According to Beer Advocate’s Top Beers list, Sculpin is the 46th best beer in the world. Whatever the virtues of automated lists based on aggregate ratings, one of the biases of such an exercise is that “extreme” beers tend to get a disproportionate amount of attention. But Sculpin is a “regular” IPA. Clocking in at 7% ABV, it’s at the upper end of that spectrum, but it’s a pretty standard beer. It’s not seasonal or super rare or hard to find, and while Ballast Point has a generally good reputation in the beer nerd community, I don’t think of them as anointed in the way of, say, Russian River or The Bruery. And in fact, there’s only 4 regular ol’ American IPAs on the list (and no English varieties either). Now, Double/Imperial IPAs? That’s a different story. There are 4 DIPAs in the top 10 alone. So Sculpin must be something pretty special, eh?
Ballast Point Sculpin India Pale Ale – Pours a clearish golden color with a finger of head and decent retention. Smells strongly of sugary sweet malts with a big citrus hop component, very aromatic, I could just sniff this stuff all night. The taste hits with that sweetness up front, followed by a ton of citrusy hops, with perhaps a little more floral components coming out in the taste, and a well balanced, barely even bitter finish. In fact, that bitterness emerges earlier in the taste than I’m used to, but it’s not nearly as strong or overwhelming as it normally is in an IPA. It’s a 7% ABV beer, so I don’t expect it to be small, but it drinks like a higher ABV beer – not in a boozy or bad way, but in a depth and balance of flavor way. Mouthfeel is smooth, carbonation is light and tight, very well balanced and easy to drink. But it’s something you want to relish, not gulp down. Overall, a really nice IPA, and I can see why it’s got such a reputation. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 5/19/12.
I may have to make myself better acquainted with Ballast Point. Incidentally, if you’re looking for another example of a “normal” style making a surprising appearance in the top 100: Live Oak Hefeweizen. Of course, I don’t think that one gets a particularly big distribution, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a spectacular beer – something you don’t hear much of when people talk of Hefeweizens…