I mulled an idea around in my head all week. When I attended our local homebrew club meeting on Friday, it was then that I was convinced that my idea was a good idea and Saturday evening would be well spent and beer well tasted.
You may remember that I was involved in a beer trade with John, a reader from New England. The trade went down as a sixer of 3Fs Zombie Dust for a 4-pack of Heady Topper from Vermont.
When I received the return box in trade, in addition to four 16-ounce cans of Heady Topper, there were two more beers from Alchemist. The Crusher American Double IPA and Focal Banger IPA both in 16-ounce cans. But wait… there’s more. Also included was a bomber of a beer called Lunch from the Maine Beer Company.
I decided to bring Lunch to the beer club meeting and share the contents. I related the story of the beer trade. The beer was uncapped, poured in small quantities all around and sampled. The consensus was that it was an excellent pale ale bordering on an IPA style. I thought it was excellent myself.
One of our members had recently taken a trip up north “down east” and brought back what was described as a shit ton of N.E. beers some from the Alchemist and other places. There was a tasting session and many of the members attended and enjoyed a night of beer. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate. At this Friday night meeting, two remaining Alchemist beers were opened and sampled. Right then I knew what I would write about on Saturday night.
I’d sample both The Crusher and the Focal Banger and compare the two to what I remember of Heady Topper from two weeks ago. I was sure that I wasn’t going to be disappointed based on Heady Topper and what I’ve read online about the other two.
Two 16-ounce would be enough to wet my whistle and get my thought juices flowing. I’d keep Maine Beer’s Steal This Can and Boom Sauce for another time or casual palate exercise.
Let’s get started with The Crusher.
The beer poured from the can looking like pineapple-orange juice. The liquid was quite cloudy was a nice shade of orange in the glass. The head came up thick and white but shrunk down within a few minutes to nothing but a ring of suds. The aroma was very familiar. More of those same tropical fruit notes, some mango, orange and a player to be named later. Pineapple.
The first sip was divine. Very similar to the Heady Topper from before, only a bit different at the swallow. I’d say it was a bit bitter by maybe a percentile points. This is the perfect instance of the statements, “almost exactly the same” and “same but different” being examples of the comparison.
Take Heady topper, brew it with a bit more crystal malt, mix up the late hop additions and BAM! The crusher arises out of the cauldron hissin’ and spittin’. The same but different. This was a most excellent DIPA, right up there with Hopslam, Pliny and the other legends.
A most excellent beer.
Our other Alchemist beer is Focal Banger. An IPA rated very highly throughout out the beer drinking community.
The beer poured with a clearer liquid coming out of the can yet still cloudy in the glass. I could tell right away that there wasn’t as mush “stuff” in this beer as there was in The Crusher. Once again, the head diminished to a suds ring along the outside of the glass. The beer had the same basic aroma, only well pulled back and subdued compared to Crusher.
The first sip was what could be described as the same Crusher beer with perhaps 75% of the “stuff” in the recipe. Same basic taste but pulled back quite a bit. The mouthfeel was not as big, but surprisingly, everything else remained the same. The just dialed it back from 11 to an 8.
Focal Banger could fly in the face of Zombie Dust and win over beer drinkers out here if it was brewed closer. The taste still had the tropical fruit, orange pineapple flavors. It was well balanced like its big brother but more drinkable over a longer period of time.
One could surmise that Focal Banger was brewed using the same British malts (as stated on the can) with the same Citra and Mosaic hops to a lesser degree.
Man, the guys and gals up in Vermont must be loving this beer. Their pee must be green and their bathrooms are probably hops scented. A beer lover would be a fool if he turned down any of the Alchemist beers. But wait. They also brew a wild ale called Petit Mutant. If you like sour beer, go for it. Just let me get out of your way.
Kudos to the Alchemist brew crew and the three super high quality beers that they have created. New England beer lovers and this one guy from Illinois, love your beer.
Once again, special thanks to John for being so generous in sending me these other Alchemist and Maine beers above and beyond the call of duty.
Ahhh, it was a great Saturday.
Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
Taste: Big, huge, a mouthful of beer and fruitiness.
Smoothness: Flavor hops highlight the show, bitterness is subdued.
Drinkability: So nice, so drinkable, so dangerous.
Bang for the buck: N/A – but whatever the price, try it if you get lucky.
Amount paid: N/A – beer trade
Get it again? If I can.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Cloudy yellow. Smells bitter like underneath the fruit skin. It doesn’t taste that bad. More like apricot. Not too bad. (Well, well, well.)
Style: English style IPA
Taste: Same as above but way pulled back.
Smoothness: Same as above. Very nice.
Drinkability: Okay boys, get ’em rollin’.
Bang for the buck: N/A
Amount paid: N/A
Get it again? If I can.
Brewer’s website – same as above.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Looks pretty much the same. Maybe a little more grapefruity. It’s really close It’s the same under the peel white rind stuff. (She copied my thoughts only in a more wifely, kitcheny sort of way.)