after reading the extensive beer list for a then classified event on 13 March 2014. I’d like to thank everyone who wrote in expressing concern for my safety. [1]

I’m now able to reveal details of said event as the Cone of Silence has officially been lifted by Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor. On 13 March 2014, legendary American craft brewery Stone Brewing Co will initiate what I believe to be the biggest tap takeover in New Zealand history when over 40 of their beers go on tap at two bars (Malthouse and the Fork & Brewer) on the same day. 

Founder and owner Greg Koch, currently on a sabbatical from his American duties, will likely be present to assist customers with their beer selections. [2] The event has been dubbed The City Tap Takeover (Twitter: #citytaptakeover). It should be noted that there could be as little as one keg of some of the rarer beers.

I’m going to discuss some of the beers which will be available in this week’s blog and also in next week’s edition. However, I won’t even come close to listing them all. Additionally, Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor will not tell even me which beers will be at which bar seemingly in order to ensure I must get some exercise travelling between the bars in order to search out the very hoppiest drops. [3]

Stone Brewing Co was founded in 1996 and is based in Escondido, California. It is one of the larger American craft breweries (#10 in 2012) and they export limited amounts of their characterful and often high-octane beers. They are probably best known for hoppy, West Coast pale ales though they actually make a wide range of styles. Stone has been rated as a “world class brewery” by RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. In fact, readers of BeerAdvocate voted Stone as the #1 “All Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” – quite an honour. [4]

I’ve actually been there and I have to say that it is really quite beautiful and easily the cleanest facility I’ve seen. Certainly their brewery was cleaner than any hospital I’ve ever been in. I went there for a World Beer Cup event which was held at their new brewery which was built on a newly created street. The invite was literally covered in warnings telling people not to follow their GPS instructions as they would be directed to the wrong location. Honestly, I though the number of warnings was excessive and patronising.

I was wrong. [5] Fully one third of the guests were up to 90 minutes late, all frantically blaming their GPS systems for taking them on a wild goose chase. Instead of being sympathetic, I got a head start eating BBQ ribs and drinking Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

In addition to their highly regarded beers, Stone is known for their in-your-face and off-the-wall marketing. The fact that their flagship beer is called Arrogant Bastard Ale tends to support that theory. On every bottle of Arrogant Bastard is the text – “This is an aggressive beer.  You probably won’t like it.  It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth”. That lends further credence to the thesis. Oh, Stone also call mainstream beer drinkers “fizzy yellow beer drinking ninnies” which just about cinches it.

In their “The World Atlas of Beer”, noted beer writers Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb described Stone as “attitudinal.” [6] In their later book, “The 2014 Pocket Beer Book,” they describe Stone as a “mini-empire.”  I characterise Stone Brewery as the “Original Gangster” of the craft beer world. These guys have been talking smack about their competitor’s beers, their customer’s taste buds, their own beers and international free trade for decades. It is basically the brewery that BrewDog wants to become when it grows up

Beaumont and Webb wrote about Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2%) that “Stone Brewing Co has built a large degree of the brewery’s success on the back of this strong dark, and aggressively hopped ale, bracing in its bitterness with fruity caramelly malt to match.” 

However, they rate Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2%) even highly and so do I. It is the classic Stone Arrogant Bastard Strong Ale which has been aged on oak chips. It is a hefty 7.2% alcohol by volume and while the hops and IBU (International Bitterness Units) are “classified” like most Stone brews, I have tried this beer at the brewery and it has bold notes of caramel, oak and dark fruits before a hefty blast of citrus hops. The beer boasts that it is “hated by many, loved by few, you are not worthy.” [7]

There are four also versions of Stone’s Double Bastard Strong Ale – 2009 Double Bastard Ale (10.5%), 2010 Double Bastard Ale with Chipotle Peppers (11.2%), 2012 Double Bastard Ale with Toasted Oak (11.2%) and 2013 Double Bastard Ale (11.2%). The base Double Bastard is an American Strong Ale which pours a burnt orange colour with an off-white head. There are notes of grapefruit, orange, sweet caramel, brown sugar and raisins before an intense bitter finish. The mouthfeel is thick, almost oily, and the high alcohol is evident on the palate. Obviously the chipotle and oak will bring in additional flavour dimensions to their respective vintages.

Continuing the “abuse the potential customer” theme, Stone say Double Bastard is “one lacerative muther of an ale.  It is unequivocally certain that your feeble palate is grossly inadequate and thus undeserving of this liquid glory… and those around you would have little desire to listen to your resultant whimpering.”

In the next issue, I will cover half a dozen or so more Stone beers which will be in the City Tap Takeover, including at least two which are not Pale Ales. I will also reveal how I might have inadvertently contributed to New Zealand getting threatened with legal action by Stone Brewing Company some years ago. 

Next time, we drink to Canadian hockey for providing the only real reason to watch the Winter Olympics. Well done to their men’s and women’s team for winning gold and bringing their “eh” game.  They still have to atone for producing Justin Bieber and Celine Dion though…

[1] That thank you correspondence will not take long as no-one – including my mother – expressed any such concern. I expected at least a couple of messages, mainly from brewers, bar owners and their accountants fearing for their financial futures.

[2] Greg Koch the beer guy should not be mistaken for Greg Koch “the unsung guitar hero from Milwaukee, Wisconsin”. A lot of my working day was spent watching YouTube guitar solos waiting for the guy to talk about hops and malt. He never did. However, he did perform songs titled “The Love Contractor”, “Spank It” and “Your Face”.

[3] This is likely the closest I will ever come to doing the Round the Bays “fun” run.

[4] I’d definitely put that on everyone’s business card.

[5] I’ve been asked by several fans to produce “Neil Miller was wrong” t-shirts. I think they would sell well. I know I’d wear one (but I probably wouldn’t pay for it).

[6] “Attitudinal” is pretty strong language from a polite Canadian and even politer Briton.

[7] I love it but I agree I’m probably not worthy.


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