San Diego Trip Giveaway Header

Stone Vertical Epic at City Tap House: A Belgian Beer Journey With a Charitable Finish [PHOTOS]

by The Drink Nation on Jan 14, 2013 in Beer
Stone Vertical Epic at City Tap House: A Belgian Beer Journey With a Charitable Finish [PHOTOS]

Back in 2001, as the American craft beer scene was undergoing its first modern explosion, Stone Brewing CEO and co-founder Greg Koch had a novel idea: his Escondido brewery would create one beer each year for the next 12 years, aging each vintage in preparation for a vertical tasting like none other before it. The Stone Vertical Epic project began on January 1, 2001, and the first in the series was released one year, one month and one day later as 02.02.02.

Visionary as Koch was, only around 300 cases of the 02.02.02 were brewed (less than 15 barrels), as Stone was much smaller back then. As the U.S. craft beer movement picked up steam, each subsequent year saw a larger release, and the potential of the multi-year tasting became apparent. The effort finally culminated this past December with much fanfare and the release of 12.12.12. We had the opportunity to try samples of almost every beer in the series at a dinner at West Philadelphia’s City Tap House. (The 02.02.02 and 05.05.05 were missing.)

Stone representative Lee Marren led the assembled beer fans through the tasting, noting that kegs of each vintage had been kept cold and away from light since its release, the better to stand up to the wearing effects of time. Though the beers were designed to be aged, he warned that there are “no money back guarantees,” and some of the beers might have aged better than others.

Thus prepared for whatever came next, guests readied to sample the six-ounce pours of the suds along with special food pairings designed by sous chef Pete O’Donnell. Diners sailed through the courses with pleasure. At the end of the meal, City Tap House beverage director Andy Farrell decided to hold an impromptu chairty auction for the few left over growlers of the Vertical Epic vintages. After starting bidding at $25 each, he eventually raised a total of $1,835, which was donated to the Ronald McDonald House around the corner. Happy drinkers made for generous giving.

Why was everyone so happy by the end of the meal? The fact that none of the beers was lower than 8% ABV might have had something to do with it, but the pairings were well-considered and the food was tasty. Here’s how it all went down.

First Course: Lukcy Basartd + Scallop and Shrimp Ceviche
In place of the starting Epic vintage, Marren and Farrell served this 8.5% ABV limited release, an anniversary blend of several the brewery’s Arrogant Bastard ales, including two aged varieties. The deep malt and strong citrus hoppy notes were a great accompaniment to the snappy seafood, which itself was spiced up with a slice of fresh jalapeno.

Second Course: 03.03.03 + Beef Taquitas
A wheat beer is usually rather light on the palate, but after 10 years of aging, this dark-and-pale hybrid Belgian witbier offered a strong cigar nose. The flavor dissipated quickly and the head was non-existent, but the brew was bold enough to overpower the crunchy beef tortilla.

Third Course: 04.04.04 + Mushroom Duxelle Toast
Much more vibrant than its predecessor, this beer brewed with Kaffir lime effused bubble gum notes. It’s fruity banana esters were a good foil for the earthy wild mushrooms and pungent asparagus in the pairing.

Fourth Course: 05.05.05-Inspired Gelato
Lacking a keg of this vintage, City Tap House invited neighbor gelateria Capogiro to create a palate cleanser inspired by the beer, which was a dark, chocolatey affair. The iced treat was extremely rich, with spiced Mexican chocolate for a not-too-sweet finish.

Fifth Course: 06.06.06 + Oysters on the Half Shell
This was our favorite pairing of the entire event. Six years appears to be a sweet spot for aging beer, if the resulting brew from 2006’s vintage can be used as a guide. Trappist yeasts were used to create a strong dark ale with a funky character that was enhanced with age. A sweet, almost chocolatey Beau Soleil oyster was a sublime match, and the Kumamoto oyster went down just as easily.

Sixth Course: 07.07.07 + Mediterranean Lamb Meatball
Full of ginger and citrus notes, this strong pale ale was fruity and refreshing, even after its extra years in the cellar. Good thing, because the harissa aioli that accompanied the spicy lamb meatball was nearly overwhelming (though pleasant) in flavor.

Seventh Course: 08.08.08 + Onion Quesadilla
This Belgian IPA lived up to its billing, and was the most hoppy of any of the Epic beers we tasted. “People didn’t think this one would hold up well, because of the hops,” Marren noted, but people were wrong. Plenty of spice and perky flavor made a good pairing for the slightly sweet onion agrodolce melted with cheese between tortillas.

Eighth Course: 09.09.09 + Pastrami Slider
Like a boozy stout, this vintage was black and had toasty notes underlaid by vanilla. The subtleties were nearly lost behind the strong spice of the miniature pastrami burger, served on rye toasts, but the beer provided a welcome clean finish nonetheless.

[Mea culpa: this photo is missing. Blame a great beer buzz.]

Ninth Course: 10.10.10 + Grilled Squid
This golden tripel drank nearly like a wine, and it’s no wonder: the beer was mixed with fresh Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat and Gewurztraminer grape juices along with dried chamomile. The liquid did pair well with the marinated squid, which was served with a pomegranate gastrique.

Tenth Course: 11.11.11 + White Bean Cassoulet
Real green chiles didn’t have time to mellow in this brew, a strong pale ale that also included cinnamon and clove. The spiciness was welcome, however, and did well with a the very rich and creamy bean soup.

Eleventh Course: 12.12.12 + Manchego Cheese Crostini
“Tastes like Christmas,” read our personal tasting notes from this vintage, which we’re ultra impressed were still legible after the epic repast that came before it. Huge clove and cinnamon notes were complemented by a very dry finish that washed down the cheese and toast with style.

Photos by Danya Henninger

Recent Articles
Home Bar Project Below Features


How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

Move Over Cat Cafes, London is Getting an Owl Bar

Move Over Cat Cafes, London is Getting an Owl Bar

Soho, London is getting an owl bar pop-up, and it might be the best thing ever. more ›

by Kate Monzo Feb 26, 2015
Home Bar Project: How to Make a Sands Cocktail

Home Bar Project: How to Make a Sands Cocktail

Have you ever dreamed of having an amazing home bar, filled with bottles you actually use and the tools you need to execute a finely crafted cocktail? more ›

by The Drink Nation Feb 24, 2015
Get a Sneak Peek at the New Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton

Get a Sneak Peek at the New Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton

Drink Denver got a sneak peek of the new Breckenridge Brewery taking shape in Littleton. more ›

by Carrie Dow Feb 24, 2015
Perennial Funding - rectangle
Top 20 Drinking Quotes of All Time

Top 20 Drinking Quotes of All Time

Writers and musicians have a long, storied history with alcohol, and that intimacy with the bottle shows through in the memorable lines these artists more ›

by Jenny An Sep 3, 2013
Where to Get the Most Booze for Your Buck: NYC's Best Bottomless Brunches

Where to Get the Most Booze for Your Buck: NYC's Best Bottomless Brunches

Is there anything better than enjoying a good, cheap bottomless brunch? more ›

by Jessica Klein Feb 23, 2015
Benedict Cumberbatch Whips Out Flask at The Oscars
by The Drink Nation Feb 23, 2015
23 New Bars and Restaurants We Can't Wait to Visit in 2015

23 New Bars and Restaurants We Can't Wait to Visit in 2015

New bars and restaurants are popping up all over the place, and we can't wait to try them more ›

by Jennifer Waldera Feb 23, 2015
Denver's Best Coffee Shops and Cafes

Denver's Best Coffee Shops and Cafes

"I have measured out my life in coffee spoons..." more ›

by Carrie Dow Feb 23, 2015
Portland's Best Bars for Day Drinking

Portland's Best Bars for Day Drinking

You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning. These bars are open early to meet all of your day drinking needs. more ›

by Alexander Frane Feb 20, 2015
Pair Wine Like a Pro with the Help of These Apps

Pair Wine Like a Pro with the Help of These Apps

VinePair's apps simplify the wine pairing process. more ›

by Kate Monzo Feb 19, 2015
Read The Drink Nation Anywhere You Are
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!