Last summer saw a huge rise in availability/popularity of the shandy and radler beer styles, which are beers mixed with citrusy fruit juice or fruit flavored soda. This trend has met a mixed response from beer enthusiasts. Radler fans have started the twitter hashtag #teamradler to try and raise awareness and excitement about fun new examples of the style. Others have opined that commercial shandies are for suckers due to the fact that they either dilute perfectly good beer or taste artificial. I have mixed opinions on the shandy/radler movement. While I have never been a huge fan of adding fruit flavoring to beer, I tried a few local shandies and I’ve been surprised how much I enjoyed them. I don’t think I could drink a 6-pack of shandy in a day, but it is a nice way to mix it up, especially on a warm summer day. The one major issue that I’ve had with shandies/radlers is the lack of beer flavor, they are typically light lagers/ales that are quickly overpowered by the fruit flavor. Ballast Point has taken the trend in a different direction, and the result is one of the more popular radlers on the market. Instead of using a light ale, Ballast point added grapefruit flavor to their Sculpin IPA, resulting in Grapefruit Sculpin. This combination makes a lot of sense, the New World hops used in many popular IPAs are prized for the citrus and tropical fruit flavor and aroma they impart on the resulting beer. The addition of a citrus fruit like grapefruit should complement the inherent flavors the hops already contributed to the beer. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin is available on a limited basis on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin pours a clear orange with a mild white head. The scent is a huge burst of citrus fruit tinted with some floral and pine from the hops. The grapefruit is the dominant flavor, while standard Sculpin IPA has a touch of grapefruit flavor this beer has a heaping helping. This added fruit is a pleasant complement to the notes of lemon, resin, orange and grass contributed by the hops. Even with all of this citrus flavor you know that you are drinking a beer, there is a full malt backbone and a solid hit of hop bitterness. The beer is medium bodied and goes down smooth, at 7% ABV it is not a light beer by any definition. I like the idea of adding some citrus juice to a West Coast style IPA, and it works in this case. I would say this is my favorite radler (of the ones I’ve tried so far), but I’m not sure I like it any more than standard Sculpin IPA. Still, I would much rather see more brewers experiment with this concept instead of blending Sprite or lemonade with a light lager. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.