They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor

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Stone Arrogant Bastard and Oaked Arrogant Bastard

Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale

Arrogant Bastard Ale

ABV: 7.2%
Origin: Escondido, California, USA
Website: www.stonebrew.com

Stone is the original bad boy brewer, with brand values that deliberately risk alienating certain groups of potential customers in order to boost the affinity of others. Offset by an obvious sense of humour and backed up by top quality products (elements sometimes missed by others who have attempted a copycat approach), the strategy has helped Stone grow since its foundation in 1996 into the 10th biggest craft brewer in the US and the third biggest in California.

Arrogant Bastard Ale, launched in 1997, is the name everyone remembers and the figurehead of the brand. A beer drinking demon scowls forbiddingly from the screen printed bottle, above the words “You’re not worthy.” On the back is a lengthy, blustering essay that begins: “This is an aggressive ale. 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.”

I certainly wasn’t worthy when I first sampled the beer back in 2007. This dark amber-brown beer with a fluffy fawn head looked innocent enough, and the rather gentle aroma of lychees, peaches and caramel, with a slight hint of farmyard funk, didn’t betray any demonic tendencies.

Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

But on the palate I found Arrogant Bastard too aggressive, not only for its massive thistly citric hop bite but also a strong thread of burnt vine fruit emerging from cakey cola-flavoured malt. A rather hot finish puckered the tongue with bitter vegetal resins and bone dry dark chocolate notes. Finishing a whole 650ml (22oz) bottle was something of a challenge.

Since then my taste buds have recalibrated to cope with higher IBUs, and I’ve also discovered a more sophisticated and approachable incarnation of this particular beer. In 2004 Stone introduced a limited edition version aged on oak chips, initially in locked 3l bottles, which proved so successful it’s become a year-round standard.

The oak – and perhaps the additional ageing – seem to calm the beer and integrate the flavours better while still retaining their distinctiveness and punch. A bottle bought from Best Damn Beer Shop in San Diego in October 2012 yielded a Burgundy-shaded beer with a subtle aroma of sweet tropical fruit, mandarin and a very light touch of wood.

Deep malt flavours established themselves early on the palate, with complex peachy fruit and building bitter resins that were still assertive but very smooth, complemented by subtle oaky vanillin. The finish was long and still bitter, with a rooty and slightly earthy quality, and a long build to a final intense dryness with wood and dark chocolate notes.

Not such a mean Bastard after all.

For more on the brewery see my review of Ruination IPA.

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