Ballast Point may be best known for its highly regarded Sculpin IPA, currently rated a perfect 100 at ratebeer.com and 98 at beeradvocate.com. But there’s much more to the story. The San Diego company, which opened its production brewery in 1996 and its craft distillery in 2008, now makes over 40 styles of beer and seven different spirits.
Toward the end of 2013, most of Ballast Point’s core beers and spirits became available in Georgia for the first time, with Sculpin, Big Eye IPA, Pale Ale, Calico Amber and Wahoo White making a splash at bars and package stores around Atlanta and Athens. Fugu Vodka, Three Sheets Rum and Old Grove Gin are showing up in some places now, too.
Yuseff Cherney, who has the distinction of being Ballast Point’s co-founder, chief operating officer, head brewer and head distiller, recalled the company’s humble beginnings in co-founder Jack White’s Home Brew Mart, a shop that’s still an important part of San Diego’s booming craft beer scene.
“We opened Ballast Point in the back of the retail store,” Cherney said. “From there, we were operating a 15-barrel brewery in a warehouse space, until we expanded into a couple of adjoining warehouse spaces and finally had no more room to grow.”
More recently, Ballast Point is producing 80,000 barrels a year and is on the way to becoming the second-largest craft brewery in San Diego. And it’s still growing, with a new brewery under construction that could produce nearly 300,000 barrels in the coming years.
Earl Kight, who is vice president of sales and marketing, was in Georgia in January to help introduce the beer and spirits at several events in Atlanta and Athens.
“We’d been trying to jump into the market for about a year and a half,” Kight said. “We knew there was fantastic activity going on in Georgia and it’s been going gangbusters so far.”
Cherney said the Ballast Point approach to beer goes back to the company’s homebrew roots.
“Our motto is that we brew the kind of beer we like to drink,” he said. “Everybody who works here is driven by a passion for certain styles, but we have one of the most diverse portfolios of any brewery anywhere.”
Though beer has been responsible for the success of Ballast Point, adding spirits to the mix has really set it apart. Now the brewery is even able to age some its beers in its own whiskey and rum casks.
“Being a brewer for 20 years and experimenting with the alchemy of brewing, getting into craft distilling was kind of the next logical step,” Cherney said. “It was almost like a hobby at the beginning. But now it’s taken on a life of it’s own and as we’ve won a number of awards in spirits competitions, it’s become a viable part of the business.
“I see it going hand-in-hand with the kind of beer we make. When people who know and like our beer see we make spirits, it’s something they want to try.”
Beer Pick: Sculpin IPA
Ballast Point Brewing Co., San Diego
$6.99/22-ounce bottle; $14.99/six-pack; also available on draft at metro beer bars and restaurants.
Profile: Sculpin is a perennial beer geek favorite that’s become a big seller in Atlanta on the order of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. At 7 percent alcohol by volume, it’s a juicy brew and a showcase for bright American hops, with fruity aromas and flavors, complex citrus and tropical notes, and sticky malt that lingers into the finish.
Pair with: Ballast Point recommends pairing Sculpin with coconut basmati rice, Jamaican jerk chicken and tropical bread pudding.
— By Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog.