A Recap of My Own Vertical Epic
We are hours away from 12.12.12, and we will be at the motherland in Escondido to celebrate tomorrow. In the meantime, I would like to fondly look back on my personal experiences with Stone’s Vertical Epic Series, and how it’s played an important part of my craft beer journey. We hope you have fond memories associated with this series, we hope that you learned a thing or two about aging beer, and we hope you have fun breaking out the beers you’ve been saving from this series.
I began drinking Stone beer in 2005. I was able to get Arrogant Bastard Ale and Stone IPA at my grocery store for around $4.00 a bomber, and became fascinated. Well before we began The Full Pint, my interest in craft beer was pretty heavy. I popped on to www.stonebrew.com and found out they make some really interesting beers including Vertical Epic Ale. After a quick hunt around town, I found out I would have to wait until 06.06.06 to try a beer from this series, or pay a premium at a local bottle shop for a 05.05.05. Fast forward to June 2006, and I went to Bevmo on my lunch break, and bought a half case of this strong dark Belgian ale. I hadn’t thought about aging them so, every bottle I bought I enjoyed. I was apartment living with just a regular smallish refrigerator with food in it, so I saved one bottle to keep for the “vertical.” The beer was very delicious fresh as I recall. Somewhere between a Dubbel and a Quadruple in looks, aroma and taste. I’ve enjoyed this beer a few times since then, and of all the VE’s, this one could be in my top 2-3.
The next year, I was prepared for 07.07.07. It was presented as a Saison-style ale with spices, and needless to say, it was very unique. This was right around the time we started The Full Pint, and I recall our friend Mike was inspired to make a vinaigrette out of the beer, and I had suggested the beer could be warmed up and drank in the same way you would enjoy a warm spiced cider. I never had the guts to try it, but I believe I shared that silly note with Greg Koch. I enjoyed this one fresh, and recall not enjoying as much a year later. I am curious to see what it’s like in 2012.
In August of 2008, I snagged a few 08.08.08’s from future Stone Superstar Randy Clemens at Whole Foods Market Arroyo. I was extra stoked as it was on the shelf before 08.08.08, and the young scrappy Danny Fullpint was able to run home, drink and review the beer right away. My fairly new craft beer palate compared this beer to Duvel, but with a little bit of that Stone Brewing hop bite. It wasn’t my favorite, as Belgian Golden’s aren’t my favorite. Nothing to do with the craftsmanship of the beer you see. Fast forward to 2012, and I had some noobs over at the house, and wanted to impress with a vintage bottle. I broke out a bottle of 08.08.08, hoping for something tasty. By golly, the beer, was completely different. Big tropical fruit and ever so slightly tart. I’ve kept the beers in decent condition, and whether or not this was Stone’s desired outcome, it was an awesome surprise.
2009 was a very special year for me. My wife was due to deliver our first child Kayla in August 2009. As a big time beer dork, I kept trying to convince wifey and Dr. to get that baby out on 09.09.09. Well, Kayla came a week later, and I can’t think of a better beer to celebrate with than Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale. Possibly my favorite of the series, this was a Belgian Porter with notes of orange that made for a crazy tasty beer. Think of one of those chocolate oranges that you break on the table and eat in pieces. I bought more of this one than any other vintage, and enjoyed it for months after it was released. I was able to save a good deal for by/after 12.12.12. I cracked one the other night, and it’s still magnificent.
Here’s were this happy blog takes a slight down turn. Stone announced 10.10.10 as a beer fermented and brewed with Muscat grapes. A few other breweries that year did similar projects, and it was a turn off for me. You know how there are people who don’t like nuts in their ice cream? I’m one of those people that don’t like grapes in their beer. Still, with an open mind and belly, I tried the beer. It had a nice touch of chamomile, but overall wasn’t impressed with the beer at all. I sheepishly expressed those feelings to Brewmaster Mitch Steele at a local event, and he told me he enjoyed it, and to give it a try one year later, as the grapes will dry the beer out a bit and I might enjoy it better then. I took his advice, and tried one a year later, and it was a bit better than I recalled fresh. I look forward to seeing what it’s like now.
Around the time of San Diego Beer Week 2011, Stone introduced 11.11.11. Stone Brewing, and in particular CEO Greg Koch loves messing around with Chili Peppers. They’ve done their Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers, Crime and Punishment (Stong Ale with Hot Peppers). They took the opportunity to add a layer of complexity by making this amber Belgian Ale with not only cinnamon but with Anaheim Chilis. Anaheim’s are not particularly spicy, but are very flavorful and aromatic. I was indifferent with this beer, I wasn’t doing back flips for it, but it was far more appealing to me than the previous years offering. I haven’t had the beer since it was released fresh, and am looking forward to revisiting this. Like some fruit beers, I am wondering if the Anaheim’s will take a back seat to the cinnamon and Belgian base beer.
12.12.12 came out last week. I enjoyed it immensely, and my initial tasting notes can be read here.
What about 02-05?
I’ve never tried 04 and 05. I have a bottle of each that I will be cracking open with friends after 12.12.12. I had the great fortune of trying 02 and 03 at tastings. For all the haters out there hoping for the worst, I am proud to say while I didn’t have enough of 02 or 03 to fully analyze, I can honestly say there was nothing foul with either sample I tried. They were definitely Belgian Ales with some spices and esters. I will be sampling these beers tomorrow at Stone’s 12.12.12. The Final Chapter Celebration, and will attempt to note my findings.