Concluding an Epic Adventure
A Review of Vertical Epic 12.12.12 by Stone Brewing Co.
Posted on 3/12/2013 by Chops
                   
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This beer review is all about the numbers. 3, 12 and 500 to be exact. 3 is the number of 12's it takes to stamp a bottle of Stone's last Vertical Epic brew: the 12.12.12. 500 is the number of BrewChief reviews I have written to get to this very point. 3/12 is the date this review was posted. Heh, what a mishmash of numerical gibberish. Confused yet? Let's just be more direct: for my 500th BrewChief review, I shall tackle the final Vertical Epic.

Stone Brewing Company's Vertical Epic series is a legend of the American craft beer scene. Back in 2001, Stone co-founder Greg Koch had an idea. Every year the brewery would release a new Belgian-inspired ale on the current year's triplicate date. 1.1.1, 2.2.2, etc. Each beer would be uniquely crafted with the expectation of aging them to the final release. Then on that glorious 12.12.12 date, all 12 beers would be opened and enjoyed together. And here we are, celebrating the final beer of the series. It's a really cool story and you can read more about it here:

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I have also reached a personal milestone in writing my 500th review for BrewChief. As that number approached, I started to scan my beer cabinet and scour the beer store shelves for a commemorative nectar. It seemed almost kismet when I unearthed my sole bottle of the final Vertical Epic. Yes, the time had come.

In the glass, this beer has a stark black coloration with no edging. It comes with a thick creamy copper head that sticks around for a very long time. Seriously, I could have done my taxes in the time it takes this head to dissipate. On the nose, I found a lot of warming spices resting on top of a savory dark roast. The best way I can describe it is to imagine a strong imperial stout combined with a rich imperial pumpkin ale. Yeah, this aroma had a lot going on. I found dark chocolates, cinnamon, a campfire smokiness, nutmeg, dark fruits, and a nip of alcohol burn. At this point I had to abandon any Belgian expectation because I found little to latch onto. Going into that first sip, I refocused my brain onto what I was smelling: a Stone'd Imperial Spiced Stout.

Okay, here's the deal. I could say that this beer is complex, but that nowhere near captures the experience. It is unapologetic and multifarious. The mishmash of styles is almost too much to bare. But in typical Stone fashion, it's also completely engrossing and a lot of damn fun. There is no way I can write a coherent review of what I tasted, so let's just blurt them out and see what happens...

The beer starts off smooth with a savory mocha-like roast. The middle ground transitions into a rich spicy dark chocolate, then exits dry and somewhat chalky with a lingering bitter roasted aftertaste. The warming spices act like ghost notes. Cinnamon, nutmeg and clove just randomly appear and disappear throughout the flavor train. Toasted bread and dark fruit notes like plum and fig struggle for attention, but are certainly present and noticeable. An orange citrus note follows the same pattern. The hop profile is restrained and wants to be combative. The hops finally assert themselves on the finish which heightens the lengthy aftertaste. This beer is certainly off-balanced, but it feels more intentional than accidental. As the beer warms, it gains a cocoa-like smoothness that goes a long way in softening the bite.

Overall, Stone's Vertical Epic 12.12.12 is a delicious hodgepodge of wild and savory flavors. I found it to be a worthy send off to the series and Stone should be proud of this epic accomplishment. I sincerely wish I could have been part of the collective sampling on 12.12.12. I can only imagine the palate overload of tasting all of these fine beers together. I can easily recommend this brew (as well as any in the series) to any beer fan with an adventurous palate. It should go without saying that these beastly brews are too intense for novices. Stone's Vertical Epic series was made specifically for committed fans of better beer. And for the worthy among them, they were justly rewarded. While I am sad to see the series come to an end, I look forward to Stone's next epic adventure.

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Vertical Epic 12.12.12 by Stone Brewing Co.
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