A series more than a decade in the making ends today when the Stone Brewing Company releases the last of its Vertical Epic series, Vertical Epic 12.12.12.
In 2002, Stone announced that Dec. 12, 2012, would be the date the last of the Vertical Epic series would be released. Each year since Feb. 2, 2002, Stone has released a new Vertical Epic beer. The first was named 02.02.02. Stone then released a new beer every 13 months, next with 03.03.03 and then continuing the theme of repeating calendar dates. “It’s fascinating,” said Greg Koch, CEO and co-founder of Stone Brewing Company. “I never knew there would be this kind of fervor around it.”
The original idea of the series was for people to buy the beer and then cellar it until Dec. 12, 2012, with the goal of opening all of the beers at once and trying them side by side.
“The format was to do several things at once,” said Koch. “It helped illustrate that beer can be aged. The second thing it did for us was to create a playground where we could brew some Belgian-inspired ales. None of them are Belgian style, but they’re all Belgian influenced.”
Unlike most vertical tastings where you drink several vintages of the same beer so you can see how the beer changes as it ages, each Vertical Epic beer is a totally different recipe.
The idea is to show that various styles of beer can be aged. The series purposely left out certain styles, such as IPAs that are meant to be imbibed while fresh instead of being saved for later.
“It was really fun to show the power, depth, the range of craft beer,” said Koch. “I think the Stone Vertical Epic series really helped to show that.”
Recently, Koch participated in a tasting of all of the Vertical Epic beers to see how they all aged.
The best: “I think it would be the Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic ale,” he said. “It’s got that emotional spot because it was the first one, and it’s one of my favorite beers.”
The worst: “Ironically, the Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic was the one I thought was doing the worst,” said Koch. “It didn’t turn (go bad), but the flavor profiles weren’t working. Last year, when it was fresh I was loving it with the chilis and cinnamon.”
Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to try all of the Vertical Epic beers. I’ve had the 04.04.04 through the 11.11.11. I have a bottle of the 12.12.12, but I’m not opening it until tonight. I also have bottles of the 07.07.07 and 08.08.08 that I have saved and I will also try tonight. My favorite so far has been the 08.08.08.
Despite his love for the series, Koch said he has not changed his mind about continuing brewing Vertical Epic beers.
“I was actually never tempted,” he said. “I’ve been asked that a lot. People suggested it. I thought it would be disingenuous to do it and it goes against the original idea.”
Also, don’t expect a new series to take the Verticel Epic’s spot.
Although the Vertical Epic series is done, Koch said Stone’s fans shouldn’t be worried that the brewery is going to stop experimenting with Belgian-inspired ales.
“We always have new ideas for beers, but there is no ‘replacement’ for the Vertical Epic series, and that’s by design,” Koch said.
Norman Miller is a MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News staff writer. Email email@example.com or call 508-626-3823. Check out the Beer Nut blog at blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/realbeernut or on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/beernutnorman.