Photos by Brian Addison.
Beachwood BBQ & Brewery in Long Beach has always been witty when it comes to titling their beers. They aim for quick-to-get (James Brown Ale) to nerdy (Ctrl-Malt-Dlt) to definitively local (Falcon IPA, which is released during Gay Pride in Long Beach and named after one of its most famous queer bars).
But their Invasive Species series, a wonderfully crafted set of four distinct IPAs, takes their wit and snark to entirely new and pure Long Beach levels: by poking not-so-indirect fun at a former craft brewery selling out to one of the world’s largest and wealthiest distributors.
When San Diego’s Ballast Point opened in 1996, it was founded by Jack White, Pete A’Hearn and Yuseff Cherney, and quickly became one of the heavyweights in San Diego’s growing beer scene—one that, mind you, has become a huge economic engine for the city, complete with annual tappings by the mayor and massive events.
Ballast soon garnered a name that had once been renowned: West Coast-style, hop-heavy IPAs like Sculpin were relished and respected amongst beer geeks and non-beer geeks. Soon, tap rooms and restaurants popped up throughout the San Diego area, with throngs of locals and visitors supporting the brewery as it became what many wanted: a local joint that had the power to stand against the Buds and Coors of the world with quality beer and money that went back to the community that sold it.
When Ballast Point had filed for an initial public offering on October 19 of 2015, the news was disheartening to the craft beer scene. When it sold to Constellation Brands Inc., the maker of Robert Mondavi wines and Svedka vodka, for $1B, it brought mixed reactions: it proved that craft beer was something of worth—despite the fact that macro-breweries openly mocked craft brewing yet was purchasing it by the minute—but also had shown that craft beer was losing, well, its craft. It didn’t help that Constellation partnered with good ol’ Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2013 for a $5.3B deal to distribute Corona and Modelo, stoking fear that its purchase of Ballast would result in a decrease in quality.
Constellation and Ballast Point themselves insisted otherwise: their beer would be crafted the same way. The point they were missing, however, is that craft beer meant more than just being crafted differently. It included the passionate brewers, the many small relationships built between smaller distributors and hop farms, its customers, and its essence as a small-but-mighty revolution that ultimately began to shift American palates toward high quality beer.
So what are we to do? Leave it Beachwood to hilariously mock Ballast point for not sticking to its hops. Beachwood has recreated Ballast’s most well-known beers, its Sculpin IPA line, which includes grapefruit and habañero versions, with its Invasive Species IPA series. And not only made has Beachwood made them better—their Grapefruit Invasive Species makes Grapefruit Sculpin seen amateurish—but Beachwood has given the most artistic fuck-off in craft beer history: appropriating Ballast’s famed fish labels with cartoonish, down-to-the-bone dead fishies as their own label cover for the series. The frosting? The invading poison that is macro-brewing, coming to kill and conquer every craft brewery (well, except Beachwood).
The series comes with a classic IPA as well as the aforementioned grapefruit version, along with mango and habañero. Get a four-pack of each one or enjoy ’em on tap while they last at their Long Beach location on the Promenade.
In other words: don’t count on Long Beach’s best brewery to sell out any time soon or for any amount of money for that matter.
Paired with it? The hastag #drinkindependent, prompting the idea that craft beer is no longer craft. In the words of beer lover and Long Beach writer Sarah Bennett, it means not just drinking craft beer; it means drinking craft beer that is also owned locally. And given Ballast’s decision to open a sour beer-focused facility in Long Beach, in between its massive Alamitos Bay location and—shocker—Beachwood’s very own sour joint, we cheers the crafters of the region who have stood their ground.
Beachwood BBQ & Brewery is located at 210 E 3rd St.