Monday, January 16, 2012

Stone Brewing Company: 11.11.11

After nearly a month in hibernation, I am back with another Stone release. This time I am sampling a bottle from their annual Vertical Epic Ale Series which was released on 11.11.11 this year. This is the fourth beer from Stone I've reviewed on my blog and was rather excited when I heard this brew would contain cinnamon and Anaheim Chilies. But before we get into the details of this beer, let me back track quickly to provide you with some basic background on the Vertical Epic Ale Series...

Stone released the first beer of the series on Feburary 2nd, 2002, and every year they release a brand spankin new brew exactly one year and one month from the last (ie 03.03.03, 04.04.04, etc etc). Each beer is designed, as stated on each bottle: "to be aged until sometime after December 12th, 2012." The series will be continued until 12.12.12 when production will cease and all previously brewed beers are to be sampled in one vertically epic tasting. Since I have only just caught on to the collection of beers, I've only the 10.10.10 and 11.11.11 in my possession, but I am sure there are plenty of collectors out there who will have all 12 in their possession. It would be one heck of a tasting to try each one to see how the flavours have developed over the years.

For 2011, the 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale started life as an amber hued, Belgian Strong Pale Ale fermented with Flanders Golden Ale yeast, which imparts some lovely characteristics of its own: a little banana and clove anyone? The brewers then added Anaheim Chilies and whole cinnamon sticks for an added twist. Sitting at 9.40% this brew is indeed a force to be reckoned with, and a tasty one at that. Speaking of which, shall we move on to the tasting notes?

Name: Vertical Epic Ale 11.11.11
Category/Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale
ABV: 9.40%
IBU: 65
OG: 20.5°P
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Pale, Crystal, Munich, CaraBohemian and Special B
Hop Type(s): Warrior, Target, Perle and Pacific Jade
Yeast Type: Belgian Flanders Golden Ale
Special Additives: Anaheim Chilies & cinnamon sticks
Bottled: 27th of October, 2011
Bottle Size: 22 oz
Location Purchased: PCC, Issaquah, WA, USA

The Pour: Very dark copper, deep amber-orange. Head is off-white, slight light yellow hue to it. Head retention is good, lacing is virtually non-existent.

The Nose: Banana, clove and alcohol strike me first. Swirling and wafting deeper reveals the green chili and I notice something slightly spicy, probably the cinnamon. Malty sweet, a little caramel, a little toastiness. Belgian yeast notes are detectable: little bubblegum, bread and yeast. Perhaps a little citrus way in the back...

The Taste: Spicy. Green chilies and clove. A little banana. It is caramely sweet. The cinnamon is a bit difficult to discern. A little citrus? Medium to full-bodied, carbonation is medium. I'm detecting a moderate bitterness. Noticeably dry finish with a nice amount of lingering bitterness. The flavour is almost exactly on par with the nose.

The Verdict: This brew earns points for being unique. A cinnamon chili beer, who would have thought? The usage of the Belgian yeast strain also added a level of complexity and what we end up with a spicy mix of cinnamon and clove and green chili and banana. The beer was in no way dominated by any one flavour. I thought I had to work rather hard to pick out the cinnamon. Serving temperature was not cold by any means so we can rule out subdued flavours due to that. I was actually hoping for a bit more cinnamon but that's really the only thing I was disappointed with. It's well-balanced, a little citrusy hop character and quite drinkable for being 9.40%. It will be interesting to see how the flavours of this one develop in a years time, good thing I picked up two ;] As for availability, I'm not certain whether you're likely to find these at your local supermarket. Places like Whole Foods or other Organic/Specialty markets may still have some but otherwise your best bet will probably be at your local specialty bottleshop. Happy hunting!

Thanks for reading!