Beer Review: Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin

Around two years ago, Ballast Point started distributing their beers in the Buffalo area.  They did the usual introductory tap takeover at a local bar, which my step-dad and I gleefully attended.  We pulled our usual hijinks, getting into the tasting area early like a couple of groupies.  Ballast Point came to the event with an arsenal of beers, but one in particular knocked our socks off – Habanero Sculpin. 

If you are a fan of West Coast IPA’s, Ballast Point Sculpin is one of the more superb IPA’s you can get your hands on regularly.  It’s expensive, about $14.99 a six pack, but is insanely fresh, citrusy, and hoppy.  It’s very good.  Ballast Point took this IPA, and infused it with habanero peppers.  This was also very good.

Up until that point, I hadn’t had a hot pepper infused beer before.  This beer was fantastic. It had the hoppy, citrusy, deliciousness that the Sculpin IPA has, but with a kick of heat after you swallow.  No other hot pepper beer I’ve had measures up to it.  It’s not just the heat, its the overall balance of flavors that coincide with the heat.  Other pepper infused beers fail at achieving this delicate balance.

Just recently, this has now become available in the bottle.  I’m not sure how available, but we managed to get our hands on a few six packs.  Would the bottled version measure up to what I tasted 2 years go?  You bet your ass!  If you can find yourself some, I highly recommend this beer.

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Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin

7% ABV  70 IBUs

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA

Walking into our local Wegmans, I couldn’t help noticing this beer on display.  It was an IPA, slightly over-priced, and touted something I wasn’t exactly familiar with – “Brewed from farm distilled hop oil.”

These days, everyone is coming out with a gimmic IPA.  Stone releases a new one every month and quite frankly, it gets a bit ridiculous after a while.  Had this been something from Stone, I would have passed on it.  Not because it wouldn’t have  been good, but because I’m bored with it.

Over the past year, Sierra Nevada has impressed me.  They have taken some bold steps to stay relevant in an over-saturated craft beer industry, successfully putting out some solid beers and collaborations.  With Hoptimum being one of my favorite Imperial IPA’s from Sierra Nevada, I had good reason to give Hop Hunter a try.

Hop Hunter is brewed with an all new method, steam distilling wet hops before they leave the fields.  According to Sierra Nevada’s scientist and hop genius, Tom Nielson, the technique allows the brewery to procure hop oil right from the hop farms, as opposed to the brewery.

The brewery retrofitted machinery that used to be used to extract oil from mint plants.  Multiple trailers store the freshly picked hop cones.  With the normal hop process, the hops are dried from 75% moisture down to 10%.  A lot of flavor is lost during this process, so these trailers were designed to steam the hops, collect the vapor, distill it, and then separate the oil from the water.

So how was this beer?  The first time I had it, I was taken back.  I found it to be a little bitter and it definitely had a taste that was different from your normal IPA.  I was not a fan.

A few days later, I had another.  I found the flaver to be the same, but not nearly as bad as the first time.  I was still not a fan.

About a week went by, and one afternoon I decided to give it one more try.  Third time’s a charm right?  Yes actually!  Something about this beer clicked with me on the third time around.

Beer Advocate gives this about a 91%, and I think that’s a fair assessment.  If you try this and don’t like it at first. give it a few more tries.  It’s not a technique I normally use with beer, but I found this to be an original enough concept to give a fair chance.

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