An invasive species is an animal or organism that is introduced to a non-native environment where it is expected to cause great harm to that eco-system and the inhabitants of that eco-system.
This is a fitting description for Ballast Point Brewing and their opening of a Long Beach location in the middle of an area that is home to local and independently owned Beachwood Brewing. While it is likely that this would have been problematic even if Ballast Point were still owned and operated by the same people who started it over 20 years ago, it is all the more contentious since Ballast Point was acquired by Constellation Brands (owners of Corona) a little over a year ago.
When the plans for opening were first announced, it could only be interpreted as shots fired by Big Beer against small, independent local breweries. Instead of cowering in the shadows or simply ignoring the threat against them, Beachwood took action. On July 29, 2016 they adopted the hashtag #independentbeer, they marked the day as one to unify and stand-up to corporate beer and their attempts to bully the smaller, local breweries who were clearly their targets.
Next up in their acts of independence was a bold yet simple idea; a growler exchange program. Bring in your corporately owned brewery growler (i.e. Ballast Point and a few others) and have it swapped out for free with a brand new Beachwood growler and a $5 gift card. Essentially paying the consumer to ditch their big beer gear and support local and independent.
As great as those ideas were and are, Beachwood saved the best to close out the year 2016. This is when, for the first time ever, they would release a mixed 4-pack of 12oz bottles that would essentially recreate the famous Ballast Point lineup of Sculpin beers. The four beers in the pack consisted of a standard Sculpin-like IPA, a mango
, habanero and most importantly a grapefruit variant. This series was titled “Invasive Species” and features the logo of a dead fish and the bold words of “It matters who makes your beer” and a new hashtag #truetobeer.
As a staunch supporter of the independent beer movement, this release was too good to pass up.
Now, as a consumer, I’ve not purchased or drank a Ballast Point beer in over a year, so my recollection of those initial offerings might be fuzzy. With that said, I must also disclose that my palate happily agrees with just about all the beers that Beachwood is currently brewing.
So how were the beers? They were all winners.
The Beachwood take on these four staples of the Ballast Point lineup were, in my opinion, superior to those of the original. The Habanero had a lingering pepper flavor that did not burn, yet allowed for natural beer flavors to shine. The Mango was subtle, not overly sweet like the Ballast version I remember. The grapefruit was masterfully recreated and it avoided overloading the palate with fruit flavor. And the standard IPA? Another masterstroke as it might have been the best version of Sculpin I have had in many years and served as a reminder of what put Southern California on the beers map in the first place.
While it is not yet known if Beachwood will continue to brew these four reinterpretations, I tend to think that these are the beers that might just make the average, non-informed consumer pay a little more attention to where their beer is coming from and just how good it can be when you strip away the billions of dollars and have quality people focused on making quality beer for all to enjoy. Long live Beachwood Brewing and long live Independent Beer!