Nothing signifies spring and summer quite like a rod and reel. Ballast Point Brewing Company out of Southern California really embarrasses this, as it’s summer almost all year round in San Diego. Adorned across all of their labels are fish, and for the Sculpin varieties, these fishies rarely change. While the fish remain the same, the liquid inside would appear to be much different. All of these Sculpins are IPAs, but one is infused with grapefruit and another with peppers. Will these fish rather be swimming inside the bottle full of goodness, or would they rather sick to the label? Time for the numbers…
Ballast Point Sculpin
Appearance: Transparent golden brown with a fluffy white head. As I drank, the glass laced the same, pillowy white as seen in the head.
Smell: Big hop presence, sweet grain, some tropical fruits like mangoes, citrus, and grapefruit. A west coast IPA for sure.
Taste: More dank than I was expecting. Really bitter and a little bit oily as well. Some of those tropical fruits came out as I drank but I think the star of the show was the Citra hop. I’ve brewed a few IPAs over the summer and featured Citra primarily in the kettle. Not shockingly, this variety is noted for its citrus characteristics – orange, grapefruit, lemon rind – but the finish on Citra can be a bit to oily. It’s like squeezing an orange peel and letting the oils hit your tongue – a bit too assertive. The finish of Sculpin is precisely that taste and it really kills the very back part of your tongue. It just kind of sits there and has an acidic / vomit taste. It’s not that enjoyable to say the least. The sweetness in the grain minimally drowns the hop presence in this brew and in my opinion, it could be a bit more balanced. The alcohol is well hidden under the hops, especially considering this brew is an even 7% ABV.
Overall: As you continue to drink, this beer gets better, but at the end of the day, I’ll give it a B to a B+ at most. It’s certainly a good IPA, but I know a lot of people enjoy this more than I do. I’d probably reach for a different 6 pack than this at the beer shop. At close to 16 dollars per 6er, the price doesn’t draw you in, nor does the flavor warrant the dollars you’d shell out for it.
Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin
Appearance: Identical to Sculpin – Transparent, big white head, nice lacing as I drank.
Smell: Holy mother of grapefruit. There is absolutely no mistaking it in this brew. A massive citrus explosion that would rival cutting into an actual grapefruit… I think there is probably more of a nose to the beer though. Outside of the grapefruit, I get more grapefruit, and then after that, a twinge bit of grapefruit. Did I mention this smells like grapefruit? I detect nothing other than that massive citrus fruit.
Taste: Now we’re talking. This is an awesome IPA. The grapefruit in the brew does not drown out the hops or add a significant bitterness to the beer. It just gives it a fresh citrus taste, then leaves you be. It doesn’t assault the palate as other grapefruit forward beers can and really complements the hop profile from Sculpin. The acidic like quality still coats the back of the tongue like in Sculpin, mainly at the finish of the beer. The slight sweetness from the grain that I got from the predecessor is barely there within this brew. Its main flavor profile is bitterness, and really not much else. Even the hop profile from Sculpin isn’t as identifiable in this beer. Like the original, Grapefruit Sculpin clocks in at 7% ABV and again, the alcohol is well hidden.
Overall: This is a great IPA. I am a little bias, because I love the tart, sour, and acidic kick of grapefruit on its own, and every time you pick this beer up to drink, you’re reminded of that taste. I really appreciate the balance that went into this brew as the grapefruit added massive flavor, but stopped short of adding too much bitterness to what already is a bitter style of beer. I give Grapefruit Sculpin an A- to an A. The grapefruit adds a lot and totally changes this beer.
Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin
Appearance: Shocker, it looks exactly the same as Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin. Golden, transparent, nice white head.
Smell: Buffalo wings, peppers, spice, no hops, no sweetness. Some malt comes through, but pepper is the big one.
Taste: Wow that is freaking spicy. Tastes just like swallowing hot peppers. The finish is nothing but spice and all of the hops and the sweetness of the grain vanish as you swallow. When the beer is in your mouth, you do get some sweetness of grain and really no hops at all. Immediately after you swallow, it’s a total total fire going on in your throat. I like spicy foods, but this is really aggressive. If you float back and forth whether to get hot or mild wings, and usually choose mild, this beer may be too much for you. If you like hot foods, then definitely pick this up. It’s so hot it’s making my eyelids sweat. Also, you probably noticed that from the picture this glass is half full. The other half landed on my office rug. When my dog went to lick up the goodness, she had one swipe, walked away, and sneezed. This beer is spicy. The 7% ABV is nowhere to be seen – the peppers are the star of this show.
Overall: It’s unique, and way different than any other IPA I’ve ever had. For what it is, I like it. The habanero is not artificial and the pepper taste is really aggressive. If you’re thinking a hint of pepper when you get this brew, then put it down. It’s all pepper all day. I give it an A-. I like it, but could never have more that one in a sitting.
I think these fish are trying to break through the glass. Pick ’em up if you can get them.