Yellowtail, Big Eye, Sculpin

  • Yellowtail, Big Eye, Sculpin

Venerable San Diego brewery Ballast Point, founded in 1996, began distributing its beers in Chicago last week. It names many of its beers after ocean fish (black marlin, dorado, sculpin) and generally sticks to a nautical theme even when fish aren’t involved (Victory at Sea coffee-vanilla imperial porter, Navigator doppelbock). Ballast Point is in fact a peninsula near San Diego, upon which a lighthouse stood until 1960; it’s just an automated light now.

If you’ve heard of only one Ballast Point beer, it’s probably Sculpin, an IPA named after a family of small bottom-dwelling fish that sometimes bear venomous spines. At press time it was ranked number 43 in the world at Beer Advocate. Only 11 pale ales or IPAs were deemed better, and just three of those are readily available here.

I’d originally planned to write about Sculpin alone this week, but while visiting In Fine Spirits on Sunday, it occurred to me that the shop’s “mixed six-pack” policy would allow me to affordably review three Ballast Point pales side by side: not just Sculpin but also the plain old Pale Ale (often called “Yellowtail Pale Ale”) and the Big Eye IPA. As it turns out, though, the “Pale Ale” is in fact a Kölsch-style beer, information I feel should appear on the bottle somewhere.

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.