Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale

Some of the best beers are ones you take for granted.  With Arrogant Bastard, Stone has a beer that is perhaps overlooked by beer lovers because it's always available and extremely consistent; but it's a beer that cannot be ignored once you try it. It makes you take notice of it.  After not having a Bastard for awhile, I recently had one at The Green Lady bar near my home in Lakeview, my neighborhood.  It was a fall evening and I wanted a heartier, more robust beer, a sipper with some gusto, something not too easy drinking or too sweet.  The Bastard fit the bill, and it was just the way I wanted it, in its rugged original format, not its highly acclaimed but more polished barrel aged incarnations.


The most impressive thing about the Bastard might be its color.  It's charcoal black like a stout or a porter which completely belies the taste.  Its well concentrated carbonation reveals itself with a robust head. Some bartenders like to pour it piecemeal to create a bulbous, billowing head on it.   One sip defies all expectations.  It begins with a swift kick of hops.  You get some caramel out of it.   There's also a breadiness.  I can't leave out the smoky flavor to it, too, as well as the earthiness.  What stands out the most is that strong, aggressive hop foundation on it, the grainy, piney kind that deliciously gnaws at your palate, laying it to waste in a satisfyingly harsh way. If spent motor oil were drinkable it would taste like this. 

There may not be a beer whose style, appearance, flavor, and brewer identity are more in lock step. Stone is uber proud of Bastard because it embodies the brewer's penchant for bold beermaking.  It underscores their desired reputation for challenging drinkers to eschew mainstream styles.  Indeed this is an an overly aggressive beer but that's the point. Yet, unlike Rogue's Dead Guy ale, which wants to be Bastard, this is less churlish and more refined.  You can sip this and revel in it's ruggedness, but there are enough other flavors going on in it to reveal Stone's knack for using just enough restraint.

That's the lesson Arrogant Bastard teaches us: how to take our time, sip, evaluate what we are experiencing, and use restraint.   No one would think you could learn such proper manners from a pure bastard. 

Simply put, Arrogant Bastard is an American craft brew classic and the quintessential American strong ale. 


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