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Craft Beer

Is Ballast Point once again a craft brewery?

Ballast Point Little Italy
A variety of draft beers at Ballast Point Tasting Room & Kitchen in San Diego’s Little Italy.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Among the questions raised by last week’s bombshell announcement that teeny Kings & Convicts Brewing is buying industry legend Ballast Point: is the latter once again a craft brewery?

Ballast was booted from the San Diego Brewers Guild in 2015, after the brewery’s purchase by New York-based Constellation Brands. The Guild represents “craft” breweries, defined as small (annually making less than 6 million barrels of beer); using traditional styles and ingredients; and independent, with no more than 25 percent owned by outside parties.

Multinationals, like Constellation, don’t qualify. Although a founding Guild member, Ballast was barred from the group’s meetings and events.

Will Ballast be crafty once more?

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Guild executive director Paige McWey Acers’ view: “We’re waiting for the transaction to finalize before we take a stance on the status of the brewery.”

Kings of Beer

After reporting Ballast Point’s sale, I bought a six-pack of Victory at Sea (10 percent alcohol by volume), the brewery’s coffee and vanilla-laced imperial porter.

Unlike Ballast’s crazy-popular Sculpin IPA, Victory has never received its due. This is an excellent cold weather beer, rich, smooth and satisfying. The coffee is a dark roast — no cream, no sugar — whose acidity is offset by just the right amount of vanilla.

The label, a skeletal sailor at the helm of a storm-tossed wooden ship, looks borrowed from Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean. In fact, it’s the work of local artist Paul Elder. This beer, too, is once again a truly local work of art.


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