Monday, January 21, 2013

Sculpin India Pale Ale | Ballast Point Brewing | San Diego, CA

One of the hotly debated issues in Texas craft at the moment is the entry of competitive beer labels from popular brewing regions of the US.  Last year, there was an infusion of notably missing American breweries, who prior to the threat of further litigation by consumer champions, Jester King Brewery, were as likely to test the capricious demands of the Texas Alcohol & Beverage Commission's with entry into the state as Lennay Kekua was likely to apply for an advanced degree at the University of Notre Dame.

But recently, breweries like Alaskan, Sixpoint, and Maui have accessed the draw bridge passed the swath of Red River that has kept renowned breweries out, and began peddling their liquid accolades to Texans like Big Red.  And according to the internet, several more breweries with impressive cachets -- like Southern Tier, Founder's and Firestone Walker -- are imminently invading the local stacks at the booze depot as well.

Most recently, one of the big boys in small beer has come to toast our state, and they go by the name Ballast Point out of San Diego, Califas.  Already, they are one of the most locally coveted craft beer brands because what they have brought with them is an innovation for regional Southern California brewing, something only Stone, Green Flash, and Bear Republic have had the opportunity to showcase for Texans.  Its like introducing the fish taco to a brisket-and-egg culture.

Yet with another monumental entry in the local market, brings forth interesting dilemmas from the perspective of the smaller, more localized brewhouses in regards to the competitive sliver of a niche beer community.  While the influx of new and interesting labels is downright orgasmic for the more-intense craft beer consumer, the nature of planting the roses of free enterprise in the form of loosened liquor laws creates the potential for being stabbed by the thorny branches of equal opportunity.  For the casual beer consumer, new national microbrews means less shelf space for local microbrews, creating a theoretical re-appraisal of loyalty.  Does one choose the dependable local or the celebrated national commodity?

And while some local breweries might see Ballast Point's or Firestone Walker's (or whomever) infiltration of the market as a grim visage to capitalism, it does serve as an important reminder for everyone to get their shit together.  Amateur hour is over in Texas because breweries like Ballast Point are about to set some of the records straight about great beer.  Not good beer.  Great beer.  And their friends are following closely behind.

However ...

The reality is, there is vast, VAST room for craft expansion in a beer domain dominated by a 94% market share made up of only three breweries; yeah, THOSE three breweries.

They have all been in Texas since God was a boy and continue to pose the largest threat to craft consumerism.  New craft brands entering the state is not direct competition to the local guys, exactly -- instead, its a cavalry of brotherhood against the tap-aggression posed by Bud, Miller, and Coors, who not only demand their remaining 6% market share, but will deceive at the cost of the consumer.  This is why suddenly, Blue Moon and Shock Top have as many varieties as a 7-11 fountain machine, while continuing to caress the legislation with their left hands for continued control over the prevention of direct sales by the craft brewers.  In the end, a band of brothers is necessary to face oppressive ideology, because after all the shelves have been stacked, craft's primary concern is not other craft competitors, but sessionable, inexpensive, and otherwise insipid beer labels pushing shit like Bud Platinum, Shock Top Vanilla Grey Goose collabs, and Blue Moon's Belgian Monk Pish.  Their clumsy invasion into the craft market at the expense of the little guys is the real insult.

And still, overall, I pretty much never spend time thinking if I will be helping a company by drinking their product, only that by choosing craft itself, I am supporting the industry at large.  I suspect that you are similar in philosophy because this site is written for people like you, and here you are, reading it.   Craft culture is a lifestyle, like dieting or flashmobbing.  And given the choice between the three, which would you rather spread the gospel of?  Drink craft and you will help disable bad beer and gluttonous consumption practices; thereby diminishing the companies who want you to do deplorable shit, like freezing your beer and coordinating public hobo dances underneath interstate overpasses to the lyrical styling of Pit Bull.


This is the beer that I have been waiting a long, looong time to drink on my porch.  To say that I've bugged my pals in the bar industry for months to call their distribution contacts and ask, "Now just what in the fuck?" as Dallasites happily sipped away for nine months in advance of Austin, is to say that Austin is not a shepherd of expatriated beer.  And that is good.  We, as a city, believe that we need to be sold on non-native infiltration, and I applaud Ballast Point's approach to the delicate ethos of our snobby city. 

That said, there was absolutely nothing Sculpin could have done to avert the gigantic, tidal splash it made on Austin's release day -- where dedicated Ballast Point parties were held in various respected beer bars to commemorate its arrival.  Sculpin is nothing short of glorious, letting the minor leagues of Dallas vet our beer for us before pledging for Austin's acceptance.  Take that Dallas! 

Sculpin has one of the most incredible hop balances that I've experienced in a single-style IPA -- a WEST COAST single IPA, nonetheless, which are traditionally forceful with their hop cocks.  With beers like these you have to be careful not to demand the instant satisfaction of refreshment and flavor, but Sculpin is a gentle lover, peaches and mango engagingly interwoven with a pine bite that finishes without flaw.  None of its elements are ever overbearing, but slaps around the chops with dense flavor and a fine bitterness, but leaves the lingering sensation of  'Holy shit! My face! Amazing!'

ABV 7.o%
Acquired East 1st Grocery
Can I Find This in Austin? Citywide at the better beer bars and beer stores.
Album Surfer Blood | Astro Coast (2010)

7 comments:

Shawn said...

Great piece BC. Craft beer has about 6% Market Share. I hope the Texas breweries aren't worried about the new competition for that 6% and see the new entrants as the Calvary coming to help attack the 94%. It's all about expanding the shelf, not fighting for it. We're glad to have JK here and, recently, Boulevard.

Enjoy the Sculpin and look forward to the Double Jack.

Mo G. said...

Double Jack and Sculpin would make for a lovely evening!

Anonymous said...

living in so cal, I forget or should I say almost take for granted the immense selection of locally brewed craft beers I have with in a 10 min drive. Sculpin is that amazing and so is double jack. If any of you are able to venture out west for a weekend, a San Diego brewery tour is a must. Look for Mongo IPA by Port brewing or The Gauntlet by Iron Fist. I wish you all more craft amazingness in your future!

Mo G. said...

Thanks for the advice. Unbelievably, I haven't done a craft brewery tour of SD, but its in the mail, thats for sure. The closest I've come is GABF, and that california avenue is one hell of a party. One of my buddies does a SD beer blog called sandiegobeerinsider.com ... check it out if you can.

T Grier said...

Great read. I missed reading this. Funny how Jester King is about getting there Beer out of Texas AND they made it easier for others to get there BEER into Texas. Not sure what that point is exactly .. just interesting.

Mo G. said...

indeed. double edged sword, so to speak.

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