As the calendar rapidly approaches October 10th, 2010, we’ve been inundated with (at least half a dozen) inquiries as to the composition of this year’s Stone Vertical Epic Ale. Eagerly anticipated by beer geeks and numerology nuts alike, the Stone Vertical Epic Ale series is our homage to Belgian yeast and the benefits of aging beer. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Stone Vertical Epic Ales are designed to be able to be consumed in, well, an epic vertical tasting on 12.12.12. Initiated in 2002—when the notion that Stone might still be around in 2012 was more hope than certainty— the Stone Vertical Epic Ale series has given Stone brewers an avenue for creative expression while helping spread the good word about the benefits of cellaring beer. Those conscientious enough to cellar the complete Stone Vertical Epic Ale series under proper conditions (55 degrees or less and dark), will be treated to a rare liquid education on the effects of age on beer when December 12th, 2012 rolls around. That said, Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale is mighty tasty right out of the gate. Fermented with the legendary Ardennes strain of Belgian yeast, 10.10.10 is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale brewed with pale malt and triticale (a cross of wheat and rye), hopped with German Perle hops, and steeped with chamomile during the whirlpool stage. In secondary fermentation, we added a juice blend of Muscat, Gewurztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc grape varieties. The wine grapes came from Temecula’s South Coast Winery, located about 30 miles north of our brewery. Stone Head Brewer Mitch Steele, who studied enology at UC Davis and spent 8 years toiling as a vintner in his early days, made the trek up to South Coast to watch the grapes that would become 10.10.10 go from vine to juice: The juice and beer blend fermented with surprising vigor to produce a dry, complex, full-bodied beer brimming with floral, fruity aromas. The beer cannot be described as “grapey” or “herbal,” as neither the juice nor the chamomile overwhelm the Belgian yeast character; in fact, identifying the ingredients would be a challenge for even the most astute nose. The constituent parts instead impart layer upon layer of nuance and flavor, with the result being a highly drinkable and royally delicious Belgian-style beer. Having tasted the beer and liked it immensely, the vintner’s at South Coast informed us that the wine character will develop with age, making 10.10.10 the perfect candidate for a little over two years of cellaring (how convenient!) The beer was bottled on Monday and will, ironically, be released on October 11th, 2010, since the 10th is a Sunday. It can be found wherever Stone special releases typically land. And while Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale is drinking great right now, we highly recommend tucking some away for 12.12.12.
Mitch’s Tasting Notes:
The Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale pours hazy gold with a creamy white head of foam. The aroma is a blend of banana, wine and berry esters, with hints of clove and chamomile. The taste shows an increased intensity of fruit flavors as the varietal character of the Muscat, Gewurztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc juice starts to assert itself mid-palate. The beer is tart and extremely dry, a result of the acidity of the grapes, and finishes with a lingering aftertaste of wine, banana esters and a hint of chamomile. It is an enjoyable beer to taste, possessing an elegance and complexity of flavors that show different aspects throughout the palate.