Editor’s Note: The following tasting notes are from a 2013 vertical tasting of the Stone Vertical Epic series at the home of Tom and Susan Brown in San Diego. The Browns were joined by a few of their friends and Stone’s research and small batch director Steve Gonzalez. Read more about this tasting and the history of vertical tastings.
The ale: Witbier, 7.5%, brewed with unmalted wheat
The panel: One of Gonzalez’s favorites; others found the flavors thin and cidery.
The ale: Amber, 9%
The panel: Centennial hops and coriander have faded away, but grains of paradise still peppery. Caramel and toffee notes; finish more rounded than 02.02.02.
The ale: Belgian-style strong golden ale; 8.5%
The panel: Sterling hops, when fresh, impart peach and nectarine flavors. That’s faded, but Kaffir lime and, courtesy of Bastogne yeast, bubblegum were still present.
The ale: Belgian-style amber, 8.5%
The panel: Gonzalez: “This is thinner than it should be.”
Tom Brown: “It starts with the malty sweetness, then cocoa and coffee.”
Gonzalez: “I get a touch of licorice ester, too. One of the main components of this one was the Amarillo hops. They’re pretty much gone at this point.”
The ale: Abbey ale, 8.66%
The panel: Vinuous. Dark wheat flavors are still bright, fresh.
The ale: Saison, 8.4%
The panel: Remarkably bright, pops with ginger, orange, lime and a dash of mint. Hallertau and Cascade hops still present. “Really a treat,” Tom Brown said.
The ale: Belgian-style strong golden, 8.6%
The panel: A hop-forward crowd-pleaser, 08 uses a yeast that similar to the one found in Duvel. “This is a yeast that combines very, very well with hops,” Gonzalez said. “That’s damn good.”
The ale: Belgian-style imperial porter, 8.6%
The panel: Chocolate malt, French roast coffee, vanilla bean and tangerine peel. “This is way more dimensional than any of the other ones we’ve tried,” said Charles Becker, a wine collector who is new to craft beers. “There’s some French oak, too, I believe,” Gonzalez said. “The wood is very present, and there’s a little soy sauce on the nose.”
The ale: Belgian-style strong golden ale made with wine grapes, 9.5%
The panel: “This is nice,” said Malcolm Jarvis, another wine fan. “A lot of wine characteristics.” Gonzalez noted that black tea notes, strong when the beer was first issued, had diminished.
The ale: Belgian-style amber chili ale, 9.4%
The panel: New Mexico chilis, cinnamon, Bell pepper. The chili engages the nose and tongue, but time had diminished the scalding heat. Gonzalez is no fan, but others enjoyed the restrained chili accents. “Where’s the carne asada?” Tom Brown asked.
The ale: Belgian-style Christmas ale, 9%
The panel: To Gonzalez, this was like Santa’s sack—stuffed too full of goodies. Others enjoyed the baking spices, subtle banana notes and warm, dry finish.