You’ve heard the legend of a cavernous hall filled to the brim with beer from around the country. Maybe you’ve even experienced for yourself the glories of unlimited pours of more than 3,100 brews. But you haven’t seen the Great American Beer Festival—the country’s largest annual suds celebration—from the perspective of Team Stone before…until now. We just got back from this massive and spectacular event, and are ready to give you a behind-the-scenes view of our GABF experience
While we hold true to time-honored traditional brewing processes, we’re anything but conformists. Ours is a brewery where, rather than blindly adhering to methods and styles simply because “that’s the way it’s been done for hundreds of years,” we make a practice of regularly taking a step back, clearing our minds of all we know and contemplating simple but essential queries like “why not?” and “what if?” Our beers are founded on the logic gained from centuries’ worth of brewmasters who mashed in ahead of us, but their true flavor and character is a result of our inquisitive, experimental nature. A poignant example of this is presented in our Belgian-style India pale ale, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA.
In preparation for our Epic Eve Dinner and the Stone Epic Festival: The Final Chapter, our all-out festival celebrating all 11 vintages in our Vertical Epic Ale series, Chef Alex Carballo and “Dr.” Bill Sysak teamed up to develop nearly two-dozen recipes for dishes that pair with each of the beers.
Realizing not all of our fans will be able to make it out for these events, but are as amped up as we are to uncap their bottles of Vertical Epic Ale at their own tastings, we wanted to provide the means by which to prepare food that will fall perfectly in sync with those beers. The following are recipes for four dishes that, when put together, make up a comprehensive meal.
It’s our hope that this will excel what will likely already be one of the most heightened and interesting beer tasting sessions of your life. Bon apetit!
The Vertical Epic Ale series started simply enough in 2001, with Stone CEO and co-founder Greg Koch suggesting we release a different Belgian-inspired beer suitable for aging each year on the date when the day, month and year registered by the same digit. The brewhouse forged forward with this initiative, producing 11 beers that, unlike many on the market at the time, were intended to be laid down so they could be opened when the last of those dates came to pass on December 12, 2012.
Eleven years later, we’re excited to announce today’s arrival of Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale. Soon, it will be time to uncap all 11 of the Vertical Epic Ale vintages and enjoy them together. Certainly, it will be a glorious capping to one of the most ambitious brewing projects ever undertaken, even for those with a few or maybe even one or two of these widely varied brews. We’re pleased with how each of them turned out and what we’ve accomplished, but at the same time, we admit to being a bit sad. This was an incredible series that we’re bummed to see come to an end, but, we’re going out in a blaze of beery glory. Enter Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale!
This beer started out as a pilot brew that we brewed for our annual company picnic. The original plan was to brew a Belgian style Quadruple with triticale (a cross of wheat and rye), and call the beer Quadrotriticale-a totally geeky reference to the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” When brew day came, we decided on the fly to brew a Strong Belgian Golden Ale instead-to better evaluate the flavors of triticale, and then changed our minds again and added some dried chamomile flowers on the back end in the whirlpool, just because we had tasted a similar beer before and thought it sounded good! The beer was a hit at our picnic, so we fully intended to brew this chamomile-spiced Strong Belgian Golden Ale as the Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale.
The idea of brewing a Belgian Imperial Porter was something that we had discussed a few times in the past few years, especially after taste panel sessions that had included Belgian Imperial Stouts and Belgian Black beers. Roasted malts and the spicy, fruity flavors from Belgian yeast strains combine surprisingly well, provided proper balance is maintained in the recipe. And we thought an Imperial Porter, with an intense chocolate malt character, might be a fun, and a bit different, version of a Belgian dark ale to try.
The Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale is a bit of departure from the last two Stone Vertical Epic Ale editions, which were golden in color. The newest one can best be described as a Belgian style Imperial Porter. The beer is deep brown, with intense roasted character provided by chocolate malt.
During the brewing process, we also added dark candi sugar, vanilla bean, and tangerine peel to complement the flavors of the porter. The vanilla bean addition is fascinating, as it actually enhances the chocolate character from the roasted malts, and the candi sugar adds a nice hint of molasses flavor to the finish. The tangerine actually turned out to be quite subtle on the finish (and didn’t impart as much of an orange flavor as we reported earlier), and combines nicely with the chocolate malt character. We aged this beer on French Oak chips, which contributes a smooth and subtle woody undertone and even more vanilla flavors.
All in all the Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale is a very complex beer, the flavors evolve and develop as the beer warms in your glass, making the enjoyment of it a very fun and delicious experience!
This beer pours deep brown with a thick, frothy, creamy head of tan foam.
Many layers, starting off with chocolate and coffee from the chocolate malt, and vanilla notes from both the vanilla bean and French Oak. A balanced oak flavor comes through in the mix. As the beer warms, the influence of the Belgian yeast is more evident, as tropical fruit and spice flavors become more pronounced.
Begins with chocolate roast malt character and vanilla. The vanilla accentuates the chocolate nicely. Layered in are banana esters, and hints of clove, and then the finish is a bit stronger on the oak with hints of molasses and citrus from the tangerine peel.
Medium body, very complex, and finishes very smooth. The 8.6% alcohol is not overly evident, and the flavors blend together nicely.
A delicious, complex beer. It should age nicely over the next three years, and the flavors should continue to meld together wonderfully.
Editor’s Note: Look out for Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale on September 9, 2009, and check the website for the latest info.
When I hear the term “epic,” I think of things like Beowulf and Jan Crouch’s hairdo. However, the term isn’t solely reserved for grandiose tales of heroism and towering pink wigs. It can apply to finely crafted beer too, as we’ve proven year after year with our Belgian-inspired Stone Vertical Epic Ale series. Beginning with the first release in 02.02.02, our Stone Vertical Epic Ale series is an eleven-year series with a new edition released one year, one month, and one day after the previous, culminating in a truly Epic vertical tasting on 12.12.12.
The last few Stone Vertical Epic Ales have been lighter in color, but this year’s Ale is a sinfully dark Belgian Porter, and instead of using American hops like last year, we’re using two European hop strains: Perle and Magnum. Staying true to the series, this year’s batch also comes packed with some unique, mouth-watering ingredients. If you follow us on Twitter, you already know what some of them are. Check out what we tweeted on June 1st.
The ensuing deluge of fanatic @replies reaffirmed what we already know: Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale is going to make sweet, sweet love to your palate. Before we allow you to spend too much time on any visual imagery from the previous sentence, let’s move right along and ask and answer the question “So how did this divine libation come into being?”
Our Head Brewer, Mitch Steele, had a dream. And that dream involved a beer with orange and chocolate in it. “I’ve always liked orange and chocolate,” said Mitch, “and always wanted to brew a really chocolaty beer with some orange in it.” Turns out that Stone CEO Greg Koch’s favorite childhood dessert was orange sherbet with hot fudge (fairly irrelevant really as that fact did not come into play in the creation of this beer, but instead was simply inserted by him as he was reviewing this blog post and no doubt is an attempt to simply see his name worked into the blog somewhere). The delicious combination of tangerine peel and chocolate malt lends the beer its orange-chocolate character, and the addition of vanilla beans actually enhances the chocolate character of the chocolate malt. Stone Assistant Brewer Jessica Gilman, who helped Laura Ulrich bring Mitch’s creation to life, confessed her love for the beer. “It was fun to brew, and the brew day actually went really well. When I was checking the gravity the other day, I couldn’t help noticing that it smells really good—the tangerine peel is CRAZY in that thing!” As if the beer wasn’t decadent enough, the brew crew decided to age it on French Oak, further enhancing the vanilla character and adding to the overall complexity. I’ll give you a moment to wipe up the drool. We’ll assume it’s from the description of the aroma and flavor, and not from the previous paragraph above that. Sicko.
With three more chapters to go in our Vertical Epic Ale series, our masterpiece is still incomplete. It’s still uncertain whether Beowulf will triumph valiantly over Grendel, or if that legendary pink wig will stand the test of time. But like with most Epics, the climax is usually the best part.
Hey, what? There you go again. That’s a perfectly legit word and doesn’t only mean that. Really, I’m starting to wonder about you.
Look out for Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale on Wednesday, September 9, 2009, and stay tuned for a detailed homebrew recipe.
Our seventh version of the Vertical Epic series was inspired by some of the wonderful Belgian beers that Steve and I tasted during our trips to Europe to brew “Stone California Double IPA” at the Shepherd-Neame brewery in Kent, England. This ale was served at the J.D. Wetherspoons pub chain during their International Real Ale Fest in March of 2008, and was great to brew and a very fun project, but that’s another story.
Brussels is about a 2 hour train ride from London (going through the “Chunnel”) so one weekend while we were in England, we decided to shift gears from our steady diet of cask-conditioned English Ales and make the quick trip to Belgium. We had many great beers during the 2 day visit, as well as nice tours of Palm Brewery and Cantillon. And don’t ever miss the Belga Café in Brussels-the hand pumped Boon Gueuze was unbelievable! One of the best beers we had was a rare bottle given to us by Glenn Payne, one of our companions for the trip. We brought this bottle of Duvel Triple Hop back to Escondido with us and Steve and I tasted it with Greg and John Egan, and pretty much decided right then and there to brew a hoppy Belgian Golden for our 2008 Epic.
We decided to brew this beer with a hint of ginger, a traditional Saison brewing spice, and also with some cardamom, which comes through as an exotic spiciness in the finish. Additional complexity comes from the blend of grapefruit, lemon and orange peel which combine nicely with the tropical fruit esters provided by the Belgian yeast. It’s going to interesting to see how this beer ages over time. At 8.4% ABV, it’s built for aging.
So it is with pleasure that we present you with the homebrew recipe for the Stone Vertical Epic 07.07.07. As always, the instructions below are designed for an all malt beer. If you are an extract brewer and are uncomfortable with converting this recipe to an extract version, we suggest you contact a local homebrew store or local homebrew club for help.