While I was visiting San Diego a while back, I had some time to kill, so I decided to check out Ballast Point Brewing Co. Google Maps led me into a maze of industrial complexes connected by wide, winding parkways with names like Business Park Avenue and Activity Road. The brewery was here, apparently, though it appeared as if I was more likely to find a medium-sized insurance billing company. But sure enough, there was the brewery, stuck right between the headquarters for a wholesale electronics company and some sort of medical clinic. Interesting.
Despite the drab and somewhat depressing corporate exterior, the inside of the brewery (and especially the beers inside) made the voyage into small business purgatory well worth it. I took a tour of their growing brew house, and in their tasting room I tried some of their great beers, including the awesome Sculpin IPA and Black Marlin Porter.
I guess it isn’t so unusual for small breweries to situate themselves in industrial complexes — Ballast Point’s own neighbors include other well-known breweries like Alesmith and Green Flash. They’re all even right across the street from White Labs, a company that supplies a huge portion of the brewing yeast used by both professional breweries and home brewers alike.
Before even thinking about opening a brewery, Ballast Point founder Jack White (not to be confused with the guitarist) brewed beer in his backyard in California. He found it difficult to source the various ingredients he needed for quality beer, so he decided to open a home brewing supply store in San Diego. White’s store, Home Brew Mart, became a place for aspiring home brewers to buy ingredients and chat about their brewing activities. White kept up with his hobby by brewing in the back room of the store, and soon enough he and award-winning home brewer Yuseff Cherney collaborated to open Ballast Point brewery in 1996. The nautical theme of the brewery is a reflection of Jack and Yuseff’s second love: fishing.
I grabbed a six pack of Ballast Point’s Big Eye IPA to try this week. From a 12 ounce can, the beer pours a crystal clear copper color with a lasting foamy head and sticky lacing on the side of the glass. The aroma brings forth floral hop notes with some sweet malts poking through. Taking a sip, I noticed tasty, fruity hops up front with a good malt presence. The hops’ bitterness, however, is overt and a bit harsh toward the end of the sip, which is not surprising given the beer comes in at 70+ IBU.
The Big Eye IPA may be a bit bitter for my liking (even for an IPA), but it makes up for it with wonderful fruity and floral hop flavors. The beer is a bit heavy bodied, and it’s hard to imagine drinking more than a few of these in succession. Overall, though, this is a solid offering from a brewery that definitely keeps it real. Gulp!
$11 for a six pack of cans
7 percent ABV
My ratings (out of 5):