OUR BI-WEEKLY BEER COLUMN GIVES YOU A TASTY RECOMMENDATION
by James Crane
A spicy brew from Stone
This week, I’m drinking a 2012 Vertical Epic from Stone Brewing. This brew is the last in the line of spectacular beers. The first one was released on Feb. 2, 2002. Since then, Stone has released each successor one year, one month, and one day after the last one (i.e. March 3, 2003, April 4, 2004, etc…). They were all meant to be enjoyed immediately, or cellared until Dec. 12, 2012. Their high alcohol content ensured that they’d age well, something weaker beers can not do.
This means all of the Vertical Epic series is ready to enjoy. Aging a beer tends to round out a lot of its rough edges and changes the flavor profile. What was once rowdy and poignant is now smooth; its complexities perhaps better appreciated without so much abrasion overwhelming the more subtle flavors. Stone is known for its bold brews, however. There is certainly something to be said for these beers when they first hit the shelves. They very well might kick you in the tongue, but you’ll find yourself thanking them for the pleasure.
The pour of this one was great. It was incredibly thick, impossibly dark, and delightfully heavy. The head was slow to rise, taking great pains to cut through the syrupy brew. It didn’t linger long, nor was it overly large, but it did leave delightful lacing down the entire side of the glass. This was looking like a beer for those stout of heart and strong of wills.
It smelled predominantly of spice. It reminded me of a ginger snap, though not for the obvious scent of ginger in the cookie. The rest of the scent profile of those wondrous treats seem to be dwelling in this brew. Weaving its way through the plethora of spicy scents was an alcoholic burn, which is not surprising at 9.0 percent ABV. Underneath it all was a nice grounding of sweet malts and chocolate. The scent aroused the appetite with its beautiful mix of savory and sweet.
The first sip, as to be expected from Stone Brews, was overwhelming. There were a lot of strong flavors. All of it was washed away in an intense alcoholic spice. This experience was great in and of itself, but the beer really started to shine when my taste buds became acclimated to the robust flavor. There’s a list of spices on the bottle, and if you try just a little, you can pick out every single one of them. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, sweet orange peel, clove and rosehip; each one plays across your tongue. Those chocolate and malt notes also come out nicely, backed by an adequate amount of hops at the end that freshen up the rest of the sensations.
Just as with the rest of the Vertical Epic series, this one is meant to be cellared. Being wiser than I’ve been in previous years, I purchased more than one bottle. This will be a great brew to try after it sits for a year or more. Some mellowing could take this from a good beer to a great beer. While completely amazing in its own right, I feel this is one that can only get better as it matures.
As with any new Stone release, I’d suggest picking this one up. Better yet, pick up a few. It’ll be great for years to come.