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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Vertical Epic Fail!

On Friday, December 21, a group of my closest beer friends convened at long-time friend and former Shamokin Area High School alumnus Jason Kramer's house for his annual holiday party.  Having attended for the past several years, Brewslut and I look forward to this event each year.  Kramer was the first real beer geek I met (though I knew him since high school, we didn't become good friends until many years later when I stumbled upon his name on the and web sites).  At any rate, a few days prior to the party, I learned that Kramer would be dusting off and breaking out his complete Stone Vertical Epic collection, dating all the way back from 2002.  He needed two bottles (2007 and 2008, I believe) to round out his collection, which were graciously provided by Jason Pendall.  At one time, Kramer did in fact HAVE the entire set (multiple sets, I believe), but he was able to... well, let's just say he was able to parlay one complete set into quite a pretty penny, thanks to a certain on-line auction site).  Since the 2002 bottle alone was indeed an ├╝ber-rare find, needless to say Brewslut and I were quite thrilled to partake in such an epic undertaking (no pun intended).

Stone Vertical Epic 2002-2012
However, what transpired was literally a chronological bludgeoning of sub par, virtually undrinkable swill from this revered brewery.  Now, it was my understanding that the whole point of this series was to age each beer and enjoy them all as a "vertical" event, meaning drink each year in succession.  To beer geeks, this is how the vertical works.  Well, after drinking all of these, I'm not so sure that's what Stone initially had in mind.  Without going into too much detail, I've decided to transcribe my Untappd notes and share a bit about each release.  Let me first say that I enjoy Stone's beers and respect them as a brewery.  Their brewpub alone is worthy of much praise.  But be warned... most of these comments are not kind... at all!

"Not as bad as I was anticipating."  Still, this evoked hints of wet cardboard and air from Camden, NJ.  Not bad, but unfortunately not even in the vicinity of anywhere near what I'd call "good."

"Not holding up... at all!" This may have been the worst of the lot, but unfortunately my notes were sparse, to say the least. 

"Lemon Pledge."  Yes, this beer tasted little more than lemon-scented cleaning spray, I'm afraid.

"Prunes."  Yes, constipated elderly beer drinkers may think this would be a match made in heaven, but alas this year's offering was not enjoyable.  I did fill me with the urge to defecate, though.

"Shitty black bow tie licorice!"  Remember that waxy licorice candy in the shape of bow ties?  Yeah, me too... and this beer was even worse!  I was expecting the "666" beer to hold up a bit more, but unfortunately even Satan couldn't save this one from the fiery depths of Hades!

"Spicy."  That was all I could muster up to say about this one.  If you want to try and re-create this beer, just fill a glass with tap water, then rummage through the spice rack in your kitchen and add a teaspoon of everything you find.

"It has to start getting better soon!"  These words indicate another in a long line of shitty beers.  By this time, I was losing faith in this experiment, and was praying for the end.  If only I knew what I had in store for me next...

"Rancid coffee with a hint of Doberman anus."  Perhaps my most evocative description thus far, I must have been inspired by Brewslut, as this hearkens back to one of the first-ever Pour Travelers blogs: The Anomalous Olfactory Anecdotes of Brewslut.  This was undrinkable.

Between 2009 and 2010, I needed a well-deserved break from what I described as the "Stone shit show" and enjoyed a small pour of Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout by Goose Island.  Now there's a beer that you can actually age in your beer cellar!  But back to our regularly scheduled program...

"Better... closer... warmer!"  This was probably the best of the bunch, and it only warranted three out of five stars.  This was described as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, so the "strong" portion of the beer allowed it to age for a bit without producing notes of dog ass, for example.

"Grass with dog shit."  Another canine reference for all you dog lovers.  Ever step in dog shit out in your neighbor's yard, take off your shoe to scrub the sole, and catch a whiff as you run hot water over it?  Yup, that's what this beer evoked... at least in my twisted mind.

"Thank God!  What a chore!"  I had already had a sip of this beer, courtesy of Deuane during a recent visit to Al's of Hampden.  I was not impressed, to say the least.  This was even spicier than the 2007 release, and although this was brand new (released only nine days prior), this just tasted like a spicy mess to me.  I took one single gulp and raised my fists in victory (and anger) at the end of this horrific crucible.

Vertical Epic fail, indeed!


  1. I'm not surprised; I gave up on this adventure years ago. I drank most of ones I have a while back after getting reports that they weren't holding up well.

    The lesson I've been learning is I'd rather drink fresh beer.

  2. Thanks for reading, Scoats. I agree. Generally speaking, fresher IS better, especially hoppy beers. I do think that stronger beers (RIS, barleywine, strong ale, etc.) benefit from the aging process. However, I found virtually none of these Vertical Epics to be age-worthy. Cheers!

  3. As Stone released the recipes for these beers (, as an example), I tried a fellow homebrewer's 09.09.09 beer over Xmas, and loved it. Sounds like he made out better than the samples you tried. Such a shame!


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