Stone Vertical Epic Series 12 Ale: 9% abv
Background: The final chapter! There won’t be a sequel? Or will this be like Star War and start all over again? Well, without ruining the surprise, I sure as Hell hope so. This is a series of experimental beers produced by our bitter friends, Stone. The project started in 2002, when the first beer was brewed. The idea was to make aging-friendly beers that could be compared year after year. So every year, a new beer has been produced. This one, produced on 12/12/12 was the last batch to be made in the Vertical Epic series. The bottle impressively states that the beer is an “Ale brewed with spices”. Sounds very simple, if you ask me. Well it isn’t. The spices in this beer are incredible, and before this beer disappears, you should try it.
Nose: The nose is immediately greeting you with spiced notes of allspice, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, and gingerbread. There are some molasses and apple flavors that come out early on, with a small hint of fresh mint. There is vanilla and caramel present in the nose, with some cocoa as well. As the beer opens up, there are more dynamic notes of caramel apple and spices. There is an old oaky flavor that becomes prevalent the more you dig into the nose. There is some orange and a little bit of wood lacquer that shows up in the smell. This is absolutely a master class on what balance should be. We are really going crazy for this nose. Let’s hope the rest of the beer doesn’t disappoint.
Arrival: The arrival is favorably spicy, with features of apple, vanilla and allspice being major components. There is also some clove and nutmeg that comes through. The clove becomes more present in the body, but starts making its feature here. There is a slight instance of pear present, with fruitiness present. There is also a good pumpkin and pumpkin spice note blending into the body.
Body: The body is dominant in cloves, with dry pepper bitterness and some hoppiness. The apple and pear are still present, with wood and vanilla taking the center stage not shortly after. The cadence is great in the body, and builds from the arrival with not too much effort. The pumpkin spice comes through strong here, and lasts through the finish. The body has a great medium mouth-feel.
Finish: In the finish, there are dark chocolate notes, spicy notes of allspice and clove, and vanilla present right. Pumpkin, apple, pear and other brilliant notes are still apparent in this rarely epic finish, and it isn’t failing to entertain us more and more. The spiciness, with some subtle bitterness comes through on the finish and tapers off at the right pace, without losing balance at any point.
Final Comments: Well I hope I didn’t give away too much in the background section (I’m usually better about that then I was today). This beer is incredible. It isn’t an easy task to throw a bunch of spices into a brew and expect something good to come out of it. The spices can either over-dominate the beer or underwhelm your expectations. This one didn’t do either of those. The balance of spice complexity and character with different sweetness and earthy tones really contributed to a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don’t normally swoon over a beer, but I just have never tasted anything like this to date. I don’t think this is a Friday-night at college kind of beer, mind you, but for an experience, it is almost unsurpassable at a reasonable price.
Why you’d buy it: Because you read my review.
Why you wouldn’t: You hate things that taste good.