Despite the huge buzz surrounding its release and the numerological neatness of its name, Stone Brewing Company’s 12.12.12 may have gotten somewhat of a short shrift. As the last offering in the 10-year-long Vertical Epic project by the Southern California brewery, the Belgian Strong Dark Ale was first tasted by many as the final sip in a flight or tasting dinner. Even the most seasoned beer aficionados might find it tough to be discerning after a series of up to nine other Stone brews, all of which ring in at relatively high alcohol content.
Happily, 12.12.12 is now widely available on tap and in 22-oz. bottles around the country, and this reviewer had a chance to revisit the beer for a more memorable pint. Extremely memorable, in fact — this is an extremely intense glass of suds, and might even benefit from another year of aging on its own.
The beer pours a velvety black with a thick, beige-head. Scents of spice hit your nose before it even gets close to the glass, thanks to a heaping helping of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, orange peel and rosehips (the last having been crushed with a forklift in order to pulverize them before brewing). “Nope, certainly do NOT remember this one from the tasting dinner,” was our comment to the bartender who served it for our review.
Strong as the nose seems, the taste is not overwhelming or cloying, helped by an extremely dry finish. You can’t have an aversion to gingerbread cookies or molasses to enjoy sips of the brew, and the liquid lays heavy on the tongue at first, but after a swallow and a breath, no unpleasant aftertaste lingers. It’s surprisingly easy to finish your pour, especially if you pair the beer with a salty cheese or unctuous charcuterie.
This isn’t a beer you would drink every day, or even more than once a year, but as the finale in an unprecedented vertical tasting experiment, 12.12.12 is worth seeking out. Who knows, perhaps Stone will figure out a way to wrangle a 13.13.13 out of the calendar someday soon.
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