Stone Brewing Vertical Epic 12.12.12
Ok, so by now we should all know what a vertical tasting is, right? For those unfamiliar, it’s the process of sampling a variety of vintages of the same beer — tasting Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine from a series of bottles dating 2000-2012, for instance. By that definition, Stone Brewing’s Vertical Epic series of limited releases may in fact be epic, but it is in no way a vertical in the traditional sense as all of the annual releases are completely different beers. That said, I still love the concept behind it, namely grabbing a beer that is specifically made to last to a certain point (December 12, 2012 in this case).
I only got started with the 07.07.07, but it has turned out wonderfully (all of my bottles are now gone) and the 08.08.08 had improved vastly over the years from when I first tasted it (it is also no longer in existence in my cellar as a result). The later rounds of beers for the Vertical Epic series, however, haven’t quite hit me like the earlier releases (fresh or cellared). The 09.09.09 porter was good, but not great and the chili infused 11.11.11 was rather muddled and confusing, but I am eager to see how they have turned out with a little time under their belts — which is ultimately the point of this whole thing.
My feelings toward recent releases in the series continues with the final episode in this line of beers, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale weighing in at 9.0% ABV. Now, it’s most definitely better than 11.11.11, but it doesn’t quite live up to expectations built up throughout the series. That said, I believe it will be like the 08.08.08 and only improve with some age, so I plan to set it down for some time. But as of right now, this is how it comes out fresh:
12.12.12 pours almost with a stoutish quality. A dense, dark brown head rests atop the opaque black brew.
Well, it’s not a stout, that’s for sure as a ton of spices hit the nose aggressively with hints of plum, caramel, malt and Belgian yeast. The alcohol is well hidden initially, only presenting itself later as the beer warms.
Wow, there is a pile of spice activity going on in this brew. A festive blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove arrive with dark fruits, orange peel and yeast before flowing into a late forming hop bitterness in the finish. It sort of tastes like the potpourri that my mom used to have around the house growing up. I hated that stuff. I don’t entirely hate this beer. It’s full bodied with a slightly thick mouthfeel and warming finish.
There is a ton of spices going on in this beer and I’m hoping that cellaring it for a year or so will give those elements time to mingle and fade into the background a bit. As of right now, they are just too much for my palate to fully accept. As a result, the grand finale of this series is a bit of a let-down personally. I really hope it, and the last couple of years of the series, turn out like the 08.08.08 and truly come into their own.