Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
It's time to crack open a cold one and drink away the election mayhem. To lighten the modflux mood, for today's craft corner, I sat down with our cicerone to discuss an all-star in the land of India Pale Ales (IPAs), Sculpin. Lately it feels like this universally praised IPA is on tap everywhere in SoCal, and for good reason. It is indeed a triumph, but it comes at a rather high price. Among other questions I had for our cicerone, I wanted to know: is the Sculpin worth the extra bucks?
Brewery & Location: Ballast Point (San Diego)
Color: light amber
Class: American India Pale Ale (IPA)
Overall Impressions: Classic West Coast style: its aroma is fruity and tropical, but the bittering hops steal the show and stand out against the solid malt backbone. If there's a widely distributed IPA that's become the benchmark of the San Diego style, this or Green Flash West Coast IPA is it. If you're looking for a beer whose hoppiness is primarily aromatic, look elsewhere.
When to Drink It: The bigger question is, when shouldn't you drink it? It's easily enjoyed any time.
Best Paired With: Savory, greasy American food, or spicy Indian or Thai. Very versatile.
Value and/or Availability: Year-round, nationwide. Price-wise, Sculpin comes at a premium, so the value factor is unfortunately lacking. In its price range, you expect something really special and unusual; while Sculpin is a fantastic IPA, you can easily get an equally enjoyable one for cheaper.
Another knock against it (well, all of Ballast Point in truth) is the indecipherable date code. Compared to date labeling bar-setters like Stone or New Belgium, Ballast Point drops the ball here. As a result, its brews can be accidentally ingested well beyond their best-by date, which will seriously decrease their palatability. We've occasionally found that store-bought Sculpin (as opposed to a pint enjoyed at the brewery) can lack the vibrance you expect of an expertly hopped IPA. As the punchiness of hops declines with age, it's possible that bottled/canned Sculpin's sometimes subdued hops could be attributed to the brewing date.
But lest you should think we're being needlessly tough on Ballast Point, stick around for our next craft corner, where we extol the applaudable fruit variations of Sculpin. Now those are something really special.
Cheers to persevering. And to really good beer.