Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Catching the Sculpin

It seems only natural that, if the brewers love to fish, they would name their beers after those fish. Take, for example, the brewers at Ballast Point Brewing Company in San Diego, California.  The brewery has a webpage dedicated to the Ballast Point Fishing Team and their stories about catching and tagging some very impressive fish, such as yellow tuna, wahoo, and grouper. 

So, it comes somewhat as a surprise that Ballast Point chose "Sculpin" as the name for its India Pale Ale.  The sculpin is an elongated fish with a heavy head, gill covers with spines and wide, fan like pectoral fins.  Different species of the sculpin can be found in the Atlantic Ocean (including the bullrout and the longhorn sculpin) and Pacific Ocean (including the cabezone and the long snout sculpin), where they move slowly along the ocean floor seeking out small fish and shrimp. The sculpin is far from a tuna or a grouper.

A Sculpin from our Lobster-Fishing Experience
During our vacation in Maine, both Clare and I came face to face with the sculpin.  We spent a morning aboard a working lobster boat, learning about how a fisherman earns a living catching lobsters.  The sculpin often enter the lobster traps to feast on the bait.  That easy meal sometimes comes with a price as the sculpin are often trapped in the cages and pulled up with the lobsters.  Some fishermen use the trapped sculpin as bait to catch more lobsters.  On our trip, we pulled up a couple of sculpin in the lobster traps.  The largest of the fish is shown in the picture to the right.  That sculpin was lucky. It was thrown back in the water rather than as being used as bait in the lobster trap.

 For the brewers at Ballast Point, the Sculpin is a "testament" to their humble beginnings as the Home Brew Mart, where they began to brew their beers.  The brewers describe the Sculpin as "a deceptively light bodied, yet very hoppy IPA with bright apricot, peach, mango and lemon flavors," which are achieved through the use of different hops.  

The Sculpin pours a nice gold to orange color with a thin, wispy foam.  The aromatic elements of the beer feature strong citrus tones, with some other fruit, such as the apricot or peach suggested by the brewers.  The beer does have a light body, and, it is full of citrus hop flavors.  The hops are well rounded and the citrus flavors continue into the finish, which is somewhat dry.  The hop flavors are well balanced, without imparting too much bitterness and even bringing out some sweetness in the beer.  

One reviewer suggests that the Sculpin is best paired with fish tacos, steamed mussels or blue cheese.  I think the fish tacos would work well, but steamed mussels and blue cheese provide two different end points to a range of flavors that may fall outside of what would work best for an India Pale Ale.  Another review suggests a meaty pizza or Italian dishes.  Personally, I think that the Sculpin is best paired with grilled meats and vegetables.  The light citrus and bitter flavors of the beer would complement the fats of the meats and the oils used with the vegetables.

I found the Sculpin at a local grocery store and if you see it, you should definitely consider buying a bottle to try, even if you are someone who ordinarily does not like hoppy or bitter beers.  It sells for $9.99 a bottle.


1 comment:

Thomas Anthony said...

Sculpins are cool, good to see them get some notoriety

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