Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits has a year round beer called Sculpin India Pale Ale. Named after the sculpin fish which has poisonous fins but is supposed to have delicious meat, the brewery describes the beer as “something that has a sting but tastes great.” While, Ballast Point stepped it up a notch when they made the Habanero Sculpin,1 adding habanero peppers to the brewing process.

Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA bottle

Originally a draft-only special release, it was announced in early 2014 that Ballast Point would be bottling it in 12-ounce bottles and shipping it as a yearly limited release. In addition to the Habanero Sculpin variation, the brewery also has a Grapefruit Sculpin, which sounds like it might be a little more down my alley. However that’s not the beer I’m reviewing today, so let’s jump into the peppered up IPA.

Pouring the Habanero Sculpin into my glass it’s a bright tangerine color with a wisp of head left after it settles down. The aroma is very strong hops, bright and crisp, with hints of citrus and a slight bit of habanero spiciness. It’s not much pepper on the nose for an IPA with the habanero as it’s namesake, so let’s see what the taste is.

Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA

Taking a tentative sip my mouth immediately is immediately flooded with the flavor of hops that’s quickly pushed out of the way for the habanero train.2 Seconds later it’s like I was hit by said train, and my mouth is on fire from the tip of my tongue to the back of my throat. Besides the residual fire in my mouth there’s a slight bit of hops that pushes through on the finish. It’s almost like I took a giant bite of hyper-hot salsa and tried to wash it down with an overly hoppy IPA. Taking a couple of minutes to let the embers in my mouth die out, I’m actually hesitant to take another drink. I do it though,3 and it’s just more fire. There is a smokey aspect to the peppery kick in the face, but it’s not good. The mouthfeel is good, as in it’s not overly carbonated, but really the mouthfeel is the last thing on my mind at this point.

Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA
BREWERY: Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
LOCATION: San Diego, Calif.
STYLE: IPA
ABV: 7 percent
IBU: 70
PRICE: $2.67
RELEASE DATE: April 2014
AVAILABLE IN: 12-ounce bottles
BEERS POURED: One
I can’t say that this is a beer I would have chosen off the shelf, as I’ve made pepper infused vodka before and it wasn’t pleasant at all. Unfortunately this IPA was very similar, just full of fire that drowned out almost every other aspect of the beer. I can appreciate heat in foods, or even the occasional jalapeño-infused martini, but heat for heat’s sake isn’t my cup of tea and I think that the Habanero Sculpin IPA is just overly peppery. The habanero heat is virtually the singular note, and it’s not a pleasant note for me at that. I’d love to try the normal Sculpin IPA, and definitely the Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, because then I might be able to really taste the notes that make up the base of the beer. So, this “fire water” might be for you, and if it sounds like it is you should go for it, but as for me it’s not something I’ll be trying again.
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