Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Arrogant Bastard Ale - Stone Brewing Company - Beer Review

This is intimidating.

This beer is in the 99th percentile at

The silk-screened label on the bottle is taunting me with "You probably won't like it.  It is doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this fine quality and depth."

What if I get it wrong?  The beer nerds will see through this thin facade and banish me to a life of "fizzy yellow beer".

Every review on-line talks about the label.  The marketing is genius.  They taunt you and shame you into liking this beer.

The pour - thick head.  It not only sticks to the glass, it sticks around for a while.  I go to the bathroom and come back.  The creamy head still looks the same.  I play a game of checkers and come back.  The head still looks the same.  Will this thing go away?  I'm getting thirsty.

The color - ruby brown.  It's a little hazy and I'm worried that the beer might be too cold.  I need a thermometer.  Only nerds drink with thermometers.  I play another game of checkers and come back.  I think it's warm enough now.

Stone Brewing Company Imperial Pint Glass
You can buy this cool
Stone Brewing Company
Imperial Pint Glass
The initial aroma is a little sweet with mild hops.

The beer is a mouthful.  The liquid coats your tongue and stays around for a summer vacation.  Bitterness lingers throughout the drinking experience.

The combination of 7.2% alcohol and the strong fatiguing flavor of this beer means that it is definitely not a session beer.

The taste leans toward the hoppy side but is reasonably balanced by the malt.  The word that kept recurring in my mind - piney.

According to the label, this beer is only made with barley, hops, yeast and water.  If this is true, I see this as a positive for the beer.  I appreciate the puritanical efforts they take to make great beer.

It's listed as an American strong ale on  This comes off as a strong pale ale or less-hoppy IPA.

Arrogant Bastard Ale Burning Trinity of Hot Pepper Sauces - Set of 3 Flavors
Check out these hot
pepper sauces from
Stone Brewing Company
Maybe my mission has failed.  I can't put this in the 99th percentile of beers that I like.

Although it's not a bad beer.  It has failed to inspire me to find a second 22oz. bomber - after all, it ain't cheap!  I can't even put it in the top 2 beers of the week.  This week on the BBA we reviewed Goose Island's Honker's Ale and BBC Nut Brown Ale.  I thought both of those were delicious (and less expensive) and I would choose those over this offering from Stone.

Arrogant Bastard gets point for purity, marketing and a decent all-around beer, but for me it comes up short in the inspiration and uniqueness category.  Sorry beer nerds.

BBA Rating: 6



  1. I was hoping you'd review this beer at some point. It's definitely not for everyone and I think that's the way Stone wants it. Good honest review. You should try the Double Bastard which comes in at 10%, I am not worthy according to the label. They also make an Oaked Bastard which is really good, not as bitter at the regular Bastard. Definitely worth a comparison. Also I've been to the brewery twice, will have to find pics, very cool brewery in North County San Diego though way off the beaten path but worth going to.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks for the picture Dave. It's sweet!

  4. Thanks for the awesome review. Arrogant Bastard Ale, being the progenitor of the American Strong Ale category, was first released in 1997. Originality or uniqueness has never been one of its challenges. Your understanding of that might be challenged, but that's OK as you don't have the depth of experience or background to realize that. No worries. We don't expect it of everyone. How could we?

    It's also quite common to mistake the warning that I wrote in 1997 as a "marketing challenge." Happens all the time. Doesn't make it true however. I wrote that because in 1997 every single line was true. I wrote only bald facts.

    Don't worry. Your mission was true. It did not fail.

    You, however, did. You're not the first. Not by a longshot.


    Greg Koch
    Stone Brewing Co.

  5. I'm fairly certain you are calling me an unsophisticated, inexperienced beer p***y. That's ok. I have no argument against it. I'm new to the beer world and I'm definitely not BJCP certified.

    However, I am a regular guy with a few tastebuds on my tongue just giving regular guy thoughts on beers. I'm just looking to find some new beers that I enjoy drinking.

    I have heard a lot of great things about the Stone Brewery and plan on visiting next time I'm in Southern California. It sounds like you have done a lot for the craft brewing movement and I applaud your efforts. I plan on trying all of your offerings at some point, and based on what I've heard, I'm sure I will find some stuff that is fun to drink. We hope to highlight some of Stone's offerings on our show at some point.

    I do have one beef though. I have no doubts that you believe the words on the Arrogant Bastard bottle, but to say its not marketing is not true. If you just wanted to write out your thoughts on the beer, then maybe you should just get a journal. Putting them on the bottle makes them part of the package and it's that "bad boy" image that appeals to consumers trying to escape the "yellow, fizzy beer". If it's not marketing, what is it?

  6. come back to it in a few years. this isn't a snobby comment; you probably will like it more after you've tried more stuff. it's just sort of how this beer often works. i like it a lot more now than when i first tried it. it has a lot of (i guess) hidden depth and subtlety, and you also probably won't appreciate just how unique AB is until you've tried hundreds of craft beers.

    also, though it's more expensive than AB (which given its quality is actually pretty cheap), try the oaked arrogant bastard. you can probably get a single 12oz bottle at a good beer store, though the 6pk is worthwhile in my opinion--especially for you, since you can share it with your hop-hating video friends. i think the smoother flavor of oaked AB can often help drinkers find a lot of the great things going on in both beers, especially people like your friends who aren't so big into really bitter hops.

  7. James,

    Just stumbled back here and read your reply. Yes, I suppose I did call you that, didn't I. Ah, well, sounds like you are both man enough to dish it out AND take it. That puts you in rare territory right there, so my compliments!

    You would be most welcome to visit Stone. Please let me know when you're coming by and I'll buy you a beer. Seriously...I'd be glad to.

    BTW, I did not say my bottle text and design wasn't "marketing" (although I truly don't personally view it in that way), I said it was not a "marketing challenge." I even put those two words in quotes. I also followed the comment with "I wrote that because in 1997 every single line was true. I wrote only bald facts."

    I was genuinely NOT writing it from a "challenge" point of view, but an honest "warning" point of view. You see, we only thought we'd ever sell a couple hundred cases of that beer. I wanted to warn away anyone that was uncertain, so as to save their time and money, and to not have the beer wasted on them.

    I DO completely understand that most people internalize it as a "challenge." Fair enough. I can see how they do that. However, while that is the message 'received' it does not change the message I was intending to 'send.'



  8. seriously?????
    this has to be one of my favorite beers. not because i'm a beer geek, just because it's actually a great beer.

    i watched the video review of this beer. i don't think any of you have the depth or intelligence to review a beer of this caliber.

    sorry, but it's true. when you give a good rating to a beer like "vinyl" from the magic hat brewing company, and dog the arrogant bastard....i think it's time for a reality check.
    true, it's not for everyone but at least acknowledge it's quality.

    ALSO!!!! I work at a store that sells this beer and for F***s SAKE it's only $4.99 a bottle.

    get your facts straight.


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