West Coast Meets Midwest in Awesome Tap Takeover

San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing was center stage across 14 taps at St. Cloud’s House of Pizza downtown location this last Thursday night (Sept 10th).

We arrived shortly before the 5:00 starting time to secure a table (thanks, Jason!) and started looking through our options for first sips. The evening started out a little slow but picked up into a steady stream of customers eager to try the new arrivals. Because there were so many options, Jason wanted  visitors to be able to try out many different beers, but responsibly. House of Pizza doesn’t offer flights, but through the distributor, they did pick up a large selection of 4 oz. tasting glass from the last Beer Dabbler beer fest – offering those for $2.50 each. We saw A LOT of those little glasses floating around that night.

The Beers

Ballast Point makes some of Becky’s and my favorite beers – Sculpin IPA and Grapefruit Sculpin IPA to be precise – and we were really excited to try what store manager Jason Finch happened to get his hands on for the event.  It was quite a lineup, as I listed in a previous post…

We’ve tried many on the list but a few new interesting choices stood out.

Pumpkin Down: A pumpkin beer (duh) that had a hint of pumpkin flesh taste but was overpowered by the cloves. Didn’t get any other spices which was a bit disappointing as I’m a huge pumpkin beer fan (I know, sue me).

Calm Before the Storm: Our server, Adam, described this initially as a little brother to Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea.  I likened it to a dryer version of JP’s Casper White Stout.

They had two pepper beers on tap – the Wahoo Thia Chili w/Ginger and the Habanero Sculpin IPA. Both were interesting in their own right. The Wahoo’s heat resting on the front of the tongue while the Sculpin settled as it heads towards the throat – neither were overly hot or spicy this year.

What stands out most for me about Ballast Point isn’t so much that they make excellent beers (they do!), it’s that they take a standard flavor profile (for example, the saison), and manage to turn it up about one extra notch without overdoing it or ruining what that style is noted for. I believe it’s easier to do this with normally big beers – extra hops, whether for aroma or bittering, high alcohol for imperials, etc. can easily mask other potential problems or missteps.

It’s the lighter, cleaner beers such as the saison, lager, wheat, and the session IPA (in particular) that really shine as their flavors were much bolder than their contemporaries. This is where Ballast Point shines most in my book.