Beer Review 0307: Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale
This beer marks the end of an epic journey. Or, if you’re like me, a short one.
Stone’s (Escondido, California) Vertical Epic series began in 2002, when the brewery put out a beer on February 2, 2002 — every year since, they’ve delivered different brews on the same dating system (03.03.03, 04.04.04, and so forth) with the ultimate goal being to save the bottles for a vertical tasting on the final edition, 12.12.12.
If you’re like me, there’s probably no way you’d ever be able to save that many bottles for that long. I didn’t really get into craft beer until around the 08.08.08 edition, and I’ve never been able to squirrel it away for that long. It’s a shame, because the idea is good, in theory. Also, Stone recommends that you always keep these beers refrigerated, so you’d probably need a dedicated cold box to do it correctly. Or ten years of living off eating out.
12.12.12 is a Belgian-inspired spiced beer, brewed with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove (according to the bottle, “only a little!”), orange peel, and rosehips. This beer comes in at 9% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 50 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
The last edition of Stone’s Vertical Epic pours with an average size, creamy and bubbly head, lasting for a good long spell. The color of the beer was a very dark brown, nearly black, and it was opaque. It appeared to be clear in body, with no particles or sediment, and it laced like a dream, leaving nice remnants on my glass.
On the nose, the “only a little!” clove mentioned on the side of the bottle is actually a lot — this beer smells very much like clove cigarettes. In my opinion, that’s not a bad thing, but many people will find this much clove to be off-putting. Never fear, there’s other stuff here to explore; the rosehips make for a nice floral contribution, along with touches of orange peel and nutmeg. If you’re looking for a beery smelling brew, turn away. This is straight spice, and I’m left feeling like my nose was buried in a potpourri pile rather than a glass of ale. Honestly, I’m not sure I love it, or hate it…
But tasting, and my mind was changed. This beer has a slight grapefruit hop and rosehip kick up front, which opens the beer into some sweet chocolate, loads of cinnamon, and a candied orange peel. The first thing I noticed was how drinkable this was, especially for a 9% alcohol beer, and even more especially for a heavily spiced ale. The finish sees the chocolate turn dark and moderately bitter, playing the cinnamon up with a spicy conclusion. This beer is full-bodied, with a thick mouthfeel that is creamy and foamy.
Shockingly drinkable — Stone’s Vertical Epic 12.12.12 is a fitting conclusion to the series, especially with its release coming in the cold months. While some might find this beer too heavily spiced, I enjoyed it and thought it was fairly well balanced…and I don’t normally think that about spiced beer. Worthy of a try, and perhaps kicking yourself for not having all of the bottles to do an actual vertical tasting.
Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale, 90 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.