Have you ever needed a chaser for your beer?
On Tuesday night, August 8, Side Bar & Restaurant was definitely the hottest spot in West Chester. They hosted a Ballast Point Tap Takeover, which featured the tapping of a true specialty beer — Habanero Sculpin.
As I walked in around 7:45 pm, there was an air of excitement over the imminent tapping of this spicy beer. The bar was crowded with folks already enjoying a number of Ballast Point brews, including Sculpin IPA, Bourbon Piper Down, Dorado DIPA, Even Keel, Sea Monster and more.
Side Bar owner Justin Dougherty introduced me to Paul Havelin of Bella Vista Beer Distributors, who represents Ballast Point in our local area. Paul explained Ballast Point, which is based in San Diego, has been available on the East Coast for nearly five years now. “They have a big cult following,” he said as he scanned the happy crowd in the bar. “To see this on a Tuesday night in West Chester is awesome.”
Paul’s favorite Ballast Point beer is the Sculpin IPA. He described it as a “super easy drinker — super quaffable,” so I gave that a try. It was a nice pour with a hoppy aftertaste. I drank some slowly, saving some to be used as my chaser when the Habanero was poured. We were shortly joined by Jeff Williamson, the beer connoisseur from Waywood Beverage, who was eager to give this rare brew a try.
As the bartender poured my Habanero Sculpin, I watched two guys at the bar sipping their peppered beer and chasing it with glasses of ice water. That was a bit intimidating.
On my taste of the Habanero Sculpin, my first thought was this isn’t very hot, but the heat really snuck up in the finish. About ten seconds in, I sensed the Scoville units attacking the back of my throat. Okay, maybe not attacking, but the heat hovered as if I just ate a pepper off the top of a pile of nachos. I started thinking this beer should be served with a dollop of sour cream!
Paul sipped from his glass and reflected for a few seconds. “My verdict — definitely hot, and that heat lingers — the oil from the peppers linger in there. It’s nice, very nice.” From there, Jeff told us a story about his introduction to the jolokia pepper, the hottest pepper known to man.
A few minutes later, Justin stopped by and I noted he had a bead of perspiration on his forehead. “It made me sweat,” he said with a laugh. “I only had two ounces and I started sweating about about a minute into it.” He pointed over to the crowded bar. “The guy over there took a sip of it and then took another sip, thinking it would quench the heat, but the heat kept coming and coming.”
“The joke is on him,” Paul laughed.
“Yeah, but it’s a good joke,” Jeff said, raising his glass.
Side Bar & Restaurant is located at 10 East Gay Street, West Chester, PA. More info is available at sidebarandrestaurant.com. Photographs credited to Jim Breslin & Side Bar.