REVIEW: Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
Location: Escondido, CA
Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 7.20%
Appearance: Polished Mahogany, Stout Tan Foam
Aroma: Oaky Vanilla
Flavor: Sweet Malt, Hoppy Bitterness with Hints of Caramel & Vanilla
Availability: Year-Round

I honestly have yet to try a beer from Stone Brewing that I don’t like. Granted, I haven’t tried all of their beers and some are pretty hard to come-by, but to varying degrees I’ve found each one that I have been able to try pretty outstanding. To my knowledge the Oaked Arrogant Bastard is the exact same recipe as the original Arrogant Bastard with the addition of being aged on oak chips.

Oak and beer have a long history. Oak barrels were widely used in the storing of beer for a long time, but ironically many brewers went to great lengths to keep their beer from picking up much of the flavor imparted by the wood. Some even went so far as to line the inside of the barrels with brewers pitch to minimize contact between the beer and wood. This can definitely be understood in some cases, not all beer styles (especially a lot of the lighter styles), favor oak flavor. The styles most associated with oak and other wood aging are heavier darker beers, such as, Old Ales, Stouts, Porters, Dark IPA’s and Browns (and sours). Arrogant bastard being an American Heavy falls nicely into the beer styles that do benefit from the added complexities gathered from time in contact with oak.

“Glass-trapped darkness delicately cloaked in balancing act with ag’ed oak”

The bottle has the usual artwork endemic to Stone Brewery; stylized gargoyle (this one holding a beer mug), with the words “You’re Not Worthy” across the bottom, and the usual tirade is on the back of the bottle, which incidentally, if you’ve never tried Stone Brewing company, their very funny monologs, alone are worth buying a sampling of their beer. The one for both the Oaked and regular Arrogant Bastard starts with, “This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it.” Sounds like a challenge to me.

Appearance and Aroma

The color is a deep pure mahogany with fingers of lighter chestnut when held in the right light. Like a piece of polished mahogany near a burl or knot there is deep rich color, with just a few streaks of lighter stuff leading away from the dense swirl of wood. It is a beautiful beer. Three fingers of stout tan-tinged foam threatened to overflow my pint glass and I had to let it sit a couple minutes while the foam dropped away to a residual off-white cap of densely packed froth.

Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

The scent is arrogantly, pleasantly complex. Vanilla, imparted by the oak, and hops blended into a pervasive sweet, but not overly cloying, malt backing. The “oaking” works stealthy magic behind the scenes to still a bit of the hoppyness, leaving behind a nice freshness to the nose with less harsh undertones.

Mouthfeel and Taste

The mouth feel is full and just this side of heavy. The first thing I catch is a nice balance of sweet malt and hoppy bitterness, with caramel, vanilla, and hints of darker malts flirting with the hops, making for a nicely balanced partnership. The bitter side bites a bit more through the middle of the taste. I don’t find much citrus-bitter, here it is more of wood and decomposing, rich earth.

Some coffee notes come through at the back of the palate before dropping away to leave a gently stirring pine-floor aftertaste of dry resin and quite bitterness. Not too dry or astringent, just soft bitterness at the back of the throat.

Finishing The Impression

This beer is arrogant in its balance and complexity. Aging this beer on oak chips adds a nice vanilla-woodsy note that works well with the dark malts and bittering hops. It seems to me to be a bit more balanced then the original and if it’s true that the recipe wasn’t changed, than I would have to give credit to the oak. I will have to find the original and taste it again to truly know if this is actually so, or just a misplaced memory.

This beer is best enjoyed in a pint or snifter glass at not too cold a temperature and you will notice how the aroma becomes more apparent as the beer warms up. It is a nice sipper for those evenings when you just want to relax and enjoy the taste of something a little more complex or share it through a good conversation with someone close to you.

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Nick Carr

About Author

Nicoli Carr has been tinkering with homebrewing for over 10 years and graduated from the American Brewers Guild (CBA) Craft Brewers program in 2014. When he’s not busy freelance writing, he is likely out foraging wild brewing options, writing, or hunting stillness in remote places. You can contact him through his website

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