Before I went to San Diego last week, I reckoned that if I got to drink a big tall glass of either ALPINE EXPONENTIAL HOPPINESS or BALLAST POINT SCULPIN – two of the most highly raved-about double IPAs on the planet in 2009 – I’d have done my job, and served God & country admirably. Well, mission accomplished, my friends, though the Alpine beers were not on draft at any of the three watering holes I visited. BALLAST POINT SCULPIN, currently the #12 ranked beer in the world by Beer Advocate readers, was. And oh yeah, it’s a good one, and I’m happy to say that for once I’ve tasted an IPA that breaks out of the piney vs. citrus continuum. IPAs have become hard to write about, to be honest – though the style continues to be one of my favorites, and there’s a lot of differentiation within the style, it’s all within a very contained box. It’s either bitingly hoppy, or only moderately so. It’s either floral, citrusy or piney. It might be smooth, it might be a little rough. SCULPIN’s a little different.
To start, it’s a 7% ABV beer that drinks like an even bigger one. It’s incredibly smooth, and much thinner in body than you typically get from your “big” IPAs. It’s floral and incredibly aromatic, with tastes of honey and pineapple in the distance, mixed with some bold hopping (of course). Dry and luscious, and not designed for quick quaffing but for lingering over a bit. Seriously, it’s either a bold leap forward for the IPA or at least a sideways jump. I thought it was great, and I’m going to try and hunt down a bottle or two where I can. 8.5/10.