As Jacobim Mugatu from Zoolander would say – That Bourbon Barrel-Aged, he’s so hot right now.1 And it’s true, everybody seems to be jumping on the bourbon barrel-aging train, and though it’s not a new concept it certainly seems to me that beers finished this way have really permeated the market this year. So today we’ll be looking at one of those beers, this time the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale.
This isn’t Stone Brewing Co.’s first rodeo using wood to enhance their beers, in fact they’ve been using oak chips to make Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale since 2004. In 2014 however, Stone Brewing went bananas with its barrel-aged program and released 13 new beers under its Quingenti Millilitre series, eight of which that used Kentucky bourbon barrels to age them.2 While not listed under that series, the BBA Arrogant Bastard Ale was also a new one for the market, which uses a blend of the normal ale and the barrel-aged ale to create a profile which according to their site “prevents the bourbon from dominating and allows the complementary oak and vanilla notes to cleanly register their presence.”
Bourbon-Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale was offered only in Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Box, a sampler of four beers: Bourbon-Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale, Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2 percent ABV) and Double Bastard Ale (11 percent ABV)—are releases; Lukcy Basartd Ale (8.5 percent ABV), which is a blend of Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Arrogant Bastard Ale; and OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale that is only released once every two years.
Reading the brewery’s excitement over their barrel-aged beers got me excited to try the beer, so after shooting a few quick photos I jumped into the review. Pouring a reddish amber color, some light passes through but it’s not what I would call transparent. There’s a quarter inch head that disappears fairly quickly leaving just a minor ring around the edge, but builds back up easily with a swirl or two of the beer. Along those lines, there’s not much carbonation visible, and as such the head quickly dissipates again. Bringing the glass to my nose there’s an extremely floral hoppy aroma cold, though not much else, so we’ll revisit this once it warms up a little.
Taking my first sip, the cold taste is quite fruity, with some hoppy bitterness and a bit of resin up front. The finish is long with lingering resin and bitterness coating my entire mouth. There’s really only a slight sweetness and not much on the malty or bourbon side of things. Taking another sip and moving it around my mouth, the mouthfeel is pretty solid in the medium range with a medium to light carbonation.
As it warms up there isn’t too much change, though a few nuances do come out. The aroma has shifted from floral hobs to fruity hops, with only the slightest hint of vanilla and oakiness. The taste is still slightly fruity, hoppy bitterness, but now includes a bit of caramel, some malts, a hint of vanilla and it’s a touch sweeter than it was cold. The thing that I find interesting is the beer is still completely lacking is any bourbon notes.