BP at Disney

Ballast Point already with an outpost in Long Beach will be adding a location across the street from the Happiest Place on Earth.

The San Diego brewery announced last week the fall slated opening of a small R7D brewery, tasting room and kitchen in the Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort.

The Constellation Brands owned brewery has a growing footprint from six tasting room locations in California, a new brewery and tasting room in Daleville, Virginia. And also in the works is a brewery and kitchen in Chicago.

Having been priced out of most theme parks and especially Disneyland, I haven’t been to the connected shopping and eating mall in a while. So I don’t know what crowd is actually walking around shopping and staying for dinner after a long day at either of the two parks. This could be a no-brainer or maybe they won’t last long because that rent will not be cheap.

The Firkin for March 2017

The Great Ballast Point boycott hashtagged this month in yet another bright example of why one should not immediately react and instead investigate, at least a little.

The gist being that the new owners, Constellation Brands, donated money politically. Which is legal (at least for the foreseeable future) and well within their rights to do. What raised the ire was who got the money. Well, some of their money, to be more precise.

Setting aside the notion that business ventures tend to donate to those in power for rules that would help them and them alone, it seems that certain people on both sides of the aisle will call foul anytime their “team” loses out.

If Constellation had donated 100% to Democratic party members, there would be no fuss from these people. The boycotters would probably not even look at the voting records of the money getters to see if they hewed to the Democratic party line.

I have not delved into the numbers to give you a Democrat/Republican percentage breakdown. I would rather read about hops or watch Iron Fist then depress myself with political reality.

What I can say is that no one should spread unsubstantiated facts or partial facts or “alternative” facts. You can say that Constellation donated to Paul Ryan’s campaign amongst other PAC spending and that, by your morality, you will no longer buy Ballast Point beer.

You cannot leave out the words from “Amongst” through “morality” from your phrasing and you also have to dig through what else Constellation owns and not buy those products either.

If you meet those conditions, then by all means, boycott away. But if a random dude/dudette on Facebook can call you out, then you haven’t done your homework. And no matter how un-fun homework is, it always has to be done.

1st Visit – Ballast Point Long Beach

The northernmost outpost of the Constellation backed Ballast Point Brewing has been out on the pier in Long Beach for quite awhile now. I finally lyfted out to the ocean to check out the menu and location.

And it is impressive. BP has maximized the amount of water view seating around three different bars on two levels. The calming peaceful water views are prime territory. You probably have to grab them when the brewery/restaurant opens the doors. At 2pm on a Saturday with not much in sports going on, there was nary a seat to be found, especially outside.

Next tip, from a one time visitor, is to station yourself at or near the Main bar. You will notice on the menu letters in front of the beer names. They designate where the beer is pouring. Notice all the “M”s? and not as many of the “U”s and “P”s.

So, you are now there early and at the main bar. What to order? Well, readers of this blog know of my issues with “fruited” beers which BP seems to love hard. But there are a good many choices and more exotic beers to choose from. I went with a Nitro Biere de Garde, Azote.  The style worked well with the nitro and made for an interesting beer that never got boring.  Tangential Entry a Nut Brown with rum chips would have been my second choice.  There was a gose and sours to choose from as well as a cask of Sculpin with a single hop addition.

It is a potent mix of maritime views and beer.

BP lands in LBC

Looks like Ballast Point is using their Constellation billions to make a push north into Long Beach. The San Diego brewer will be taking over a spot on the aptly named Marina Drive and opening in (probably) late summer of this year.
They will follow Firestone Walker into the L.A. beer and food market with Modern Times coming as well.

There is also a possibility of small-batch brewing being done on site as well. Maybe leading to L.A. only beers from the maker of Sculpin and a host of crazy popular fruit beers. Most of which I am not a fan of but Sculpin is still, after all these years, one of the best IPA’s out there.

With Smog City also rolling into Long Beach, the city is swelling with great beer.

Pineapple V. Watermelon

The whole frooty IPA thing seems to be knee deep in gimmick territory and it is only March. But instead of just bemoaning the fact, I went ahead and tasted two of the newest arrivals from Ballast Point.

Pineapple Sculpin started strong and sweet but it cooled down well. Sculpin might be a prime base for these experiments even though I am not a huge fan of the grapefruit and habanero that came before. There is little too much fight between the hops and sweet. And I had the same issue that I do with “flavored” beers in that, it tastes candy like and not like fruit.

Watermelon Dorado the Double IPA was much harder to drink. In fact, I could not finish it. There is a melon daiquiri aroma and the taste of hard candy flavor throughout was too strong and became cloying. It had a daquiri type aroma and oddly enough the hops came through less than the Pineapple Sculpin.

I certainly won’t be trying to many more IPA’s in this sub-style unless I get a super strong recommendation.

With a B?

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I had to rub my eyes when I saw the number. Without any coffee in my system, I was sure that I had mis-read it. But I had not there was a “B” not an “M” next to the ..illion in the news that Constellation Brands would acquire Ballast Point Brewing for $1 billion (give or take).

Here is the back story on the buyer: Constellation ranks third big beer wise on the strength of imported brands such as Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo and Pacifico. They are also in the wine business, as owners of Robert Mondavi, Clos du Bois, and others. They also are in the spirits game with SVEDKA Vodka and Black Velvet Canadian Whisky.”

With so many mergers and acquisitions this year, reactions have become predictable. It is clear by now that if you sell to someone who produces good beer or you sell only a partial stake, your brewery will not be smudged with bad PR residue. Private Equity (good or bad) gets more of a pass than ABInBev ever will. In this case the stink of Corona combined with the full sale and that high price will garner more negative than positive Google searches for the next few weeks.

With every deal there are both good and bad. The most exciting or damaging aspects might not appear for months or years but here are my knee-jerk reactions to the sale.

On the positive side, considering that Ballast Point distills spirits as well, the new owners will understand both markets which must have been a plus for both. Also, now that the pockets are deeper the expansion may increase in more brewing capacity and larger distribution even though they have been expanding their presence all over San Diego with tasting rooms and restaurants like the huge location in Little Italy that I was impressed by.

Flipping the coin, does Constellation know how to sell craft beer or will they really leave that to Ballast Point? What kind of pressure will Ballast Point be under to perform up to the standards of the price set?

The largest negative in the near term is the public perception. Some breweries have either a great product (Bourbon County Stout for Goose Island) or great brewers that are respected (10 Barrel with Tonya Cornett for one) that brings people back into the fold. Sculpin and their Victory at Sea variants along with the spirits line should assuage some harsher feelings to Ballast Point in a way that hasn’t happened for the likes of Elysian (divided ownership/lost brewmaster) or Golden Road (who reinforced a feeling of embracing big and average that has dogged it from the start).

Stepping back from the tree to the forest, that someone would pay this much money for a brewery either shows that it was in high demand and that the bidding pushed its valuation every higher or that Constellation really, really wanted Ballast Point and that the price wasn’t too high to stop them. Which to me means, that they think it is still a good economic play. They might have been able to buy another import to add to their portfolio with the “big” merger causing spin offs but Constellation wanted in to craft beer.

That might be the biggest take-away from this. Business now sees craft beer as potential and they are opening their wallets too.

Sean Suggests for November 2015

Let’s play the numbers! We have .394, 22 and 6. Two beers from San Diego and an anniversary beer from Boulder, Colorado for your November beer shopping list.

AleSmith/ .394 Pale Ale 6.00% ABV
“In early 2014, Tony Gwynn’s team approached AleSmith to create a distinctive beer for the baseball legend. A meeting was called at the Gwynn household, which included a sampling of AleSmith beers to identify Tony’s preferences. He wanted the beer to be “light with a kick” which he elaborated further to mean full of hop character and light in body and color. The result of the Gwynn family’s feedback on test batches rendered a golden pale ale full of American hop flavor and aroma, with a subdued bitterness and a malty sweet finish. AleSmith San Diego Pale Ale .394 pays tribute to the city that Tony loved and the career high batting average that he achieved in ’94. Discover what happens when a Hall of Fame perfectionist crafts a beer with a world-class brewery. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation (TAG).

Avery/ Twenty-Two 6.80% ABV
100% Brettanomyces dry Fermented Dry-Hopped Wild Ale. While touring Belgium with the greatest of friends in 2006, the Avery family came across a stunning creation in a quaint countryside pub that we all agreed was the best brew of the trip. Secreting home a couple of bottles, they intended to cultivate the wild yeast that spontaneously worked its magic in Beersel and propagate our own projects here in Boulder.

Ballast Point/ Homework # 6 7.00% ABV
“A Hybrid-Style Ale with a rich, Oktoberfest inspired malt base and a slamming hop profile, very similar to an India Pale Ale. CTZ (Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus) hops are added to the boil for bitterness, and copious amounts of Centennial hops are added during the late kettle hop addition and dry hopping post fermentation. In the Great American Beer Festival Style Guidelines there is a gap between the American-Style Amber/Red Ale and Imperial Red Ale. This beer fills this gap, whether you call it a Hoppy Red Ale or an India Red Ale, one thing is for sure…you will call it good.

Canned Cocktails


Cocktail afficionados, purists and artisans may blanch at the idea of canned drinks, I think it just might work for Ballast Point.  I have concerns about how “fresh” they may be even though the press release calls them “shelf stable” which I find a bit disconcerting.

But at a $15.00 four-pack price point, they are super affordable considering how high end the spirits are and being a G&T fan, but not really the best G&T blender makes them even more desirable.

I will skip the  Bloody Mary since I can’t stomach tomato juice but the two Rum varietals with cola or ginger look tasty too.

#LABW6 – But this is at the SAME time – Thursday the 25th


Your daily “alternate” L.A. Beer Week event source is right here. Do you know how in the World Cup, there is the so-called, “Group of Death”.  The group with the four toughest teams in the tournament.  Well, that is what the 25th is for L.A. Beer Week.  Way too many good things to choose from. So, today, you get two suggestions for where to go!

First up is a special Ballast Point night at Plan Check on Fairfax.  They have great food and you will get to try not only BP beers but their spirits and cocktails made with those spirits.

Or you could get tart and try two new sours from Highland Park Brewery.  One with peaches and one with nectarines! Then see what else the Hermosillo has on tap!