Eleven beers in, I am not going to going to explain the history of Stone Brewing's Vertical Epic series. It's hard to believe it's over, as 12.12.12, the namesake and release date of the series' last beer, always seemed so far away. Looking back, it seems that it came and went too fast. Stone's Vertical Epic concept was brilliant, and it inspired other brewers to create annual themed releases, or special, limited one-time series.
Vertical Epic 12.12.12 is an exclamation point on the eleven-year, eleven different Belgian beer-inspired bonanza. Stone gets back on track with the saga's final installment, after two experimental whiffs in 2010 and 2011. VE 12.12.12 is dark, rich, complex and delicious. Its sharp spices punctuate this chewy beer. It has flavors of dark dried fruits on the front, and a welcome hop bitterness to balance out the long finish. Yeast, which is a major flavor contributor to so many Belgian beers, is minor player in this beer letting fruits and spices take the lead role. The ABV is a muscular 9.0%, but while noticeable, it's not obtrusive or distracting.
When I had my first Vertical Epic, 03.03.03, I didn't know anything about Belgian beers. I remember liking it, thinking it one of the most unique beer's I had ever had up to that point. But, unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to store one away. (Who was storing beers in early 2003?) Thirteen months later I was wiser, and have been drinking and storing Vertical Epics ever since. I have at least one Vertical Epic starting with 04.04.04, and yes, I even have the misguided 10.10.10 (wine wannabe?!?!) and 11.11.11 (chili). Now it's time to make room in my closet, I just need the right venue.
I liked the Vertical Epic series, looked forward to each release, and will miss it. I'm not sure what, if anything, Stone does for an encore, but I know I'll seek it out.