Beer Review: Sculpin IPA

I guess no other beer deserves my first review here more than Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Sculpin India Pale Ale. I instantly fell in love with the American IPA style when I started drinking craft beers just a few months ago. At the time, however, the supply of Sculpins in the Philippines had totally run out.

After months of waiting (not to mention tons of hype), I finally got to try this controversial brew. Controversial? Well, it’s the highest rated beer in its style on Beer Advocate, but on the other hand, it has its fair share of detractors calling it overpriced and overrated.

Worse, many hopheads criticize Ballast Point’s failure to include a bottling date on its beers. The thing with the modern IPA is that it has to be drunk fresh – preferably within weeks of bottling or from the tap – otherwise the hop aroma and flavor die down.That being said, given the amount of time it takes to ship craft beers from the breweries in the States here to the Philippines, I’m sure that even fresh off the boat, any IPA in the country is but a mere shadow of its potential glory. The American IPA and imperial/double IPA is my favorite style, at least of the moment, and given the limited variety available here in the Philippines, Sculpin IPA is no doubt the best.

The first time I tried it, in a dim wine lounge which is more of a socialite’s venue, I felt that the Sculpin didn’t quite meet the hype. I had another try last night, this time with a bit of horizontal tasting. I already had a Hop Ottin IPA, which I consider the best-value IPA available in the country. The next brew up was the Sculpin, and wow, compared to the Hop Ottin’, which was probably equally “fresh,” the former just blew the latter away with its more balanced hops, fresher flavor and crisp mouth feel. Sculpin, I’m sorry I doubted you. For this particular review, I opened up another bomber here at home and poured it into a red wine glass instead of the usual American pint glass to really allow the aroma to come out.

It poured a deep amber with an airy, foamy two-finger head that receded all too soon. The lacing was awesome – I imagine shapes with lacing, just as how children imagine shapes made by clouds (this one was an arm reaching into the bottom of the glass, perhaps to sop up the remnants of this amazing brew). Even from the moment I opened the bottle, the cool, reassuring smell of mango, grapefruit, jackfruit – and dare I say it? Maybe even a hint of durian – wafted through the air, made even more pronounced after I poured and swirled the glass. It evokes memories of a breezy Philippine summer, and the freedom of racing through the rows of sunflowers lining University Avenue in Diliman after a hard-fought academic year.

This is a very drinkable, refreshing beer. It has a sublime hop flavor up front along with a bit of citrusy sweetness. It is probably the most balanced IPA I’ve tried. The mouthfeel is just right: dry, not too carbonated, barely-there alcohol despite the 7% ABV, just enough body and easy to swallow. More hops on the finish, but not cloyingly bitter, which really adds to its drinkability. I can only hope to someday try this beer right from the taps in Home Brewing Mart in San Diego.

My Beer Advocate Rating for this beer:
Look: 4 Smell: 5 Taste: 4.5 Feel: 5 Overall: 4.5

The sculpin may be a venomous, bottom-feeding fish, but this beer is definitely liquid gold.

Bought the beer from Gilmore Wines and Spirits, who graciously reserved bombers for me. Ballast Point Brewing Company craft beers are imported into the Philippines by Global Beer Exchange. The main review was cross-posted on beeradvocate.com. Apologies for the horrific Blackberry Curve pictures. They do no justice to the revered Sculpin.

Whew! That was tiring for a first post! E’s out!

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