Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stone Vertical Epic Tasting

VE 03.03.03
While the exact details of how and when I heard of the Stone Vertical Epic series is buried in the foggy past, I do remember being excited by the concept. Stone was impossible to get in Minnesota until recently, so I missed out on the 02. On a trip to California the next year, I found the .03 and was then on a quest to find the rest.

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.

More interesting than the tasting was remembering the travels necessary for the coast to coast effort to gather the collection. .03 and .04 from Irvine and Oakland, CA, respectively, and the .07 came from Exton, PA. Only three drafts of a VE ever: .07 and .08 at Brasserie V in Madison before Great Tastes and the .11 on site at the Stone World Bistro. Picked up the .05 in West Lafayette, IN during our annual trip to a Purdue football game. After two years of buying .08 and .09 online at Beer on the Wall,  I was able to buy the last years in Minnesota when Stone finally moved into the state.

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.


  1. Very cool to see them all lined up and compared like that! It is sad that you didn't find anything mind blowing in the bunch, but perhaps your mind is becoming immune to being blown and requires more aggressive explosives. ^.^

  2. I had thought of that as well. My tastes have changed considerably in the intervening years, so that may have had some effect. But I decided that that mitigating circumstance wouldn't change the overall outcome. But, it was still fun but I would think more critically before ever jumping into a similar venture again.