Stone’s line of yearly Vertical Epic Ales is going down the home stretch. Along with all the video games, movies, cell phones, and everything else released on 11-11-2011, Stone released the second to last of their 10 year run of sorta-kinda annual brews. Coming along with the rest of the seasonal beers, but with its signature Stone twist, it is a spicy Belgian ale, bottle conditioned with Anaheim chilies, cinnamon, and other interesting flavors. At the advice of another seasoned beer maven, I decided to pick up a bottle.
At first pour into my trusty ale glass (unfortunately, now taken before it’s time by a rogue cell phone cable and a tile floor), I almost made myself look like a world-class clown. This beer has quite the fast and foamy head, and anything above a dainty pour down the side causes a big reaction. A little tedious waiting and pouring later, I was ready to grab hold and try out the scent. Nice, no doubt. I knew it was a beer, but I was a underwhelmed after all the promises of chilies and spice. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself, “is this one of those beers that can talk the talk, but fail at its own very walk?” Well, I told that handsome devil that there’s only one way to find out.
The head itself was one of the more creamy ones I’ve had on a Belgian ale. I like to think that smoothed out the path for the mob of flavors thrown at you. First big one, a strong and smooth malt with just a bit of banana ester. Then the hops and chilies hit you. Really warm, powerful flavors. The chilies do not really lend their spiciness as they do the fruity, more earthy flavors. Right on cue, the taste ends out with clove, cinnamon, a slight bit of pepper, and just a hint of plum.
The main flavor groups are delivered less like a song, but more like a cd of sound effects. Group one BAM, group two POW, group three ZING. In this way, Vertical Epic is similar to an old Adam West Batman fight. You know what’s going on, but it’s just a bit too choppy.
While the complexity lends itself to being a very fun experience, it almost is too busy. In fact, I would say there is enough going on in this one bottle to make two good, well balanced beers. Maybe three slightly less complex ones. I would go into this one, not so much to parse through and take notes on, but more to just allow it to wash over you. A beer ‘goulash’ if you will. I know that this is one Stone brew that I’ll come back to, and will probably see something new each time.


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