Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic review

Stone 10.10.10 Vertical EpicLabels can be deceiving and can sometimes give you false impressions. While a nice label can sometimes set the tone for a sampling, Stone Brewing can always be counted on for surprising you with something unique. Today, I chose to pull a year-old bottle of Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale out of my beer cellar and opened it up for a taste. Quite frankly, I didn't know what to expect so as the song says - "Anything Goes".

According to the painted glass bottle, 10.10.10 Vertical Epic started out as a Belgian-style golden triple recipe and then Stone Brewing added dried chamomile flowers, tritcale (a wheat and rye hybrid grain) and some Belgian amber candi sugar. Then they added just-pressed Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. With ingredients like this, I half expect this beer to taste like a floral grape juice / beer hybrid cocktail.

It weighed in at a hefty 9.5% ABV. I received two bottles of 10.10.10 last year during the winter holidays and let this bottle age another 11 months. I originally intended to open this bottle on 11.11.11 just for the novelty, but ended up missing that date by nearly a week. I'm going to save the 2nd bottle for 2012 (12.12.12) for when it was intended to be opened.

Appearance: Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic poured a light orange in color and came with a small 1 finger nearly white fizzy head that dissolved away to nearly nothing in just about a minute. It was poured cold and looked slightly hazy in the tulip glass. Swirling the glass didn't bring up any additional head and what little lacing there was quickly slid off the sides.

Aroma: I always look forward to the "sniff", especially in a beer like this that I had little clue on what to expect. The 10.10.10 Vertical Epic initially reminded me of the smell of a tart Berliner Weisse, but then I started picking up on the grapes, the chamomile (nicely floral), and just a hint of Belgian-style yeast. I expected to get more Belgian yeast aroma than was present, but I was pleased by the fruity overtones I got instead. Quite an intriguing scent. (@BigKahunaBrewer won't want to miss that!) Be sure to let this beer breathe a bit before taking a few whiffs. There was a lot of aroma that came out as it warmed up.

Taste: The aroma definitely set the tone for this sampling as it tasted very close to what it smelled like. Stone's 10-10-10 was initially sweet, fruity and floral with a slightly bitter back end going down. I detected a hint of tartness on the tongue as well which was nice. I feel that this tartness might even spike up a bit if I could try it again in another year as Stone suggested. Not only was there some grape taste here, but I also got a flavor of either apricot or peach in this beer as well. Perhaps the Belgian candy added a twist to the grape taste.

This 9th version of their vertical epic series was only slightly carbonated and after a year of aging in my cellar still had a decent fresh-like taste. I was worried that the camomile and the grapes would make this too sweet and herbal, but the initial sweet and tart taste seemed well balanced with the flowers and bitterness.

Overall: It's been over 3 years since I last tasted one of the Stone Vertical Epics (08.08.08 back in Oct. 2008). The last one was more hoppy and spicy, whereas the 10.10.10 Vertical Epic was more fruity, grape-like, toned down and less bitter. I certainly enjoyed this version a whole lot more than the 2008 edition. I appreciated this brew a bit as a nice alternative to Stone's usual over-the-top hoppy beers. I like a sweeter beer every once in a while and this one hit the spot with me.

I tip my hat to Greg Koch and the Stone brewing guys for making a pleasantly surprising beer-wine-like hybrid that can be appreciated by both beer and wine lovers. I just hope I can wait another year to try my 2nd bottle and open it during the 2012 mass vertical tasting. Yum!

Video showing the pour of :

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Related articles:
- Stone Levitation Ale review.
- Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale review.
- Stone Imperial Russian Stout review.
- Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic review.

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