I checked in at the Volunteer Tent for Ballast Point’s 14th Anniversary Festival a little before noon. Being amongst the first to arrive, we were given our choice of beer to pour for the day. Reflexively, the words “Sculpin Cask” flew out of my mouth. Shortly after, I was placed at my post. I love Sculpin because I think it dances between smooth and bitter with unparalleled finesse. Sans most of it’s carbonation, even more so. I’d tried it on cask a short while back in Mira Mesa. This lessened the pain. As a volunteer I was explicitly forbidden to drink.
I knew Sculpin on cask would be a big ticket item. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. San Diego Beer Luminary / BP Specialty Brewer Colby Chandler was in charge of Tent A, my tent, and warned me that the faithful would flock to my cask “like bees to honey.” Even with this wealth of foresight, I still had no clue what was coming.
The siege began almost immediately after the doors opened. To paraphrase Chuck Palahniuk: swarm isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind. The four of us in a corner of Tent A became entrenched. To the left, Mike & Steve were on Pescadero Pilsener & Oatmeal Stout, respectively. I was manning my cask, and Ryan was to my right with Fathom IPL also on cask. We were soldiers. The taps were our machine guns; the beer, our bullets; the festival patron’s taster tickets, the enemy we had to defeat.
For our readers, I will transcribe with minimal editing my inner-dialogue throughout my day pouring Sculpin IPA on cask as recorded by my faithful notebook. Times are approximate.
12:45P – Oh hey I’m the first beer people are going to see when they walk into this thing.
1:00P – “Doors Open, Mayne.” Poet & scholar E-40 sings in my head as I watch the gates open.
1:05P – I am the prettiest girl at prom. Everyone wants to be my friend. I am popular. People like me.
1:09P – I dig my new scent, Sculpin For Men. There’s beer in my sandals. These aren’t complaints.
1:25P – The line is growing – I’m pulling the cask handle as efficiently as possible. This beer won’t last.
1:36P – I am having my picture taken. I try to look cool.
1:36P-2:45P – Howdy. Sculpin? Yeah, on cask. Sure, can I get your ticket? Here ya go, cheers!
2:55P – Victory at Sea ’08 TOTALLY just came and stole my pretty girl thunder. I am so lonely. Tears.
2:59P – The band is good, it’s like a San Diegan Dropkick Murphys. Perfect beer music. There are a lot of people here.
3:15P – The line is becoming outrageous for Victory at Sea ’08. Nobody is talking to me.
3:18P – Victory at Sea ’08 is tapped out. Went quick.
3:18:30P – I am pretty again. People love me. Whoa, there’s a lot of air in the line – time to tilt the cask.
3:22P: This guy has burned all ten of his tasters on my Sculpin cask. Radical.
3:30P – Some of the natives are running low on taster tickets and are becoming restless. Traffic is steady.
3:45P – My cask is dying. I must warn the people in line that it could go at any second lest an uprising may organize.
3:45:15P – Murmurs, whispers, dissent.
3:55P – Word has spread – in front of me is a crowd of very friendly, but thirsty beer vultures.
4:02P – Curtains. The cask is dead. Some people didn’t get to try it. Such is life.
Every last drop was out of that cask before I declared Mission Accomplished. I bid farewell to my comrades in Tent A. After being relieved by a Ballast Point employee, my duties as a volunteer officially terminated. I obtained a wristband loaded with taster tickets. 10 tasters in under an hour? Not happening. I dug my hands into my pockets. Fumbling my car keys, I worked on strategy.
I made sure to try Fathom IPL as it’d been making my mouth water the entire day. Ryan was still loyally volunteering. My Sculpin had easily beaten out his Double-Gold Award Winner Fathom IPL on cask somehow. He shot me a bitter look that, if brewed, would exceed Stone Brewing’s average IBU count. No time for haters, I had catching up to do.
I ran into Ryan G. of Ballast Point and we discussed how BP Birthday #14 compared to #13. “This is nuts. There are twice as many people here, and we’ve gone through so much more beer than the year before.”
After thoroughly savoring the 4oz Fathom de Cask, I found myself at the Lagunitas Tent. I can’t pass up our crazy-cool friends up North when they are on tap in front of me. I was hoping for A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, but instead got A Little Sumpin’ Wild. Can’t complain.
I encountered Jeff Hammett, and I told him how excited I was for his first official column as a West Coaster writer. Look for it soon, and check out his views on the day. Upon seeing Owner & Founder of Ballast Point Jack White flying solo in the crowd, I excused myself.
“Congratulations on your conquest of Liberty Station,” I said, shaking his hand.
Jack’s thoughts on the festival: “Everything conspired in such a great way. We had no idea what to expect.” He smiled, and then I lost him to a sea of well-wishers.
I then found Head Brewer Yuseff Cherney. I asked him why he thought this year’s event was so much more successful than years past. “I think that social media made a big difference. Last year, we had literally zero Facebook or Twitter presence. This year, we really put the word out.”
It was almost 5PM, which meant time for the good times to end. Wrist full of unused taster tickets and a smile from ear to ear, I passed the Rubicon-esque security line and ventured to find my car.
Happy Birthday Ballast Point.