Ballast Point Brewing’s calling card for the last 15 years has been its Sculpin IPA (label pictured here — and no word on whether the beer has made the sculpin fish more or less popular). Naturally, there’s a lot more to know about this spiky-fish-themed beer brand, and the pioneering brewery behind it.
For instance, it’s one of the forefathers of the California craft beer scene; it’s the first-ever brewery to open in one of the world’s largest theme parks; and it went from being owned by one of the biggest alcohol companies on the planet to a company no one had ever heard of. It’s even got a distillery step-cousin (brother? uncle?) that’s currently producing some of our favorite cocktails in cans (yes).
Here are nine more things to know about Ballast Point.
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It started as a homebrew shop.
Imagine wanting to bake a strawberry shortcake but you can only shop at 7-11. That’s what amateur avid brewer Jack White was dealing with in San Diego in the late 1980s and early 1990s, except he was trying to brew good beer and there just weren’t places to buy decent homebrew supplies.
His solution: Build a store, your own beer will follow. In 1992, White opened Home Brew Mart, a humble shop with hops, malts, and, vitally, a place for community that planted seeds for the San Diego craft beer scene to come. White eventually launched Ballast Point from out of the back of the store in 1996. The store is still growing strong.
That shop basically birthed the San Diego beer scene.
Considering all the homebrewing passion Jack White churned up and fed Home Brew Mart, it’s no surprise his humble storefront has been called “the shop that launched a thousand brewing careers.” According to the San Diego Reader, former employees and customers have gone on to contribute to San Diego’s bucket-list-worthy beer destinations, including Coronado, AleSmith, Amplified Ale Works, Pizza Port, and Nickel Beer Co.
Ballast Point became a billion-dollar brewery.
Yes, a billion dollars. As much as we imagine Elon Musk is going to pay for the moon, whenever he tries to buy it, is the number beverage giant Constellation Brands landed on when it purchased Ballast Point in 2015.
But that deal didn’t pan out.
In April 2019, Constellation announced it would close several locations and cancel plans for a new brewery in San Francisco. By December 2019, four years after acquiring Scuplin’s creator, Constellation sold Ballast Point to a small Chicago-based company called Kings & Convicts Brewing Co. It sold at a loss of a few hundred million dollars. (Then again, once I tried to resell my 1996 Toyota Corolla and ended up paying for it to be moved and destroyed. It happens.)
Ballast Point multiplied.
Ballast Point’s star-bright future with Constellation as a parent and Corona as a sibling may have dimmed, but the brewery is still out here making lots of beer. At press time, it operates five locations in California and one in Chicago. Choosing which to visit depends on what kind of beer geek you are. In San Diego alone, there’s the main production facility in Miramar; the original location, none other than the Home Brew Mart in Linda Vista, and another location in Little Italy. Long Beach is home to another Ballast Point taproom, and filling out Ballast Point’s California roster is a location in Anaheim. About that Anaheim location…
Get ready for some fist-fighting Mickeys.
What better to celebrate, or erase, the memory of your third visit to “It’s a Small World” than (so much) beer? In late 2018 Ballast Point opened at DisneyLand, becoming the first brewery to launch a location in the Disney Park universe. Technically a part of “Downtown Disney” (which sounds like a place you can get hassled by an ornery off-the-clock Mickey Mouse), the Ballast Point brewpub includes an R&D brewery, an outdoor beer garden, and a restaurant, according to a press release.
Magic Kingdom-worthy brews include the apricot Belgian Strong Ale aged in virgin oak and clocking in at 12 percent ABV, a 6.5 percent ABV Pineapple Chili Kombucha we’d like to have installed in our water tap, and a small-batch local Thunderking coffee-infused milk stout, which should yield just the right mix of energy-plus-sensory-numbing buzz to prep you for a return to the park.
Its most famous IPA is brewed with a metaphorical rattlesnake bite.
Sculpin IPA is one of Ballast Point’s most noteworthy beers (you might know it better by its aforementioned label — the one with the terrifying bright reddish orange fish?). The beer’s bold, citrusy hoppiness is why people love it, but it’s called Sculpin because of that hoppy bite: For non-aquarists out there, sculpin fish have stinging spines that can supposedly cause as much pain as a rattlesnake bite. (Don’t worry: The beer rings in at a soothing 7 percent ABV.)
Ballast Point was on “The Big Bang Theory.” And that upset some people.
Not because they weren’t Chuck Lorre fans. Ballast Point and its fairly recognizable label were on an episode of “The Big Bang Theory” back in late 2015 (you know, the one where nerdery and hilarity collide). Some beer fans hailed the product placement as a good thing, e.g., “Raj couldn’t be drinking a better beer,” while others maybe not inaccurately decried the non-crafty vibe of product placement on a major network. (Fellow San Diego craft brewery Stone has also made more than a few TV cameos).
Possibly an appearance with more craft beer cachet: That’s a Ballast Point poster over Richard’s shoulder here on “Silicon Valley,” and it’s not paid product placement, either — according to this 2017 interview in Hop Culture, the prop master for the show is a fan, because people who make awesome things like the awesome things other people make.
Ballast Point has a distillery step-sibling.
Just like Ballast Point was incubated in the warm, grainy bosom of the Home Brew Mart, another operation grew up within Ballast Point brewery — the distillery Cutwater Spirits. The brainchild of then-Ballast head brewer Yuseff Cherney and founder Jack White, Cutwater eventually parted ways with Ballast Point, developing into a robust distilling operation that does spirits and— make room in your picnic basket — a game-changing line of canned cocktails (we’re partial to the G&T and Bloody Mary).