Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stone - Oaked Arrogant Bastard Review

Brewery: Stone Brewing (CA)
Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 7.2%
Grade: A-

Remember back when I started this whole silly "blog" thing last year? Remember that very first beer review I posted for the new site? No? Oh. You're not as dedicated as I thought. Well, that beer was Stone's Arrogant Bastard, an impressive American strong ale that's come to be regarded as one of the quintessential products of the craft beer movement — even more so five years ago, when the scene was much less crowded. Beers that earn a reputation often earn some special treatment, as well — and so it is with Arrogant Bastard, which Stone gave the ol' oak-aging treatment.

I've found that oak-aging works best in big, hefty beers: not always, not exclusively, but best. It needs other flavors that are equally strong to work with it, or else it the beer can become too one-dimensional. It needs something with body, or else it can exaggerate a thin mouthfeel. Arrogant Bastard works well for all these reasons, but it's not the most obvious choice, either — you don't tend to think of super-hoppy beers as benefiting from oak. (Not that there aren't great examples of that too.) But really, would you expect this to be anything less than excellent? It's at least as good as the regular Arrogant Bastard; I may even (personally, subjectively) like it more. Arrogant Bastard impressed me greatly by being balanced, yet somehow also aggressively hoppy and solidly malty in equal measure. That sort of balancing act is fantastic when carried out well; oak-aging just adds yet another dimension, more flavors.

Hops are spicy, resiny, piney; there's probably some citrus in there, but this isn't a beer that showcases fruity hops. There's a slick aftertaste that sort of sticks in your mouth, but that's partly from the rich caramel malts as well. While this doesn't have a mouthfeel that I would call "clean," the flavors remain crisp and clear, and it's entirely drinkable for a beer like this. The oak adds equally to the hops, highlighting those spicy, earthy flavors with hints of wood and vanilla, as well as the malt, where it cuts through the richness with something creamy and dry, while highlighting the vanilla-like sweetness in a different way. And as with the original, the balance that Stone achieves is perhaps the most impressive aspect: the oak is subtle and yet clear, an addition to the beer that feels as if it's integral.

Mostly of interest to other homebrewers: Oaked Arrogant Bastard is aged on American oak chips — not in barrels.

Availability: Pretty easy to find; Stone seems to distribute just about everywhere. Year-round; 12 ounce bottles. I believe larger bottles are also available.


  1. When is your next beer going to be ready for review?


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