Jan. 3 2014 05:56 PM

Six years, three Double Bastard Ales and one happy beer writer

A family tree of beer
Photo by Ian Cheesman

Courtesy of San Diego Beer Week 2013, I had the chance to sample vintages of Stone Brewing's Double Bastard Ale (DB) spanning six years. That's quite a chunk of time, especially considering many beers comparatively have the lifespan of a fruit fly. I'd planned to share my findings with its last release back in November, but given the arrival of the new year (and the retrospectives that typically accompany it), I thought it would be fun to pair the tasting notes with some autobiographical waypoints:

2013: I rise to prominence as CityBeat's most beloved beer writer, if not the world's. Multiple parades in my honor are planned for 2014.

DB is a bright coppery brew with a snug, beady head. Waves of its lacing caress the glass. It has the aroma of plums, sherry, pine and a hint of booze. The first taste has a big, almost nectar-like sweetness, reminiscent of cherry, toffee and honeysuckle. In characteristic Stone Brewing fashion, that's countered with a bold, hoppy cascade of mint, pine and flowery notes. It's full-bodied and a little sticky, which lends some real longevity on the palate, but carbonation still nips at the tongue.

2010: I contact CityBeat and inform them that they're derelict in their San Diego coverage if they don't have a beer column and, in a related note, I'd really like a job as a beer writer. They begrudgingly agree to take me on, probably because my rich daddy pulled some strings.

The coppery color of the 2013 has eroded into more of a ruddy amber. Its head is now aggregating in random mounds in the outskirts of the glass. The 2010's not nearly as pungent, instead offering more of a berry sweetness to the nose and nondescript hops. The bitterness in flavor is likewise diminished, though it still edges out the now agave-like notes emerging. The mouthfeel is undeniably fuller and the booze is still warming, though not to the 2013's extent.

2007: My wife and I have beautiful baby girl, but I don't have a beer column, so the whole affair feels hollow and unfulfilling.

The body of the 2007 has somehow darkened back to the tone of the 2013, but it's murky and headless. Lazy spires of carbonation slide up the glass. The aroma is a whisper of its former self with hints of malt, vanilla and that same Lik-M-Aid berry sweetness. The mouthfeel seems thicker, but the volume on the hops is greatly muted.

To summarize, if the last six years demonstrated only one thing, it's that Double Bastard Ale can be a durable companion with which to journey through life. Like you, it's capable of becoming more nuanced and interesting with age. Also like you, it's just a matter of time before age nudges it into obsolescence, an apparent drain on the economy that should probably be put down. 

It could be argued that a lengthy aging of Double Bastard Ale will broaden expectations of what beer can be, but I felt it hit its stride in just a couple of years. Still, in beer, as in life, be sure to respect your elders.

Write to ianc@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com, or follow @iancheesman on Twitter or read his blog, iancheesman.wordpress.com.


See all events on Wednesday, Dec 7