Vertical Epic 12.12.12

Got to do this review today – it’s 12/12/12, so it’s only appropriate.  I’m drinking it as I write the review this evening.  If you’re not drinking it today also, that’s  a shame, and it’s your own damn fault!

Vertical Epic 12.12.12: Stone Brewing Company, Escondido California.  9.0% ABV.  This is the last in the Stone Epic series.  They (Stone) began this series with the release of 02.02.02 on February 2nd, 2002.  The Vertical Epic series continued each year with the release of a different brew on the date named for each particular ale (03.03.03 released on March 3rd, 2003; 04.04.04 released on April 4th, 2004, etc.).  I became aware of this Stone series when I purchased the 08.08.08 Vertical Epic in 2008.  I currently have at least one bottle of each Stone Vertical Epic in my wine cellar, thanks to my (ex) boss, CLINT McCALL, who gave me one bottle each of 02.02.02 through 07.07.07.  Thank you, Clint for your generosity!!  That’s WAY beyond generous – it’s unbelievable.  CLINT, YOU ARE THE BOMB!!!!!

This beer is difficult to describe.  It’s a Belgian Abbey style dark ale, but it is different from what you would expect from that style.  It pours a deep, deep, dark ruby (it looks black until you hold it up to a bright light, then the red color becomes apparent) with a medium tan/light cocoa head.  The aroma is sweet, like you would expect from a Belgian ale.  But, there’s more to it than that.  This is brewed with spices, and those are apparent in the nose.  I would describe a slight aroma of anise, but it’s not overwhelming.

The flavor is difficult to describe.  First, it’s a full-bodied beer.  Very viscous, which I didn’t expect from a Belgian style.  It’s well-balanced, with a bit of a Belgian flavor in a dark setting.  It’s not as sweet as most Belgian style ales, in fact it’s a little dry.  The spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, orange peel, clove, etc.) come through to create a complex, but not overwhelming flavor.  The Belgian flavor is obvious, but it’s not overly sweet or fruity.  The aftertaste is not as sweet, but it’s not bitter either.  It’s hard to describe.

This beer is a little dry, especially for a Belgian or a stout ale.  It looks like a stout, and has the mouth feel of an imperial or oatmeal stout, but doesn’t taste like one – not sweet or full enough.  It is similar to an Abbey style Belgian, but also, not so sweet.

It’s an unusual beer, but I highly recommend it (what can I say, I love dark beers).  It’s not my favorite Vertical Epic brew (that would be the 2008 version, as I remember it), but it’s REALLY good (maybe my 2nd favorite of the five I’ve tasted, 2008 – 2012).  Enjoy it on an empty stomach – it will get you where you want to go in a hurry.  Reward yourself during this holiday season and buy a bottle or two.  I have one additional bottle (it comes in 22 oz bombers only) in my wine cellar right now with the other Vertical Epic treasures.  I will definitely buy some more ($6.99 at Total Wine) and enjoy it for a while.

What am I gonna do with eleven bottles (the entire series) of Vertical Epic?  They’re all 22 oz bombers, so I can’t possibly drink them by myself at one sitting.  I guess I’ll just have to invite a few other worthy ones over to help me consume them on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Thanks again, Clint, for sharing  your valuable priceless beer with me.  You’re the first one invited to my Stone Vertical Epic sampler gathering (anyone else interested?).  CHEERS!

5 Golden Rings & Smoking Wood

Two good beers from the same brewery (or should I say, from the same Bruery?).  Both are recommended.

5 Golden Rings: The Bruery, Placentia, California.  11.5% ABV.  The Bruery releases a  different holiday ale each year.  Each year the annual offering is named after a successive verse in the famous Christmas song, “The 12 Days of Christmas”.  This being the fifth year they have released a holiday beer, it’s called 5 Golden Rings (yes, the first year it was Partridge in a Pear Tree, the second year it was 2 Turtle Doves, etc.).  I never got to sample Partridge in a Pear Tree, but have had all of the others.  In fact, I still have a bottle of 4 Calling Birds in the fridge.

5 Golden Rings pours a hazy golden/yellow (it’s a Belgian style golden ale).  It is quite highly carbonated (that’s to be expected with a bottle conditioned Belgian).  I had to wait several minutes for the foam to subside in order to fill my glass (I was in the mountains at 5000′ elevation and poured into a chilled/frozen pint glass; these two factors probably contributed to the excessive foaming).  The aroma has that signature Belgian yeast smell, which is sweet, but there’s more to it than that.  This is brewed with pineapple juice, making the aroma sweeter than a typical Belgian.

The flavor is sweet, just like the aroma, but it’s more than just Belgian sweetness.  The pineapple juice is quite evident in the taste.  It’s sweet, but there is a certain amount of acidic tartness as well.  The spices used in the brew add to the complexity of the beer, but I can’t really pick them out (nutmeg and cinnamon are used, but I don’t know what else).  Alcohol is high, but not noticeable in the taste.

I’m not one to really enjoy Belgian ales, but the pineapple changes the signature Belgian golden ale flavor profile.  This is a good beer, although not my favorite.  I may buy one more bottle ($9.99 for 750 ML bottle) to drink in the next few months, but then again, at that price I may not.  Like I said, it’s good beer, but very unusual.  At 11.5% ABV, 750 ML’s can get you where you want to go in a hurry.  I recommend this to anyone who has an interest in tasting a very unusual brew.

Smoking Wood: The Bruery, Placentia, Califorina.  10% ABV.  This is a “Smoked Imperial Rye Porter Aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels”

I tasted this beer on 12-01-2012 while on a weekend getaway in the local mountains.  The 750 ML bottle cost $17.99 at Total Wine.  It’s not the first time I’ve had Smoking Wood (I first tasted it in January 2012 in the tasting room at The Bruery).

This porter pours black with a creamy, cocoa brown head.  The aroma is vanilla (from the whiskey barrel aging).  The initial flavor is chocolate with some bitterness (not hops; dark grain and carbonation) .  There is some nice carbonation sensation on the tongue.  The chocolate is then joined by coffee and a slight smokiness.  The taste fades to a little extra smoke, then the whiskey barrel flavor boldly takes over.  The lingering aftertaste is mild smoke.  Let this warm up when consuming it.  The whiskey really comes out.  The chocolate/coffee mellows as it warms and the vanilla (whiskey/oak) really takes over.

If you’re a fan of bourbon/whiskey/oak aged beers, this is the one for you.  I can’t recommend it enough, even though it’s expensive**.  Although this is not a seasonal brew (according to their website), it’s in their Special Collection, and not always available, so if you are interested, you might want to think about purchasing it in the next few weeks.  I think Smoking Wood is released in October or November only.  It’s almost Christmas, so go ahead – get this beer and treat yourself.  It’s wonderful.               **As they say at Stone Brewing, “It’s not too expensive, you’re too cheap!”
God bless, and enjoy Christmas and the holiday season.  Cheers.

Mac’s Brew News – Holiday Season 2012

Merry Christmas to all of you, and thank you for following my blog.  Because my time has been consumed with home remodeling, I have not been able to brew for the last six months.  Mac’s Brew News has sort of languished, but I have been trying to post a lot of beer reviews (since I don’t have my own beer to drink, I’ve been buying a lot of high quality commercial craft beer).  Hopefully you have been intrigued enough by these reviews to go out and purchase some of the reviewed beers.  All I can say is, the craft beer industry is flourishing right now, and we are reaping the rewards.

I plan to begin brewing again in early January.  My first brew of 2013 will be a barrel aged beer (I’ll probably tweak Little Levi’s Bourbon Barrel Stout a little and then age it for several months on the oak/bourbon).  I also plan to brew Phat Pliny again, but I will alter the hop profile so the beer is a little more citrusy, and a little less piney.  I brewed seven ales from late January to May 2012 – all original recipes.  I need to spend some time in my creative chamber coming up with some new recipes for 2013.  I hope to brew about twice a month (that’s ambitious, but I will continue to take the summer months off, so don’t think I’m gonna go out of control).

I really need to finish building my kegerator.  Now that I’m retired, I should be able to do that pretty soon.  Hopefully I can finish that in late January (late February is more realistic; I’m still painting doors and door casings in the house, and the holiday season is going to curtail my painting).  I put the kegerator project on hold in June, and am anxious to “git ‘er done”.  Ah yes, draft beer at Mac’s Brew Pub coming soon.

Many of you saw this last year, but I was too lazy to write another one for Christmas 2012.  Here’s my attempt at real, sophisticated literature.  Enjoy.

A Christmas Ode to Mac’s Beer

Christmas is here once again
When presents abound to all men
The weather turns cold
But the beers, much more bold,
Are designed to warm from within.

Now this liquid nutrition called ale
Comes in colors, dark medium and pale
With the carols you hear
It promotes Christmas cheer
And lifts spirits as troubled as hell.

Hence Mac, who craved drinking this beer
With loved ones and friends he held dear
Started brewing his own
In his sanctum at home
And made sumptuous ale, did you hear?

Though some do not find it a pleasure
Those worthy ones think ale a treasure
To drink and imbibe
With their pals who arrive
To partake of good times beyond measure.

So, a pint of ale we raise high
To salute our friends far and nigh
We consume what’s before us
To cheer and restore us
And for more of God’s nectar we cry!

Again, Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all!  Cheers.