My Journey through Stone Vertical Epic Part 1

From a personal perspective, I discovered craft beer fairly late in the game.  It took several treks to a favorite establishment to broaden my palate and fully enjoy all that micro brewers had to offer.  As such, I stumbled upon Stone Brewing and their Vertical Epic Ales well beyond the start of their adventure.

Stone is not known for modesty.  If you buy any of their beers you can see their ego printed directly on the label.  They are more brazen than my current champion Three Floyd's but their beer definitely can hold up to their claims.

For more detailed information from the brewery themselves, feel free to visit their own telling of Vertical Epic.  My own experience is limited as I was not able to get the full series.

I first obtained Vertical Epic in a rare beer sale at Wise Guys Liquors in Merrillville, IN.  They held a lottery for rare beers with Founder's CBS being the prized get.  These Vertical Epics from Stone Brewing were actually just filler.  I walked away from this sale with a 2006 and a 2008 and a journey to discover others.  At the time of this sale (2011) and up to the point eBay decided to stop selling alcohol related collectibles, a bottle of 2002 Vertical Epic, the first year of brewing (brewed on 02/02/02), was selling for $2,000.  I obtained 07/07/07 and 10/10/10 fairly cheap from eBay, 11/11/11 from the aforementioned Wise Guys Liquors, and a friend bought 12/12/12 when it was released.  Thanks to Bob O. of IndianaBeer, I got 03/03/03 because I asked nicely.

My goal was to take my 03, 06, 07, 08, 10, 11, 12 and ring in the New Year with friends.  I apparently need a new group of friends because no one was drinking craft beer that night but me.  This was definitely problematic because all of these beers are in bombers and have a fairly high alcohol content.  But, without further ado, here we go.

03/03/03 - 9% ABV
Tasting notes from Stone:
  • Appearance - Brown, slightly hazy with sediment, creamy head
  • Aroma - Dried fruit, malt, bread, wheat, bananas, spice, coriander, grains of paradise, toffee, mild oxidation
  • Taste - Really malty, molasses and caramel, hints of coriander, trace of grains of paradise, candy sweetness, some sherry-aged notes, tart wheat, some oxidation
  • Palate - Creamy, smooth, lingering bitterness, finishes dry, medium-full body, good carbonation
  • Overall - Showing a little more oxidation, aged nicely and drinks well
Wilk's Take: I defer to my IndianaBeer brethren to dissect what that means, because to me, I don't understand any of it.  I've never tasted grains of paradise and couldn't begin to know where that begins.  Bananas? Wheat? Toffee?  That's a stretch.  Just think sweet and you're there.  Who am I to argue with the brewers about how they reflected on their ale?  No one of any consequence for sure.  The only thing I can offer to this ale is that it reminded me exclusively of barleywine and it was a great way to start the evening's festivities.

06/06/06 - 8.66% ABV
Tasting notes from Stone:
  • Appearance - Dark mahogany, tan foam, nice clarity
  • Aroma - Roasted chocolate, complex dark malt, phenolic yeast notes, smoke, pepper, spice, light cocoa, caramel
  • Taste - Christmas spices, molasses, slightly smoky, phenols, cocoa and dark fruit
  • Palate - Crisp, creamy, medium body, good carbonation, a little sweet
  • Overall - One-dimensional, pronounced yeast characters
Wilk's Take: My personal experience has always led me to believe that if chocolate is on the nose in the beginning, it will be there throughout.  Roasty notes were to be expected so I was glad they were there.  This was a perfect beer for the season, which begs the question why it was brewed in June?  This beer could compete with Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  It would lose, but it could compete.  As you can see, two bombers in with both registering around 9% ABV.  I was starting to feel it in my knees. 

07/07/07 - 8.4% ABV
Tasting notes from Stone:
  • Appearance - Deep gold, some hazing, subtle carbonation
  • Aroma - Ginger, lavender, jasmine, cardamom, strong fruit, citrus peel
  • Taste - Ginger, very floral, some citrus, a little botanically bitter, sweet, spices, hint of yeast
  • Palate - Dry, bitter, some creaminess, smooth
  • Overall - Aged nicely, spices are more dialed in and well-blended, great summer beer
Wilk's Take: The overall comment was spot on, this was a great summer beer being consumed on December 31.  Not the first time I've had an off season beer.  It was a refreshing twist in the chapter after finishing off the 06/06/06.  The floral scents dominated every drink in your nose but did not diminish the flavor of the spices on your tongue.

That was all I could take that night.  I had to stop because there was no way I could continue on this path alone.  I am finishing the series this week and will write a follow up next week.

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