Despite its 98 score on Beer Advocate and general praise from the world-round, up until yesterday I had never had a Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. Weird. I finally “broke down” and bought a bottle after a new shipment to the local beer store. I had it with some sauteed shrimp cooked with sesame sauce and topped with drizzled honey on a bed of brown rice. I thought the sweetness of the sauce would work well with the beer, along with the fact that I think IPAs work great with generally “light bodied” foods like fish.
The bottle had some great carbonation, which I always like with IPAs. It really helps to give them a great initial smell with all the bubbles coming off the top. After pouting into a chalice, the smell on the Sculpin was of mostly sweet fruit mixed with hops. The sweetness reminded me of pineapple up front – perhaps some apricot too? It actually made me think of Hopslam, but more abrasive because it doesn’t have any honey to balance it out. Perhaps a classic IPA kind of smell with tropical-style fruits with a good, hoppy backbone.
The taste had a lot of bitterness to it overall, but nothing that was too much. There’s bitter at the front and bitter and the end and somewhere in the middle some grapefruit. There is next to no malt taste, although in a beer like this I suppose you wouldn’t want any of that anyway. The beer has lots of citrus notes with perhaps some lemon to go with the grapefruit flavor too.
Both the beer and food paired well, with the bitterness of the beer doing a good job to balance out the “fishiness” of the shrimp. I liked the beer just fine, although maybe I was a bit let down because of the mythological standing it has. It’s a good IPA, but I think Founder’s, Bell’s and even Sierra Nevada have comparable options for a cheaper price (or at least multiple beers for the price of one Sculpin bomber).