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I love beer from Stone Brewing. They make beer that punches your tongue in its throat. Today I’m writing about three of their beers. If you’re lucky, you can find them where you live.
I first found out about Stone from one of my old bosses. Tom was really into wine and cooking, as was I, and he enjoyed good beer. He traveled a lot and told me of a beer named Arrogant Bastard by Stone Brewing, which was, “off the charts.” Fast-forward to two years later. In May 2007 my wife was returning from a trip to Boston and she brought back two bottles of beer. She went to a beer store, asked what was good, and that she was buying a gift for a hophead. (I’ve since expanded my taste, but I do still love a hop bomb). The beerman, bless his anonymous soul, gave her a bottle of Stone Ruination IPA and some local Boston drek.
When she came home she gave them to me and I said, “are you FUCKING KIDDING ME?” She had no idea that I wanted to try some Stone.
The half hour the beer spent in the fridge passed way too slowly.
Ruination was a godsend. It absolutely blew me away with the power of the hop plant. It was the beer that sent me on a quest for bigger beer and converted all of my taste buds to look for beer as a hop delivery vehicle. I knew at that point I would have to look for any Stone beer I could find and try them all.
Fast-forward again to Summer 2008. My cousin was getting married in Las Vegas and it was a good excuse for my wife and me to take a break from the kids. 2008 was the year I became a full beer geek and so I was on the prowl for beer that I couldn’t get in Minnesota. I logged on to Beeradvocate.com at the hotel and looked for good beer on tap on the strip. Two bars popped up, The Burger Bar and Pour 24. Both were within easy walking distance, which was fortunate since they were the only two bars on the strip that served good beer.
Arrogant Bastard at 10 AM is a sin, but damn, it’s worth it.
My first taste of Arrogant Bastard came from a plastic cup from a block of ice at Pour 24 in NY, NY. Not the best of circumstances, but it was still amazing. See my review under better circumstances in the first Beer Talk. Later we discovered the Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay, which was a much better venue for beer. It was a restaurant that actually served beer in the correct glassware (for the most part) at the correct temperature. There I had Ruination and Stone’s IRS on tap. It was about as close to a religious experience as I’ve ever had.
At that point I knew I had to take some home with me. After a couple of days of whining to my wife about how eating out was so expensive and we really should just eat at McDonald’s, I convinced her to take a cab with me from the strip on a 15 minute cab ride to Lee’s Liquor’s, the closest beer store that sold Stone. It cost $45 for the cab ride and another $35 for the six bombers (22 oz bottles) I picked up.
The cost was worth it until I found out literally ONE WEEK LATER that Wisconsin had been carrying Stone for about two weeks… I live 15 minutes from the border… shit.
Just a minute, ‘Sconnie carried Stone? Fuck, YEAH! Casanova’s in Hudson is an awesome store. I’ve made a few runs out there and picked up Arrogant Bastard each time.
Then came Thanksgiving 2008. I was at the in-law’s and was trying to find an excuse to leave the gathering. So, I made a beer run. I walked into Casanova’s looking for more Arrogant Bastard like I do any time I go to Hudson. I looked to the shelves and found Arrogant Bastard, as always. Then I looked in the cooler and found Oaked Arrogant Bastard. Stone’s IRS. Vertical Epic 2008. Ruination. Double Bastard Ale. I was in a puddle on the floor and I hadn’t even cracked one of them yet. As I brought my cornucopia of beer to the counter, the guy behind me asked if there were any more Double Bastards in the storage area. The answer was, sadly for him, no.
So, here’s what I thought of the IRS, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, and Double Bastard. Ruination I’ll save for another time, and I have yet to crack either bottle of the Vertical Epic ’08 I purchased.
Double Bastard Ale. American Strong Ale. 10.5% ABV.
Pours a golden ruby amber.
Smell contains Smooth sweet rye, generous amounts of pine and grass hops notes. Perky flowers trampled by musked vanilla spiked with nutmeg.
Taste is an extreme assault on the tongue. Brown sugar, mouthfeel of 2% milk. Spicy grassy hops. Rye, lightly buttered. Burnt popcorn bitterness. Cane sugar. Heavy alcohol, but tempered very well with hops. Sticky. Brandy-grape. Bitter resins. A sweet pinpoint of light pierces through the darkness that surrounds it. Notes of white pepper and sweet pipe tobacco, spicy white flowers. This is a sipper in the best sense.
Stone Imperial Russian Stout. Russian Imperial Stout. 10.80% ABV.
Pours black, viscous, thick.
Smells of molasses, honey, grassy hops.
Very smooth and powerful. First comes the sweet honey and dark brown sugar, followed immediately with intense, full, satisfying bitterness. The aftertaste is amazingly complex with anise, bitter chocolate, coffee. Mouthfeel is as heavy as half and half. Midway through the finish the hops come out to play with a dry, almost astringent grassy quality. The alcohol is mildly warming, but not as intense as you would expect from a 10.8% beer.
Oaked Arrogant Bastard. American Strong Ale. 7.2% ABV.
Pours ruby red with a great head that leaves plenty of lacing.
This beer reminds me of Vegas. This is Arrogant Bastard through and through. See my original tasting in Beer Talk #1; the notes do not vary much except there is an added oak complexity that is very subtle and refined. Perfectly balanced. I’ve tasted beer where oak is under- or over-whelming and this is spot on. I love regular Arrogant Bastard, and this tops it.
The message I’m trying to spread here is that Stone beer is great beer. They have classy looking bottles and some of the best beer to have ever passed my lips. If you are lucky enough to actually have a bar that serves them on tap, frequent it as much as you can.
Here’s to a great discovery of beers in 2009!