It’s not often a tiny fish takes on a whale and wins; that is unless the tiny fish is an invasive species, capable of wrecking a whale’s comfy habitat. Beachwood Brewing did just that with it’s latest IPA release, setting loose a school of IPAs aimed at killing the notorious bottom-feeding Sculpin IPA and its flavored variants.
When the podcast I’m on decided to do the Pepsi challenge, I was excited to pit brewery-fresh versions of each over a blind challenge. We went in knowing both breweries are capable of making excellent quality beer, and I hoped my home-county brewery would come out ahead.
On one hand, Sculpin IPA is one of those IPAs that has defined the style for years. Once hard to come by, the brewery upped production, flooding the market with canned six-packs for upwards of $16.99. Habanero Sculpin, once a brewery-only offering, was packaged, then came a grapefruit version many beer geeks flocked to. Next, the unthinkable happened. Ballast Point was sold to Constellation Brands for 1.5 billion dollars, the biggest buyout ever for a craft brewery.
With the huge influx of cash came Ballast Point pubs, one of which opened in Long Beach between Beachwood BBQ’s Seal Beach and Long Beach locations. Smelling blood, Beachwood took to social media, offering customers a chance to trade in big sellout brewery growlers for one of theirs—filled with Beachwood beer—at a nice discount. Beachwood then put out The Independent, an American IPA released on election day with a clear message: vote with your wallet, choose locally owned and independently made beer.
When it came time for our blind challenge, we started with plain Sculpin IPA vs. Beachwood’s Invasive Species IPA, served at the same temp in the same glassware. Aside from a slight chill haze on one, both appeared exactly the same SRM (beer color) and similar head. Beer one had a huge tropical nose, beer two, very subdued. Flavor-wise, both had very similar malts and hop flavors. The edge went to the beer with the big-hop aroma, beer number one. See winner list at the bottom!
The second set was very similar visually from the first. Ballast Point Mango Even Keel session IPA compared to Beachwood’s Mango Invasive Species. Served blind, beer number one had a candy-like mango aroma, which I noted as smelling somewhat like strawberry Nestle’s Quick, or like Boo-Berry marshmallow cereal offered around Halloween. Beer number two, the mango was more of a background note as opposed to taking over the whole beer. Although I didn’t care much for either (I prefer beer-flavored beer), beer number two was my clear winner. Leave the fake flavoring for kid’s breakfast, thanks very much!
With the grapefruit versions, I sadly cannot partake due to medication that states “do not take with grapefruit juice” with a skull and crossbones. However I did whiff each beer’s aroma, and similar to the mango beers, one stood out as being ultra-fake grapefruit (beer one) and beer number two having a fresh-squeezed approach. I picked beer number two based on the au natural vibe.
Lastly were the habanero versions. Beer number one had a spicy birthday-cake aroma, the other with a huge peppery nose. Both had a similar scoville heat burn on the finish, but I ended up choosing number two for its superior nose.
✦Plain Sculpin IPA vs. Invasive Species: Beer number one wins! Congrats Beachwood!
✦Mango Even Keel IPA vs. Invasive Species Mango: Beer number two wins! Congrats Beachwood!
✦Grapefruit Sculpin vs. Invasive Species Grapefruit: Beer number two wins! Congrats Beachwood!
✦Habanero Sculpin vs. Invasive Species Habanero: Beer number two wins! Congrats Ballast Point!
✦Tasting beer blind is always an extremely enlightening experience, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.