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Stone Vertical Epic Tasting

The full collection

The full collection

In late July, Tom and Todd of The Brewski Boxscore hosted quite the Epic tasting. What once started as a modest goal to simply taste the last three or so releases from Stone’s Vertical Epic series quickly blossomed into a drive to collect the whole set. During their travels along the East coast for family visits and summer vacations, Tom and Todd found vintage bottles of the Vertical Epics sitting on store shelves, seemingly content to collect dust. A few trades later yielded most of the missing years. However, one illustrious bottle remained elusive – the crown jewel, 02.02.02. What once traded for a king’s ransom (or a mere partridge…) seemingly fell from grace.

Stone’s Vertical Epic series culminated last December with the release of 12.12.12, so by the time July rolled around this year, most of the demand was starting to die off for the now thirteen year old bottle. The cost to reel in this prize? A paltry $20 and some locals, which was a far cry from the hauls being commanded before the series ended. I guess patience really is a virtue!

02.02.02Diving into the beers, 02.02.02 actually held up surprisingly well considering the rather strange style; witbiers usually aren’t prime candidates for extended aging. It featured a light orange body with nice carbonation. Neither the aroma nor flavor reminded me much of a typical witbier, as the malts transformed this into a rather sweet beer, even going so far as to remind me of something like J.W. Lee’s Harvest Ale. There was a lot of caramel, sugar, and honey-like malts.

After the 02.02.02, there was a bit of a lull between enjoyable beers. All of the ’03, ’04, ’05, and ’06 beers were flawed in my opinion; 03.03.03 lacked greatly in the aroma, with only a touch of malt shining through. The flavor was heavy on yeast influence and slightly spiced with orange peel and coriander, but overall was kind of weak. I found 04.04.04 to be fairly similar to ’03 with a strong yeast and bready malt flavor, with a slight bump in light citrus notes. 05.05.05 was the darkest of the bunch we’d tried so far, and had the roasted malt influence to back up that appearance. It was a little bitter with baker’s chocolate and also suffered a bit from oxidation and a slightly metallic presence. 06.06.06 had a distinct anise flavor with strong bittersweet chocolate flavors. The Belgian yeast tended to take over at times as well, which didn’t make a very congruent profile.


VerticalEpic-13Stone got back on track with the earlier editions of the series with 07.07.07, which hearkens back to a lighter appearance and ingredient list. Appearing as a radiant golden shade, it plays with ginger and grapefruit notes to balance fruit and spice notes. The ginger gives off a distinct holiday feeling, but the grapefruit and yeast tie it to summer as well. 08.08.08 is even lighter than the previous edition, probably to combat the dog days of the hot temperature. I perceived a slight minty kick, grassy hops, tropical fruits, and damp pine needles.VerticalEpic-14

From one of the lightest beers of the series, we moved to the darkest beer, 09.09.09. Being nearly completely opaque, it looked the part of an intimidating stout. Diverting from the sweetness of the previous vintages, this beer pounds out the bitter, roasted notes. The nose is rich in chocolate, vanilla, and oak, with some hints of hop as well. The oak is one of the stronger flavors throughout the taste and into the finish, along with some vanilla bean.


Because I got into craft beer relatively recently, 10.10.10 was the first Vertical Epic beer I tried when it was first released, so this was a great opportunity to relive the experience almost VerticalEpic-18three years later. The strong grape and wine flavors haven’t diminished at all from when I first experiences this beer; in fact, the age may have only accentuated those nuances. As a wine-drinker, I love the combination of grape and beer, but I would probably appreciate a little more malt or yeast contribution to this.

VerticalEpic-19Compared to when it first hit the streets, 11.11.11 is a shell of its former self. The fiery pepper is nearly completely diminished from when it was fresh. While it was never a scorcher, it had an admirable heat that added a great twist. Unfortunately, it is all but faded, but it does allow some sweetness to come through.

Rounding out the series is 12.12.12, which seems to draw influence from previous releases in the series. It relives the darkness of ’09, absorbs a festive spiciness from ’07, and takes some roasted notes from ’05. Not content with copying, ’12 focuses strongly on additional spices and yeast esters to help survive the winter with cardmom, clove, cinnamon, and allspice flavors.


Overall, I was most impressed with 02.02.02 – not only did it survive the longest period of time, but it was still an enjoyable and flavorful beer. I felt that the next several in the series went through some growing pains, but eventually got back on track. As a stout fan, 09.09.09 exhibited a lot of depth and roast without many drawbacks. But all-in-all, the experience of trying the whole series at once was a delight and something that had to be experienced. Thanks Tom and Todd!

You can check out The Brewski Boxscore’s review of the tasting here!


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Written by Greg Bruce

While studying at Penn State, Greg learned that beer could serve a much better purpose than a means to an end for a good party. Delicately brewed Belgians acted as a stark contrast to the almost watery beer that had been so popular and began the journey towards craft beer. From that launch point he always seems to land on something new. Greg approaches each beer, whether it is an aggressively-hopped West Coast IPA or an English bitter (and everything between), with a clear mind and open opinion, ready to analyze, compare, and ultimately, enjoy. While always fond of stouts (especially barrel-aged) and IPAs, Greg is slowly but surely drifting towards various soured beers. Find Greg Bruce on Google Plus

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