Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11

This has been sitting in my fridge since, well, 11/11/11. For some reason, I just haven’t been that interested in trying it. I haven’t even read any reviews, so I have no idea what to expect here.

For those who may not know, this is one of Stone’s seasonal beers, meant to be a series. It started on 2/2/02, and will end on 12/12/12. The idea is, you were supposed to collect each one and cellar them, culminating in an epic “vertical tasting” on 12/12/12. The recipe for this beer is nowhere near the same every year; in fact, it changes quite dramatically. Somehow I don’t see the Belgian-style wheat beer that is edition 02.02.02 aging well in the intervening 10 years since then, but oh well – not my problem as I don’t have one anyway. If you want to pay an absurd amount of money on eBay to get a 9-10 year old “Imperial” witbier, go for it.

Enough about a beer I will never get to taste, back to the present. This 9.4% ABV beer, brewed with Anaheim chilies, cinnamon, and Belgian yeast, pours into my tasting snifter a deep red. Lazy thin foam that can nevertheless be roused with a couple vigorous swirls. Beer Advocate calls this a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, but in truth this will likely be one of those beers that are really post-style.

It smells both vaguely vegetal and cola nut-like. The cinnamon tickles my nose a little. As the beer warms, the cinnamon transitions from more of a sensation to an actual aroma, smelling more like cinnamon bread with a hint of smokiness that I am assuming is coming from the chile peppers.

I’m not sure how I feel about this one initially. I like the pleasing hit of capsaicin up front that this delivers along with some mid-range cinnamon-sugar sweetness, but there’s a citric hop bitterness, probably coming from one of the “C” hops (Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus) rushing in after that that I find out of place and discordant. I think Stone needs to stop hopping the crap out of nearly every beer it brews. This shows great potential, but in this case I’m just not a fan of that bitter finish; I don’t think it plays well with the chilies and cinnamon.

This would have been a better beer if it was a rich, smooth brown ale, in my opinion. Keep the chilies, cinnamon and Belgian yeast, amp up the caramel malt a little and opt for an earthy, mild British hop strain instead of whatever hop strain this was brewed with.

I’m now curious to hear what everyone else thinks of this one.

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