Among the phrases you've never heard uttered, you can probably add "it ages like a fine beer." Perhaps there's good reason for that -- the majority of brews are best consumed fresh. That being said, a large chunk of the craft beer being produced in our current beery renaissance can improve with numerous years of careful aging. Trips to countries with celebrated brewing traditions, such as Belgium, will reveal restaurant beer lists that organize beers by vintage year rather than by brewery. If there's one American brewery that has educated modern beer aficionados about the joys of cellaring beer, it's San Diego's Stone Brewing.
Back in 2002, Stone kicked off its "Vertical Epic" project. Designed to teach American beer geeks about how a beer can change over time, each brew in the series (released once per year on 02/02/02, 03/03/03, 04/04/04, and so on) were designed to age until the release of the final brew of the series. At that point, the entire lineup could be enjoyed next to each other in a celebratory blowout tasting. Each vintage was brewed with different unique ingredients and stylistic variations, but were all Belgian in inspiration. Throughout the last decade, the folks at Stone have regularly convened to sample the beers and reveal their tasting notes to the public, who were encouraged to taste alongside the pros.
This week's featured beer is the final brew in the series, Vertical Epic 12.12.12. The base beer is a Belgian Strong Dark beer brewed with Abbey ales as inspiration. To that, the brewers added a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, sweet orange peel, allspice, rosehips, and a touch of clove. Pair this with some figgy pudding, mincemeat pie, or a hefty slice of fruitcake, and you've got a holiday meal on lockdown.
For those who want to sample the beer on draft alongside previous iterations of the project, head to City Beer Store today at 5pm:
Vertical Epic Tasting
Where: City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St., (415) 503-1033
When: December 12, 5 p.m.-close
Cost: pay per drink
What: Between draft and bottle pours, City Beer will have every vintage from the last decade, with the exception of the 2002 and 2005 vintages. They will also have three barrel-aged versions on tap. [Note: there is a sold out, VIP session from 3-5pm, so no guarantees on which vintages will be available at 5pm. But, most should still be around.]