Sud Savant: Double Dead Guy vs. Double Bastard – Battle of the Big Boys

I’ve had this review idea in my mind for sometime now and today it finally comes to fruition! This is a battle of the big boys and I hope my palate is ready for it!

In this corrrnneeerrrr….

Double Dead Guy – Ale
Brewer: Rogue Ales
Hometown: Newport, OR
Vintage: 2011 Release (May 2011)
Style: Strong Ale (evolved from Dead Guy Ale, a maibock)
IBU: 72
ABV: 9.0%
Plato: 19.8
SRM: 25
Pedigree: 2010 Australian International Beer Awards – Gold 2010 World Beer Championships – Gold (Best of 2010) 2010 BrewNZ – Silver 2009 Australian International Beer Awards – Silver 2009 World Beer Championships – Gold (Best of 2009) 2008 World Beer Championships – Silver

Aaaand in the opposite corner…

Double Bastard Ale
Brewer: Stone Brewing Co.
Hometown: Escondido, CA
Vintage: 2011 Release (Oct 17, 2011)
Style: American Strong Ale (evolved from Arrogant Bastard, another ASA)
IBU: Listed as “Classified”
ABV: 10.5% ABV
Plato: N/A
SRM: N/A (but 40-42 based on observation)
Pedigree: For guys that are so “arrogant,” I had a hard time finding many awards for this one. Of course, the truly arrogant sense their own importance and do not rely on that bestowed by others. :) 2005 Great American Beer Festival – Silver

As much as I wanted to utilize branded glassware in this write-up, I did not have glassware of each brand that would have kept this as fair a review as possible. Thus, I’ll be using the tasting glasses that I bought when out visiting Port City Brewing in Alexandria, VA. I am insanely anxious for this slugfest to begin. Let’s pour! First up…

Double Dead Guy

Aroma 9/12: The beer shows promises of authenticity by beginning with notes of straw, sweet caramel, and a bit of booze. Roasted notes evolve slowly and eventually lead to stronger versions of the previously mentioned scents. The caramel becomes richer and brings the complementary booziness right along with it. All the malts even let some brighter hop notes to peek out in the forms of green apples, a lesser resin, and some citrus. There may even be a hint of spice, but it is too faint to say definitively. This all translates into a rather bittersweet medley with an interesting fruit/citrus overtone.

Appearance 3/3: Superior size and retention in the head, which has a nice bisque color that sits handsomely on top of a beer with any number of hues. Those that come to mind quickly are: reddish-copper, canned beets, sunset orange, and some deceptive dark purple shades. The beer is translucent which enables both the great colors yet still lets the light in to play with them. It even has some nice lacing!

Flavor 16/20: What a neat citrus splash on the tip of the tongue before the drinker was given more of the “bitter” from the “bittersweet” from the aroma! Soon, the roast and graininess of the malts kicks in to dull the sweetness a bit, but it is quickly overruled by the lighter caramel and the strong fruity esters. I was a bit hesitant writing “apples” in the aroma, but after tasting it I stand by that 100%. The backbone is largely a slightly darkened caramel and the sweet fruit, but has a great boozy quality that, much like the aroma, always complements and never oversteps its bounds. The finish is a reprisal of the grainy malt with a strengthened bitter that still manages to show off the roast and some alcohol heat. In case that last sentence didn’t give you a hint, there’s a lot going on here. The aftertaste lingers with the warming effect of alcohol, but also with the graininess from the finish. Eventually, it simply becomes bitter and urges the next mouthful.

Mouthfeel 5/5: This beer is a “double” that ups the ante on flavor, but doesn’t make the beer too heavy in that endeavor. On the contrary, this beer enjoys a moderate-full body, ample carbonation to keep things refreshing, but a silky smooth mouthfeel. Once this beer sits in the mouth, it practically glides over your tongue. A swish or two might yield a little foam, but for the most part you can count on this beer being both pleasantly bubbly early on, as well as very silky for the style. A very nice contrast to have within the same bottle.

Overall Impression 9/10: I’m impressed at the various levels of complexity in this beer. The aroma has 3 nice scents going on, the appearance features a wide range of colors, the flavor has at least 5 different components, the alcohol is used remarkably well, and even the mouthfeel changes in the course of one sip to be different things at different times. Is it as robust as most brewers make their doubles? Not really, but there’s so much brewing prowess in this bottle it’s hard to hold that against it. In other words, with this much control exhibited over so many minute details, do you really believe that this beer isn’t exactly the way that Rogue wanted it? If they wanted it stronger, they’d have made it that way.

Total 44/50: The score seems a bit low for how much I enjoy this beer, but the lower score in the aroma seemed to hurt it the most. Not that the aroma is bad, but it is seemingly simple compared to the complexity inherent in the rest of this brew. I have a feeling that in the battle between this two beers, that Double Dead Guy is going to be the smaller, more agile, more technical fighter whose sheer study of the art, talent, and skill are going to make this fight go the distance.

And now…Double Bastard

Aroma 11/12: Now THIS smells like a double! It is so rich and dark smelling with gobs of molasses just wafting out to shake your hand with the sometimes uncomfortable assumed familiarity of a “How the hell are ya?!” Even with that strong malt aroma, the hops are still easily detectable and only get stronger as the beer warms. They start out clean and fresh with a light citrus, which teams up oddly well with a little booze that’s present. A moderate roast makes a cameo and then things truly begins to come together. The bouquet as a whole is boozy, rich with a molasses that is made brighter by the citrus hops that will not be subdued. As this was their 2011 release, I can only imagine what it would be like fresh.

Appearance 3/3: Another great looking brew! This beer pours darker than the Double Dead Guy with shades light brown, magenta, ruby, some rather indescribable red/purple combinations. This is very striking in color! The head is beige, moderate in longevity, leaves little lacing, and is supplemented around the edges of the glass by tiny columns of carbonation. The beer appears living and moving with this constant ascension.

Flavor 19/20: This is not a beer that tiptoes around with nuance and subtlety. Immediately, your taste buds are being bludgeoned by big heavy malts! Brown sugars abound, caramel flows freely, a suggestion of raisins & dark fruits is hard to ignore, alcohol is camouflaged yet present, and a diminished resin shows up from time to time. There are no rising and falling flavors to detect. This is a bull rush and you’re in the way. The finish is more of the resin, but with a fully revealed alcohol heat and a sticky feeling thanks to the sweet fruits that refuse to go away without a fight. The aftertaste allows all the other flavors to fall away save for a medicinal bitter that lingers long after the beer has been swallowed. This is a slap of flavors on the tongue!

Mouthfeel 4/5: In case, the last paragraph left any doubt this is a big, big beer. The mouthfeel is full bodied and smooth even though Stone makes a feint at lightening it with a fairly aggressive carbonation. Thankfully, that prickly carbonation dies before the halfway point in the 1 Pt. 6 oz. bottle, and we’re left with a big beer that’s still light on its feet. This is just about the perfect amount of carbonation to have in a big beer. The alcohol warmth is a tad more aggressive than I would prefer. It’s not out of line by any means, in fact big beers often carry a strong warmth with them, but that doesn’t mean that the alcohol couldn’t have been incorporated more into the beer instead of contributing on its own.

Overall Impression 10/10: I love it! This is big beer and everything about it is designed as such. The aroma is strong (albeit fairly simple), the flavor is a monster, the appearance is gorgeous, and the mouthfeel means some serious business. If you enjoy doubles or imperials, this beer is right up your alley. It’s robust nature carries it in every category

Total 47/50: This is truly an annual release to be sought out and celebrated. It defies most other beers on the shelf and is a really nice surprise. Yes, even though you expect big, full flavored beers when you drink a Stone, be prepared to be surprised. It’s big, sweet, warm, and smooth, but still drinks easier than I’d expect and leaves a great lingering bitter. This was definitely the bruiser out of the two beers evaluated. Its fight stratagem is clearly brute strength and a relentless attack. Thankfully, that strength is also remarkably tasty.

And the winner, by a judge’s score of 44 to 47 is…

In the end the tasty flavors, complexity, and high technical brewing of Rogue’s Double Dead Guy weren’t enough to defeat the huge/delicious flavors and “big beer” feel of Stone’s Double Bastard. Each one definitely has their place and respective bragging rights. Rogue’s aroma was more complex, but Stone’s was much richer. Rogue’s head was superior overall and laced better, but Stone’s carbonation in the glass made the beer seem alive. And these type of comparisons go on and on. Which makes me think that the victory could go to either beer depending on how your mood strikes you. Perhaps another day, I might’ve found the Double Bastard overpowering and clumsy. Perhaps, like today, I found that the Double Dead Guy just didn’t have enough “oomph” to really knock me out. Overall, Rogue provides a sweeter, more drinkable, less boozy experience that is easier to let beginners sample because each flavor can be more easily detected. Stone, on the other hand, provides a darker, boozier, stronger, richer, more lingering brew that might be too abrasive to those you’re to proselytize into the world of craft beer. They’re both excellent beers, but like Highlanders… there can be only one. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have two bottles to finish.

Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!