One Wednesday 12/12/12 aka Stone Vertical Epic day I went to Blind Tiger Ale House (281 Bleecker St., NYC) to try the vintages that they were able to procure for that epic day. Out the 11 vertical epic vintages they had 4 in bottles (05-08) and 4 on tap (09-12). In the end I tried 7 of them, each of them served in 5 to 6oz sample glasses. Luckily, my girlfriend gave me a tasting notes journal as a Hanukkah gift and I was able to easily write down tasting notes while slowly drinking each vintage.
Note: I tasted each vintage one by one, and then after writing down initial tasting notes I let them warm up and wrote additional notes as necessary. Next, in order to ease your reading of these notes I have structured them as follows…Appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel/drinkability, and an overall impression and rating.
Vertical Epic Ale 05.05.05 – Belgian Strong Dark Ale – 8.5% abv – bottle
Appearance: Dark amber with great clarity and a nice 1 finger khaki head which dissipated to a layer over the top of the beer (surprising for a 7 yo. beer). Aroma: Sweet and malt forward with big notes of caramel, toffee, cherries, dates, and some semi-sweet chocolate. Taste: Initially quite similar to the aroma with sweet caramel and toffee upfront and subtle dark fruits. Though as it warmed the malt character was followed by bright cherry notes. Mouthfeel / Drinkability: Medium to full bodied with big sweetness upfront that was soon followed by a nice dryness at mid-palate which prevented the lingering malt flavors from becoming too sweet. Overall: For its age this beer still boasted a ‘big beer’ flavor profile. Though it was fermented with a belgian yeast strain, the malt character at times reminded me of a scotch ale or old ale. Rating: 7/10
Vertical Epic Ale 06.06.06 – Abbey Dubbel – 8.6% abv – bottle
Appearance: Ruby red in color with some cloudiness and no head to speak of (result of age?). Aroma: Quite complex with notes of caramel, chocolate, spicy clove, anise, and a hint of lemon. Taste: Just as complex as the aroma with dark fruits such as dates and cherries added. The anise blended into an overall spicy character/flavor as the beer warmed and kept me interested. There was also a slight earthiness in the finish. Mouthfeel / Drinkability: Medium bodied with a nice dry finish. I sensed a slight alcohol burn as I swallowed. A nice sipper! Overall: With the amount of complexity remaining in this vintage I was excited for each sip and glad to taste the flavors changing as the beer warmed. I’d call this one a dubbel with the complexity of a quadrupel. Rating: 8/10
Vertical Epic Ale 07.07.07 – Spiced Belgian Strong Pale Ale – 8.4% abv – bottle
Appearance: Orange to gold with no head and a moderate amount of carbonation rising from the bottom of the glass. Aroma: Bubblegum, lemon, black pepper, and fresh herbs (akin to a Saison/Farmhouse Ale). Taste: I should note that it wasn’t until after my first few sips that I found out that various spices were added to this beer during brewing. Upfront I picked up the bubblegum and lemon which at times reminded me of a Tripel. Then the spices came in with notes of anise (probably the cardamom used) and pink peppercorns. Mouthfeel / Drinkability: This beer was medium bodied with a dry finish and moderate drinkability. Overall: As the beer warmed up the cardamom and ginger added to this beer became quite prominent and detracted from my enjoyment of this beer. However, while the resulting flavor profile was not my cup of tea, I could see others enjoying it and being impressed by how well the spices stood up to aging. Rating: 6.5/10
Vertical Epic Ale 08.08.08 – Belgian Strong Pale Ale w/ American hops – 8.4% abv – bottle
Appearance: (cropped picture) Straw to light golden color with a no head and some visible carbonation. Aroma: Big citrus fruits i.e. lemon peal, grapefruit, and pineapple along with some sweet bready malt and a hint of spice. Taste: Citrus fruits upfront with the malts rushing in at mid palate only to have the fruits and spice return in the finish and take on an almost perfumey quality. Mouthfeel / Drinkability: Smooth medium body with a somewhat spicy finish and great drinkability which was aided by the carbonation pushing the big citrusy flavors over my palate. Overall: Out of the first 4 vintages that I tried this was the most impressive. With so much citrus fruit character left (even as the beer warmed) after four years of aging I was left wishing I had a bottle to take home. Rating: 8.5/10
Vertical Epic Ale 09.09.09 – Belgian Stout – 8.65% abv – on tap
Appearance: (cropped picture) Stout black with ruby red highlights when held up to the light. A thin layer of tan head and noticeable carbonation when tilted the glass. Aroma: Cocoa, dark chocolate, and a hint of vanilla. Very much like many aged imperial stouts that I’ve tried. Taste: Really nice aged Russian Imperial Stout taste with notes of milk chocolate and cocoa being followed by some dark fruit and roasted malt at mid palate, and a hint of the added tangerine peal in the finish. Mouthfeel / Drinkability: Quite smooth with a higher end of medium body. I picked up a slight roasted malt astringency in the finish of some sips, but it didn’t significantly affect drinkability. Overall: For a three year old ‘Belgian Stout’ this beer aged pretty well and didn’t have as much oxidative flavors as other aged stouts that I’ve tried. Rating 8/10
Vertical Epic Ale 11.11.11 – Belgian Strong Pale Ale w/ cinnamon and chiles added – 9.4% abv – on tap
Appearance: A cloudy dark gold (close to copper) with a thin layer of tan head that left some nice lacing on my glass. Aroma: Sweet bready and biscuity malts joined by notes of caramel, lemon, and sweet yet strong cinnamon. Taste: Caramel, cinnamon, and a slight earthiness that was followed by a tasty graham cracker-like finish. Initially I didn’t taste the added chiles, but once the beer warmed up the earthy notes intensified and I picked up some distinct chile flavor and a touch of spice. Mouthfeel / Drinkability: Medium bodied with a balanced sweetness and pleasing flavor profile. The beer’s chile flavors did not affect drinkability for me. Overall: Interestingly enough I bought two bottles of this vintage back in 2011, but didn’t open either of them at the time. So now that I enjoyed this beer with a year of age on it I am curious to see how my bottles have aged. Rating: 8/10
Vertical Epic Ale 12.12.12 – Spiced BSDA or Dubbel – 9% abv – on tap
Appearance: Opaque brown with a 1 finger dark khaki to light brown head that left lots of lacing behind on my glass. Aroma: Pungent winter spices with toffee, sweet biscuity malt, and caramel. Taste: Similar to the aroma with nutmeg and allspice combining with the sweet malts and being followed by hints of ginger and roasted malt. Mouthfeel / Drinkability: Full bodied with big sweetness at mid palate which is dried out by the spices, hops, and alcohol in the finish. Drinks like a winter ale e.g Anchor Christmas Ale and its abv is hidden quite well. Overall: When it comes to spiced ales I tend to have to be in a winter or spiced ale mood. However, when a strong Belgian ale is over-spiced I become a bit apprehensive in deciding whether the brewer was successful in allowing the beer to retain some of its Belgian (yeast) identity. In this case the spices dominated in a way that any potential Belgian ale yeast character and dark fruit flavor were almost fully masked. Rating: 6.5/10
QOTP (Question of the Post): What were your overall impressions of the Vertical Epic series?
Thanks to Blind Tiger Ale House and Stone Brewing Co. for a great event!