It’s gonna be epic!

6 Mar

Recently, Brian, Miranda, and I (and Jen too) sat down around a partial run of Stone Brewing’s Vertical Epic series.  Sure it would be more epic if we had all 11 beers in the series.  But we didn’t learn about, and start buying bottles of the Vertical Epic until 2009, when Miranda fell in the love with the 09.09.09. And lets be honest, we are not in college anymore. That many big beers (averaging 9%) in one sitting sounds more like pain, rather than a challenge. At this point in our lives, one of the best things about this, is that we get to learn more about beer.

In brief, Stone’s Vertical Epic series is a series of Belgian-style beers, each uniquely designed and brewed for aging to then be drank together, at a vertical tasting upon the release of the last vintage. The first vintage 02.02.02 was, you guessed it, released on February 2nd, 2002. The final vintage, 12.12.12, was released with a huge festival that provided guests with a vertical tasting of all 11 vintages and carefully designed food pairings. For more information, check out their website.

So here we go, with our mini-vertical of the Epic: the last four years of the series (09.09.09, 10.10.10, 11.11.11 and 12.12.12). We each tasted and then discussed each beer, starting with the oldest and working our way to the youngest.  It is important to note that all the beers were aged in our basement, which is cool year-round, but the temperature does vary  from the low 40’s in the winter to the low 60’s in the summer.  We all had tried the first three beers in our vertical when the beers were young, and interestingly from this we each liked a different beer best (09.09.09 for Miranda, 10.10.10 for me and 11.11.11 for Brian). So each of us had a different beer we were the most excited to try now that it had aged.   The most recent release, 12.12.12, was a mystery to each of us.  The beers don’t have names besides their numbers so I gave each one a quick descriptive name so you would know what we were tasting.

 Belgian stout with citrus
I can say with absolute confidence when Miranda first had this beer, it was her favorite Stone beer: past, present and even future.  So good that at one time we had six aging in our basement.  Now after the tasting, we still have two down there.

Miranda: Chocolate, toffee, light maple syrup sweetness and a hint of tangerine
Brian:  Slight oak notes with a definite smell of alcohol
Michael:  Strong grainy smell like chocolate malts, alcohol and a very slight musty/earthy note

Miranda: roasted malts, light dryness and earthy flavors.  Vanilla and fruit. You can taste it was aged in oak. Bitter chocolate with a dry tanin finish
Brian:  Lighter body than expected, smooth with strong oak flavors, dark chocolate and hint of banana and orange
Michael:  Pronounced dark malts with notable tanins that really dry the beer out.   An earthy belgian with subdued citrus notes

While this beer did not taste old, the consensus was the beer did not age well over all these years.  The beer is dry which doesn’t meld well with the dark/bitter chocolate flavors.  Our remaining bottles will be best served with a rich, sweet dessert as a counter to the beer.

IMG_085110.10.10  white grape beer
This beer was my favorite as a new beer.  A bright white grape beer without tasting like someone mixed beer and grape juice. Not for everyone but a refreshing and bright beer.

Miranda: grape skin mustiness, musty, light bready-yeastiness, coriander, Belgian candy, stone fruit and sweet grapes
Brian: very fruity, apricot and grapes, and a slight sweetness. Brian also noted that it poured an orange-ish gold with no head retention.
Michael: grape, brown sugar, light mustiness

Miranda: starts spicy, ends light and floral with a bit of citrus
Brian: noticeable peppercorn, coriander and chamomile barely noticeable but present
Michael: sweet beligan wit, notable spice, grapes, pear, apricot, a complex fruitiness and warming alcohol.  A candy sugar sweetness left on the tongue

Miranda: less sweet, more complex than when opened in 2010.  I enjoyed this even though it was not my favorite style
Brian: not my style but well crafted
Michael:  when young I remember the beer had a very clear white grape.  This has been overpowered by the stronger Belgian candy, fruit and spice.  I liked this beer before and still do after aging

   a chili beer
Fresh, this was Brian’s favorite beer of the series.  A very well made chili beer.  Lets see what a little more than a year gave, or took, from this beer.  The beer poured red with a slight tight head, it was a beautiful beer in the glass.

Miranda:  earthy, light strawberry or raspberry aroma
Brian:  earth and strawberries.
Michael:  Well, we definitely all agree on the earthy aroma to this beer, but I did not detect any berry just a general sweetness, brown sugar maybe

Miranda: very light, sweet banana esther up front followed by earthy vegetal qualities of the chilies and then spice, cinnamon and cloves, with an overripe fruit finish.  With the finish leaving the lightest sourness on the tongue.
Brian: Amazing, chilies hit first, but not hot, so it’s very pleasant.  Then come the malts, sweet and full of caramel.  There is a definite flavor of cooked chile, the vegetable’s flesh.  Chile comes through more as it warms and some cinnamon.  Still has that Belgian flavor from the yeast.
Michael:  Quite pop of sweetness, then roasted chili over the tongue.  A clear vegetal quality, not a bad planty taste, a nice roast chili flavor that melts into the beer.  With a fruit sweetness as it warms.

Tons of respect for the craftsmanship of the beer. A great chili beer, and for Miranda and I that is saying a lot as we are not big chili beer people.  For Brian, is was a truly great beer and stayed the test of aging.


12.12.12  belgian strong dark
This was the only beer none of us had tried, so we weren’t bringing any preconceived notions to the table. The beer poured a dark black with great lacing from the head around the glass and tiny oil droplets in the middle. Only released a few months ago, its character probably hasn’t changed much…yet.

Miranda: super spicy with dark chocolate, smells like it belongs at the holiday ale fest
Brian: boozy and orange with a bit of molasses
Michael:  very spicy, sweet spices like cinnamon, and a hint of dark malts and molasses

Miranda:  Tons of spice, almost licorice-like, and dry
Brian:  There is a lot of spice going on here.  The spices in the nose act together to give hints of licorice
Michael:  Spice is even stronger on the palette with a touch of dark malts, alcohol and molasses. Interestingly the molasses flavor comes without any sweetness; this beer is dry

We all agreed this beer was just too spicy.  More than spiciness alone, the slight body and dryness of the beer does not offer a counter balance to the spice.  If you really like spicy winter beers pick one up and drink it now, as my experience with such beer is they only get spicier with age.

Speaking of aging…drinking this range of beer, in style and age, it is apparent that even though my basement is cool year-round, it is not the ideal place to age beer. The temperature swings of 20 degrees, winter to summer, are just to much.  If you are serious about aging beers, I would suggest a second fridge. Just set the temp a little warmer than it would be set for food.

The last thing I learned…well, I guess always knew it…sitting around a table with great friends, discussing and enjoying a beer(s) is a great way to spend a weekend.


One Response to “It’s gonna be epic!”

  1. Chad March 10, 2013 at 1:28 PM #

    Very nice. I’ve had the pleasure of the 11.11. Just saw that K and L in my area has the 12.12 so I’m going to part take.

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