Tasting of Stone Vertical Epic 03.03.03 – 12.12.12


Long Island Rail Road to New York

Stone Brewing Company began a monumental journey ten years ago. That journey came to a close this past Wednesday, 12.12.12, with the release of the last beer in the Vertical Epic series. The Escondido, California based brewery known for its bold beer and  bolder choices began this journey innocently enough in 2001 when Stone CEO and co-founder Greg Koch suggested releasing a different Belgian-inspired beer suitable for aging each year on the date when the day, month and year all struck the same digit. The brewers took to the challenge with gusto, producing eleven beers that, unlike many available at the time, were crafted with the intention they would be cellared and would lie in wait for when the last of the dates would come to pass on December 12, 2012.

To celebrate the close of this last chapter for the Vertical Epic series tastings were arranged across the country on 12.12.12. Tastings were organized in New York, South Carolina, Inland Empire/Orange County, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio and  Seattle. The premiere event was held at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. Luminaries from the world of craft beer gathered to taste these beers and see how they fared over their ten year journey. Comments and impressions from this event are available here and the entire three hour  plus tasting can be viewed here. It seems that all those involved felt the brews held up well to aging with some picking up additional complexity along the way. Craft beer journalist Jay Brooks chose 05.05.05 as his stand out among the series. He compared it to an “everlasting gobstopper” which had more layers of flavors developing as the brew warmed. The Beer Loves Company team was fortunate enough to be able to attend a tasting at the Alewife in Long Island City, New York.

Stone Vertical Epic Tasting

Stone Vertical Epic Tasting Menu

We had quite a journey of our own to the venue taking a car, four trains and walking along the way. The atmosphere was jovial and packed to the gills with “Beer Geekery”. This went into over-drive when each of the VE ales was poured into VE Stone branded tasting glasses and assembled together on a table. It seemed like most of the crowd gathered to take pictures of the epic collection of ales. All that was missing was a mini red carpet.

The Vertical Epic tasting was split into three separate, individually priced flights which consisted of three to four 4oz glasses each. The flights were organized as follows 03.03.003/04.04.04/05.05.05 for $16, 06.06.06/07.07.07/08.08.08 for $15 and 09.09.09//10.10.10/11.11.11/12.12.12 for $16 (unfortunately 02.02.02 was unavailable). You could order them all at once  or you could go through the flights top to bottom. Along with a few close friends we started with the first flight, then added the other flights on as we moved through tasting each iteration in the series. Those gathered enjoyed discussing the flavors, aromas and nuances of the brews and we were happy to be in the company of good friends and good beer. A few standouts for the group were 04.04.04, 07.07.07,  08.08.08  and 10.10.10. Overall we thought this was an wonderful event, a successful, audacious undertaking by Stone and we were pleased to have taken part in the end of this epic journey. What follows are a few photos of and notes on each brew. Get a hold of some of these beers if you can and give them a try. Better yet organize a tasting and gather a few friends. Beers like these are best when shared and enjoyed with company.

Stone Vertical Epic Tasting Glasses

Stone Vertical 03


Smell – Malty with dried fruit (raisin) touches.  Wafts of toffee and caramel.

Taste – Fizzy carbonation, again malty, caramel, toffee, dried fruit (raisins) with a hint of alcohol.

Appearance – Clear reddish-amber hue showing mild to little carbonation.

Rating – 7.5/10 (higher if you are a fan of malty beers)

Stone Vertical 04


Smell – Wheat, spice, banana, some orange/citrus, zesty and bright.

Taste – Wheat, spice, citrus, faint alcohol and some tart accents. Refreshing. As the beer warms the citrus is distinctly lime and more tartness creeps in. Nice.

Appearance – Hazy golden-yellow with nice carbonation leaving good lacing.

Rating – 8/10

Stone Vertical 04


Smell – Sweet, slight fruit notes, syrup, molasses, candy and raisin bread.

Taste – Sweet, some candy, raisin touches and alcohol. A slight bitterness to the sides of the tongue when tried in succession after 04 which subsided as this was savored. Malty.

Appearance – Clear red-amber hue with subtle carbonation.

Rating – 7.5/10

Stone Vertical 06


Smell – Alcohol, spice, a little Christmas like, malt. Did not get pepper or any chocolate.

Taste – Malty, spices, dark fruits, a little smoke, warming alcohol. Mild carbonation with slight bitter touches.

Appearance – Dark brown-reddish hue with light carbonation.

Rating – 7/10

Stone Vertical 07


Smell – Ginger, fruit, some herbs and sweet touches.

Taste – Yeasty, sweet, malty, fruit some citrus, spice, subtle carbonation and a dry yeasty finish. The lavender and jasmine were subtle almost as to not be in play. Ginger really comes in at the finish nicely.

Appearance – Hazy yellow-orange to gold with mild carbonation.

Rating – 8.5/10

Stone Vertical 08


Smell – Hop, citrus, spice, some pine and ginger accents. Sweetness mingling with bitter touches.

Taste – Citrus, hop, spicy, herbal, mild bitterness, yeast, warming alcohol toward the finish. Slight chewy texture. Fruit but not tropical.

Appearance – Yellow-straw with nice carbonation.

Rating – 8.5/10

Stone Vertical 09


Smell – Smokey, coffee, chocolate, some syrup and roasted hints.

Taste – Roasted and follows the aroma. Smokey, some roasted and chocolate notes with subtle vanilla and a touch of wood. Slight bitterness at the end and mild, dry touch.

Appearance – Opaque black with a tan head. Mild carbonation.

Rating – 8/10

Stone Vertical 10


Smell – Sweet fruity, strawberry, grape, some citrus, subtle hop and slight spice.

Taste – Touches of strawberry, yeast, mild grape, slight hop and citrus. Fruity tartness with a yeasty dryness toward the end.

Appearance – Hazy golden-yellow.

Rating – 8/10

Stone Vertical 11


Smell – Earthy pepper, yeast, malt, sweet and earth.

Taste – Earthy pepper, slight chocolate, some cinnamon, malt, yeast. Pepper is the star.

Appearance – Red-amber hue with fine carbonation.

Rating – 7/10

Stone Vertical 12


Smell – Barnyard, grass, fresh, earthy, a little cream, caramel and lots of spice mixing with yeast.

Taste – Lots of spice, vegetal, earthy, yeast. A touch dry, bitter and smoky on the finish.

Appearance – Dark brown-black with a tan head.

Rating – 8/10


Since we did not get to try this one, here is what the brewery had to say:


Smell – Honey, caramel, citrus, spices, phenols, coriander, malt

Taste – Spicy hops, citrus, caramel, dried honey, sherry, orange, pepper

Appearance – Deep gold, orange-ish color, excellent clarity with some sediment towards end of bottle, thin creamy head

Written by A+K

December 14th, 2012 at 11:18 pm

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