The beers range from the Little Bastard (a 4.7%), the seminal Arrogant Bastard (7.2%), to the Double Bastard (11%) along with an 8.1% spiced milk stout, Xocoveza, but more on that in a bit.
The Little Bastard is a toned down version of the (in)famous beer that Greg Koch and Steve Wagner stumbled upon in the mid 1990s, although only 4.7%, it does carry a lot of the character that has made Arrogant Bastard the milestone beer that has spawned many tributes and inspired many a homebrewer to take the plunge into the professional pursuit of brewing their perfect beers. Just as with Arrogant Bastard, this little Brother has plenty of caramel and resinous character of the American Strong Ale; it isn't an easy drinking session beer as there is still a high level of complexity and depth, plus a big residual finish doesn't lend itself too well to a chugger of a beer!
The bigger brother, Double Bastard, is much in the same vein as it's lower abv counterparts; lots of big flavours, lots of complexity and a huge malt character along with the big alcohol presence; loads of nutty notes, pine and dark dried fruit along with the caramel notes mean this is a proper after dinner sipper.
Xocoveza is frankly, the most elegant beer of this lot and for me, the most accomplished. Anyone who can make a spiced beer palatable on the level of Xocoveza knows exactly what they are trying to achieve and how to do it. Allegedly at 50 IBUs, it is much more bitter than most beers in the style of a mocha stout would be, but the residual sweetness from the lactose and spicing means things are incredibly round with this beer, not only in mouthfeel, but in the finish and early structure too. Notes of vanilla, nutmeg, chilli and cinnamon meld incredibly well with the chocolate and coffee notes present in the beer and this really is something to savour, especially on a cold winter's evening with a dessert.
Hi Will, can you shed a bit of light on why Stone chose Head of Steam to push out their range?
Stone Brewing Berlin has been working with a whole cross section of bars across the U.K. since January 2017 to host our events and tastings, from Scotland to London and everything in between. It's been a lot of fun! The tap takeover with Greg at the Three Johns was a highlight as well as the Berliner launch at Port Street. We also did an event at the Tate which was AMAZING! The event at Head of Steam was in support of their new great outlet in Liverpool city centre. We have a great relationship with all their venues across the UK so wanted to give something back by running a tasting.
So, how come there's been a bit of change of branding from the usual Stone Brewing to 'Arrogant Beers' for these events and for the beers on Untappd etc?
Good question the Arrogant beers now fall under “Arrogant brewing”. The Arrogant Bastard has a personality and mind of his own and a cult following, so it was only right to give the Arrogant range its own platform to develop separate from the Stone Brewing range.
We brew Arrogant Bastard Ale and Little Bastard Ale in Berlin and we also make available alimited amount of other beers in the Arrogant range from the US such as Double Bastard &Arrogant Bastard Bourbon Barrel Aged. We decided to use the Arrogant beers at the event at Head of Steam as they are quite a rarity here in the UK and it’s fun to explore the different Arrogant beers side by side.
Bearing in mind they've had a launch in Liverpool now, will Stone look to engage a bit more with the local craft beer scenes in each UK city; and linked to the next question, is there a danger of Stone being seen as 'too mainstream' to be stocked now in these places?
So far we've been working with local bars and retailers in most of the major cities in the U.K.,including some amazing festivals we've been lucky to be part of such as the recent Beavertown Extravaganza and upcoming Edinburgh beer festival, but yes we'll be continuing to do this, and have lots of exciting stuff planned across the country over the next few months. A big part of our plan for next year is to get involved with the local events in each city.
Stone Brewing has been at the forefront of craft beer since 1996, focusing on quality andinnovation and challenging style guidelines. Our heritage and reputation means we appeal to a whole range of bars and retailers, and we have an amazing range to choose from, from our classic west coast IPAs to our collaboration and experimental beers from our 10HL brew plant in Berlin, as well as rarities shipped directly over from the US.
With Stone Brewing making inroads via Brewdog bars and now being present in many UK supermarkets, do they think they'll become ever more mainstream in UK pubs, becoming maybe as ubiquitous as Heineken, Stella Artois and Carling etc?
We don’t have a masterplan to become as ubiquitous as the macro brewers, but we do plan to grow organically and work with a whole variety of bars and pubs we know care about beer and will serve it in the best condition possible. Ultimately craft beer is becoming more widely available to consumers, meaning more people can get hold of better beer which has to be a good thing.
On a more political note, how is the general feeling with the guys at Stone about the UK market, since they opened the Berlin site prior to Brexit?
The U.K. market will continue to be a focus and an important part of our European plan, butobviously brexit has presented a lot of unknowns. Brexit or not: The UK deserves fresh big bold character beer, same as mainland Europe.
Are there many more dates across the UK where these tastings and MTB events are going ahead?
Yes we have loads of great events coming up, in Liverpool on the 28th of October we have aHalloween party with our friends at Dead Crafty and more events lined up nationally at amazing places like Cafe Beermoth Manchester and Arcade Beers Huddersfield with some more London dates to follow. Watch this space through @stonebrewinguk on Twitter to get the latest.
Whilst this is a good to get a range of styles to contrast the cask lines, Belgian brews and macro lagers present on the bar at the head of Steam, it might be a bit of a challenge to push them out to some of the Head of Steam clientele so far - it has yet to fully click with the local craft beer enthusiasts. Time will tell, but there are many more events coming up at the Head of Steam which may entice a broader spectrum of drinker in, so it is best to keep an eye on their social media streams for information.
Go forth and seek out these and see if you are worthy!