Snobby Beer Slob Review: Arbalest

I’m no food connoisseur or sophisticate. I don’t drop money on clothes, cars or, truth be told, much of anything. But I will pony up a few extra bucks for a good beer. Doesn’t mean I won’t knock back whatever watery brew that’s yanked from the cooler. But when I can, I sip something tasty. And how to know what qualifies? Only one way to find out.

The suds that launched 1,000 snarky tweets.
The suds that launched 1,000 snarky tweets.

The beer: Stone Brewing Co.’s Arbalest

The flavor: Rich, smoky, sort of butterscotch-y. My buddy tells me it’s a Belgian ale aged 3-6 months in bourbon barrels. What does that do to the stuff? No idea, but it’s pretty righteous. There’s definitely some bourbon going on in there, and although it’s hoppier than I usually prefer, it’s plenty doable — almost welcome. Not sure where all or in what forms it’s available — I enjoyed a draft in a semi-upscale Midwest college-town bar — but it’s worth a try if your flavor is something left of Miller Lite.

The perfect pairing: Green olive and bacon pizza. Worked for me, anyway.

The story: It’s the end of a stupid-long day of work (coincidentally) back in my hometown, where I’ve just fired off a freelance story to the office. Clock punched. Now I’m hungry. And thirsty.

So I’m hunkered down in my favorite haunt — pool tables, great tunes, quality beer selection — when my man behind the bar says, “Hey, I’ve got something for you to try. You’ll dig it.” I don’t argue.

He pours the Arbalest, which prompts a ridiculous four-minute discussion on spelling, pronouncing and sourcing the beer (FYI: Escondido, California). But what else am I gonna do with my time, post a string of snark to Twitter? (Full disclosure: I did this too.)

One beer leads to another. And another. Wash, rinse, repeat. Eventually, my buddy behind the bar wraps up his shift and convinces me — twists my arm — to try another joint. Again, I’m an agreeable sort. No reason to make waves.

Before it’s all said and done, we’ve run into another old mate, followed him back to an old-school loft situated over a trinkets store, played a slimy game of fetch with his German Shepherd and killed off a good chunk of the morning (and maybe a Tecate or two). The evening’s only lowlight: My leftover pizza, which I’ve awkwardly lugged around with me all night, is wolfed down by the after-hours horde. Hope you enjoyed my breakfast, you savages.

The verdict: I quaffed only one Arbalest — one was just right in this instance — but it was flavorful, free and the table-setter for a night of reconnecting with old pals. Tough to beat that.

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