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The Beer Circle » Beer, Better From The Barrel?, Oak, Stone Brewing Co., Strong Dark Ale, Strong Pale Ale, Wine » Better From The Barrel: Stone’s Vertical Epics

Better From The Barrel: Stone’s Vertical Epics

Churchkey’s night of Vertical Epics not only featured Stone’s yearly special releases all the way back to 2003, it had a few of the offers aged in various barrels as well. Having never had a true barrel aged beer from Stone, I saw this as a unique opportunity to discern whether or not any were better from the barrel! Churchkey had the 07.07.07 Belgian strong pale ale (BSPA) and the 09.09.09 Belgian strong dark ale (BSDA) aged in red wine barrels, as well as the 10.10.10 BSPA aged in French oak.

We’ll start today with a comparison of the 07.07.07s.

Stone Vertical Epic 07.07.07
Appearancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The beer was served to me hazy yellow in color. I know it looks red in the picture, but that's because of the lighting and surroundings at Churchkey. When we held a light up to it, it was yellow I swear! There really wasn't much head at all, and a similarly small level of bubble activity as well.
Aromawww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The first hint I get from this beer is sadly medicinal. There's a base of some booze, and spice, but I can't get passed that initial aroma of medicine.
Tastewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The medicine hits the taste as well. It's just like that cough syrup you didn't want to take as a kid. That, mixed with some clove that rests on the palate is not what I would call pleasant.
Mouthfeel/Drinkabilitywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The finish is dry and the overall body is light and crisp, with a great level of carbonation. The drinkability is impacted negatively by the taste, however.
Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Every single beer was $3 for 4oz at the tasting. Which is AMAZING for Churchkey. Absolutely priced so that people like me would try them all without worrying about the price. Because of that, I am going to give all of the beers a perfect 5 in value.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
I really just wasn't a fan of this one. I think that, perhaps, it's a bit too old at this point.
07

Beer Stats
Style: BSPA
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 4oz
ABV: 8.40%
BA Score: 86
RB Score: 95
Stone Red Wine Barrel Aged Vertical Epic 07.07.07
Appearancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
This offering was served to me clear yellow in color, which surprised me. I would have expected the barrel aging to make the body more cloudy, not less so. Still wasn't any head on it. As I mentioned above, the picture does not look like the beer was yellow, but it was.
Aromawww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The red wine has cut the medicine, thankfully. It is still there, slightly haunting the beer, but this time there's way more to enjoy. The aroma I keep coming back to this time is peppermint, which actually brings the beer towards some sort of balance.
Tastewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The medicine is gone! It's smooth and balanced, or, at least, more balanced than the previous '03 through '06 Vertical Epics I had prior to this one. The booze is not at the forefront, as it was with some of the others. The taste starts with red wine, before the peppermint comes back, and is finished with some clove. It's really nice.
Mouthfeel/Drinkabilitywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Light and crisp, like its non-barrel-aged brethren. This time, the drinkability is improved by the taste!
Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Yep, this one also cost $3 for 4oz. I'd definitely pay that again.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
This was the best of the Vertical Epics to this point in the evening. I really enjoyed this one, and was pretty shocked to taste the difference between the two. 07.07.07 is definitely better from the barrel.
07ba

Beer Stats
Style: Red Wine Barrel Aged BSPA
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 4oz
ABV: 8.40%
BA Score: 84
RB Score: 98
Side by side: Regular 07.07.07 and barrel aged.

Side by side of 07.07.07: Regular and barrel aged.

Now we move forward two years to 2009 for the BSDA and its buddy, which was also aged in red wine barrels.

Stone Vertical Epic 09.09.09
Appearancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The body of this one is dark black with a nice amount of brown head. The above average lacing and retention of the head help make this the nicest looking beer of the evening.
Aromawww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The aroma starts off with vanilla, which gives way to a big roasty character. Mixed in with those is oak and weirdly some oranges.
Tastewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The vanilla and roast hit you right up front. The booze is not featured on this beer, which was a rarity throughout the night. The finish is very roasty and a lot of chocolate is noted throughout.
Mouthfeel/Drinkabilitywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The body is heavy, yet carbonated very well. I found the balance of the taste made this a very drinkable beer. One that I would buy again.
Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
$3 for 4oz. You don't say! This was a steal at that price.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
My initial thoughts were, 'they should have made more stouts.' Sadly, this isn't a stout, but it's darn close as a BSDA. They really should have made more like this.
09

Beer Stats
Style: BSDA
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 4oz
ABV: 8.60%
BA Score: 91
RB Score: 98
Stone Red Wine Barrel Aged Vertical Epic 09.09.09
Appearancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The barrel aged version's body is incredibly similar, but with slightly less head. The head also doesn't stick around as long as before.
Aromawww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The aroma has a nice balance, and is slightly different from its non-barrel-aged self. This time it starts off with chocolate and booze, giving way to sweet vanilla and grapes. The finish is all oak and roast, putting a nice cap on a complex beer.
Tastewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Tannins and oak take over the taste of the beer. Otherwise, there's roast, vanilla, and chocolate making appearances. I think the barrel might have impacted this beer in a negative way on the taste, as I much preferred the taste of the original version.
Mouthfeel/Drinkabilitywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The heavy body is carbonated very well. The drinkability is still very high, as the complexity of the aroma keeps me coming back for more.
Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
You guess it, $3 for 4oz. I would definitely pay that for this beer again.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Not as good after spending time in the barrel, red wine barrel aged 09.09.09 is still a great choice. This beer ranked highly in terms of best of the night, it just didn't stand up to the beer's original recipe.
09ba

Beer Stats
Style: Red Wine Barrel Aged BSDA
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 4oz
ABV: 8.60%
BA Score: N/A (5 reviews)
RB Score: 98
Side by side of 09.09.09: Red wine barrel aged and regular.

Side by side of 09.09.09: Red wine barrel aged and regular.

Last but not least, 10.10.10.

Stone Vertical Epic 10.10.10
Appearancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
This offering is a nice yellow color with some white head. The head both laces as it recedes into the beer and sticks around for long enough to be noted.
Aromawww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
We're getting pretty late in the night, so my senses aren't quite top notch, but I mostly smell grapes and must. There's some remnants of old hops and sweet Belgian yeast.
Tastewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The grapes come out strong on the taste as well. The must comes back, which I can't tell if I like or not, along with some banana. All of those flavors try to cover up the booze, and do a good job of it, but I still note a little bit sneaking through.
Mouthfeel/Drinkabilitywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The body is light and carbonated very well. I found the various fruit flavors made this a very drinkable beer.
Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Yes, this cost $3 for 4oz. You're right. Stop asking already!
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
I'd say this is aging very well, but wouldn't recommend holding onto it for too much longer. It's a good beer that's currently balanced, but I got the sense it's heading south in terms of booziness and holding onto its flavor.
10

Beer Stats
Style: BSPA
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 4oz
ABV: 8.40%
BA Score: 86
RB Score: 93
Stone French Oak Barrel Aged Vertical Epic 10.10.10
Appearancewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Amazingly this has a completely different color. The barrel has changed the look of the beer in a way I've never seen before. This time, it's almost red with a white head.
Aromawww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Again, this smells much different than its origin. I'm getting oak, vanilla, and grapes mostly. Some booze comes out at the very end and is stronger as the beer warms.
Tastewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The taste is really nice. The oak and vanilla really work with the grapes and some must and I quite like the caramel finish. After the aroma I was ready for this to be an oaky, booze bomb, but it impressed me.
Mouthfeel/Drinkabilitywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The body is medium this time and is carbonated very well. Like before, this is very drinkable.
Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Yes, this cost $3 for 4oz. You're right. Stop asking already!
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
I called this the most surprising beer of the night and it's one of the best of the night as well. I would definitely say this was better from the barrel. Making Stone two out of three in that category.
10ba

Beer Stats
Style: French Oak Barrel Aged BSPA
Serving: On-Tap
Size: 4oz
ABV: 9.50%
BA Score: N/A (5 reviews)
RB Score: 85
Side by side: French oak barrel aged and regular.

Side by side of 10.10.10: French oak barrel aged and regular.

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with the Vertical Epics. some of the barrel aged iterations really impressed me, but mostly the beers were either passed their prime or too disjointed. There was a real sweet spot in the late 2000s, which gives me hope for some of the newer releases moving forward. Thanks for a great night Churchkey! Have you had these or other barrel aged Vertical Epics? What did you think?

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Written by Russ Beck

Russ can trace his beginnings in craft beer to sitting in Zeno’s Pub in State College drinking various craft beer options from across Pennsylvania. Since then, he has never faltered in finding new brews, whether they’re rare, delicious, or hopefully both. Russ will be writing on a large variety of subjects, including but not limited to: reviews, homebrewing, and how to take labels off of beer bottles. He’ll drink just about anything, but prefers a nice Stout, IPA, or Weizenbock. Find Russ Beck on Google Plus

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