7.2% ABV from a bomber
I’m pretty sure this is the first craft beer I ever had. I tried it when I was 23 or 24 at arguably the best beer bar in Manhattan, the Ginger Man. The huge place is usually packed during happy hour and on evenings, but on that particular Saturday afternoon—perhaps on ALL Saturday afternoons—it was completely empty. Me and my date were the only customers. And, yes, I do take dates to dark bars in the middle of a beautiful weekend day. What, like I’m gonna go hold hands at a museum, Christ.
The sole bartender that day was bored out of her wits. She needed to find some way to liven things up. You know how Baskin-Robbins lets you sample some of their 31 flavors with those little pink plastic spoons? Well, on this Saturday afternoon, the bartender let me sample many of the Ginger Man’s seemingly hundreds of draught offerings via tiny rock glass.
Still being a green craft beer drinker—I think vodka tonics were my potent potable of choice during this era—I was pretty much at her mercy. And, she delivered. One tap immediately caught my eye: Arrogant Bastard. What a name! It was exactly what I thought I was at the time (I was actually just a Big Douchebag probably but that isn’t a great name for a beer). AB’s gargoyle logo was so freaking cool too. Oh, and the taste! It was an eye-opening experience, like losing my virginity. I didn’t know beer could smell so good, look so good, and taste so fucking good.
Instantly, on the drunken spot, I declared Arrogant Bastard my favorite beer in the world. Believe me, it didn’t have that stiff of competition back then.
AARON’S FAVORITE BEERS
(circa September 2002)
1. Arrogant Bastard on draught
2. Yuengling bottled
3. Bud Light in a pitcher costing less than $8
4. Natty Light from a can that is part of a 30-rack.
5. Saranac root beer.
I wasn’t kidding. By the sober next day I was on the Stone brewery website reading all I could about my new favorite brew. I even ordered an AB t-shirt and pint glass (pictured above—how I have not gotten brutally drunk in the last six years and hurled that through a TV or wall is beyond me). I wore my shirt proudly and it garnered much attention and chuckles, acting as a great conversation piece. I think most people assumed it was one of those faux-vintage pseudo-hip fake company t-shirts you get at Urban Outfitters.
“Nope, it’s a real beer,” I’d tell them, “It’s my FAVORITE beer.”
Wow. I thought I was so freaking cool for having such an “obscure” non-macro as my favorite beer. Back then it was pretty hard to find Arrogant Bastard. Only a few bars had it on tap and only a specialty store or two in the NYC area had it bottled. Now, it’s a relatively ubiquitous craft beer. Hell, I bought this bomber from my supermarket for the outstandingly cheap price of $3.99.
Arrogant Bastard may no longer be my favorite and, quite frankly, I don’t even drink it that often any more, preferring to try new brews, but it’s still a magnificent beer. Popping the top, the beer smells amazing. Tasting it brings back nostalgic memories much like it must have done when Proust bit into his madeleine. Arrogant Bastard’s taste is great, just hoppy enough, smooth, and delicious. It’s probably too aggressive for your typical macro drinker, but it’s a perfect masterpiece to me.
I won’t claim that it blows my mind any more like it did back in 2002—then again, very few beers blow my mind these days—but goddamn it is still goddamn good. Sometimes, I got to remind myself to quit being such a man of novelty and start more frequently enjoying what I enjoy. I think it’s time to become good friends again with Arrogant Bastard.
(Note: Stone Brewery has the best motto around: “Fuzzy yellow beer is for wussies.” Indeed. Take that to heart Corona drinkers)