Unfortunately, drinking the range over the last couple of weeks, there's no holy grail. While a few were very good to drink yet, not one was better than the first go around. Based on the styles brewed, I suspected a problem all along. The .02 was a witbier, destined to not aged well. The rest were Belgian ales of varying strengths. The .08, a Belgian IPA, held promise but four years of aging was too much as well.
I don't regret buying the series but definitely disappointed. Granted, my hopes were high in spite of the clear evidence. Still fun and educational, especially since I've learned a fair bit about how my own cellar ages beers over a longer time period. While the Vertical Epic series was a magnificent and inspiring idea, it simply did not deliver.
Here's the beer by beer notes for those interested:
VE 03.03.03: off white rocky head that falls slowly to a thin film over a copper colored Belgian ale with amber highlights along the edges; horse blanket, toffee, dark fruit, spice and cinnamon in the nose which is complex; semi-sweet on the tongue, low carbonation, over-ripe prune and a bitter finish; alcohol is strong and unbalanced. All of the recent BA reviews are all in the same vein—beer didn't live up to the ten years in the cellar.
VE 04.04.04: hard pour to build a barely-there white head over a dark straw gold ale; malt and yeasty spice in the nose plus a musty staleness; sweet maltiness floods the tongue plus a nice spice from hops and/or yeast; not bad but also past it's prime. Again, my original tasting was much more satisfying.
VE 05.05.05: high pour down the center to raise a light brown head over a dark maroon ale with ruby highlights; heavy malt and dark cherry with a light spice in the nose; fruitiness washes over the tongue with a lingering maltiness; sherry notes from a bit of oxidation but an improvement over the .03 and .04 but still downhill from the original tasting.
VE 06.06.06: one of my least favorites of the VE when fresh; hard pour down the center and the light brown head barely rises, alcohol wafts up at a distance; light malt and alcohol in the nose and little else; thin body with an acrid pinch on the tongue; dark fruit in the dry finish. My opinion has not changed about the 06; it's still the weakest, though it doesn't show the oxidation of the 03 or 04.
VE 07.07.07: only a thin white head over a marmalade colored ale; light spice, orange and sweet malt in nose; fruitiness, yeast spice and slight oxidation spreads over the tongue with a light acidic bite; good but it seems to have lost a step and some balance from my last tasting.
VE 08.08.08: stark white head lingers a while before falling to a film; amber ale with shimmering gold highlights is promising; hop has fallen out of this Belgian IPA from nose and taste; mostly funk left and little to balance; aged a year, I was much more impressed with a bottle of the 08 in spite of being less enamored with a draft.
VE 09.09.09: thick, creamy tan head that builds quickly and hangs on; dark cherry, chocolate, spice and a hint of oxidization that blends nicely for an intriguing nose; smooth and full bodied, it fills the mouth with chocolate and toffee tones, a slight burnt malt hidden underneath and maybe a hop presence trying to make itself known. The 2009 edition has held up well and the best so far.
VE 10.10.10: near white head dissipates immediately, leaving a orange and gold ale; pretty nose of spice, pepper, lemon, yeast and bready sweetness; sweet and spicy on the tongue, front to back; slight oxidation dulls it a bit but the overall impression is good. It has held up for the three years but it can't go much longer.
VE 11.11.11: thick, tightly-bubbled off white head piles up over a copper ale, and the beauty ends there; nose is dank with dark chocolate and cherry underneath; taste is stale malt with some fruit underneath; so far, the recent beers have improved but the 11 is the exception of the steady improvement from .03 to .10.
VE 12.12.12: hard pour barely lifted the light brown head over a pitch black ale; complex herb and spice nose with dark fruit, fig and cherry; full body fills the mouth with herbs and spices flowing over the tongue; sweet to cloyingly off the back; very good but not the excellent I remember from my 12.12.12 birthday.