After being teased by Stone’s Oakquinox festival which I cannot attend, and happens to be on my birthday, I have been in a Stone mood. So lets take a look at one of the most outrageous beer labels to exist, and also one of Americas best selling pale ales, the Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale.
Stone certainly does not beat around the bush with this one. This is what is printed quite clearly on the back of the bottle:
“This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to a safer and more familiar territory – maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns will make a beer taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing you words as you read this.”
They have produced an American Strong Ale bearing very close to a Double IPA, and yes, they are aware than some people may not be able to handle it, but no, they don’t care. I do think that the marketing behind this beer, whether intentional or not (and I bet not), is practical genius. There is something about its arrogance that draws to me it and makes me want it. And really, anyone who sees it pretty much wants to try it! Its kind of like that cocky jerk in the corner of the bar with his collar popped surrounded by a pack of girls. You know he’s just an arrogant bastard, but somehow that lours them in.
This Arrogant Bastard was able to reel me in and seduce me with its rich powerful malt and hop flavors. It is certainly extremely pungent and not for the faint of heart. But its nothing insane, at 7.2% abv it is right in the mid range among Strong American Pale Ales. It is available widely throughout the United States in 650 ml bottles, but somehow I doubt that the LCBO will ever allow a bottle like this on their shelves… Just a guess.
The Bastard is a fiery amber red beer with golden browns shining through it. It lift a nice deep and pollowy one and a half inch head richly on top of the surface. Head retention was quite powerful; a short half inch head relaxed with me the entire time I enjoyed it.
The nose is vastly rich and complex, but most apparent are west coast hops. Fresh grapefruit, apricots, pine and woody hops erupt in your nose with a huge floral impact. Warm pale and caramel malts are playing in behind with a soft toasted nut character, spices and earth. The nose is very full and very complex with layers of soft and rich aromas. Overall it prepares you for a full flavored beer, but does not scare your palate.
You shouldn’t sip this beer, don’t let it intimidate you – get right in there and get a nice full mouthful. Loads of crisp bitter hops pour over your tongue and invade your cheeks brining with it huge pine and citrus grapefruit, solid caramel and light oak malts. Nothing hides or waits for you here, all the flavors come right away and make themselves known, as the bottle does predict. When cold, mostly the bitter-rich hops are what pour out at you, but as the beer gets closer to cellar temperature warm malts show layers of toffee, warm bread, herbs, pepper, clove and a hint of cinnamon.
The mouthfeel is really soft and smooth without letting carbonation attach your palate. Its a nice contrast to the aggressive flavors here and actually suits it quite well. It has a mild oil like characteristic and glides over your palate soothing and caressing your taste buds. The finish is crisp, warm, and still full. But it is very quenching and would be amazing with a huge range of foods; go for red grilled meats, fried anything, heavy cheese, breads, pizza, meaty pasta, or chocolate.
Although it seems menacing, the alcohol is balanced and hidden within the beer, the aggressive flavors are mirrored by floral herbs and spices, and the drinkability of the beer is superb. I would never hesitate to buy a bottle, and soon will post a discussion of the Double Bastard!