To do something for 10 years takes a decent amount of planning and forethought. I have been married for 12 1/2 now and that’s been quite a bit of work (mostly for The Wife). I’ve had the same job for 11 1/2 years and that in itself requires certain amount of masochism. Cracking open the 2012 edition of Stone Brewing Company’s Vertical Epic made me think of the commitment by the brewery to see through a decadelong series of Belgian-style beers.
For one, what if Stone bellied up before the story was done? The series began with a 2002 bottling with the intention of cellaring and aging these beers to be opened after the final release in 2012. How would you like to walk past a closetful of 10-year-old reminders that your ambition, dream and business failed? It’s kind of like living with your mother-in-law (not my mother-in-law…she’s a damn saint…your mother-in-law…I heard she is awful). Stone also had to come up with a basic plan for how these beers would age over the course of 10 years, and which beers should be released in a specific year (each bottle was released one year and one day after the other). The Vertical Epic is not merely about confidence and commitment, but planning.
The 2012 edition, released on December 12 (12.12.12), is still available in finer bottle stores (or the Liverpool Byrne Dairy, if you please). I grabbed it simply by price. Anytime I can grab a Stone — one of the top brewers in the land — big bottle for $4, I’ll take it. After reading about the series, I was even more excited. The 2012 Vertical Epic is a Belgian-style strong dark ale. Stone’s in-house blog claims that it is a Noël, a dark strong ale. Delirium makes one of these and I believe it is the only time that I have ventured down this road. Typically with this style, there is a lot of spice up front and some caramel/molasses sweetness in the back. Stone’s is different. Cinnamon is very present up front and, yes, there is a molasses flavor but it is produced by a dark-roasted malt that creates a dry finish. This is what sets Stone apart from Delirium. You look at the beer and think heavy, but it gives the impression of being a more medium-bodied brew. It’s a beer that begs to be served with game, coffee-rubbed or smoked meats. This is not a beer to serve with tofu.
While it’s unlikely that I would have found the Vertical Epic beers back at the beginning, I wish I had the chance to work my way through the lineage. If this is the finale to the series, I feel like I need to rewind and taste what brought us here.
Brewer: Stone Brewing Company
Beer: Vertical Epic 12.12.12
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 9.0% IBU: 50
Container: 22 oz. bottle
Price: $4.49 Point of Purchase: Byrne Dairy, Liverpool, N.Y.
To The Eye: Pitch black with a thick tan head (I didn’t pour very well)
To The Nose: A lot of things going on. You get the cinnamon, as well as hints of banana (from the ester reactions), molasses and toffee. A lot of characteristics of a quadrupel.
To The Palate: Strong spice up front that is cleansed by the hoppy citrus in the middle. The finish is dry with the aforementioned molasses/toffee flavor.
Aftertaste: Dry and warming though I believe the latter is alcohol related.
Boozy Factor: The alcohol is present but not overpowering.
On a Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as highest: 8