Beer Review: Ballast Point, The Sculpins

Ballast Point Brewing Company “The Sculpins”

Sculpin IPA / Grapefruit Sculpin IPA / Pineapple Sculpin IPA / Habanero Sculpin IPA

Style: IPA’s Alcohol by Volume: 7% IBU’s: 70 Color: Golden Amber Brewery: Ballast Point Brewing Company Location: San Diego, California

So very infrequently does one brewery consistently WOW me with every single brew, but after just returning from a trip to California, home of Ballast Point Brewing Company (hanging out down there with their shades on in San Diego), I continue to utter those three letters...WOW. Now, I absolutely adore their leap into the unknown with releases such as their mouth-watering Watermelon Dorado, smooth and zesty Orange Vanilla Fathom, and explosive Thai Chili Wahoo, but it’s another category of brews that takes the cake in any bakery I’ve been to...THE SCULPINS.

If you haven’t had a Ballast Point Sculpin yet, in any variety, then you are sorely missing out on what this connoisseur just might consider one of the tastiest beers on the planet. Put down your phone, your tablet, whatever, drop what you’re doing, and get one NOW before you read any more of this...I’m not kidding! You deserve to understand why the Sculpin collection is something to be absolutely excited about in craft beer today.

Now, without getting too malty and too hoppy on you with a walkthrough of how these guys manage to make such a pleaser, I’ll just fill you in on the essentials. Deal? There are several flavors of Sculpin being lovingly crafted on the West coast, but the true original Sculpin IPA is about as sturdy of a canvas as you can get. Affectionately dubbed as a trophy beer which stands as a true testament to the company’s homebrewing roots, years of experimentation garnered them a taste that is unlike many others. How? ...Think of a hopping process that takes place at FIVE different stages of brewing and captures the essence of apricots, lemons, peaches, and mangoes, all while delivering that notorious Sculpin sting (and a much appreciated, smooth 7% ABV). Poured into a cold glass, this beer is a beautiful sight. Bright, clear, amber, although medium-bodied for sure. Freakin’ delicious!

See, I told you you might want to be drinking one before you kept reading!

The original Sculpin IPA delivers on every single nuance that one would expect in a near perfect beer, and then goes for the punch. One of the first variations of Sculpin I discovered is the Grapefruit Sculpin; a truly nice, refreshingly tart and citrus approach with a classic Sculpin backbone. It offers enough sweetness as to not overwhelm you with the pucker effect, but the grapefruit is clearly present.

If you crave something a little less tart, the Pineapple Sculpin can be your new best friend. Perfect for anyone who enjoys a good fruity beer, as the pineapple is sweet and not overly acidic. Not to worry though, they didn’t go the foo-foo direction too much, as the aforementioned Sculpin backbone becomes a perfect shoulder to lean on for the pineapple. Remaining with the same 7% ABV, this one is far from being considered “a fruity beer”, definitely worth a try.

Lastly, and certainly not leastly, is the coupe de grace, the Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin. A kick-punch of fiery inferno that is the inspiration behind this whole story. Starting with that much beloved Sculpin background, Ballast Point goes on to throw in what tastes like a barrell full of habaneros into this beer, and all their siblings, too! The pungent habanero is present on the nose and kind of sips clear for a quick moment, before infiltrating your mouth, tongue, and throat with a burning sensation that is cooled just enough by the hops and citrus character behind it. I truly love this version, but something very interesting occurred the last time I drank it. Now, I usually purchase this brew on the East coast and yes, it’s pretty hot, but I’m usually able to get through 2 or 3 in one sitting easily. Give me the afternoon and I might surprise you with an empty 6 pack...

But here I was just the other day in California (habanero homeland) and I grabbed a six pack of it in San Francisco. This Habanero Sculpin was WAY HOTTER than the ones I had before. WAY HOTTER. I mean, nearly undrinkable. I was able to finish one beer but it took me a good 40 minutes and then I had to have some water before I attempted the second, which took me another hour. I know it wasn’t me, so is the beer in California different than the beer I’ve been buying at home? Does being closer to the source mean fresher/stronger brews? I’d actually like to call them and inquire. What do you think?

The Habanero Sculpin is a really great and unique brew, and even if heat isn’t your thing, it’s an experience worth trying (maybe use caution if you live Westward). The Grapefruit and Pineapple Sculpins each offer their own take on a citrus creation, one being sweeter and one being more tart. However, in the end, the classic Sculpin IPA wins our award, and many other awards, for being one of the tastiest beers and beer collections that have been unleashed upon us in this awesome world of beer.

Are you popping the top on number 2 yet? I am!