Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23: Karl and the Tale of the Stone Vertical Epic: 11.11.11 Aged in Red Wine Barrels

This one goes to 11
You may have noticed, dear reader, that the pictures from my previous two posts included a beer with a background of a vinyl record album. I collect records like Florida collects old people, and I’m going to see how long I can continue to pair the beverages I consume with something from my collection. Today’s entry may just look like I sat a beer in front of a black background, but keen eyes will be able to decipher the shade of black made famous by Britain’s loudest band. I thought the soundtrack to “This is Spinal Tap” would capture perfectly any beer that contained the words “epic” and “11” in its moniker.

As for the beer, I have to say I was not terribly excited to open this guy. I have expressed my harsh opinions about Stone before, and usually when you seen the word “wine” associated with a beer, that means you are about to pucker up and hop aboard the sour choo-choo. 500ml of sour is not how I like to spend my rainy California nights, but it’s for love of the game that I soldier on. What I am interested in is the fact that this is a Belgian Strong Ale brewed with Anaheim chilies and cinnamon. Add on the barrel aging and this is going to be an interesting ride…

I hope I don't consume a beer that I think should be paired with this
The beer’s color seems to fade from bottom to top. At the bottom it looks like slightly watered down airplane coffee, with the top exhibiting a more pleasant light toffee color. There are some soapy residues that attempt to form a head, but they flee the scene rather quickly. The nose is about what I expected: hints of the cinnamon and chilies, and then the smell of a wine weekend in Temecula. It is interestingly pleasant. After meeting expectations so far, this beer smashes them on the tongue. This Vertical Epic is easily one of the most layered and complex tasting beers I’ve ever had. The barrel aging is a major contributor to this, adding cherries, grapes, oak and a lingering vanilla. The chilies are there on the back end, adding an interesting finish to the standard Belgian Strong characteristics that make up the backbone. Since it’s Stone, I expected hops to be somewhere, but like many a Spinal Tap drummer, they are no longer with us. It is more carbonated that I was expecting, and not nearly as sour as I was dreading. The finish is dry and slightly tart, with the chilies and vanilla acting like Tap’s signature two-note ending. There is no trace of alcohol, despite this guy being over 10% ABV. Honestly it was very difficult for me to grade this beer; it is a really fascinating beverage, and I would love to try the white wine-aged version. It was a little difficult to finish all 500ml myself, and I don’t think it’s something I want to have on a regular basis, but it would be fun to drink and discuss with people knowledgeable and appreciative of beer. Easily my favorite beer I’ve had from Stone.

Rating: B+

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