Finally embracing a facet of pop social networking, Twitter (@THFBeer_Nate), has opened my eyes to themes, trends, and beer buzzwords like never before.  I have always been critical of social networking sites, so it took me a while to gather the gumption to sign up for an account.  I bring this up, because I never realized that Stone’s Vertical Epic line was such a sought after beer.  Weeks before September 9, 2009 I couldn’t keep up with the eager 140 character Pavlovian anticipations of 09 09 09, and after it’s release, praise sonnets flooded my twitter reader.  “Must be some good beer,” I thought, and promptly bought a bottle.

I have had previous Vertical Epics, but they never left a lasting impression that I can recall, and no, I don’t have any in my cellar.  So how did this one live up to the hype?

The Pour:

09 09 09 filled my glass with a beautiful bright red malty liquid.  Not really…just testing to see if you are paying attention.  But that was the color I would expect if I had not read the label, provided for your viewing/reading pleasure.  For Stone, this is a dark beer!  It pours midnight black into the glass.  The flow is nice; not too thick.  A rich tan head tops off the surface and hangs around for a while.  Mike noted that it looked similar to a Cola.  I’d heartily agree.

The Nose:

Kudos to Stone for delving a bit off their typical style of brewing; it was apparent from the first whiff.  Aromas of vanilla and chocolate alongside classic Belgian clove and banana smells make for a unique aroma.  There was an aroma I have yet to find a way of describing, that I can only pick up on and pinpoint due to home brewing.  It is the aroma that German and Belgian strains release while fermenting.  I picked up on it.  Or I am nuts.  Speaking of nuts I smelled some of those.  The chocolate aroma with the nut reminded me of that yummy German toast spread, Nutella.

The Taste:

Again, quite a different beer for Stone; but, different is good.  The beer is quite smooth and thin.  The clove is more subdued in the flavor; present, nonetheless.  The grain bill is quite delicious. Roasted and woody flavors permeate the malt body.  Mike picked up hints of citrus in the aroma.  While I didn’t, I found them in the flavor.  Mike and I both noted a dry quality to the beer, particularly in the finish.  The mild hop finish was pleasant and not overstated.

Overall thoughts:

This is a good beer, no doubt.  I must confess though that I was a tad let down.  Don’t get me wrong…I thought it was very good and loved every minute of drinking it, but the hype that was created on twitter and a few other beer sites had led me to believe that I was going to pass out in a euphoria of beer Nirvana and would rate the beer with six stars on a five star scale.  I just didn’t think it was THAT great.  I do wish that this beer would have be

en slightly more carbonated and yeast added into the bottle conditioning, maybe adding some more complexity and clarity to the aroma and flavor.  Stone may not be set up as such, though.

I love Stone as a brewery. The put out good beer and are quite innovative and involved in their local community and the beer community.  The idea itself of the Vertical Epic line up is cool, as well as the fact that they put the clone recipe up for home brewers. Stone cares for its consumers.

Nate’s Review:

Overall Satisfaction: ★★★½☆ 

Among other Belgian Strong Ales: ★★★¼☆ 

Vertical Epic 09 09 09 Recipe