Stone – 11-11-11

Tasting: November 29, 2011
Style: Belgian Strong Ale

stone vertical

For the past ten years, Stone Brewing has released a unique annual batch honoring the day with the same month, day and year – i.e. February 2, 2002 (or 2-2-02), March 3, 2003 (3-3-03) and so on. Since the onset in 2002, Stone has invited beer enthusiasts to either drink these offerings or save them for an “Epic Vertical Tasting” after the release of next year’s final installment – 12-12-12.

Provided that they are properly cellared, Stone claims that every release will age until at least next December — and so far, brewery tastings say it is all green lights. They didn’t brew a vertical for 1-1-01 (because they came up with the idea after that date). So, there will be eleven releases in the full series. As usual, I was late to the game and picked up on the concept in 2010. With the help of eBay – I now have 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 to add to my 2010 and 2011. My vertical will only consist of seven of the eleven years – but I’m alright with that. If you come to my Epic tasting and you want to bring a 2005 — or earlier – be my guest. The 2002 currently lists on eBay for about $800/bottle. Of course, we’ll have to try and squeeze in this tasting before the date of the Mayan prophecy 12-21-12.

How does a beer last that long? – the secret is in the yeast and subsequent alcohol by volume. The series has only one common thread and that is the use of Belgian yeast strains. Every year the recipe offers a unique twist. In 10-10-10, Stone used wine grapes in their beer and with this beer they use a combination of Anaheim chilies and cinnamon. This one checks in at 9.4% ABV. Pours dark as a double with an off-white head. I don’t really know much about Anaheim Chilies — but I get an aroma that I’ll compare to something I know — green bell peppers. First sip impression is of some sweet spice from the peppers layered under the banana flavor of the Belgian yeast. There is some bite here — but I’ll put that on the alcohol not the chilies. I’ve taken repeated sips trying to locate the cinnamon and have concluded that it hits you up front, but it doesn’t seem to contribute as much as the chilies and yeast. I don’t get any hops — but that isn’t unexpected. This is a nicely balanced strong ale. Really not bad at all – 87 points. I’ll be curious what a year in the cellar will do for this one.

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