Today (Friday, July 1) Actual Brewing will be releasing their take on Stone’s venerable American strong ale, Arrogant Bastard. I hung out with the crew at Actual several weeks ago on brew day to get the scoop on this somewhat unusual collaboration involving the brewers and equipment at Actual and the recipe from Stone.
Let’s start with the facts. Actual made a single 6 hectoliter batch, enough for approximately 16 kegs. The beer will only be offered on draft at the taproom (655 N. James Road, near the Columbus airport). The adopted bastard will be pouring until the kegs run dry or the month of July ends, whichever comes first. For every pint sold, $2 will be donated to the charity Foster Care for Success ($1 from Stone, $1 from Actual).
You may be wondering what each brewery gets out of the deal. Although no one would comment directly on this point, it seems to me that Actual stands to bring in curious visitors to the taproom, while Stone gets some publicity for an aging beer in a time when many drinkers gravitate to the latest thing. Plus who doesn’t like drinking beer in the name of charity.
You may also be wondering why Actual? Is it because Actual Brewing and Arrogant Bastard share the same initials? No, or else how can you explain similar collaborations with The Bruery, Great Divide and Maine Brewing Co. Is it because Actual Brewing President Fred Lee can pull off the 30 days in the wilderness look even more convincingly than Stone’s Greg Koch? Possibly, but more likely Koch’s Central Ohio roots played a role. All Fred would tell me is that the bastard chose us. One interesting angle on the arrangement though is that Actual had to sign a contract agreeing that no macro brewery could invest in them for the next 12 months. I’m guessing the team at Actual didn’t lose any sleep over that part of the contract.
Finally, if you are like me it might have been so long since you drank an Arrogant Bastard that your recollection of the beer is a bit shaky. To remedy that I acquired a bottle and as a community service I’m happy to share my tasting notes:
Appearance – It pours a reddish-brown, almost tawny color in the glass topped with two fingers creamy beige head. Close inspection in front of a light shows it to be almost cherry red and quite clear.
Smell – Malt forward and sweet with notes of caramel and something that reminds me of honey. Not particularly hoppy on the nose.
Taste – My mouth is initially greeted with the same honey, caramel malt flavors that are so prevalent in the nose, but then out of nowhere the hops show up in force, sending waves of bitterness running up and down the sides of my tongue. There is a touch of dark fruit in the mix and the slightest tinge of alcohol warmth. The hops dry things out mid-palate, and the finish is both dry and bitter.
Mouthfeel – Surprisingly thick and chewy for a beer that weighs in at 7.2% abv, modest by modern standards.
Overall – I love the rich malt profile on this beer, it reminds me of an English Barleywine. However, the hop bill hearkens back to an earlier time of shock and awe, when breweries like Stone threw delicacy out the window in favor of machismo bitterness. While the hops definitely keep things from getting too sweet, it’s almost as though the cancel out the deliciousness of the malts rather than complimenting them. Call me a girly-man if you will the 750 mL bottle was a bit much for me to finish.
It will be interesting to see how Actual’s version of Arrogant Bastard turns out. They tend to put a high premium on drinkability in their beers. Hell even Fat Julian is pretty damn smooth for an Imperial Stout. That aesthetic is somewhat at odds with the philosophy behind Arrogant Bastard. I can attest that the pre-boil wort both smelled and tasted decadent and delicious, and I know I’m going to head out to James Road and see how this experiment plays out.