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San Salvador Saison in the Ballast Point 14th Anniversary Taster Glass

The Ballast Point Brewing Company 14th Anniversary party this past Saturday was a big hit. Held at Liberty Station in Point Loma and only $20 for 10 tasters it was quite the deal. Ballast Point had at least 40 beers on tap and there were plenty of guest breweries on hand as well. The festival was pretty full but not overly crowded and the only real complaint I heard all day was the lack of water. There were no water stations as far as I could tell and not even any drinking fountains inside the festival. (Sure, some people were complaining about the lines for the bathrooms, but it’s a beer festival, a bathroom line should be expected).

Below are some notes on the beers we tasted as well as a few pictures from the event.

  • Ballast Point San Salvador Saison – Brewed using local ingredients (including pine nuts, agave, elder flower, white sage, manzanita berries, curacao and local sage honey) and described by Ballast Point as tasting like the San Diego countryside, this was the beer I was most looking forward to. It smelled and tasted of sage but wasn’t over powering. It was fairly malty and it was obvious there were more exotic ingredients than just the sage but I couldn’t identify anything else. Not much of this beer was made, but I’m hoping it will show up either at one of the Ballast Point tasting rooms or a bar or restaurant again before it’s gone.
  • Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA – Ballast Point’s extremely popular Sculpin IPA with a bit of a habanero kick. This was another one I was looking forward to. I was at the Ballast Point tasting room about five years ago and tried a sample of what they were simply calling “Habanero beer” at the time. I don’t remember all the details, but it certainly wasn’t Sculpin with Habanero. Habanero Sculpin was hoppy, with hardly any habanero flavor coming through over all those hops, but it had a nice spicy aftertaste. Not too much heat came through, just enough to let you know it’s there. I probably wouldn’t take a pint of this over a pint of regular Sculpin, but it’s a nice little variation.
  • Ballast Point Sour Wench 2010 – I had never had this before so I decided to go with the 2010 instead of the 2009 which they also had on tap so I could see how it was fresh. It smelled a bit like Parmesan cheese but tasted like blackberries, sweet and tart.
  • Ballast Point Cocao Nib Black Marlin Porter – It’s been a while since I’ve had Black Marlin Porter, so I  can’t compare this to the regular version but this one both smelled and tasted strongly of chocolate. The four ounce taster was good, but I’m not sure I could drink a full pint of it.
  • The Bruery 7 Grain Saison – A fairly straight forward saison. Good earthy yeast smell and maybe even some cereal malts. A good representation of the style.

    La Jolla Brewhouse's new brewer Travis Smith

  • Ballast Point Fathom India Pale Lager on cask – Hoppy but not over the top. It’s enjoyable but I wouldn’t see myself drinking this over Sculpin if both were available.
  • Ballast Point Schooner Wet Hop Ale – I was a bit disappointed in this one. Maybe it’s because I tried it right after Fathom, but it seemed far less hoppy than I expected and I didn’t get many of the fresh hop flavors that typically stand out in wet hopped beers. I’m hoping to try this one again soon with a clean palate.
  • La Jolla Brewhouse Pariah IPA – A good standard IPA. It’s not over the top with the hops, but has plenty of flavor. This is one of the new beers from La Jolla Brewhouse’s new Brew Master Travis Smith. I’m looking forward to try more of this and his other beers soon.
  • Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin on cask – This beer is partially aged in bourbon barrels, but I didn’t get much of that in the small taster I had (I’ll be sampling more soon though!). It was rich and creamy, oatmeal and chocolate stood out.

Mike and Ryan from West Coaster were on hand volunteering, click on their names to read each of their takes on the festival, pouring two of the most popular casks there.

Ryan from West Coaster pouring Fathom IPL

Andrew Spreading the Good Word for Taphunter

Photos: Chris Hammett and Jeff Hammett