American Strong Ales are kind of a generic beer style referring to any ale above 7.0% ABV. There’s a lot of variation within the style with some being ultra-malty like a Wee Heavy, whereas others are highly hopped like an Imperial or Double IPA. Being on the “extreme” end of beers styles, these heavy, malty, and sometimes extra hoppy brews are great for sipping on a cool autumn evening, although definitely not for the meek.
The well-respected Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, California brews some fantastic, edgy craft beers which are adored by beer geeks everywhere. They unapologetically brew beers not necessarily for the masses but rather for craft beer connoisseurs. One of their most popular offerings is the 7. 2 ABV Arrogant Bastard Ale, an American Strong Ale so potent and complex that the only people who can actually enjoy it are “Arrogant Bastards”; those who won’t hesitate to snobbishly lecture others that they can‘t appreciate it. Apparently, a good sense of humor is required to work at Stone.
Stone makes an even bigger and more aggressive American Strong Ale, appropriately named the Double Bastard. Weighing in at a whopping 10.5 % ABV, the Double Bastard is everything its little brother is and more. This dark, orange-amber colored 2009 release Double Bastard is quite striking in the glass, translucent and thick-nearly opaque. A dense, golden-cream head stays around for quite awhile but the beer itself is moderately carbonated at best. Scents of pine, citrus, and raisin simultaneously greet the nose as the glass lifts — it smells as complex as it looks. The first taste offers a blast of pine and grapefruit-like hop flavors intermingled with a healthy dose of sweet, caramelized malt. Mid sip is a delicious cornucopia of dark malt notes: burnt caramel, toffee, and raisin are all noticeable. The Double Bastard finishes forcefully with a powerful yet smooth hop bitterness — the heat of the alcohol can also be felt. The body is heavy– no surprise there — but the mouthfeel tastes silky and clean.
The Double Bastard sounds obnoxiously over-the-top and it most certainly is. The hops and malts are at an extreme level but yet somehow in balance. Many people — particularly the Budweiser crowd — should approach this one with caution but those brave souls who like stronger, more extreme beers will relish it. Double Bastard has a definitely rich, Port wine feel to it and will pair well with desserts and grilled Filet Mignon. It‘s probably best appreciated on its own though. Claims are that these beers are worthy of aging but they’d make a great gift for the beer snob. As far as American Strong Ales or high alcohol beers go, the Double Bastard is better than most and on par with any.
The inscription on the bottle really says it all: “Ye shall know the Bastard, and the Bastard shall set you free.”
Who’ll Like This Beer: Beer drinkers who enjoy beers like Barley Wines, Wee Heavys, Imperial Stouts and Double IPA’s will really like this high quality American Strong Ale.
Little Known Fact: The hop varieties used and the bitterness rating (IBU’s) are listed as “Classified” on the Stone website.
The Verdict: The Double Bastard is certainly not a beer for everyone but for those who enjoy heavy, strong ales this one is right up there at the top of the list. And on par with any beer in its style.
Rating: 9.5/10 Mugs