Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.
Southern California’s beer scene is among the best in the United States and this week’s selection comes from a brewery that’s been a fixture in that area for well over two decades. Started in 1996 as a small group of home brewers who wanted to take their beer to the next level, Ballast Point Brewing Company focused on the ingredients and tinkered with the beer-making process to become a craft brew powerhouse, with facilities in both San Diego and Virginia to accommodate for the high demand throughout the country.
In 2015, it was announced that Ballast Point – the first microdistillery in San Diego since Prohibition – was being sold to a conglomerate by the name of Constellation Brands for $1 billion and while some people think the company sold out to the man, it’s allowed Ballast Point to pump out more unique brews. This week’s beer, Aloha Sculpin, happens to be a new take on an award-winning beer. Sculpin, a west coast-styled India Pale Ale that helped put the brewery on the map, has won a whole slew of awards over the last decade including a bronze and a sliver at the Great American Beer Festival. And, like chemists in a lab, Ballast point is always finding bold ways to add even more flavor to Sculpin – which often brings about great success, just look at Grapefruit Sculpin, an arguably more popular take on the original. Aloha Sculpin, a limited Spring/Summer release this year, is listed as a Hazy India Pale Ale, so I knew it would be in my wheelhouse and when I saw a six-pack at the beer store for $13, I had to try it.
This 7% alcohol by volume beer features what Ballast Point describes as a “distinct yeast strain known as Saccharomyces ‘Bruxellensis’ Trois, or Brux Trois” which provides it with a potent aroma and an oasis of flavors that include guava, mango and pineapple – all without actually adding any of the fruits. It also makes the beer hazy, which is believed to add a juicier flavor – I’ll be the judge of that. Aloha Sculpin marked the first time this yeast was brewed in an IPA that’s packaged and available nationwide. Sounds pretty awesome but, keep in mind, with a rating of 70 on the International Bitterness Units scale, it’s still a bitter beer at heart, so those who don’t care for IPAs might have to tread lightly on with this one.
For today's #SculpinTakeover, we're feeling tropical. Aloha Sculpin uses Brux Trois yeast to turn our award-winning IPA into a tropical oasis, with bright and refreshing notes of mango, pineapple, and guava. It's like paradise in the palm of your hands. ⠀ ⠀ If it's your favorite Sculpin variety, let's see your #SculpinTakeover photos! This one comes from @maphil13 IN Hawaii! 🏝🍻⠀ ⠀ "This is how we start our last full day in Maui…with our favorite ipa. #maui #olivinepools #northshore #sculpin #alohasculpin #nobluedrinks"
Aloha Sculpin, like most of Ballast Point’s efforts, features no little back story on the label, instead, it’s all about what’s inside and from the moment I cracked it open, I knew this beer was a black sheep. Just like Ballast Point said, it hit my nose pretty forcefully when I popped it. The aroma is still more that of the piney, hoppy variety with a splash of the fruit flavor blended in, which isn’t quite what I expected. It poured well, like a typical medium-bodied beer with a hefty amount of white head, which went nicely with the hazy orange-amber color of the beer – and I’ll be honest, it’s a pretty sexy looking beer. The taste is where I think this beer came up just a little bit short of greatness, however.
Because of the special yeast, I feel like Aloha Sculpin tastes more like it was made with a tropical rind flavor than an actual fruit flavor and the hops really overshadow that juiciness flavor the brewery boasts. I definitely got little hints of mango and pineapple mixed in, though, however the bitterness at the end hits you hard and so the hops are basically all that you really wind up tasting. It’s a beer you’re going to want to sip and I think two or maybe three is plenty for one sitting before switching to something different. I will say this, the slight juiciness to this beer would probably make it a decent beer to enjoy outside, at night, around a campfire – oddly specific, I know. Dank IPAs make me happy but I’m just not entirely sure this beer is as advertised, proving to be inferior to the original beer.
Available in both draft and six packs of bottle – not sure about cans – it’s a beer that if you’re an IPA enthusiast and wannabe beer snob like myself, it’s worth trying and forming your own opinion. The good news is you should be able to find it just about anywhere until the end of the summer. Aloha Sculpin scored a 3.92 (out of 5) on BeerAdvocate but I think that might just be a little high, which is why I’m going to give it a 6.7 (out of 10). I liked it, I definitely did – but it wasn’t what I expected, as it’s really lackluster in the hazy and juiciness factor, which doesn’t separate it much from other contemporaries.
Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.