Beer Review 0169: Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

The story of Ballast Point begins with home brew. While in college, Jack White started to like beer, and wanted more from the drink than you can find in the grocery store. So he brewed his own, and he got good at it, but he also found that getting his hands on equipment and ingredients were hard.

Mr. White decided to open his own home brew shop, the Home Brew Mart, in San Diego in 1992. Not only did the store provide a one-stop for making beer, but it also opened up communication between other home brewers — and Jack made a friend in Yuseff Cherney. These two men would start a brewery in the back of the shop, later destined to become Ballast Point Brewing.

Ballast Point officially began operations in 1996, but got big enough to move out of the Home Brew Mart and into a dedicated facility in 2004. Combining the love of beer and fishing, White and Cherney decided to name all of their creations after fish.

The first Ballast Point beer reviewed on this website is their Sculpin India Pale Ale; a sculpin is fish that has poisonous spikes on its back, but is considered a tasty delicacy. This IPA is a year-round offering, and comes in at 7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 70 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

Sculpin is a very popular brew amongst the online beer community, and the reviews of this beer are almost overwhelmingly positive. Distribution of this beer here in North Carolina is somewhat limited; I can find it on the shelf once every couple of months or so. While the Ballast Point website shows Sculpin in six-packs, it appears to only be available in bomber bottles and on draft.

The pour made an average head, soapy and frothy, with a lasting quality. The beer was a pale golden color, with vivid amber highlights when held in the light. The body was slightly hazy and featured no particles or sediment, and as I sipped, this one left thick lacing to start with but the quantity went down as I continued to enjoy.

And yep, this one is a hop bomb — there’s grapefruit up front, with other citrus notes there to support, like orange and lemon. There’s a healthy dose of tropical fruits (mango and pineapple) and some pine/resin. There’s a nice note of apricot, and then there’s a balanced bit of sweetness presented with caramel and biscuit malt. While not a pungent aroma, this is very pleasant.

On the taste, there’s a decent amount of bitterness at the front, which opens up to flavors of pine and light tropical fruit. There’s sweetness in the middle, some caramel and sweet bread, which leads to a closing finish of grapefruit, which has a mild bitterness that picks up intensity as the finish continues on and on, ending up almost crushed aspirin bitter. The mouthfeel was creamy but a tad thin, with average carbonation.

Sculpin is a nice drinkable beer, but a disappointment when considering the aromatics — I was expecting more complex hop flavors, but instead just got what seemed to be standard IPA fare. Certainly nothing wrong with that; my beef with this beer is that it is a slightly above average IPA priced as a classic beer; this is simply not classic. Outstanding, but not on that amazing level many report when sampling this beer.

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, 91 points. Price: $9.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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