Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford:Ballast Point Brewery’s Sculpin IPA definitely among the top IPAs

By Michael Sears

President, Forest City Brewers

Greetings, and welcome to Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford.

Yesterday was Veterans Day, and I would like to thank all the men and women who have served or are presently serving our great country and protecting it, especially the ones who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. God bless all of you and your loved ones. I would like to send a special thank-you to a young man whom Lisa and I watched grow up and is currently serving in the U.S. Coast Guard: Nick DeNale; fair winds and a following sea, Nick.

Lately, I have written about beers that are relative to the seasons and holidays, which is all very good, but occasionally we beer drinkers need a change of pace or a palate reset. A couple weeks ago, while scanning the inventory at Schnucks on East State Street, I stumbled across just such a beer at a price that I just could not refuse. The beer is Sculpin IPA of Ballast Point Brewery. Normally, this medal-winning beer is $12.99 to $14.99, depending on where you shop, but on this day, it was $8.99 — a gift from the beer gods! Needless to say, I grabbed a couple of sixers.

Ballast Point Brewing Co., founded in 1996 by Jack White and Yuseff Cherney in San Diego, California, started in the back room of a home-brew supply store opened by Jack. As of 2012, Ballast Point was the third-largest craft brewer in San Diego County and the 46th-largest craft brewery in the country, based on sales volume. The company has three locations in San Diego; Ballast Point & Spirits Co. is also the first and only microdistillery in San Diego.

Ballast Point has a dizzying array of beers, starting with nine year-round offerings, 11 limited-release and seasonal, 10 barrel-aged (sorry, on draft only and difficult to find in this area), and more than 20 beers that are available only at their brew pubs in San Diego.

Sculpin IPA is one of the year-round offerings, which their website describes as follows: “A great example of what got us into brewing in the first place. After years of experimenting, we knew hopping an ale at five separate stages would produce something special.”

I will use my Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass for this review to wring out every last bit of hop flavor. This beer pours a glowing honey straw-colored body with a touch of haziness, topped with a strong and thick two-fingered depth of white-colored head. Good carbonation keeps feeding the head to maintain a half-inch depth and a beautiful lacing.

The aroma is a full hop assault consisting of grapefruit and pine. Lingering in the background is some fruitiness similar to tropical fruits, making this pleasingly fragrant. Hard to pick out the malt profile with all this big hop aroma.

The first sip is a powerful punch of hops, not overly bitter, as it would be thought from the smell with a malty but subdued backbone that is a perfect complement. The grapefruit, pine resin and tropical fruit mingle well for a crisp tongue pinch. The finish is mild and satisfying, with a good combination of malt sweetness and hop bitterness that hides the 7 percent alcohol by volume.

Mouth feel is rich, but leans toward medium in body, with plenty of carbonation to keep it smooth and drinkable. The hops offer a pleasant stinging aftertaste in the back of the throat.

Overall, this is a really well-done West Coast IPA that, in my opinion, must be included in any discussion about top 10 IPAs. I think this is a good example, as it’s not overpowering and bitter, the flavors mingle well and has a good balance of carbonation, sweetness, bitterness with no unpleasant aftertaste, making you keep wanting to take another drink. I raise my glass to Ballast Point on brewing something special!

Prost!

Michael Sears is the president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a home-brewing club dedicated to the art of finely-crafted beer. The club meets on the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Street. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at rockfordcraftbeer@comcast.net.

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