It’s been a helluva week for me, what with only 1 day off last week and Erin and my own birthday celebrations to get through, I simply haven’t had that much time to write. Here I am now, at the end of my weekend, finally getting something out the door! Now, as I had planned earlier, I wanted to crack open a few good bottles from my cellar in order to share and review them on the site. That didn’t happen, unfortunately, as there was more than enough liquor to go around during our birthday potluck that I just couldn’t get into more, especially if my senses were going to be fairly “off”. That being said, I did get a chance to try a beer I picked up recently in Washington (Elizabeth Station, to be precise…killer beer store!): Stone’s “Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale”. I’ve had a couple of Stone’s beers just recently (such as the “10th Anniversary Ruination IPA”), but I haven’t had the flagship Arrogant Bastard before. I got a little too impatient to try and wait to pick up a bottle so I could compare the two, and cracked the oaked version this evening. Here’s my take on it…
I poured straight into my glass, and almost overflowed it with foam. A little too overzealous, I guess, but I let it settle down a bit before putting the rest in. When it was all over, I was left with a wonderfully thick head, measuring about 2 fingers width, the general “standard”. It stuck around for a while, too, which was nice to have while sipping to give a creamier effect. The colour is a sort of dark cherry red, with some sediment floating around here and there. Other than the sediment, a very attractive-looking beer.
Behind the initial woodiness you get right away, you smell the malt a split second later. It smells like the barrel, which is pretty comforting (to me, at least!). If you wait long enough and keep at it, you can pick up some currant behind it all…
When you get around to tasting a bunch of barrel-aged beers (my first ever was the Phillips Double Barrel Scotch Ale, but there are tons of examples out there…), you will be able to pick up on the wood flavour right away. This was pretty prominent, though I can’t say I specifically tasted oak, as I don’t know what oak tastes like from memory (something to work on?). The other dominating flavour was caramel, in addition to tons of malt, but really not much more going on beyond that.
I’m not sure if it was the wood, but this beer stung the back of my tongue like no other beer. Super bitter! It starts out right at the tip of your tongue, but doesn’t hit nearly as hard as it does in the back. I wouldn’t say that ruined this beer, because I got used to it, but it was a bit of a shock at first.
I really enjoy getting into barrel-aged beers, they make me yearn for the fall months, and sitting around a campfire. They add a depth and complexity, though I would love to know what the standalone Arrogant Bastard tastes like, so I could understand just how much. Wouldn’t mind finding out if the original also has that incredibly bitter finish, or if it was the wood that made it so.
Unfortunately Stone’s offerings aren’t available up here in Canada, but they have a fairly wide distribution in the US, so no matter where you go across the border, it shouldn’t be too hard to locate. This particular beer is now offered in 4 packs, along with a few other specific beers from their lineup. I’d recommend picking up the oaked version of the Arrogant Bastard only if you’ve had the original, as that’s my only real regret. Nice beer overall, and if I came across it again I would consider ageing it for 6 months or so to see what happens.
There seems to be a growing trend amongst BC craft breweries that I’ve noticed in the last little while: interesting seasonal releases in 750ml bottles. Russell Brewing, Lighthouse Brewing, Vancouver Island Brewery and Whistler Brewing are all recent examples of companies that have taken some crazy idea for a seasonal and ran with it. Russell began their “Ministry of Beer” series with a really awesome wheat wine (??) that surprised a lot of beer geeks. They also brew commercial batches of national homebrew competition winners, an idea that I love and want to see more of. Lighthouse seriously upped their game with the stellar Belgian Black and Belgian White: two very, very good beers. Even Granville Island Brewing, which has been bought out by macrobrewery Molson, gets the opportunity to make some killer seasonals (such as their Imperial IPA and recent Cascadian Dark Ale). Not every brewery gets to do this, and not nearly as often. For some, the production is too time-consuming, or they are simply catching up their regular line-up with no room for anything else. I’d like to imagine breweries like Driftwood and Phillips, who release seasonals quite often, were the inspiration for everyone else in BC, but the need to create something unique, interesting, or just plain awesome has been around for quite some time, I figure…
Whistler Brewing Co. first dipped their toes in the seasonal pool with their bright, easy-drinking Grapefruit Ale one summer, and it stuck so well that they now produce it as part of their 6-pack lineup during the summertime. In the fall, they released their Chestnut Ale, which was considered a great departure of the typical pumpkin ales normally offered during the season (though I don’t mind pumpkin ales at all…keep them coming!). Springtime brought forth their Chai Maple Ale, which I found to be considerably sweet, and my least favorite from their seasonals thus far. This summer, with the need to fill the gap left by the Grapefruit Ale, Whistler has had to come up with something equally as refreshing. Starting off with a fruit-based beer was probably a good idea. But pineapple? The cook in me knows that the acid from pineapple is quite harsh to other things, including itself. But, seeing as they had much success with the grapefruit, they should manage just fine. Or did they?
It pours a nice yellowish orange, with a fairly decent amount of head, even if it doesn’t stick around too long. The smell takes me back, though, it’s like a sweet candied pineapple…I loved that stuff when I was younger! The flavour is more or less the same…that candied pineapple is right there in your face. Maybe even a tinge of orange as well. Not as sweet as the smell would tell you, but still reasonably so. It feels completely crisp, but doesn’t linger around for too long on your palate (to be expected, it’s not too heavy). If you’re looking for complexity in a beer, this doesn’t have it. At 5%, you can split a couple with others no problem, or finish one yourself without getting completely smashed. As it warms up it kind of loses its magic, so I would definitely try to have it as cold as you can. Just like the grapefruit, I’d be happy drinking this through the evening any day this summer (even though the day I reviewed this it was the one cold and rainy day…).
Overall, I’d recommend this beer to both the beer geek and those newer to beer. Although Erin still thinks it just “tastes like beer”, it has enough fruity qualities to ease people in. In fact, fruity wheat beers are a great way to get people into trying out beer (as well as some lambics). I’ll probably have a Ratebeer review up on it soon based on my findings, for those interested, but for the time being I’d say it rates about a 3.5 out of 5. But for those who don’t care for numbers, I would just recommend trying it out if you come across a bottle!