My loyal followers (both of you) are probably aware of my recent attraction to Chicago's Arcade Brewery -- great beer, great labels, and cool "public brews." From Dutch Courage, which offers a nod to gin lovers - juniper berries and lemon peel, if you don't mind, to Vanilla Rye Porter, Arcade has been continually providing unique beer to the Chicago market, and most importantly, they taste great.
Most recently, I tasted Arcade Grapefruit IPA, and it was outstanding. As I was enjoying it, I pondered how it might compare to nationally-known crafted grapefruit beer. I had just done a story on grapefruit beer for Chilled Magazine, so my mind was filled with grapefruit thoughts. I not only wondered about Arcade, but it occurred to me that the 100+ Chicago-area breweries are a little slow on the national distribution game (outside of Goose Island, that is), unlike our brewing friends in California, Colorado, Michigan, and Asheville.
So, why not make a comparison of Arcade Grapefruit IPA to Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA.
Obviously, the Grapefruit Sculpin 100 Rating on RateBeer and its 26 awards speak to its quality and spectacular taste. It even enjoys its own, large Instagram hashtag category. It's good. Real good. So, in that sense, Arcade's Grapefruit is the Rocky to Ballast Point's Apollo. But, as we all know -- the fights were nearly a draw. Will this beer-to-beer battle have the same result?
The best way to describe Arcade Grapefruit IPA is as a classic IPA with the addition of grapefruit. That may seem simplistic, but that's how one can think of it. However, the beer is far from simplistic. It's a wonderfully complex beer that infuses all the fun of a genuine Caribbean cocktail into an IPA. In contrast, Ballast Point Sculpin has a much more aggressive grapefruit aroma and taste. Whereas in Arcade, the grapefruit is the Robin to the IPA Batman, Sculpin's grapefruit and IPA traits are more like Penn and Teller - distinctly independent, yet working as a team.
What does it mean? Although they share similar names and attributes, they are somewhat different beers. However, the quality shared by both beers is quality and taste - both impeccable. IPAs often enjoy a citrus component that emanates from a brewer's choice of hops. Hence, the combination of citrus and IPA has been established as a beautiful marriage of flavors. So, If you want grapefruit to shine akin to tropical sunshine on a warm day, Sculpin is a good choice for you. However, if you want the IPA to shine, but don't mind a little extra zing that gives it more depth and provides a summery-fresh flavor, Arcade is the brew for you.
In the end, though, they are both incredibly good. They both ooze genuine IPA spirit - nice bitter hoppiness. Both beers are well crafted, enjoy tremendous balance, and are easy-drinking. If Sculpin exists as the standard by which all grapefruits are measured, Arcade's Grapefruit has passed the test. Ballast point has name recognition, but Chicago brews, including Arcade's Grapefruit IPA, are just as good. You can't go wrong with either beer, but never forget the craft beer mantra, "Drink Local."
The best part? You can buy each one and then enjoy both their unique tastes and be totally satisfied. I love Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, but I love Arcade Grapefruit, too. My guess is, you will, too.
Good job Arcade. You can hang with the big boys...Not that I had any doubts.