No need to introduce San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing Co.  If you’ve read our site in the past I’m sure you’re familiar with this outfit and their ridiculously well received Sculpin IPA (Picked as #1 in the land by we Aleheads).  The Sculpin may very well be the definition many of us use to describe the West Coast IPA.  While most San Diego breweries can produce some serious hop-bombs, they still know a thing or two about toned down, more approachable styles.  As much as I like my Imperial IPA’s and other hop-forward styles, it’s nice to have a sessionable beer that offers some complexity but doesn’t challenge the palette too much.  Let’s see what Ballast Point’s Calico Amber Ale has to offer.



NOTES:  12oz Bottle, shaker glass

STYLE: American Amber Ale (At least that’s how it fits in the BJCP guidelines)

ABV: 5%

APPEARANCE: Chestnut, russet, tawny hue akin to Etruscan terracotta.  In other words, it’s brown.

HEAD: Poured a solid 1/4 inch of dense, creamy foam.  Shrinks down to a faint layer after first sip but never fully dissolves.

LACING: Soapy residue coats the glass, sticking around from start to finish

NOSE: Very slight bready notes interspersed with caramel and traces of a tangy, sour backbone.  Not much to it – I’d compare it to a Newcastle with an extra dose of aromatic hops thrown in for good measure.  That’s not an insult either, just in case you happen to hate Newcastle.  I’d compare it to Sam Smith’s Nut Brown instead but it’s not quite as sour and has more grassy “American” notes than most English Ales.

TASTE: Biscuit, grainy, dry roast.  Absurdly light in flavor, every aspect blends well together with a delicate balance.  Caramel notes and a sour finish are all that really stand out – Classic English Ale in almost every sense (Again, still has an American touch to it)

MOUTHFEEL: While it tastes “Light”, the body has plenty of substance to keep you around.  Tingly carbonation takes away from some of the weight.

DRINKABILITY: Well, it’s an Amber Ale.  As long as it’s well made, and this one certainly is, Amber Ales are screaming to be consumed one after another.  The Calico is an easy-drinking, no-nonsense Ale that won’t overwhelm but certainly won’t disappoint.  Sometimes it’s nice to have something easy to drink.  Certainly true to style, even though it’s not really something I’m overly into.

RATING: 3 Hops






  1. In my local central IL package store in Champaign, there are bottles bombers of this stuff and their Wahoo Wheat that have been on sale for what I literally think must be 1.5 to 2 years now. Nobody just ever seems to buy it. It’s perpetually on sale for like $2.99 for a bomber. Those beers have to be hideously spoiled by now.

  2. I found the Calico in 6 packs, but luckily it was already broken out into singles so added 1 bottle to a mixed sixer. I probably would have passed if I had to get the full six. As much as I like trying new beers, there’s simply no need to head home with a six pack from a style that you know you’re not crazy about.

    Too bad about the old beer at your store. When I used to work at a beer store we would always round up any old, slow sellers and wholesale them to the hourly employees. Better to break even and help a thirsty college student than piss off a future unsuspecting customer.

  3. They’re not like that with most beers, just this handful of ones that would never, ever move. It seemed like all the customers must be wise to that fact, so they just sit there on the same little display while everthing else changes around them.

  4. The Hopback? I absolutely love it. I suppose I have an odd distaste for the Amber Ale category because I equate everything from the style to something like Fat Tire. Kind of boring to me.

    What other good Ambers am I missing?

  5. I’m on the same page as Doc when it comes to everyday Ambers/Reds. Although, Imperial Reds are perhaps one of the best styles of beer on Earth (Gordon, Big Hoppy Monster, Lucky 13, etc).

    I drank a ton of BR Red Rocket in California last weekend and that’s about as good as it gets for an Amber Ale. I also really enjoy Green Flash’s Hop Head, Stone’s Levitation and Deschutes Cinder Cone. Not crazy about Rogue or Bell’s Amber offerings and North Coast’s Red Seal is one of the few brews from that ale factory I don’t love.

    Do we consider Nugget Nectar an Imperial Red?

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