Successful craftbrewers are always trying to step up their game. For most, this involves finding creative ways to employ ingredients and brewing techniques. Stone Brewing does this too, but believe that alone isn’t enough. That’s why they’re shouldering the task of fixing their consumers too.
Stone is so confident in the quality of their beer that the only possible justification for not enjoying it is a shortcoming on the drinker’s part. When Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale arrived on the market, the reaction was divided even among beer snobs. Stone thoroughly considered this feedback and just as thoroughly discarded it to produce the Double Bastard Ale. It’s roughly the marketing equivalent of a playground bully clamping you in a headlock until you eat a dog turd. They WILL beat the taste into you, it’s just a matter of how much you’re going to fight it.
“Say it! Say you love an overabundance of alpha acids in your beer!”
Stone’s love of their beer is only rivaled by their burning hatred for spineless consumers. Don’t take my word for it though. Just take a gander at the label text for the Arrogant Bastard Ale:
Those may be harsh words, but they’re purposeful. That little nugget of shame taking root in your craw after reading it is their transparent attempt to break you down emotionally so they can rebuild you in a form they see fit. It’s a common tactic among drill sergeants and charismatic cult leaders. I’m not accusing Stone of anything here, but you might think twice before moving your family into the Stone compound if you have any daughters of breeding age.
If you wish to join the Church of Stone, your baptism through the Arrogant Bastard series will be one of unrelenting bitterness. To describe that bitterness properly, I have to ensure the weight of that sensation is calibrated for this article. Here’s a short list of things as bitter as the Arrogant Bastard series for context sake:
- Ms. Havisham, the central snatch of “Great Expectations” (by comparison, Estella was really only a snatch’s pawn)
- Brian Dunkleman, former co-host of that little known TV show “American Idol,” whose best work since was the 2008 run of “Celebrity Fit Club”
- Every woman who has ever dated me, upon hearing I was married off.
Arrogant Bastard (7.2% ABV)
Buckle up, beer lovers, because you’re about to go for a ride. The rest of you should probably get ready to perform a comically timed spit-take, because that’s all you’re going to reap from this one.
The Arrogant Bastard (AB) pours out a cratered, parchment head atop the ruby-hued brew. The aromatics are flowery and peppery, but not as over the top as you might think. This was a conscious decision on Stone’s part to ensure the actual arrogant bastards drinking this weren’t impacted from enjoying their own highly refined B.O.
If you’re jealous of her, then you’ll really despise the girl sniffing his balls out of frame
The first taste is tangy, with a caramel sweetness playing off of the citrus hops. You might even mistake it for a red ale for 0.98 nanoseconds until the hopocalypse arrives. This brew suddenly jolts you into a strikingly bitter concoction full of spruce, floral hops and a bit of an herbal touch. It’s the kind of bitter that repeats on you like a hot-sauce-laden chimichanga. You’ll be enjoying this for many belches to come.
AB’s oily mouthfeel and robust flavor deliver on the promise inherent in the name. This beer is not for novices. It’s potent enough that I make my wife carry it with crucible tongs when delivering it to me on the couch. I also have her do so naked (apart from wearing a transparent Hazmat suit), but that’s enough of a view into my marriage for one article.
This beer scoffs at your desire for balanced flavor. Not unlike a soulless Terminator, it doesn’t care how much you purse your lips. It doesn’t feel remorse for obliterating the flavor of whatever else you’re consuming. All it understands is pain and how to deliver it effectively. And I love it for that.
To be clear, I love the idea of this beer more than the beer. It really isn’t for most beer drinkers, but it’s a great coming-of-age gauntlet to run through.
Oaked Arrogant Bastard (7.2% ABV)
The Oaked Arrogant Bastard (OAB) is a mahogany ale that’s notably less translucent than it’s un-oaked predecessor. It has the same floral aromas to it, though they’re further diminished from the AB experience. The lightest hint of vanilla sweetness pops in as well.
This is definitely not as brash as the AB, but no less haughty. Its sweetness lingers significantly longer, bringing a caramelized, fruity sweetness into the mix. There is a mild smoky flavor as well, but it doesn’t punctuate things much.
The palate punishment squad deploys a little more casually in this one, delivering more of an attenuated bite. The mouthfeel still has some of that oily sensation that makes it linger, but it’s significantly more meaty as well.
OAB is far more accessible, but I wouldn’t subject my beer interns to this. Though it’s safe to say that if I had such interns, drinking OAB would be the least degrading thing they’d do all day:
“It drinks the Heineken or else it gets the hose again”
OAB is lush and textured, but the aftertaste is not for beginners. Unless hurting said beginners is the end game, of course.
Double Bastard (11.2% ABV)
The Double Bastard (DB) holds a special place in my heart. It was one of my very first “Holy shit!” beers that set me down the path of forsaking fizzy yellow insults to the tastebuds. That particular exclamation came both from the aforementioned epiphany and the realization I could no longer feel my legs after this part of the episode:
If that picture survives the day without a wang being photoshopped over the bottle, I’ll be stunned.
The head is a bit more webby than AB’s, but no less thick. It’s as hazy as OAB, but has taken on a slightly richer amber/ruby tone. In as much as a beer can be pretty, this is.
The floral notes in DB are the softest yet, instead favoring an array of sweeter smells. Tropical fruits, brown sugar and maraschino cherry smells dominate the mix, much as they do in my favorite cocktail “The Insulin Shock-er”:
The glassware is really only useful for this drink, but I think it’s worth it.
The flavors on this one are resonant and powerful. It greets you with the sweetness of cherries and caramel before the hops start to parade through. As pine and grapefruit start to punctuate the mix, the alcohol presence makes itself known by warming the back of your palate.
I find it amusing that AB, made with a mere 50% of the bastard this contains, is far more likely to make grown men weep. The DB is certainly bigger and more boisterous in flavor, but nowhere near as fearsome.