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RATINGS: 866   WEIGHTED AVG: 3.67/5   SEASONAL: Series   IBU: 45   EST. CALORIES: 267   ABV: 8.9%
In 2008, Stone Brewmasters Steve Wagner and Mitch Steele traveled to Belgium, where they enjoyed a number of hop-forward Belgian tripels, pale ales and IPAs—beers that had taken a cue from the U.S. craft brewing movement and inspired us in return. It’s a big reason 2008’s summer season came to be known at Stone as our “Summer of the Triple.” Upon their return, they crafted Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Ale, the seventh beer in the 11-beer Stone Vertical Epic Ale series. Packed with floral, spicy essence from Belgian yeast plus plenty of hoppy New World character, it’s our West Coast take on hop-driven Belgian beers.

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
FlacoAlto (4091) - Tucson, Arizona, USA - AUG 13, 2008
Sampled August 2008
Pours into my 25cl tulip glass with a frothy, initially three-finger thick, pale, off-white colored head. The beer is a brilliantly clear, copper hue as it sits in my glass but shows a brilliant, bright gold color when held up to the light. The aroma has an expressively fruity, sort of children’s aspirin like aroma to it that is magnified by a substantial sweetness. Weird is all I can really say, and not necessarily bad. Other aromas of juicy fruit gum, grassy grain, clean tropical fruit, ripe peach, just a hint of an herbal note, some phenolic clove. I think it is that there is a slight medicinal note in the aroma along with the clove phenolics and these, combined with how incredibly clean the hop character is (is it filtering that made the fruity hop aromas so clean?) is what gives this a children’ aspirin aroma.

Tastes like bubble gum with the juicy, fruity hop notes and a clean, almost cotton candy like sweetness. This is actually surprisingly sweet tasting given the terminal gravity; I think that the fruity hop flavors tend to accentuate what sweetness is here and the fact that the fermentation profile is so clean means that the noticed alcohol note also seems to contribute to the perceived sweetness. Some phenolics and a spiciness contribute a touch of spiciness towards the finish that seems a bit turpene like and definitely has an expressive clove flavor to it. The hops contribute flavors of tropical fruit, lychee, ripe peach, and when combined with the perceived sweetness, some notes of honey-suckle are evident. While the hop character is quite dominant, there is, especially as this beer warms, a significant phenolic character to this beer, especially in the finish.

Despite being perceived as sweet this does have a nice, light body for a beer of this strength; I wouldn’t call it a quaffing brew, but it does have a nice drinkability to it. It could use a bit more carbonation as I typically like my strong Golden Belgian’ish beers to be lively, though the lightish carbonation here really doesn’t detract too much.

This is somehow incredibly clean, despite the noticeable fermentation character and hop notes; the malt seems almost naked somehow as it is lacking that chewy, grain note that I like to find in a good, pale, Belgian ale. This is still a good beer, it just seems to be a bit too filtered (even if it wasn’t caused by the actual filtering process). I do like how this beer works as a whole, the entire experience is a bit more than a sum of its parts.

Purchased: Plaza Liquors, Tucson AZ

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
awaisanen (1304) - Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, USA - AUG 20, 2008
From a 22oz Bottle. Bottle is a low fill, about 1" lower in the neck than other Stone beers I have, although this particular bottle was hand picked from a selection of 3 cases where each other bottle was filled even lower. Crystal clear, gold color with a finger of large bubbled white head. Moderate level of carbonation, but on the low end of the spectrum for something that’s Duvel-esque. Light rubbery phenols were present in the nose immediately after pouring, but as it warms, a really nice combination of black pepper and lemon citrus hops begins to emerge. The hops give a nice solid resinous backdrop to a really nice perfume of banana and violet petals. Hints of marshmellow scented pale malt sweetness and light alcohol presence. Medium light bodied, lightly carbonated mouthfeel with a soft, velvety texture. The body could certainly stand to be more carbonated, as it’s missing a carbonic bite to help sharpen up the flavors. Flavors are very yeasty, with a light, doughy maltiness up front on the palate. Much more phenolic than I was expecting, with quite a bit of pepper and rubber band. Finishes moderately dry and hoppy, with a pleasant bitterness lingering in the finish. I love the concept of this beer and was really looking forward to trying it. The nose was pretty good, but the carbonation level and flavors, especially the rubber phenolic characters, were disappointing. Generally speaking, I find Stone’s execution to be near flawless, even if I’m not a fan of the general concept, so I’m not quite sure what happened here.

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 13/20
ABUSEDGOAT (2422) - California, USA - AUG 22, 2008
Orange colored, moderate head, good lacing and retention. Aroma is fruity hops, some grass, grain, spice. Medium to full bodied, quite sweet despite what the deScription said. I liked last years better.

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
SamGamgee (2452) - down the whirlpool, California, USA - AUG 23, 2008
22-ouncer. Dark gold, maybe almost orange-wait-who-cares color. Not a whole lot of head going on, but some lasting foam patches (Does that count as head? I guess.). The aroma strikes me with plenty of apple juice and some orange, then lots of spicy, garlicy hops, plus a little doughy yeast. The flavor is like a cleaner belgian strong golden that is pretty sweet for the style, and then a bunch of extra spicy hops are thrown in. I was expecting maybe something similar to the Chouffe IPA, but where that is different but works so effortlessly, this just seems a little awkward and forced. Neither in the Duvel mold or the Ruination mold, this seems stuck in a weird limbo. I can see how this could be amazing in theory, but just doesn’t click for me. Still drinkable and interesting, but a little odd.

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 13/20
Zinister (1423) - Houston, Texas, USA - AUG 27, 2008
Nice golden pour with decent white head. Smells like Belgium. Cloves, spices and hops, hops, hops. Nose is like a tripel, but hoppier. Flavor is full and flavorful, with a bit of peppery spices mixed in with the hops and grainy malts. Pretty nice now, but like to save the other bottle for later to see how this develops.

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 15/20
rayOfBeer (674) - El Cerrito, California, USA - AUG 29, 2008
Poured from bottle bomber a golden with minimal white head. Aroma is malty with a touch of spice clove and sweet malt. Flavor is sweet caramel with spice such as clove, pepper, a touch of bubble gum, and maybe a taste of banana. Palate at this point is sweet and spicy. Good carbonation with surprising hop flavors for this style of beer. Over ok. One can only hope that this combo will gel into a great beer with aging.

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 2/5   OVERALL 14/20
twitcher (298) - framingham, Massachusetts, USA - SEP 4, 2008
bottle. Pours an average appearance- pale hazy yellow color, smallish off white head that clears fast. Sweet fruits and some sharp citrus in the nose. For one of the VE series, the flavors are pretty tame. Typical Belgian strong pale- fruity phenols, smooth sugary sweetness, and some noticeable yeasty twang. Decent hop character- a nice mix of mild earthy notes, sharp citrus, and solid but not overdone bitterness. Palate is decent, though on the thin and slick side. Overall an enjoyable beer- though I can’t imagine anything good happening here in terms of ageing until all the VEs are out.

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 15/20
tripelthreat (190) - Soquel, California, USA - SEP 5, 2008
Duvel tulip. Clear coppery-golden body on a small, quickly dissipating head. Banana, spice and maybe some sweet orange aromas. Flavor is a lot of candi sugar and vague fruits with some a touch of bitterness. I also get strong notes of cooked corn with some sips. Thankfully, It does clean/dry up a little in the finish as I could see this being overly sweet. Hard to believe that this is supposed to be "highly hopped". Chouffe Houblon it is not. Some strong flavors and aroma but a bit dull and clumsy overall.

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
00cobraR (1103) - Greensboro, North Carolina, USA - SEP 5, 2008
pours out a clear amber color with a larger head. aroma is sweet, yeasty, and spicy. flavor was sweet with a bit of a twang to it that i didnt find so appealing. the finish was rather hoppy which i was happy to see. over all not bad.

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
MAP (1133) - Lakewood, Ohio, USA - SEP 13, 2008
So where do you draw the line between beer styles. This is hoppy enough I could have pegged it as an IPA, but with a little extra sweetness and spice. Well, that is stone brewery for you. Everything has to have hops, hops hops, and a bit extra hops for good measure. There is some Belgian characteristics here, a small spice fruitiness. Mouth feel is clean and crisp, but I prefer a more robust beer.

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