I keep my eye out for interesting beers from around the country, and this week I finally broke down and picked up a beer that I have been desiring for months. Stone Brewing Co. has been made quite popular by its Arrogant Bastard ale, with its bold hop profile and complex while solid malt backbone. The beer I grabbed, however, is the Double Bastard, which is the special-edition double dry-hopped version of the beer.
Stone Brewing Co. was founded in 1996 by Steve Wagner and Greg Koch. The pair initially met in 1989 and realized that their tastes in beer were similar when both attended a class on tasting beer taught at the University of California, Davis. Steve was already an experienced brewer at this point, and Greg an accomplished businessman, so they decided to open a brewery together a few years later. The brewery has since moved from its original site in San Marcos, Calif. to a larger facility in Escondido, Calif., where they now operate a larger brewing system with a capacity of 70,000 barrels per year and room to expand.
The beer poured a hazy, translucent brown with nice golden highlights toward the edges. The head was only about half a finger, even with a vigorous pour, and it settled down to a coarse foam ring that stuck around for a good 15 minutes or so, leaving a nice lacing behind as the beer was consumed. The aroma was surprisingly sweet, with some caramel and plum notes and just a hint of roast. Bitterness was noticeable in the aroma, and overall the effect was quite like a fresh American Barleywine.
The taste was complex up front, with both a significant bitterness and a bold malt character fighting for domination. The malt was fairly sweet up front, with a dark melanoidin character, almost like a bock. The bitterness definitely won out in the end, and very little hop flavor came through. The body was moderately thick, which was accentuated by the low carbonation. This beer reminded me most of all of a fresh Barleywine before it had a chance to mellow out.
I would recommend pairing this with very bold, grilled meats and barbecue. Extra-sharp cheddar or nuttier cheeses like Asiago will pair well, as will drier blue cheeses, but creamier cheeses will probably clash with the malt profile. I would also try roasted nuts or stir-fried vegetables, as these are probably bold enough to stand up to the Double Bastard. The proper glassware for this beer is a snifter, but pint glasses work just fine, too, if you don’t mind losing some of the hop aroma.
Double Bastard was pretty good but just isn’t really my type. It’s definitely not a bad beer, and it can probably be significantly better with aging, but right now the bold, complex malt profile just clashes with the hops, at least to my palate. I would recommend trying it if you love West Coast IPAs, Russian Imperial Stouts and American Barleywines. If these aren’t your cup of tea, I would avoid this beer.