An Uncomfortable Conversation: Bastard Hits the Road

You try your best to have a civilized conversation; a cordial back-and-forth where two individuals tactfully and respectfully get down to brass tacks and get real with one another. You rehearse what you have to say in the mirror over and over, searching for just the right words to be sensitive yet firm, considerate yet straightforward. You do this, because you care deeply for the individual who will later replace that mirror. After all, much like that person staring back at you from that pane of reflective glass, the guy you have to have this sit-down with reminds you a lot of you. He is family, after all, and though you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, there are undeniable bonds. You’ve been through everything together over the past 17 years and, though it sometimes felt like the distance between you was immeasurable, he was always there, the weight of his presence and that insatiable ego of his casting an ever-present shadow over every significant moment in a history that is storied in great part thanks to him. Still, you can’t let that sway you from this inevitable come-to-Jesus moment, so you sit him down and tell him that he’s gotten too big for his britches; enough that he’s soiling yours to a degree. You deliver what you hope is a masterfully convincing dissertation, ending it with an open invitation for your conversational partner to say something for themselves…perhaps even offer an iota of understanding. Heck, with any luck you might even get out of this one with a hug and some shared mistiness. But, no. Not with this Arrogant Bastard

What does this mean for our sudden anti-hero? He’s hitting the road, but what does that mean? Your guess is as good as ours. We’ve housed this haughty rabble-rouser for the past 17 years and, though he’s always kept his distance, his omnipotence has been undeniable. Given that, one has to ask: What does this mean for us? For the Stone Brewing Co.? We’ll surely get along just fine, but things will certainly be different around here. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s a really bad thing. Again, your guess is as good as ours. We’ll all have to wait and see how it plays out, how this Bastard’s story plays out. It may be a tale marked by victory of the highest order, or it may be a long, winding road ending at a tragic dead-end—or off a cliff. But one thing’s for certain. It won’t be dull. And nothing will ever be the same again…

Five Salivation-Evoking Words: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard

Before setting forth on my most monumental dissertation, let me first address the members of the virtual peanut gallery who read the title of this post, snicker and instinctively feel the need to scroll down to the comments section to point out that the subject of this communique is not five words, but in fact four words. The laws of hyphenates are iffy, but one thing is for certain—those words are powerful. They’re what brought you here in the first place…Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard.

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Our Liquid Poem’s Second Stanza: Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0

We’ve been (mis-)labeled “arrogant.” We get it. You brew up a beer called Arrogant Bastard Ale and have the audacity to demand that everybody be entitled to the finest beer today’s craftsmen and women can brew, and people form certain opinions. But in reality, we’re not arrogant. What we are is extremely passionate and confident in craft beer and our abilities in that arena. To a person, our Brew Crew works tirelessly to up their technical knowledge and abilities. From keeping up on best practices and emerging techniques for upping beer’s flavor, increasing the efficiency of our brewhouse, stimulating our yeast so they perform as optimally as possible or staying on top of the ever-changing hop crops and the immense influx of new botanical varietals being produced from the Pacific Northwest to Australia and New Zealand, Brewmaster Mitch Steele and his team have their hands (and heads) full. Each day offers a new opportunity to learn and grow, and our beers reflect that—perhaps more now than ever before.

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Perusing the Portfolio: A Rundown of our Beer

You might have heard we released 120 beers last year. Within that 120 were our core beers, dated editions of Stone Enjoy By IPA, collaborations, Liberty Station beers, Stochasticity Project experiments and a multitude of others. Even we had trouble keeping up with this onslaught of ales, so confusion among our fans is understandable. But there’s always a rhyme and reason to our madness. With multiple naming conventions (and design conventions failing that), our releases all have their rightful place in our family of beers. Below, we’ll break it down for you, bottle by bottle, and demystify our portfolio.

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To Be Discontinued: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

We’ve been at this whole brewing thing since 1996 and can proudly point to many, many friends who’ve been with us from the very beginning. They’ve been there for the conceptions of beers both successful (Stone IPA, Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Stone Enjoy By IPA and Stone Go To IPA) and, well, not-quite-as-successful (Anybody remember 1997′s Stone Session Ale or Stone Heat Seeking Wheat?). We’ve had (mostly) hits and a few misses (we wouldn’t be trying if we hadn’t!), and through it all, our fans have stuck by us. A lot of that has to do with our mutual desire to see what’s around the next corner. We share that thirst for the unknown. It’d be easy to just keep making the same beers over and over again and release a “seasonal” or “specialty” beer once a year or every few years, but that’s just not who we are. I mean, c’mon, you wouldn’t want or expect Stone to become stagnant or stale, would you? Yeah, neither would we.

From the beginning, we’ve let our creative style and the forward push of the craft beer movement enthuse and drive us. So, it’s only natural that this interest to stay creative births new beers that, over recent years, have come along at the pace of offspring at a bunny farm. And it’s only natural that new beers best received by our fans be the ones we put our focus on.

After all, while we know what we like, your actions (AKA buying patterns) tell us very clearly what you like.

This means that the beers our fans show the most interest in must sometimes supplant others…even those in our portfolio with longer tenures. Though it’s hard to let go of beers we truly love and have put so much of our brewing heart and soul into, soon we will be bidding a fair adieu to two old friends: Stone Levitation Amber Ale and Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA.

Stone Levitation Amber Ale is levitating off shelves forever

Stone Levitation Amber Ale is levitating off shelves forever

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Let Them Eat Fruit Cake: Beer-Enhanced Holiday Recipes

Last week, we took to social media, asking Stone fans to tell us what time-honored holiday treats they’d like to see our test kitchen tackle in an attempt to make them better using craft beer. A wide variety of suggestions came back, some in the form of pleas. We took some of the most popular and got to work simmering, whisking and brushing a variety of brews into a pair of desserts that, when the dust of the confectioner sugar cleared, were all the better for it. Accept the recipes for both of them as our holiday gift to all of you. Cheers to craft beer, and more craft beer in the kitchen!

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We Three Bastards: Arrogant Bastard Ale’s Extended Family

‘Tis almost the time of year when children of all ages shall belt out in their most joyous tones the tale-telling tune of three kings bringing forth gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (looks like two of these regal sorts were slightly less generous than the golden one). But before the season of yule arrives, the attention of those with the power to discern what is truly excellent from what is only marketed to appear superior shall fall upon what is truly the most wonderful time of the year—Bastard Season. As if my birthday (November 7 for those looking to graduate from ignoramus to Worthy) and Arrogant Bastard Day (#BastardDay is November 1) weren’t reason enough to celebrate (it is), the proverbial ante is upped each November when I bring the lesser-seen members of my Liquid Arrogance lineage into the equation, sharing the spotlight just long enough to take the revelry to the utmost level before plunging my spawn back behind the curtain for another 11 months. Given the brief nature of their time at center-stage, I shall throw them—and you—a bone, allowing them to bask in your adoration as you take in their magnificence. Just remember who was first. These Bastards would literally be nothing without Yours Truly.

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Number One Bastard: A First Tangle with Liquid Arrogance

There are watershed moments in everyone’s existences where they look back and see that an event, perhaps comprised of little more than a few seconds and seemingly meaningless at the time, changes the trajectory of one’s life forever. For some, it can be sage words from a wise individual or exorcising themselves from the grip of a premature demise. For others, a chance encounter with the love of their lives or a moment of introspection so deep it inspires sea change, the pursuit of lifelong dreams or the abandonment of ill-conceived ventures in favor of aspiring to something better. And then, for some, there’s the discovery of something life-changing—an artifact, an heirloom, a new technology, a book, a religion, a field of study…or a beer. At first blush, that last one seems like an exaggeration; something you’d expect from a macrobeer commercial wherein some heretofore severely lame, nerdy member of society cracks open a cold-as-the-Rockies can of lo-cal, lo-flavor adjunct pilsner, then suddenly finds himself surrounded by a harem of supermodels on the deck of his new yacht as it pulls into the personal dock at his annexed island mansion in the Bahamas. My story does not end like this, but the tale of my first encounter with Arrogant Bastard Ale does lead to a very happy ending.

Picture it, a Friday night in San Diego during the fall of 1998—a young man yet to quaff his first beer saunters into a low-frills, seemingly Irish-themed bar on the edge of a strip mall that, otherwise, is completely occupied by Asian restaurants. The name of that establishment—O’Brien’s Pub. The mission of the group—beers to kick-start the weekend. Did anybody in the quintet know this was an early Mecca for craft beer in a city that would evolve to become, arguably, the epicenter for craft beer in the United States? Nope. They all just happened to work a half-mile away at a microelectronics manufacturer that often inspired them to seek out adult beverages to help erode the stress of the nine-to-five. The other four laborers in my group hit up O’Brien’s pretty regularly and, thinking I’d make a decent addition to their social circle, had asked me to come along. A fan of friends and adult beverages, I took them up on their invite.

Upon entering the pub, as if by fate, a group of five cleared out from a table in the otherwise packed-to-capacity bar. We scurried over to claim their vacated territory as our own and, as my friends perused a whiteboard with a bunch of foreign-sounding names messily scrawled upon it—Bear Republic Racer 5, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot—I thought to myself: Crap, I’ve never had a beer before and I don’t want to sound like a loser. What am I going to order? I started combing over my severely limited vernacular where beer brands were concerned, weighing each against the criteria that television ads and billboards had provided to tell me which was the fanciest, top tier choice. A waitress came to the table and, as if sensing the opportunity to completely humiliate a beer rookie, asked me what I’d like to drink. I cleared my throat and, in my deepest, manliest voice, replied: “Um, a Heineken?”

I’d hoped for the others to not even hear me or, if they did, only passively acknowledge the selection as they proceeded to issue their orders…but that didn’t happen. Instead, each of their faces elongated to gaping caricatures akin to Edvard Munch’s famed masterpiece, The Scream. It was as if their jaw muscles had gelatinized at the mere utterance of the Dutch macrobrew. I thought for sure at that moment that my drinking buddies had gone from to-be to would-be status, but then they exhibited the positive behavior that I would later learn is the hallmark of any good craft beer fan. Rather than shame me for being so ignorant to the craft culture, they had the waitress cancel my order and told her, “He’ll have an Arrogant Bastard Ale.” Rather than feel belittled or inferior, I felt gratitude that they’d taken me under their wing and helped me out. And, though I had no idea what Arrogant Bastard Ale was, I had to admit, it sounded a heck of a lot more interesting than any beer I’d heard of up to that point.

ABA-Etching-History

Stone Co-founders Greg Koch (left, and kinda hard to recognize without that beard) and Steve Wagner etch signatures into 3-litre bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale in the VERY early days of this watershed beer.

When I asked the rest of my party about the beer, they explained it was a new brew from Stone Brewing Co. up in Escondido. At the time, I didn’t know San Diego County was home to any local breweries (to be fair, there were only a handful at the time), so that was another cool factoid I could get behind. Other than that, they really didn’t have any words to describe the beer. They just said I’d like it. They seemed trustworthy, so when the waitress returned with our pints, I found myself rather eager to try it. But first I had to get over something rather surprising. The beer wasn’t yellow, golden, straw-hued, pale or anything like any beer I’d ever seen. After years of watching many a sporting event on television, there was one thing I knew for sure about beer—it was yellow with a white fluffy head. But the beer staring back at me from my glass was reddish-amber in color and covered with a thin veil of tightly packed bubbles. Was this a good sign or some sort of defect? There was no way for me to know, so after a quick cheers to the end of the workweek, I took my first sip. This was my watershed moment.

Having never had any form of beer before, I came to O’Brien’s, and this beer, with zero expectations. From all I had been taught about beer, it was a light-bodied, effervescent beverage built to be moderate in flavor and high on the refreshment scale. This beer was thirst-quenching, but it was anything but low on taste. To the contrary, it was an assault on my taste buds that forced me to take notice in a way that, prior to that, I never had. A big burst of bitterness was what I noticed first, but as I went back for more and the beer got closer to room temperature, I could pick out (but not yet identify…this was my first beer after all) lots of other things that were going on, flavor-wise. It was a rush and, before I knew it, I was examining the beer, contemplating it in between jokes with my friends and stories about our shared workplace.

Fast forward 16 years, and I have come a long way from the craft beer virgin I was on that fateful day. That initial sip of Arrogant Bastard Ale set me off on a lengthy voyage to learn everything I could about craft beer, starting with the varieties produced in my hometown. It’s a journey I’m still on and, frankly, I have a long way to go. The craft beer medium is one of deep, intriguing, amazing history and, thanks to today’s innovators, that history gets richer by the day. I fell hard for craft beer that night, so much that it became a part of my everyday life and colored many aspects of it, from my personal time to my professional pursuits. Upon discovering the vibrant brewing culture that existed in my own backyard, I went on to become one of the first local journalists to write about the San Diego suds scene, first via feature articles in the county’s newspapers and magazines, and later as a regular and guest contributor for beer-related publications including Celebrator Beer News, The Beer Connoisseur, Imbibe Magazine and other high-profile national publications. Today, I am San Diego’s most prolific beer writer and the foremost authority on the local brewing industry. I have served as an expert on the region for TV and radio programs, and now put together an annual critical reference for the county, the Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries. But wait…there’s more.

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In 2012, after years of journalistic interactions with Stone Brewing Co., I was welcomed aboard as the company’s Communications Specialist, where I devote my love of craft beer and writing to such projects as the Stone Blog, social media and the back labels that grace bottles of our beer. In this role, everything that I am passionate about intermixes to create a symbiotic situation where both myself and the brewing company that first opened my eyes to the world of craft beer, benefit greatly. Would that have happened if I’d ordered a Heineken that night? Absolutely not, and that’s why Arrogant Bastard Ale holds a very special place in my heart and is responsible for altering the course of a life that, thanks to that well-timed sip of American strong ale, is better than it ever could have been without it. Because of its longevity and prominence in the pantheon of great, noteworthy craft beers, there are many people out there with stories of how Arrogant Bastard Ale changed their perceptions of beer and played an integral role in their development as a fan of high quality, artisanal ales and lagers. We encourage you to share them with us on social media using #BastardDay and, when applicable, tagging the awesome people who introduced you to this bold, bawdy, badass American classic—credit where credit is due for a truly quintessential and very special brew.

Number One Bastard: A First Tangle with Liquid Arrogance

There are watershed moments in everyone’s existences where they look back and see that an event, perhaps comprised of little more than a few seconds and seemingly meaningless at the time, changes the trajectory of one’s life forever. For some, it can be sage words from a wise individual or exorcising themselves from the grip of a premature demise. For others, a chance encounter with the love of their lives or a moment of introspection so deep it inspires sea change, the pursuit of lifelong dreams or the abandonment of ill-conceived ventures in favor of aspiring to something better. And then, for some, there’s the discovery of something life-changing—an artifact, an heirloom, a new technology, a book, a religion, a field of study…or a beer. At first blush, that last one seems like an exaggeration; something you’d expect from a macrobeer commercial wherein some heretofore severely lame, nerdy member of society cracks open a cold-as-the-Rockies can of lo-cal, lo-flavor adjunct pilsner, then suddenly finds himself surrounded by a harem of supermodels on the deck of his new yacht as it pulls into the personal dock at his annexed island mansion in the Bahamas. My story does not end like this, but the tale of my first encounter with Arrogant Bastard Ale does lead to a very happy ending.

Picture it, a Friday night in San Diego during the fall of 1998—a young man yet to quaff his first beer saunters into a low-frills, seemingly Irish-themed bar on the edge of a strip mall that, otherwise, is completely occupied by Asian restaurants. The name of that establishment—O’Brien’s Pub. The mission of the group—beers to kick-start the weekend. Did anybody in the quintet know this was an early Mecca for craft beer in a city that would evolve to become, arguably, the epicenter for craft beer in the United States? Nope. They all just happened to work a half-mile away at a microelectronics manufacturer that often inspired them to seek out adult beverages to help erode the stress of the nine-to-five. The other four laborers in my group hit up O’Brien’s pretty regularly and, thinking I’d make a decent addition to their social circle, had asked me to come along. A fan of friends and adult beverages, I took them up on their invite.

Upon entering the pub, as if by fate, a group of five cleared out from a table in the otherwise packed-to-capacity bar. We scurried over to claim their vacated territory as our own and, as my friends perused a whiteboard with a bunch of foreign-sounding names messily scrawled upon it—Bear Republic Racer 5, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot—I thought to myself: Crap, I’ve never had a beer before and I don’t want to sound like a loser. What am I going to order? I started combing over my severely limited vernacular where beer brands were concerned, weighing each against the criteria that television ads and billboards had provided to tell me which was the fanciest, top tier choice. A waitress came to the table and, as if sensing the opportunity to completely humiliate a beer rookie, asked me what I’d like to drink. I cleared my throat and, in my deepest, manliest voice, replied: “Um, a Heineken?”

I’d hoped for the others to not even hear me or, if they did, only passively acknowledge the selection as they proceeded to issue their orders…but that didn’t happen. Instead, each of their faces elongated to gaping caricatures akin to Edvard Munch’s famed masterpiece, The Scream. It was as if their jaw muscles had gelatinized at the mere utterance of the Dutch macrobrew. I thought for sure at that moment that my drinking buddies had gone from to-be to would-be status, but then they exhibited the positive behavior that I would later learn is the hallmark of any good craft beer fan. Rather than shame me for being so ignorant to the craft culture, they had the waitress cancel my order and told her, “He’ll have an Arrogant Bastard Ale.” Rather than feel belittled or inferior, I felt gratitude that they’d taken me under their wing and helped me out. And, though I had no idea what Arrogant Bastard Ale was, I had to admit, it sounded a heck of a lot more interesting than any beer I’d heard of up to that point.

ABA-Etching-History

Stone Co-founders Greg Koch (left, and kinda hard to recognize without that beard) and Steve Wagner etch signatures into 3-litre bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale in the VERY early days of this watershed beer.

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Looking Back (& Forward): Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival

We put in a full year of planning, effort and beer wrangling to make the annual Stone Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival the best and biggest it can be. Considering it’s the largest annual beer fest on the West Coast, we’re inclined to believe we do a hell of a job. We just wish it didn’t go by so quick. In less than 24 hours, we blow through 364 days’ worth of work and just about as many (but even more) kegs! Take, for instance, this year. Over 50 breweries from around the country showed up and brought 187 beers. And that’s all in addition to the 50 Stone beers we busted out to celebrate 18 years in the craft brewing biz! It was the kind of fete we wished every fan that helped us get to this ripe (young?) age could have participated in. But alas, even with nearly 8,000 tickets sold (and more than a quarter million dollars raised for charity, thank you very much), some will only experience this special day via this blog post. So, we’re going to go as in depth as possible so those who couldn’t make it know what to expect when they hopefully come out next year, and those who did join us can have fun reliving the Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival.

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