Stone Brewing Company ‘Vertical Epic 11-11-11’

November 9, 2011

Okay, I’ll admit it. I love beer. Thing is, there’s love and then there’s LOVE. If I love beer, then the folks from Stone Brewing in San Diego are a full-blown obsessed stalker. They’re “Swimfan” and “Fatal Attraction” meets “Strange Brew”. Come to think of it, I just might have Hollywood’s next big script right there!

Taking pride in one’s work doesn’t even begin to accurately describe the fervor displayed in the liquid efforts flowing from Stone. With the motto “Fizzy Yellow Beer is for Wussies!” and beverages named Arrogant Bastard , Sublimely Self-Righteous and Ruination one begins to get an idea that these guys really take their beer making very seriously.

There’s never any filler in their beer; no short cuts allowed. Adjuncts are dirty words at Stone. They use nothing but the choicest ingredients and the most inventive – yet sensible – recipes. Sure, there usually is a bit of a cost to pay when such noble efforts are employed, but the end result is the culmination of hard work and ethics of the highest order.

Every year, Stone releases a new version of their Vertical Epic series. Each one is let loose in the month corresponding to that year; i.e. January 2001, February 2002, etc. The plan is to encourage the consumer to buy two bottles of each year’s release… drink one now and make notes, drink one at the end of the run in 2012 with all the others and see how it’s aged. Stone’s Epic beers are designed to be amazing now and then take an evolutionary journey over the course of time and, hopefully, become even better.

This year’s release is actually a chili beer utilizing New Mexican Hatch green chilies, cinnamon and Belgian ale yeast. Amongst others, the use of European malts like Pale and Munich give the beer a classic amber ale-type base but the spice notes elevate this to something special and unique.

The 11-11 Epic is a deep amber hue with a nice, creamy head. The Belgian yeast really brings out a banana ester “funk” along with some toffee and tiny notes of clove and pepper. The signature vegetal scent of chili peppers is but a ghost. The flavors are fruity at first then yield to spicy hops and a pleasant touch of sizzle from the cinnamon and Hatch. A four-hop combination of Perle, Warrior, Target and Pacific Jade keep the malt sweetness in check and provide a nice bitter balance, especially at the finish. There’s a little heat at the end from the 9.3% alcohol and the mild chilies yet it never seems out of harmony.

A unique take on a winter warmer, Stone’s latest Epic certainly embodies the attitude and creativity of the company.