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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Once one has discovered they possess the gene that allows them to not only comprehend, but greatly appreciate the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a 22-ounce enigma that is Arrogant Bastard Ale, they do not go back to mass-produced industrial swill. In fact, they find themselves succumbing to the sudden urge to go even further. My answer to that is Double Bastard Ale, a version of the Liquid Arrogance brewed to be brawnier, not as an enticing value-added to blockheads and frat bros looking to beat the bar or get, as they so eloquently put it, “crunk.” Hardly. Double Bastard Ale registers higher on the ABV scale because that makes this mighty spawn of my liquid loins ideal for aging, not just a few months (or days if you, like so many others, find it irresistible to wait much longer than that to quaff such an other-worldly brew), but years. The eldest of this proud creation, the original vintage dating back to 1998, is not only holding up, but holding its own, bringing new and poignant meaning to the term timeless.

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Double Bastard Ale plays an integral role in the every-other-year conjuring of another form of Liquid Arrogance, Lukcy Basartd Ale. And so do I. Lukcy Basard Ale is something so ambitious, it’s best if mere mortals attempt it just once every 730 days, lest their puny brains buckle under the pressure of harnessing not one, but three editions of the Arrogance to produce one grand cru cuvee of such magnificence it will bring tears to the eyes of both the Worthy and inferior. The latter will cry as their faces contort into an expression resembling that of the “bitter beer face” ad campaign run by Big Beer Sellouts R Us back in the ‘80s, while the former will shed salty streams of fluid joy. Lukcy Basartd Ale is a masterful blending of Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale and OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale (the last of which just joined my other relatives as a once-in-a-while release after several years trying to hang with me year-round) designed to be consumed at the peak of freshness—yes, astute reader, the opposite of the cellarable Double Bastard Ale. It’s more than most can handle, making it all the more special for those who’ve proven up to that feat since Lukcy Basartd Ale’s 2010 debut.

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Then there’s the youngster of the bunch, a limb on the family tree that, while presently short and stubby, is oaken to the core and will undoubtedly grow to scrape the sky with the rest of the upper echelon members of this storied clan—Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale. Life has nothing to do with killing time, but to make this no-brainer of an American strong ale a reality, I endured months of sequestering in the pitch-black, closed quarters of a vanillin- and whiskey-laced oak vessel. Normally, being relegated to solitary confinement would anger me, but knowing it was for the greater good of mankind, and the proliferation of the most noble bloodline within the netherworld of craft beer, I bore down (there was no way you’d find me grinning), bided my time and spent those months contemplating what I would become, figuring if something as puny as a caterpillar can, by virtue of little more than time spent in a chrysalis, can emerge as a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly, there would be no words to describe the magnificence of what an already incredible specimen such as myself would become after emerging, born anew, from those bourbon barrels. Adjectives fail as adequate descriptors, but I’ll venture some all the same: amazing, awe-inspiring, hellishly heavenly, jaw-dropping, life-changing and myriad other synonyms plucked from the second half of the alphabet.

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Myself and the esteemed aforementioned relatives have been crammed unceremoniously into a snug and simple-yet-stylish Arrogant Bastard Box so that those who aspire to experience the best of the best may do so in ceremonious fashion. And though the niche component of the population that can step to this level of amazingness is rather small, these legions grow larger every day, meaning that red-and-black box of awesome shalt last long. (Read: Hurry up or be the sad sack that misses the bus and has to watch as the truly Worthy—and immensely elated—pull out of the depot.)

Post-Script: If you have the gall and daring to climb even higher up my family tree or peek into its dark knothole, the origins of three more of my other descendants, Crime, Punishment and Southern Charred can be found here.

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.

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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.

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.

Home Run: Stone Beer at the Ballpark

The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” evoke memories of sunny days, the scent of fresh-cut grass and the sharp crack of pine making forceful contact with a small, red-stitched orb. There’s nothing quite like baseball season. America’s Pastime stirs the souls and passions of people from all walks of life—young to old, blue collar to white collar, West Coast to East Coast. It also appeals to both craft beer fans and people who don’t give a rip what they swig while they take in the boys of summer, so long as it’s ice cold, triple-hopped, cold-filtered or [insert lame, meaningless macro-beer company's Madison Avenue-developed buzz term here]. For so long, those enthusiastic about quality beer and baseball had to forgo the former when enjoying the latter, which makes us all the happier that, this year, we were able to debut a number of ballpark craft beer options for those seeking ales of substance in our hometown. This is a major accomplishment that comes after many years of hard work and negotiation to gain access to the prestigious Petco Park. Check out our new locations then visit them the next time you take in a San Diego Padres game.

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Senses Working Overtime: Beer Appreciation 101

You don’t have to be a certified beer judge or Cicerone to know when the taste of a beer strikes your fancy. But pinpointing exactly what you’re experiencing—that mysterious connection between your brain and taste buds—can be tricky. Fortunately, there is a quite enjoyable remedy for this: Taste more beer! But also smell more beer and visually examine more beer. It takes all of one’s senses to thoroughly evaluate ales and lagers. (OK, you don’t need to hear beer, but one can’t deny the anticipatory delight that stems from the sound of a bottle being opened or the sadness brought on by the last gasps of an emptied keg.) Practice makes perfect when it comes to exercising and refining your palate as well as the way you interpret beer’s appearance, scents and flavors. Many reading this have had a lot of practice drinking beer, but read on for a crash course on how to really appreciate it.

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Barrel Aging Part II: Original Wine & Spirit Flavors

Earlier this year, we solicited questions from our fans about our barrel-aging program, then funneled all of those queries, like fine imperial stout into barrels, to our Research and Small Batch Manager Steve Gonzalez. Steve is in charge of our barrels and has a storied vocational lineage that includes many years spent at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and E&J Gallo Winery. Basically, he knows everything. (He’s not a self-proclaimed know-it-all, mind you…we’re the ones getting sublimely self-righteous on his behalf.) One of the many cool things about Steve is that he relishes the opportunity to share info about his specialized line of work. As such, he was happy to tackle our fans’ questions. He tackled so many, that we’re doling out his answers via a four-part series. This, the second installment, covers inquiries about wine and spirit flavors that are trapped in the barrels we use and ultimately lend flavor to the beers we age in those oak vessels.

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The Whole Story: Stone Stochasticity Project

There’s been some major buzz around a new beer lately. Maybe you’ve heard about it…a double IPA infused with a grove’s worth of hand-peeled grapefruit zest. For devout Stone fans (or more casual visitors to our booth at last year’s Great American Beer Festival), the name of this beer—Grapefruit Slam IPA—probably sounded quite familiar. After all, one of the one-offs we received the most compliments on from beer lovers was our Stone Ruination IPA – Grapefruit Slam Edition. Given this, of course, those deeper down the Stone rabbit hole wondered if we were behind this mysterious new Stochasticity Project brand, despite the fact the beer was registered under a different entity, Koochenvagner Brewing Company. We have something to say to those questioners, especially those who were most vocal—thank you.

Happy New Beer: Stone’s 2014 Events Calendar

We don’t have a crystal ball, but no bogus future-telling devices are necessary to assure our fans that the New Year holds much promise and a full slate of fun-filled beer-centric events here at Stone. From some of the country’s most highly anticipated beer festivals to educational session and outright gorge-fests, there’s something for every kind of beer lover, and we’re proud to bring as much variety as we will delicious craft ales and lagers. The following is a breakdown of what we have in store for you in 2014!

74 Beers Ago: Looking Back on 2013

We at Stone count ourselves lucky to have so many fans of what we do and the beers we create. Most of those who’ve tagged along as we forge through this hop-studded journey have taken fandom to new heights. That level of devotion is something we don’t take lightly and work to reward by coming up with new beer recipes and getting those brews into our staunch supporters’ hands and pint glasses. As devotees keeping a watchful eye on us will attest, 2013 was a big year for new Stone brews. But even our most keyed-in fans were probably unaware of just how big. We say this, because after examining 12 months’ worth of brewing schedules, even our jaws dropped to the floor when we discovered that we had delivered 74 new beers outside our not-so-standard standard-issue brews this year. So, join us, won’t you, as we revisit them and other notable Stone happenings from the year that was.

God Bless Us, Everyone: Stone Beer-Infused Holiday Goodness

You can deck the halls with as many boughs of holly as you can get your mittened hands on, but without plates, bowls, baskets and platters of tasty holiday-themed sustenance scattered around your decked out abode, those decorations are bound to be a bit for naught. You can’t eat holly or mistletoe (or at least you shouldn’t), and those candy canes and stale popcorn hanging on the tree just won’t cut the myrrh-infused mustard. What every home needs come December is an array of warming, comforting treats and tidbits that burst with traditional holiday flavors and drive home the yuletide spirit. Never ones to point out a deficiency without providing a potential solution, we have the answer to any home’s lack of goodies in the form of several beer-infused recipes straight from our own Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens kitchens as well as some well-respected craft beer and cooking aficionados. Clear some space in the kitchen, line up those brews and join us in making sure everyone who visits your place over the holidays leaves feeling fuller and a lot more jolly!