"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beer Not in Colorado: Ballast Point

This is a continuation of the post Beer Not in Colorado: Coronado Brewing.  I would be remiss if I did not encourage you to read it first.
Sorry gear-heads, nitro is put to better use in craft beer than it is in your $500 import with a $2,000 spoiler.                                          
Next stop on our SoCal brewery tour: Ballast Point Brewing Company in an office building complex a few miles outside the fray of downtown San Diego.  I’ve said this about so many breweries already that even I’m getting sick of it but it’s very much the truth that you need to know where you’re going if you want to find Ballast Point; it isn’t the type of place you’d naturally stumble across on your daily constitutional.  But, once you’ve found this diamond that is great beer in the rough that is the plethora of vague businesses whose names all follow the Surname & Surname formula, you will be greatly rewarded.
Ballast Point
I was taken aback at how crowded it was on a Thursday afternoon.  Sure, the mingling space is limited (no chairs, just a few barrels serving as tables and some small ledges along the wall on which to set your drink) but what really pushed the room over its maximum capacity was the UCONN vs. San Diego State University Sweet Sixteen game.  If you watched it then you know it was a pretty close game.  There was a lot of cheering from the locals but, in the end, heads hung low.  The Huskies trounced the Aztecs and patrons shuffled to the bar to get a consolatory brew and murmured things like “Well, at least we made it to the Sweet Sixteen.”  Pshaw!  Back in my home state of Indiana, when it comes to basketball, there is no “at least.”  We’ve been brought up to believe that we are basketball and anything less than a championship is a disgrace to the state.  Whenever a team comes home without a trophy, we sacrifice them to appease our pagan gods and pray that they might send us more worthy competitors.  But I guess California’s more of a baseball state.
For my first beer, I ordered the limited release Puta Pepper Sculpin IPA (7% ABV, 70 IBU), a spicy twist on their more simply named Sculpin IPA (which won a gold medal at 2010’s World Beer Cup).  The difference between the two is that Puta Pepper has red peppers added to it post-fermentation.  I have homebrewed jalapeno beer (I put the peppers in pre-fermentation) that turned out excellent so I was curious how a red pepper beer might taste.  Turns out it’s not too shabby and its quite different from mine.  My beer gave the drinker a tingly feeling all over the mouth that was reminiscent of nacho cheese.  Puta Pepper is more like a light burn at the back of the throat more evocative of spicy BBQ dry rub.  Of course, being an IPA, it didn’t skimp on the bitter, either.  It’s a weird drink but I like weird.  Not a session beer but worth a pint.
Puta Pepper Sculpin IPA

The day before we went to Ballast Point, I had their Calico Amber Ale (5.5% ABV) at a seafood restaurant.  In a word: unimpressed.  “Great,” I thought, “another brewery with an amber trying to cash in on the success of Fat Tire.”  Calico is just there; not a damn thing to make me choose it over any of the multitude of other ambers inundating the market.  Needless to say, when I saw it on the chalkboard behind the bar I quickly skipped ahead.  But, hello, what is this?  Calico on nitro?  I’m listening. 

People say there’s no magic bullet.  Actually, when you want to make a mediocre beer great, there is: nitro.  Many people are familiar with the roiling, brown thunderhead found in a freshly poured Guinness but fewer people know that it is a nitro-infused tap that creates that thick, creamy concoction.  And it’s not like it only works on Guinness; any beer can be put on nitro.  In my college days there was a bar that had Odell’s Cutthroat Porter on nitro.  Nowadays, every Thursday night, I get a pint of Left Hand’s Milk Stout on nitro at the bar where I get my quiz on.  Calico, however, is the first nitro beer I’ve seen that isn’t a stout or porter.  I had to give it a go.

It’s a totally different beer, this nitro Calico.  From the visual feast that is the angry cloud to the milkshake-like viscosity, nitro Calico is a force to be reckoned with.  It makes me think why more breweries and bars don’t do this.  I say put the entire line-up on a rotating nitro list; put beers on nitro you wouldn’t normally e.g. IPAs, barleywines, lambics…etc.  Most likely it will turn out like, eh, not so good but they should experiment anyway.  I wouldn’t have though a nitro amber would have been as enjoyable as it was so who knows what else could use a nitro kick?  Personally, I’d like to try Great Divide’s Hercules Double IPA on nitro.  Big, creamy, ultra-hoppy beer sounds good to me.
There's somethin' a-brewin' in that Calico

As I drank my beers I read a newspaper article that was framed on the wall.  In a nutshell, it outlined how San Diego County beers were so good and how they were garnering a lot of attention on a national scale.  That was all well and good but they just had to mention that San Diego beers brought in more medals at the World Beer Cup than Colorado.  Look, kid, we host the Great American Beer Festival so don’t come frontin’ on us about what makes a good beer.  As we left I signed the guest book.  I complimented their beers because they deserve to be complimented.  I also said their beers were so good that they should feel honored that they stack up against the finer breweries in Colorado.  Captain Passive-Aggressive strikes again!



Stay!  More California beer updates are in the works.

 I don’t have too much to add to what Chris has already described. I had a taster of the Wahoo Wheat. I usually order wheats when I don’t know what else to order. But, I have started to notice that there is some flavor in wheat beers that I don’t really like. I am guessing it might be the coriander or the cloves but I am not exactly sure. Now, the Wahoo Wheat was pretty enjoyable. However, I think my taste buds are evolving and I need to start searching for a new favorite type of beer. Any suggestions?



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