A WEST COAST CLASSIC. If Sierra Nevada sparked America’s love affair with Cascade hops, Stone upped the ante with their take-no-prisoners approach to both brew strengths and marketing sass. In the nearly two decades since their launch in 1996, Stone has muscled to the fore of California’s craft scene, and today is the living manifestation of Marlon Brando slouching over his Triumph—the Wild One then, a cocksure iconoclast, and still admired today by jetsetters of the next generation.
Perhaps no beer embodies Stone’s culture better than their Arrogant Bastard Ale. True to its name, the beer raises hackles even before the cork is popped with an elitist manifesto in place of any substantive description of flavor. Unveiled in 1997, the beer may not hold the title of ‘flagship’ (that’d be the Pale Ale, surprise), but the Arrogant Bastard has grown to be something more: a mission, a mindset, even a mascot of sorts in the form of that ever-present smirking gargoyle. ‘Liquid Arrogance’ is the creed, Arrogant Bastard its consecration.
Enough with the fluff. Under all the clever bloviating on the bottle, the beer inside is a steadfast icon with its own personality, depth of character, and an unexpected balance that (relatively) quietly earns its acclaim. The pour is a dark amber with a deep foaming head, initially reminiscent of its Sierra Nevada forebears but with a couple doses of hop aggression swapped out for smoothing caramel malts. Though still fairly bitter, the Bastard is a Strong Ale, not just an American Pale, and thus is based around its 7.2% ABV, leaving the hop onslaught to the likes of their Ruination IPA. Stone doesn’t try to hide the beer’s strength—the Bastard demands a “sophisticated” palate, not a coddled one—but neither do they accentuate it, instead allowing the interplay of roasted malt, caramel, and dark bread to lead the finish without having to stuff the grain bill and overload the palate. The result is a hefty set of flavors well-balanced throughout a medium body. Less swaggering overall than its name might suggest, the Bastard’s stalwart sensibility is the sweet that substantiates Stone’s sourness. “You’re not worthy,” the slogan scoffs, and that may be. But it surely is.
Served: 750 ml bottle