- October 11, 2017
You may think of San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewing as the “Sculpin brewery,” and you’d have good reason. Sculpin – and Grapefruit Sculpin, Pineapple Sculpin, Habanero Sculpin and new Unfiltered Sculpin – blew up big in the past three years. People grabbed it in bottles and cans, drank it on draught, and talked about it all the time. People who were brand new to craft beer suddenly thought they knew everything about it. The only thing they really knew was that they liked Sculpin. They didn’t know anything about Ballast Point.
And that makes sense. Sculpin was the breakout beer for Ballast Point, the one that transformed them from a great local brewery to one whose beers were in demand across the country. It’s a great story, and one you can tell your customers to get them hooked on the big fish – Ballast Point’s entire portfolio.
The Ballast Point Story
Most craft brewers began as homebrewers. But the company that became Ballast Point, has its roots in the homebrewing business. The brewery’s founders launched Home Brew Mart, a retail operation selling ingredients and equipment to homebrewers. It was a way they could make money to support their homebrewing “habit”. The store just celebrated its 25th year in September 2017.The brewery came four years later...and eight years later, in 2004, two Home Brew Mart employees helped their homebrew club win the Club Of The Year award in the National Homebrew Competition.
Those two employees, Doug Duffield and George Cataulin, brewed gold medal-winning beers, both in the IPA category, and when they looked at each other’s recipes, realized that they were strikingly similar. In 2005, Ballast Point specialty brewer Colby
Chandler worked with them to meld the two recipes into one beer, one of the very first “juicy” IPAs, where the fruity notes of Simcoe and Amarillo hops came out over the typically bitter and piney hops of the West Coast style. Chandler created Sculpin as we know it today. It blew up, and everyone wanted it.
Ballast Point 2.0
That’s a good story in itself, but there are two very important additional pieces to it. First, it reminds us about what kind of brewery this is. It’s no secret that the folks at Constellation Brands, importers of Corona and other Mexican beers, spent big money to acquire Ballast Point. There was a willing buyer and willing sellers, who after more than 20 years in the business decided the time was right to move on.
“Hey, it’s the American dream,” Colby Chandler reminded an Australian journalist during a recent trip to the land down under. “Constellation wants to get great liquid to consumers. That helps the industry as a whole. As a brewer, that’s my goal, too.”
It’s worth reminding your customers that the brewery hasn’t really changed. Ballast Point is still experimenting with flavors, in a very balanced and culinary way, and they still do small-scale, draught-only beers in their southern California facilities.
And Chandler is still brewing beer. He makes two or three different brews every week at Ballast’s ‘R&D’ restaurant in San Diego’s Little Italy. The company may have been purchased, but it continues to stay fresh and open to new ideas.
Beyond Sculpin: The Victory at Sea Series
Which brings up the second point: it’s a lot more than just Sculpin! Ballast Point has always had a full range of beers, from easy-drinking session types like their Bonito Blonde and Even Keel Session IPA to IPAs like Sculpin and Manta Ray and big beers like Victory At Sea Imperial Porter. Your approach with the customer could mirror the brewery’s approach to a new account: lead with Sculpin, establish the quality of the beer, and then follow up with beers for different occasions.
That’s why a few beers from Ballast Point should be of particular interest to you right now. One you probably already know: Victory At Sea (VAS) Imperial Porter. This hugely flavorful and light-denying dark beer accents the roasted coffee notes of dark malts with a cold-brewed addition of San Diego’s own Caffè Calabria coffee, and smooths it off with a hint of vanilla. It’s big, but like all Ballast Point beers, it’s balanced. The brewery suggests pushing this opaquely black beer hard at the Winter Solstice, December 21st, the “Darkest Day of the Year.” VAS may not be on your average customer’s radar, but if they like Sculpin, that’s a great intro to this huge glass of black thunder.
And there are two flavor additions to Victory at Sea this year: Coconut and a Peanut Butter version (you know there are customers for that one!).These are fantastic beers – perfect for rich, celebratory holiday meals, from Halloween to Valentine’s Day.
The Discovery Series
Sculpin and VAS might be too much for some customers. As in too much flavor or maybe just too expensive. That’s why Ballast Point has a new Discovery series that includes beers from 4-6% ABV, with a more approachable flavor profile and a more affordable price point. These beers introduce customers to the brewery (or even to the craft category).There are familiar brands in the series, like Mango Even Keel, Bonito Blonde, and Longfin Lager, but there’s a new one, too: Fathom IPA.
Fathom is the kind of beer you might find yourselves going back to: a solid IPA. Not a flavored IPA, or a “juicy” IPA, not a double or a session IPA and not a cloudy “New England” IPA, Fathom is the kind of IPA the West Coast brewers built their identity on: bitter with a malt backbone, enveloped in a cloud of citrus and pine hops aroma. Classic stuff your customers may have yet to discover.
It’s All About the Beer
Who owns a brewery should not be more important than who makes the beer, and how it tastes. It’s time to focus on the liquid. That’s where Ballast Point shines. The brewery started with people who were all about making great beer and they still think that way. They still run the Home Brew Mart and are very much connected to homebrewing. Colby Chandler’s work is proof of that.
Complete with “Tasting Room & Kitchen”, Ballast Point’s new Daleville, Virginia brewery lets foodies and beer lovers experience the San Diego craft beer scene in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
Ballast Point: Selling the Portfolio
Take your customers on a journey through the Ballast Point lineup. Begin with the Discovery series, then watch them trade up to the Flagship and Explorer series.
Anchored by Fathom IPA and Bonito Blonde, these flavorful, lower ABV, attractively priced beers will “hook” customers on Ballast Point.
• Fathom IPA
• Bonito Blonde
• Mango Even Keel Session IPA
• Longfin Lager
• Rotating Seasonals
• Ballast Point Variety Pack
Signature beers like Sculpin IPA epitomize craft beer at its best. And Ballast Point aficionados don’t mind spending a bit more for high quality brews.
• Sculpin IPA
• Grapefruit Sculpin IPA
• Unfiltered Sculpin IPA
• Manta Ray Double IPA
• Rotating Seasonals
• Sculpin Variety Pack
For those who dare to journey beyond IPAs, these beers are the brewery’s most innovative barrel-aged and sour offerings.
• Sour Wench (year-round)
Four Rotating Packages
• Red Velvet Jan-Mar
• Watermelon Dorado Apr-Jun
• Pumpkin Down Jul-Oct
• Victory at Sea Nov-Dec