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Stone came to Chicago in April 2010, and because I don't have especially formidable beer-trading chops, I've tried only the Vertical Epic ales released since then. The 10.10.10 is a Belgian-style golden tripel brewed with dried chamomile flowers, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), and just-pressed muscat, gewürztraminer, and sauvignon blanc grapes. The 11.11.11 is Belgian-style amber ale brewed with cinnamon and Anaheim chiles from New Mexico’s Hatch Valley.
So then. Let's see if my palate has recovered sufficiently from my grueling bout with the flu (get the shot if there's still time for you!) for me to come up with any worthwhile tasting notes. The 12.12.12 is a dark Belgian-style ale made with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, sweet orange peel, clove, and rose hips. "Dark" in this case means extremely dark—darker than any Belgian dubbel or quadrupel I've ever seen. The final Vertical Epic smells like gingerbread and fruitcake, molasses, orange marmalade, cocoa powder, and dark toast.
The taste is surprisingly dry, given the warm, spicy, dessertlike aroma. The nutmeg and cinnamon are easy to pick out, as is the bitter astringency that accompanies the flavor of clove. The 9 percent alcohol gives the beer a bit of extra warmth, threading together notes of dried fig, bittersweet chocolate, and burnt bread again, along with a faint fruity tartness that might come from the rose hips (according to the brewery, they "turned out to be so sturdy we had to roll over them with a forklift to pulverize them for the brew").
I admit, the 12.12.12 isn't entirely to my taste—as much as I like dark Belgian-style beers, I'm not a big fan of baking spices, which dominate the flavor profile of this one. However, I can easily imagine the spices becoming less prominent and better balanced with cellaring time. If I get hold of another bottle, I'll find a spot in my fridge for it till next winter and report back then . . .