Some of the biggest news in the craft brew world this year was the acquisition of Ballast Point Brewing Company by Constellation Brands. You might recognize Ballast Point’s famous, ubiquitous Sculpin IPA or Grapefruit Sculpin from your local grocery store shelf. However, there’s so much more to Ballast Point than what finds its way to your local store.
I had a few hours to kill during a free afternoon just outside San Diego at a conference last June and wanted to hit a few local breweries to maximize my time, sample some brews, and relax a little.
So, I started at Stone Brewing’s location in Escondido, CA and was browsing around the gift shop when I ran into several administrators of the California Alcoholic Beverage Control. I asked what other brewery I should check out in the area, since I only had time for one more, and they recommended that I check out Ballast Point. Those people obviously know their stuff, so who was I to disregard their recommendation?
So, I plugged the address into my GPS and took off directly to Ballast Point Brewing Company in Miramar, which is north of downtown San Diego and northeast from La Jolla. One of Ballast Point’s five locations and home to its newest brewery, it’s in the middle of an office park, ten-plus minutes from the highway and if you think you’re lost, then you’re probably in the right place and are nearly there. There’s not a whole lot of parking for the amount of people who are actually inside.
Pro-Tip #1: Carpool if you’re going to come here with a group, if you can. And always designate a driver if you plan on trying more than just a flight!
Upon arriving, I first noticed that there’s an enormous outdoor patio with games and tables to sit and enjoy the food and brews. But when you enter the front doors, the sheer size of the place finally hits you – it’s huge! When you walk in, the brewery is to the left and the restaurant and tasting room is to the right.
I sidled up to a barstool at an empty spot and was greeted by a friendly bartender and a massive beer list. I’d already had the Grapefruit Sculpin, but I was ready for some seriously unique brews in this bright and airy setting. The wafting, tantalizing scent of house made pretzels filled my nostrils, but I stayed strong. Plus, I had just eaten at Stone Brewing and I was definitely not hungry.
Since I was driving myself and I wanted to get a taste of as many beers as I could (safely) I opted for three four-ounce tastings, which was only $5, and one bonus taster for $2. You can’t do that in New York City!
Pro-Tip #2: Do a tasting and sample as many of their unique brews as you can (within reason).
They do something here that I found was pretty prevalent during our last trip to Chile, and that’s to use paper tags for the bottom of the glasses on which they identify which beer is in the glass. I loved this little touch because, with so many special, weird beers on tap, you can easily forget which one you are tasting. It probably also cuts down on questions for bartenders – “Which beer is this again?”
I was feeling like something fruity and spicy, so I ordered the Habanero Sculpin IPA, the Thai Chili Wahoo White, the Barmy, Ale and the Indira Kunindra Export Stout.
The Habanero Sculpin IPA and the Thai Chili Wahoo White were as spicy as promised, but still refreshing and delicious. The Barmy’s hints of apricot and honey complemented the spice of the first two, while the Indian spices, coconut and kaffir lime notes of Indira Kunindra served almost as a dessert. They were all amazing.
I love that Ballast Point isn’t afraid to experiment. Their R&D brews are interesting, novel and some are downright kooky. The fact that they can leverage their size and success while still experimenting their pants off – well, that’s pretty special.
I enjoyed my beers while watching some sports on the overhead flat-screens and asked for the check. The bartender looked disappointed that I was leaving: “Leaving so soon?” I apologized that I had to get back to my responsibilities. And I truly WAS sorry that I couldn’t stay longer or try more of their beers and take a tour.
Next time! I definitely plan to come back and take a tour of their shiny new brewery, which happen every two hours in the afternoon.
Ballast Point is the perfect stop for any beer lover in SoCal, whether on vacation or just trying to do something different. I can’t wait to go back!
How to get to Ballast Point Brewing Company
The Miramar location of Ballast Point is about equidistant between the 805 and the 15, north of San Diego. You definitely need to take a car. Alternatively, you can visit their R&D brewery in downtown San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood.
Address: 9045 Carroll Way, San Diego, CA 92121
Phone: (858) 790-6901
Opening Hours: Mon–Sat 11:00am–11:00pm, Sunday 11:00am–9:00pm
Tours: Daily at 12pm, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm
Downtown – Little Italy (if you have no car):
2215 India St
San Diego, CA 92101
Opening Hours: 11am-11pm daily
Have you been to Ballast Point? What did you think? Tell me in the comments!