09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale

09.09.09 Vertical Epic AleSince today is 09/09/09, the day for the release of Stone Brewing‘s latest Vertical Epic Ale, I cracked open the bottle they sent me this evening to enjoy and review.

This is one of those beers where the old notions of style are questioned and tested. (Something increasingly common with all these “limited releases”.) Ostensibly, 09.09.09 is a “Belgian porter brewed with dark candi sugar, chocolate malt, tangerine peel, vanilla beans, and aged on French oak” and according to the bottle, the goal for this year’s Vertical Epic is to be “reminiscent of artisanal chocolates accentuated with orange.”

And despite what the Stone website tells you about 8.6% alcohol by volume, the bottle I have says 8.9%. I even double-checked. It’s a big beer. Drink slowly.

Appearance: Deep, dark brown with a dense, big, rocky tan head. Great legs to it as it leaves sticky lacing down the sides of the glass.

Smell: Smoky and spicy with lots of roast malts, black licorice, dark fruits (reminds me of a dark fruitcake soaked in spiced rum). Oaky; spicy with white pepper, and a pithy bitter note (tangerine peel?). Sourish banana as it warms?

Taste: Hot and rich are my first impressions—coffee-chocolate roastiness, a spicy kick of heat at the back of the throat, oaked brandy all up front. There’s a hint of fruitiness that’s more like the fruity character of a hot pepper, which ties in with the peppery heat I’m tasting. [In fact, I would seriously guess that there are hot peppers of some sort in this beer. Not according to Stone, but still.] It has the bitter of a good super-dark chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied, very smooth and relatively mellow considering the complexity (and strength).

Overall: Bold, different, lots of complexity and richly curious. I like it, it’s creative and fun.

On BeerAdvocate, 15 reviews have already tallied up an overall grade of A-. On RateBeer, 20 reviews have scored it 3.6 out of 5, and so far it’s in the 81st percentile.