The Burrito Tribune

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randomness, truth, and burritos

Craft Beer: Stone Brewing Co. Arrogant Bastard Ale

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I know from experience that Arrogant Bastard Ale was one of the ground breakers of the craft beer market, and from the few times I have had it, I can understand why.  Despite they’re jabs at mass-market beers multi-million dollar marketing campaign, I have to give Stone Brewing credit in creating a great brand identity for people who want something different and unique.  Arrogant Bastard encompasses the attitude of loving strong flavorful craft beer, and getting to embrace being an above-average beer snob.  I find it slightly ironic that their “questions and comments” label on their bottle says to keep your opinion to yourself.  It looks like I will fail miserably on that one.  But how about this, if you work for Stone Brewing… you can go ahead and close the browser now.  I’m not asking you to read this.

So Arrogant Bastard Ale comes in at a pretty hefty 7.2% ABV, and pours out as a beautiful dark brown color.  The head is thick and rich, and even after a good five minutes or more hasn’t entirely dissipated.  It definitely smells spicier than even most other craft beers, especially a standard ale.  It reminds me of that spicy scent when you walk into a store full of fine leather.  It smells rich and complex, almost oily.

The beer’s flavor is a definite kick in the teeth, and I mean that in the best of ways.  Some beers are good because they’re bold and wake you up every time you sip them, others do better with being complex and intricate.  This beer seems to make it’s mark by being both.  While the flavor hits you fast and strong, there is a background of complexity to it that keeps you coming back for more.

I’ve been sitting here through half a glass trying to figure out how best to describe this beer, and I just realized that all of my descriptors seem to follow a trend.  My first inclination was to say it reminded me of a strong rich BBQ sauce.  After that, I started leaning to a semi-sweet molasses cookie or a ginger snap.  There is a bite or tartness that I can’t avoid, like someone squirting in a taste of lime juice.  I would think this comes from the hops in the blend.

This beer is almost too strong for my taste, but that’s a definite almost.  I might not drink more than one or two, especially at 7.2% ABV, but its complexity and flavor are unparalleled in the craft beer market.  For true beer aficionados, I think you will be hard pressed to find a brew that better embraces all of the qualities that make craft beer great.  If you are new to craft beers, I might be a bit of an arrogant bastard myself and recommend you take a sip of your friend’s or have a 4oz glass in a flight of samples before going all out on a pint.

 

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Craft Beer: Big Boss Brewing Blanco Diablo Ale

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With the High Roller IPA being one of the better beers I have had, I was especially delighted to see another offering from Big Boss Brewing the last time I went to the store.  I picked up a bottle of “Blanco Diablo” an ale that is “brewed with spices”.  At 4.3% ABV, I am not expecting it to knock me on my butt, but it should still have a healthy strength over most mass produced beers.

First impressions are different than most beers.  Even by ale standards, Blanco Diablo is very pale.  It leaves a nice head on the glass as it pours, but it settles quickly and does not leave much residue on the glass.  The smell is also very subtle, I practically had to dip my nose into the beer to get a hint of anything. The best guess I can lay down on what this beer smells like is cucumber.  That’s it, I don’t have anything else to share on just the smell.

I’m not entirely sure I can say something better regarding the flavor of the beer.  My first impression is that it is extremely light flavored.  I am having difficulty placing what the flavor of the beer is beyond it being somewhat beery in essence with a watered-down tart finish.  It honestly reminds me of a craft beer company trying to make some weird hybrid between watered down orange juice and a blonde ale.  This seems to be a beer designed to make the drinkers of bland mass-produced beer comfortable in the craft beer environment.  If you wandered into Big Boss brewing and asked for a <famous mass-produced pilsner>, I feel like this is the beer that the bartender would talk you towards.

Maybe there is a place for this type of beer in the craft beer market, but I don’t really understand it myself.  Craft beer has a great identity for its strong flavors and being unique.  Wanting to design an extremely light flavored beer that emulates the mass-market stuff seems like it does craft beer an injustice.  Maybe it works when the group of friends get together to hit a microbrewery and there’s the one friend who only drinks <insert mass-produced beer royalty here>.  I guess it’s fair to cater to him, you can’t leave him sitting there with an empty glass (or no glass for that matter).  Still, I have trouble picturing your typical craft beer aficionado seeking out this beer on purpose.

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Craft beer: Terrapin Recreation Ale

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So I stared at another 22oz bomber for about 10 minutes debating whether I should review it yet.  This one was  Southern Tier Warlock Stout.  That might be waiting another day or two, I can’t drink two bottles of 8.6% ABV beer solo without feeling like my life is lacking in purpose.  I decided to take it down just a notch and sample a canned craft beer I picked up instead.

I’m sitting here looking at a can of Terrapin Recreation Ale.  This beer is brewed in Athens, GA and is 4.7 ABV.  It refers to itself as a “hopped up session ale”.  I’m not sure if this will put it into the hoppa IPA territory or not, but I’m excited to find out.  I really like how the can embraces the idea of outdoor living and activities.  In the lower corner of the label it says “pack out pack in”  meaning it expects you to take this with you on an adventure.  I’ve heard some great things about Terrapin beer and I’ve been looking forward to trying one.  I also love hiking and outdoorsy stuff, so I need to see if this truly passes muster as an outdoor beverage.

This ale definitely has a little bit of a pucker to its scent, reminiscent of a hoppy beer.  It has a citrusy scent like lemon zest, with a slight sweetness left over from the malt.

I will say that the beer tastes remarkably refreshing and it would definitely fit well on a hot summer day, or at the end of a long active day.  The first taste that hits is very cool and refreshing.  It reminds me of apple juice, but without all the sweetness that makes your mouth feel syrupy and dehydrated.  Maybe if someone cut apple juice with some seltzer water?  Or maybe a semi-sweet melon like honeydew would be another good example.  It starts off so smoothly it’s easy to take a good long pull out of the glass and satisfy your thirst.

This beer isn’t all sweet and innocent though.  As your drink finishes, and the majority of the beer gets swallowed down, the hops decide to come out and play.  It a presence of hops on par with some of your best IPA’s.  The hop flavor is so strong it’s almost peppery, but it’s a great experience and contrast compared to the smooth start.  The beer finishes with a long lingering flavor that is subtle and reminds me of drinking unsweet green tea.

As refreshing as this beer is, I’m not sure how much I’d drink in one sitting.  I think I’d likely only drink one or two before wanting to switch off to something else.  This doesn’t speak to the quality of the beer, it is remarkably well made and brewed with tremendous skill.  The flavoring is incredibly well balanced and worth experiencing.    The flavoring is just of an intense variety that makes it difficult for me to drink this continuously.

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Craft Beer: Southern Tier, Pumking Ale

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So my local liquor store’s stock person is apparently new and lacking a little bit of understanding regarding the definition of “craft beer”.  Fortunately, immediately behind the “pick-a-pack” section is a giant wall of select craft beer in 22oz bombers.  These bottles tend to be a bit pricier than their 12 oz counterparts, and many of them aren’t even available in a six-pack/12oz.  I’m excited to start exploring them though, because their flavorings tend to also be a bit more adventurous!

Having a festive seasonal mood at the moment, I picked up a few choices from Southern Tier made especially for Fall.  This one I’m trying out today is called Imperial Pumking.  As with other Southern Tier brews, it is made in Lakewood, NY.  This bottle ran me $6.99 at the store, well above your standard rate for an equivalent six-pack (based on volume).  According to the bottle, it is ale brewed with pumpkins, two varieties of hops, and two types of malts.  It recommends serving in a goblet at 42 degrees F.  I’ve already failed on the goblet part (as you can see in the pic)  but I’m flying solo and not sharing tonight, so I’m not going to let that stop me.  I should warn people trying this beer about the alcohol content:  At 8.6% ABV it is probably a better idea to budget this out in a goblet with several friends.  Seeing as I’m at home and not driving, I’m going to take my chances for this review, and finish it while watching a bad action movie.

The ale pours as a strong copper color with a smaller bubbly head.  The scent of the beer reminds me of all the best parts of a great ale and a fresh baked pumpkin pie.  I can smell the sweetness of the malt, as well as the freshness of the pumpkin and hints of cinnamon and spices.  It honestly makes me want real pumpkin pie, and wonder why it isn’t served hot.  Don’t get me wrong, warm beer would be a terrible idea, but it just tastes that much like pumpkin pie.

I should point out that on a whole, I am not the biggest fan of flavored beers.  I like the intricacies of the different flavors you can find in a more normal brew.  I like being able to hunt for descriptions like the ones I have posted on this blog.  When I say that there’s a hint of lemongrass, I want the beer to still taste like beer, with that lemongrass as a hidden overtone that needs to be dug out and experienced.

With that being said, this is an absolutely stellar pumpkin ale.  The pumpkin is rich and sweet without tasting artificial.  It isn’t like that difference between fake banana candy and the flavor of a real banana (you know what I’m talking about).  This tastes like real pumpkin pie with all the spices and finish.  If I was a little crazier, I’d spray a “head” of whip cream on it.  While tasting like authentic pumpkin pie, it blends amazingly well with the ale base.  There are no conflict between the pumpkin and ale flavors.  You can tell that there is an ale beneath the pumpkin flavor, but it acts like a calm gentle stream pushing a boat of pumpkin pie flavor into your senses.  I’m used to a flavored beer having the malt or hops jump out and kick me in the teeth after the flavoring passes by.  The fact that this beer doesn’t do that has earned it a spot in my top-five flavored beers (I will provide a list at another time).  My only regret is that it’s a seasonal beer and I won’t be able to get my hands on it after Fall passes by.

I wish I could add more to this description, but this beer is exactly what it says on the tin.  It is an incredible pumpkin ale.  I’m also anxious to finish this review so I can enjoy the rest of it before it goes warm.  If anything else comes to mind after I finish I will update the post.

One last thing worth repeating before I go, this beer tastes so smooth and flavorful that it’s easy to forget it’s nearly 9% alcohol.  Share it with some friends or make sure you had a healthy dinner and aren’t going anywhere for a VERY long while while you enjoy it.  I’ve drank about two-thirds of the glass shown above during the review and can already feel that it hits harder than your standard beer.  Other than that, enjoy it before the season runs out!

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