Pineapple and Grapefruit Sculpin are not the end-all, be-all of Ballast Point’s efforts with fruit in the mash. California homebrewers have known this for some time. For years, they’ve been privy to the San Diego brewery’s Sour Wench blackberry Berliner weisse, an annual release that’s been exclusive for attendees of the Southern California Homebrewers Festival.
That was the case until last year, at least, when Sour Wench won a Great American Beer Festival silver medal and was shortly after released nationwide in 12-ounce bottles. This year, Ballast Point doubled down on the offering, releasing a white wine barrel-aged variant to keep the momentum.
Ballast Point adds one pound of Oregon state Marion blackberries to every gallon of Sour Wench, and the color of the beer isn’t far from that of the fruit. Sour Wench pours a gleaming red-purple, looking like crushed velvet in a glass.
For all the fresh local fruit mashed into the beer, Sour Wench smells medicinal. The over-the-counter saccharine aroma is only boosted by the pungent lactic acid esters sitting alongside the fruit. There’s a deeper layer of hard cherry candy that nearly rescues the nose.
Sour Wench juggles a very precise balance between pH and fruit”
It’s easy to discern which aspect of Sour Wench most impressed the GABF judges back in 2017. Sour Wench juggles a very precise balance between pH and fruit. You’re greeted with so much delicious, fresh blackberry—an aspect of the beer that’s been amazingly preserved throughout the bottling and distribution process—and then the bubbly tartness of the body carries through the rest of the sip.
Whenever a short-run brew goes flagship, there’s always a concern about how the beer will translate to the bottle. Aside from a poorly formulated aroma, Sour Wench shines in its new life on store shelves. A gorgeous Berliner weisse packed with a bounty of West Coast blackberries, Sour Wench has spent too long as an exclusive.