Stone Brewing Company : Arrogant Bastard Ale
After a few rounds of slightly more available beers, we’ve fallen right off the wagon again into the realm of harder-to-find, less outright accessible beers. Sorry, they’re just so damned good (and we happened to be in the US last week)!
Stone Brewing Company’s Arrogant Bastard Ale certainly fits the bill; hard to acquire for those of us north of the 49th parallel, less accessible (they proclaim flat out that “You probably won’t like it” on the back of the bottle), and damned good. Drinkers beware, this is far from “pop a few cold ones in the fridge for the boys” beer; this requires some serious flexibility from your taste buds to appreciate. This beer reminds us a bit of the time we offered up a cask-strength Islay whisky to the boys after a long night of drinking; we were really excited about it, them, not so much. We got a lot of strange faces and half-finished glasses (lesson learned…). As an added bonus, the rant on the back of each bottle is downright awesome. Lucky for you (and saving us on word count) they have the complete text on the beer page.
Everything about this beer is intense. Poured out into the glass at first it looks dark as sin, but as the foamy beige head thins, a little light illuminates a deep blood red-brown ale. Letting the head settle (it never disappears, leaving thick traces along the glass all the way down) the nose is somewhat pine-hoppy, but there’s more toffee, caramel, and malt sweet to the nose than we anticipated. Even more unexpectedly, we find faint rounding out of more floral hops towards the end, probably helped a little by the sweeter malty notes.
Diving in, this beer starts off throwing haymakers with powerful coffee grind / pure cocoa bitterness, then transitions into a deep abyss of rounder malts (more prominent as the beer warmed a little), but with little of the sugary sweet notes found in the nose, and finishes off with a surprisingly late blast of outstanding astringent citrus pith bitterness that leaves our mouth a little dry and looking for the next ride. This beer is intense. It has more sharp, edgy bitterness than the significant other you broke up with right before university because the playing field was about to get way bigger. They knew why; if you like this beer probably because you told them as much; and they were pissed. Like we said, this certainly is not a “for everyone” brew, it smacks you in the face like a sock full of pennies. Delicious, bitter, hoppy pennies.
For those of you groaning about the title, you can thank our regular author for that (one of his favorite jokes). For those still scratching your heads… try mouthing the words as you read it.
Stone Brewing Company: India Pale Ale
There is a certain irony to the fact that the IPA, a beer that was designed to survive the journey to colonial India, has become the flagship of any North American brewery. This is especially true on the West Coast where California’s Stone Brewing Company was one of the first major players.
Originally brewed in 1997, this beer has been around for 15 years. But like any modern classic (Portishead’s self titled debut or Massive Attack’s Mezzanine both come to mind as musical comparisons), you wouldn’t be able to tell. There is a reason BrewDog so badly want to emulate Stone, they were doing long ago what many people are just starting to catch up with! While they are somewhat arrogant (their Twitter account proclaims them as the ‘all time top brewery on Planet Earth’), and a tad odd (the bottle includes a description of the historical significance of the Gargoyle) they clearly have some excellent brewing to back it up!
Pouring the beer into a glass, it’s a deep golden colour with about a half finger of crisp, white head. Apparently each batch spends two weeks being dry-hopped with a blend of Columbus, Chinook and Centential (the three C’s). It’s noticeable! Right off the bat there is a refreshing citrus and piney smell wafting up from the glass. There is also a slight sweetness lurking away at the back. It’s very clearly an IPA but this one is certainly packing some punch. The taste does not disappoint. It’s strong but there is a balance there too. Not overpowering in any one direction and highly drinkable.
Surprisingly for a beer that is 6.9% and 77 International Bitterness Units (IBU’s), the Stone IPA is quite light and refreshing. It would make a great addition to our regular rotation if only it were more widely available in BC. We were lucky enough to score ours from the US.
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