard for some beers to live up to hype and expectations, but I remained hopeful this one would hold up.

Upon pouring, I was a little surprised it wasn’t more hazy. A tad bit cloudy but unfiltered looking at most with a light amber color. A small amount of head, maybe one finger, which held up really well as we prepared to smell and taste it.

With my nose buried in my glass, I inhaled a fruit assault on my senses. Also a little bit flowery, but in no way overpowering.

Citra and Mosaic hops are featured in this particular brew. Citra carries with it foral and fruity notes, definitely present here. Mosaic is a triple threat, like Justin Timberlake, who can sing, act and dance.

This hop variety is great for bittering, flavoring, and the aromatics! And yes, I’m a fan of both Timberlake and Mosaic.

So now I tasted this beer, and let it sit for a second or two in my mouth before swallowing.  I pictured Mark’s face again, and now I fully understood the look he had on his face. Focal Banger not only held up the my expectations, it exceeded them.

It was perfectly hopped, and well balanced with the addition of British malts. The power of the hop aroma was equally as present in the taste. It carried all the way through the beer. More hop forward and tropical in taste than Heady Topper for sure.

One of the best beers I’ve had since I first tried craft beer back in 1999. I rate Focal Banger by The Alchemist a whopping 4.8 out of 5. Get yourself to Stowe, VT now!

 

It can be hard for beers to live up to hype and expectations, but I remained hopeful. Turns out, this is one of the best beers I've ever had. Click through for the full review.
Scott Hawes
Scott Hawes is a happily married father of two boys. A native Rhode Islander who loves the Philadelphia Flyers, beer league hockey, karaoke, and co-founder of French Hawes Beer Reviews on YouTube. Favorite beer styles: Double IPA and New England IPA.
Scott Hawes

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