My Shout: A wink to a veteran in the craft beer market
YOU can be forgiven for thinking that the craft beer phenomenon is a reasonably recent invention, what with the past few years seeing the shelves in liquor mega-stores go from half a dozen strange beers down the back corner to the shelf after shelf we see today.
It is true that in regional areas the growth of good breweries is largely a product of recent years (and still growing with new ones opening all the time), but on the west coast of the US, where the movement to artisan beer began in earnest, there are some makers who are approaching 25 years in the business.
One of these is Ballast Point from San Diego, California, which began brewing in a serious manner in 1992.
San Diego remains one of the hot spots of craft brewing. If you ever have the good fortune to be in that neck of the woods, have several organised craft brewery tours so the discerning tourist can sample some of the many excellent operators.
Hugh the Neighbour and I sat down to try one of Ballast Point's more popular drops, the Big Eye India Pale Ale, and it was a very pleasant revelation.
HTN has always been a bit iffy about IPAs - he quite rightly points out that some of them, particularly the traditional English styles, are so bitter and over-hopped as to render them nigh on undrinkable, and I must admit I can see his point.
Not so the Big Eye IPA.
This is a beer that is genuinely full of flavour, with a lovely floral nose and really nicely balanced hops that don't make you pucker on the first sip.
You don't buy IPAs if you are not into big hops, but this one manages to deliver that but without completely overpowering the malt.
It pours a delightful golden amber gold colour in the glass, and while it doesn't hold a true head to the last swallow, it keeps a lacy covering and continuing beading on the side of the glass.
At 7% alcohol content this is not a beer for a big session chasing the tailor on Fraser Island, but nor is it one of those you would try in a pub and say to the innkeeper "Nice, but what else have you got?"
As a treat before a special dinner, or enjoying a spicy Asian feed, I think this beer is ideal.
Certainly one to give a try.