By Brandon Hernandez
San Diegans love their San Diego beer. So do out-of-towners, and no discussion of SD suds is complete without mention of the brew that started the nation’s love affair with America’s Finest City-Stone Brewing Co.'s Arrogant Bastard Ale. Since its introduction in 1997, this brawny, yet strangely endearing brew has been one of the biggest selling beers and talking points among craft beer enthusiasts in the US. All this, despite a marketing campaign that deems the average beer drinker “unworthy” and unable to handle something so incredible.
Ironically, it was an error during the initial brewing process that created Arrogant Bastard’s one-of-a-kind, in-your-face flavor profile. No one could have predicted then that this most delightful blunder would make beer journalists and drinkers worldwide not only talk about Stone (the 15th largest brewery on the planet) but also come to regard San Diego County as craft beer nirvana.
Over the past 13 years, Stone has (purposely) spawned three distinct permutations of the beer, which have garnered as much of a following as the original. Since everybody’s tastes are different, I rounded up my very own beer-geek panel to give the skinny on what to expect from each of these beloved Bastards.
In Pour Taste
Beer buds banter ‘bout bottled bastards
Jim Crute: A certified beer judge and the head guy at Poway’s Lightning Brewery. Crute’s flavorful Lightning Amber Ale is the closest thing to Arrogant Bastard Ale in the local market, making him the perfect pro to weigh in on this family of brews.
Jason Megraw: A long-time homebrewer inspired to take up the hobby by Arrogant Bastard Ale.
Brandon Hernández: A food and beer journalist whose perceptions of what beer is and can be were changed after tasting Arrogant Bastard Ale in ’98.
Arrogant Bastard Ale
7.2% alcohol by volume (ABV), in 22 oz. bottles. A copper-hued beer that’s assertively bitter with a caramely undercurrent and refreshingly light body that belies its robust, yet not overly complex, flavor.
Jim Crute: “A classic American ale, well-hopped with American hop varieties and maltiness that mostly stands up to its bitterness.”
Get Some: Just about everywhere-it’s one of the nation’s most readily available craft beers.
OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale
7.2% ABV, wood-aged in 12 oz. bottle six-packs A smoother, silkier version of the original that features an almost smoky woodiness, hints of vanilla and a bit more hop bitterness than the base model.
Jason Megraw: “This is a good beer if you don’t like IPAs (India pale ales). There’s intense bitterness, but it doesn’t assault the senses.”
Get Some: Better-stocked local grocery stores and liquor stores yearround.
Double Bastard Ale
11.2% ABV, winter seasonal in 22 oz. bottles. A harsher, sweeter concoction with pronounced citrus hop notes plus a dry finish, prune-like aroma and warming quality common in high-alcohol brews.
Hernández: “It’s much drier and sweeter than the lower-alcohol version, with cereal-like notes plus a bit of afterburn at the end.”
Get Some: Well-stocked grocery and liquor stores starting in November.
Lukcy Bastard Ale8.5% ABV, limited one-time release in 22 oz. bottles A blending of original, Oaked and Double Bastard, this “cuvee” comes on strong with a melee of fruitiness, earthiness and oakiness, all battling for attention on the palate.
Hernández: “There’s a distinct dried fruit burst at first taste that’s almost immediately canceled out by a dry, grainy finish.”
Get Some: BevMo and beer-centricliquor stores right now.
1999 Citracado Pkwy, Escondido