Stone Brewing: Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard (USA: American Strong Ale: 7% ABV)
Visual: Deep black cherry red to black. Toffee touched thin head. Still main body.
Nose: Cherries. Vanilla. Toffee. Bourbon. Fruitcake. Dry liquorice. Muggy hops. Malt chocolate.
Body: Smooth. Vanilla. Bready. Moderate bitterness. Caramel. Fruitcake and raisins. liquorice. Prickling nettles. Menthol.
Finish: Liquorice. High bitterness and some hop character. Brown bread. Some peppermint. Malt chocolate. Fudge. Bourbon alcohol air.
Conclusion: Hmmm. You know, I really do start a lot of conclusions with “Hmmm”. I Should stop doing that. Hmmm. This is a mix of a bunch of things I really like and a few bits of stuff that slightly disappoints.
What works? Well the bourbon is very evident without overwhelming the base beer. The base is smoothed out with lots of sweetness added – a mix of toffee notes and an alcoholic bourbon character laced throughout.
The hop character is the main weak point – age in the oak seems to have made it much more muggy and clinging – based on my little experience with ageing hoppy beers I would guess it could probably do with some more time in the bottle to help smooth and even it out.
With the hops lessened, well slightly – there is still a good bitterness to this, you see more of the malt coming through with raisins and fruitcake emphasised. It is still a backing though behind the bitterness and now the bourbon as well.
It is still a good beer – big brash flavours and the bourbon adds to that – it just needs to commit to one or the other. Either keep the fresh hops or give it more time to let the muggy hops die down – the half way point seems a ill compromise on both. It is, however, a sign of the quality of the base beer that despite that I still quite enjoyed it.
Background: I have yet to review Arrogant Bastard Ale. By which I mean standard Bastard, not any of the variants. This despite the fact I have had the bottle a few times, and on tap last time I was in the USA. Anyway, this version was in Brewdog’s Guest Beer section so I grabbed it. Drunk while listening to more Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Scroobius Pip. I am getting unimaginative in music picks in my old age.