The Avenue Pub offered tasting tickets for all 8 years that they had in stock (2005-2012). We went to the Pub yesterday after work to try the first four years (2005-2008) and returned tonight to try 2009-2012. These were all 4 oz. pours, which was good, because they ranged from 8.4-9.5% ABV. Also, some of them were pretty intensely flavored and maybe wore out their welcome by the time 4 oz was imbibed? (I am looking at you, 2006 and 2011!) Anyway, I appreciate the opportunity to do a tasting like this and extend my sincere thanks to Polly and the staff at the Pub for making this happen and celebrating a great project by Stone.
So, for those who aren't familiar with Stone's Vertical Epic series, it's a series that started in 2002- they are all brewed with a Belgian style twist, and are meant to be cellared and drunk one after the next. I am pleased I was able to do so!
Here are my thoughts on the beers:
2006: After the previous beer, the 2006 (could call it a stout, could call it an abbey dubbel) had a spicy smokiness, almost like a chipolte pepper. It was much lighter on the tongue, and almost felt like it cleaned off the aged sweetness of the 05 with an almost astringent quality. It made a good first impression, but I think wore out its welcome quickly.
2008: Oh my, hops! This was probably the most hop-forward of the series BY FAR (not surprising since hop aroma and flavor will fade pretty quickly, so probably not something to aspire to in a decade-long aging project.) Amazingly, there was a subtle but distinct hop aroma on the nose, and a thirst quenching bitterness on the tongue, which made the beer very refreshing and drinkable. Really crisp finish but smooth mouthfeel.
2009: This fella was a very smooth operator. It had aged and mellowed with an almost port-like flavor of dried dark fruits. I could definitely taste an appealing charred wood/oak in the finish. It seemed like it had aged quite nicely, as well. Lots of complex flavors (there was a whole vanilla-chocolate-orange thing going on), but more importantly, it was just damn enjoyable to drink. Another one of my favorites.
2011: I remembered not loving this one so much last year. I was, however, pleasantly surprised tasting it tonight. The chiles had mellowed so that the predominant contribution was the chile fruitiness, not the heat/spice. You got the spicy flavors, but not in a jarring or hot way. Man, the banana phenols in the aroma almost killed me as I was walking our pours up the stairs - I really thought I'd hate it based on the aroma that appeared to be bludgeoning my nose. It was a nice drink, though- as I mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised. However, I don't think I'd want more than 4 oz of it to drink. I'll give the bottle we have at home another year, see what it's like in 2013.
2012: The new guy! Stone's tasting notes say that they couldn't think of a better way to finish this series of beers, and I have to say, I agree. It's a big ole beer, color is as dark as the night, and the first sip I take brings me right to fruitcake batter and pumpkin pie. But in a good way. The molasses and faint citrus notes balanced the spices and the yeast complemented the spices as well. I will definitely be picking up a bottle or two of this, I will be very interested to see how it ages.
I am still amazed by the opportunity afforded us here by The Avenue Pub. Being able to taste all these beers - and they made it EVEN EASIER to do so with the tasting ticket - was a once in a lifetime experience that I'm thrilled to have been a part of.