Beer O’ Three Months Ago the Moment: Stone Vertical Epic 08.08.08

Some might say that a beer that was ceremoniously released over three months ago is hardly “of the moment.” However, when that beer isn’t actually intended on being drunk until after the next presidential election (if that benchmark puts it into any perspective).

For those not familiar with Stone’s Vertical Epic series, it’s a series of a dozen beers released over a dozen years, with the intention that they be cellared and drunk at the same time tasting. To taste them “vertically” means to sample multiple vintages (to use wine parlance) from the same brewery, so as to compare different styles and recipes, rather than comparing breweries. (Sampling the same style from different breweries is considered “horizontal” tasting.)

Stone‘s version isn’t quite a true vertical tasting, only because the beers they have been creating are not identical in style: 02.02.02 was a Witbier; 03.03.03 thru 06.06.06 were Belgian Strong ales (the lone exception being 04.04.04’s Tripel); and the last two offerings have been Belgian Pale ales. However, if you have to trudge through a myriad of beers from the same brewery, you could do a lot worse than Stone. In fact, one might say you could only do worse.

Personally, I wasn’t crazy about the 07.07.07 version, which was a decent, drinkable beer, but harsh and sour. It was a fine, decent beverage to be sure, but not quite up to what I had hoped.

Enter a new year and a brand new beer: the 08.08.08 version is the truth, and son, you better recognize.

Poured into a Belgian tulip glass, it is roughly the color of a lit candle: brightly yellow and glowing. The puffy white head takes a while to subside. Small bubbles float to the top, creating a seductive, tantalizing appearance.

The aroma is, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, magnificent. Rarely does a beer have a smell that could be called perfect, but this is one of them. Spices abound, both in the sweet, citrusy hops, and its fraternal twin, the Belgian malt. It wafts a symphony of woody, flowery hops, as well as a dry, spicy, champagne-like malt. It’s a strong perfume, and absolutely superior.

The first sip is strong citrus on the front of the tongue. At the swallow, the spicy Belgian flavors come out on the back of the palate. The two flavors, while both sharp and strong, mesh beautifully. For me, the intense Belgian ale flavors can often be a bit off-putting due to their intense flavors, but they are actually made more palatable by adding those wonderfully citrusy hops. The fizzy champagne texture scrubs the tongue and exfoliates the taste buds.

Oh-Eight-Oh-Eight-Oh-Eight an outstanding assault on the spicy part of the tongue. It’s both strong and refreshing, and at 8.4% alcohol, it’ll make you feel good for a little while. And in these tough times, who could argue with that?

~ by William H on November 13, 2008.

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