Last weekend I was lucky enough to be able to take part in a nearly complete Stone Vertical Epic tasting with a group of friends. We had 2003 through 2012 bottles, with the first, 2002 being a little too elusive to find.
This tasting marks both the oldest and the most expensive beer I’ve ever had the opportunity to try, and overall it was an awesome experience. I tried my best to record 1-3 sentences describing what I thought of each beer so I could share it here with you.
I do feel the Vertical Epic series should have had something consistent with them throughout all the different iterations of the beer, as this would really make tasting them all at once a more interesting experience. Since every one is different, it’s hard to tell how they all aged, since I didn’t have more than half of them when they were fresh. Either way, I recorded my thoughts on each and have them here for you.
Check out my notes for each Stone Vertical Epic and if you’ve had any (or all) of them, let me know in the comments what you thought, I’d really be interested to see how these came out for other people as well since I’m sure proper cellering has something to do with a few of these.
This beer holds the titles of the most expensive beer and the oldest beer that I’ve ever had the pleasure to have. I thought it was definitely oxidized and lacked a little carbonation, but overall was surprisingly good for being from 2003. It was a little sweet, almost syrup-like.
The 2004 incarnation of Vertical Epic had more of a Belgian yeasty aroma and less oxidation than the 03, but had a very chalky aftertaste. The aroma had a much stronger banana yeasty aroma than the taste offered. Excellent in the middle but an odd aftertaste.
Definite chocolate and molasses tastes strong through to the finish. More sugary molasses on the finish than the middle, though. Aroma and finish have some hints of raisin and dark fruit, think fruit cake, but better.
The nose of the 2006 had slight clove and black licorice but the taste lacked these totally. Sweetness in the taste, belgian candy sugar is noticeable. Slight chocolate and fruity ester taste. A little vanilla and smoky flavor, although I would expect more smoke given the description.
This is my favorite out of the group, as it was when I did an 06-12 tasting earlier in the year. Good ginger taste and very distinct flavors. The 2007 seems to have held up the best out of all the ones previous to it. Spicy and almost refreshing, even after six years.
The 2008 Vertical Epic is the most bitter one so far. There’s a lingering bitterness with an odd, almost oily mouthfeel, similar to syrup. The initial taste is all hops, which is surprising after 5 years. I really wish I could have tried this one fresh. Aroma was grassy, floral hops with a little sharper bitterness than I would expect.
Very smoky beer. Solid chocolate aroma and taste with some orange and other citrus aroma. This one has a decent bit of bitterness as well, with a oddly chalky finish. The finish isn’t overpowering but seems to be thanks to possibly off water chemistry? All in all a really great one in the series.
This was actually the first of the series I ever had fresh. This time around it was sweet with some caramel and spice. Low on alcoholic notes with a slight chamomile flower aroma and taste as well as some grapes in the middle. I got a slightly creamy texture and clean finish. This is in my top 3 favorites out of the series.
The 2011 Vertical Epic is a pretty wild one. With spicy peppers in the mix, this one was a little intense when it was fresh, but two years has balanced it out wonderfully. The pepper lost some of its heat, but in a good way. Malty and better than it was fresh, this beer is just about at the perfect age. If you have one of these in your cellar, I’d drink it right now.
The final entry in the Vertical Epic series tasted very young and a little too spicy sweet when it was fresh, but a year has done wonders for this beer. Much better than when it was fresh, 12.12.12 is sweet, malty, with a little spice. This reminds me of a supercharged Christmas beer without overpowering spice. A piny aroma leads to sweet spiciness that finishes with a little more of the piny taste. I’d give this one another year and I think it’ll be just about perfect.
Well, there you have it. I really wish I could have done with with the 2002 as well, but those are just about impossible to get at this point. Part of the fun of this tasting was getting to try such a, well, epic series of beers and better yet, getting to try them with some amazing friends. If you have one or two of these, check with your friends and see if you can put your own together. Check out my post on hosting a beer tasting to get things going smoothly so you and your friends can have a good time.
Big thanks to Mel and Paul for sharing these awesome beers with me and everyone else there. Like I’ve always said, good beer seems to be closely tied to good friends and the better the beer is, the better the friends seem to be, and vice-versa. Thank you!