Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA Review - For Adult Palates

Swing and a miss!  I tried Ballast Point Sculpin in San Diego, the first day of my last trip there.  This sports bar near the airport, O'Brien's, had it and also had amazing pea soup.  But I was on a mission to have impossible amounts of Pliny the Elder on that trip, and I merely sampled the Sculpin while they were pouring my Pliny.  I found it to be striking but unmemorable.  Fast forward to 2012 when a buddy of mine brought me some Sculpins and Pliny the Elders.  This time the Plinys were the afterthoughts.  My heart was set on some Sculpin.  Perhaps it was Sculpin's insanely high Beer Advocate score, a 98, that sent me on a mission to find it.  Whatever the case, I had been asking more than a few friends to ship some of that San Diego IPA goodness my way.  My turn to try it was today.

I'd say that Sculpin is about as good as an IPA gets.  I mean that strictly speaking because one taste and you know it's not an imperial IPA.  This is an exceedingly floral, tropical, IPA, with a clear, translucent orange color and a lean body.  It cuts directly to the clean hops, no malts interfere, although they are there in a thin, fruity layer with hints of breadiness.  But hops drive this lean machine; I tasted Citras and maybe some Columbus or Cascade.  It's a very perfumy beer with big-time floral notes.  It's tightly carbonated and hits hard with very direct citrus notes of tangerine, mango, and a lot of pineapple.  Citrus lingers on your palate for an hour afterward.   A hint of grassiness graces this too.  

Yes, this is an amazing beer. It's distinctiveness lies in its economy.  Sculpin has a lightness and sharpness to it that speaks to summertime.  It's near-perfect in that respect.  The hops are so strong and tight that there's no overinclusiveness of malt; the hops aren't out of balance.  Every puzzle piece is there; not a measure wasted.  The acids on this beer are so strong that it operates as a palate cleanser, like a sour, stripping away all other flavors without the tongue saturation of an imperial IPA.  At 7% it comes on strong but is hardly overwhelming as are some of the 8 and 9 percenters.  This is a true American IPA at its finest and one of the best out there.  It's a beer to have with a steak, if you were to do so, but this would pair nicely with just about any entree due to those strong alpha acids. It's not a beer for non-IPA converts.  Its direct hop profile will offend those who like a lot more sugar on their beer; those folks should start with a maltier IPA, perhaps an imperial.  This beer is for adults who already like their IPA's and know their way around the beer store.  You kids go play in the back yard.  Daddy needs a Sculpin.

4.7 of 5 stars.

1 comment:

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