Thursday, September 17, 2009

79. Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale

Our second beer from Stone Brewing Company, and certainly the beer with the fanciest back story thus far. Damn, did you make me type enough from off of that bottle?

’09 Vertical Epic has a deep, deep almost dark chocolate brown color that is not so much hazy as practically opaque, and a thick creamy tan head that clings nicely to the glass. The nose is a bit faint overall, but does carry some banana and vanilla notes along with some general spiciness and some darker malt aromas. It starts with smooth and rich malt notes with chocolate and vanilla notes, some light burnt and roasted flavors, along with both dark and light fruit notes; these slowly fade off the palate in a pleasant manner in the middle, and some maltiness reemerges before ending with some burnt and chocolate flavors that predominate at the end along with some vanilla, oak, and some light alcohol flavors. The mouthfeel is slick and rich, but also very clean. There is some light tannic from the oak—it does still taste a bit young—but not that much bit from the carbonation. The chocolate flavors do increase with warmth, as do the alcohol and vanilla flavors. Interestingly, it is not as Belgian-like as we would have expected from the label and the initial aroma of the beer. We will be interested to see what this beer turns into over time—it is quite nice right now, but it easy to see how this beer could get much much better.

From the label: “ep·ic (ěp’ ĭk) adj. (1) Heroic and impressive in quality. (2) Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size. (3) Of, constituting, having to do with, or suggestive of a literary epic.

The eighth in an ‘epic’ series.

As with any good epic, herein lies the promise of larger-than-life experiences, heroics and twists & turns as the adventure unfolds. This bottle-conditioned ale is chapter eight, and is specifically designed to be aged until sometime after December 12th, 2012. Provided you can wait that long. At that time, enjoy it in a ‘vertical’ tasting along with its ten Stone Vertical Epic Ale brethren. Each one unique to its year of release. Each with its own ‘twist & turn’ in the plot line. Each one released one year, one month and one day from the previous year’s edition. To remind you, the release dates are:

02.02.02 03.03.03 04.04.04 05.05.05 06.06.06
07.07.07 08.08.08 09.09.09 10.10.10 11.11.11 12.12.12

This is quite a complex and layered beer. Bold and smooth chocolate flavors combine with a Belgian yeast lending tropical fruit/banana flavors and hints of spiciness, all complemented by citrus notes from an addition of tangerine peel. Rich vanilla beans add a nice counter to the chocolate malt – actually enhancing the chocolatiness. The finish is smooth, with additional traces of vanilla and toasted characters from French Oak. The goal for this edition of the Stone Vertical Epic Ale series is to be reminiscent of artisanal chocolate accentuated with orange.”

They’ve got some narrative, it would seem...

From the Stone website: “Mitch Steele (Head Brewer): During the brewing process we added dark candi sugar, vanilla bean, and tangerine peel to complement the flavors of the porter. The vanilla bean addition is fascinating, as it actually enhances the chocolate character from the roasted malts, and the candi sugar adds a nice hint of molasses flavor to the finish. The tangerine actually turned out to be quite subtle on the finish, and combines nicely with the chocolate malt character. We aged this beer on French oak chips, which contributes a smooth and subtle woody undertone and even more vanilla flavors.”

Mitch Steele’s Tasting Notes: “Appearance: This beer pours deep brown with a thick, frothy, creamy head of tan foam.
Aroma: Many layers, starting off with chocolate and coffee from the chocolate malt, and vanilla notes from both the vanilla bean and French oak. A balanced oak flavor comes through in the mix. As the beer warms, the influence of the Belgian yeast is more evident, as tropical fruit and spice flavors become more pronounced.
Flavor: Begins with chocolate roast malt character and vanilla. The vanilla accentuates the chocolate nicely. Layered in are banana esters, and hints of clove, and then the finish is a bit stronger on the oak with hints of molasses and citrus from the tangerine peel.
Palate: Medium body, very complex, and finishes very smooth. The 8.6% alcohol is not overly evident, and the flavors blend together nicely.
Overall: A delicious, complex beer. It should age nicely over the next three years, and the flavors should continue to meld together wonderfully.”

ABV: 8.6%
IBU: 50
OG: 20° P
Hops: Perle and Magnum
Malts: Pale Malt, Crystal Malt, Belgian Aromatic Malt, Chocolate Malt, Black Malt, and De-Husked Black Malt
Additional Ingredients: Tangerine Peel, Vanilla Bean, and Dark Candi Sugar


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