In every genre, there is someone or something that is leagues above everyone or everything else. Why? Because they are innovators, boundary destroyers, risk takers, maybe even a little nuts. To the craft beer enthusiasts the world over, there are certain breweries that come to mind when you talk about the best, their favorites, the unique and special. Stone Brewing Company out of Escondido, CA (San Diego) is on every single list of excellence.
The first Stone beer that I ever tried, like most that I talk to as well was the Arrogant Bastard strong ale. The literature on the bottle mocks you. “You are not worthy” it says. Maybe. But I’m gonna drink it anyway. Your Stone cherry has been popped and the face you make… priceless. At 7.2% ABV the liver will ache a bit, and that’s okay because the strong bitter notes open your eyes to a bright and glossy finish with a brisk “woo hoo” coming out of your beer hole. Its darker caramel like color gives you the impression that this is in fact a serious undertaking and the aromas take it the rest of the way to heaven. Because it is a Stone brew, standards are higher and it comes in at a 7.5/10 on the UrD scale.
Last year around the holidays they decided to take the Bastard brews and use them as a base to create one of the most memorable series of beers in Crime and Punishment/Southern Charred. Crime started its life as Lukcy Basartd Ale and infused it with hot peppers, tossed it into some bourbon barrels and let that sumbitch get a little older. With so much going on I half expected one flavor to overpower but every aspect was represented beautifully while the 9.6% ABV did most of the overpowering. 8.5/10 easily on the UrD scale.
Then there was the Punishment. The 12% ABV does not distract from the fact that you just put a nuclear chile beer in your mouth that also was aged in bourbon barrels. The Double Bastard Ale used in this one was a fantastic vehicle for the pain. The chiles dominated the palate but if you’re open to it, the subtleties from the barrels and the base beer were a pleasant side note. 8/10 UrD.
Then there was my favorite, Southern Charred. Two different batches of Double Bastard Ale aged in different barrels for 10-13 months ringing up at a 12.6% ABV. Poured like a spirit and stimulates all the senses from sight to swallow. The deep and cloudy mahogany color almost glows in the glass while the carbonation is almost non-existent. The bourbon is strong with this one while the Double Bastard is no slouch in the flavor department it works side by side with the barrel characteristics to create a sipping sensation that I can only describe as elegant. Easily a strong 9/10 on the UrD scale.
I could ramble for days about the splendor of so many different Stone brews but if you want to experience consistent quality, freshness and flavor then grab the “Enjoy By” IIPA series. It is a benchmark for quality and the balance of flavors is epic. “Enjoy By” is a solid 8.5/10 on the UrD scale.
Like the mob, once you’re in, you’re in for life. Like the best, they do nothing half cocked and it is proven through their vast selection of experimental brews. The basics like the Stone IPA, Pale Ale, Levitation Ale, Ruination, RuinTen, Cali-Belgique, Sublimely Self Righteous and on and on and on, the list continues with the exceptional and it is only going to get better, because thats what innovators, boundary destroyers, risk takers, and inspirational nut jobs do. They make the world a better place.