It’s difficult to process just how iconic Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard Ale is.
Along with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Sam Adams Boston Lager, and New Belgium Fat Tire, Arrogant Bastard was one of the first beers to really challenge what American beer stood for when it was released back in 1997. It’s still considered a near-perfect beer, maintaining a 99 score on RateBeer after 19 years on tap.
With complex malts and unprecedented hoppiness, it’s the beer that started the American obsession with IPAs. And it’s not even an IPA.
Then, last fall, it was announced that Arrogant Bastard would spin off into its own entity, Arrogant Brewing, and travel to breweries all around the country for one-off guest batches.
The first “fosters” for the Bastard were some of the best beermakers in the world. Maine Beer Company, Great Divide Brewing Co., and 4 Hands Brewing Co. have all been host to the infamous strong ale. Now Shakopee’s Badger Hill Brewing will bear the honor and show that Minnesota can contend on a global level.
Only 10 barrels of Arrogant Bastard will be made at Badger Hill. Ever. The release will be extremely limited, with pints starting to pour on August 23 at 3 p.m. and going until all 20 kegs kick, which should happen within two weeks. No growlers will be filled.
“For our brewers, it’s a really big deal,” says Badger Hill brewer and co-owner Broc Krekelberg, noting that his brewery was ultimately chosen for their commitment to quality. “You work really, really hard to get these things right, and this is just validation. They chose us for the reasons we would want them to choose us.”
Arrogant Bastard is a fiercely protected beer. Its recipe is kept under lock and key in a safe by Stone, and Krekelberg had to sign a nondisclosure agreement to put it into his system. They started brewing over a month ago to ensure it came out as close to the original as possible.
“We do not take the responsibility lightly,” he says. “We babied it. We wanted to make sure it turned out right, and we left enough time so that, if we screwed up, we could redo it. The last thing we wanted to do was brew something that they weren’t gonna be happy with.”
As an icon of the beer industry, Stone has had a lasting effect on Krekelberg. When he was working in San Diego, he remembers driving over to Escondido to sit in Stone and drink Arrogant Bastard while he worked on his business plan for a new brewery south of the 494/35W loop.
The big glass wall at Badger Hill looking onto the brew floor was even inspired by the craft pioneer’s destination brewery in California.
The agreement is all about stewardship, and part of that stewardship is giving travel-averse locals the chance to try Arrogant Bastard like they’ve never had it. Krekelberg and his team are giving Minnesotans the chance to have fresh, on-tap Arrogant Bastard without having to jolt for So Cal.
“I don’t know if I can honestly say how it compares to the original, but you can’t beat fresh,” Krekelberg says. “To get it otherwise, it has to travel from San Diego, and even though they do a great job, it’s a little older.”
There’s also a charitable arm of the arrangement. As an apropos tie-in, Badger Hill Arrogant Bastard sales will benefit Foster Care to Success, a nonprofit that works with college-bound foster kids who have aged out of the social services system.
“Two dollars from every pint goes towards Foster Care to Success,” Krekelberg explains. “It helps us from a recognition standpoint, it helps Stone get to markets they’re trying to grow, but at the end of the day, we’re doing a charity, which feels good.”
For Krekelberg, all the components are there: It’s a point of completion for him as a professional in the beer industry, it’s a badge of honor for his company, and it’s beermaking for a bigger cause. Being selected is humbling, especially when you consider the sheer number of breweries in Minnesota that could’ve easily gotten the nod instead.
But Krekelberg isn't breaking his arm to pat himself on the back. He’s more focused on the service that brewing Arrogant Bastard could provide to the drinkers who weren’t around in 1997 when Stone redefined the beer world with Arrogant Bastard.
“Hopefully it gets people that might not have tried [Arrogant Bastard] before to come out,” Krekelberg says. “There’s a lot of new craft beer drinkers that come to this taproom, and their first experience with Stone might be here.”