Stone Brewing's doing this -- oh hell, you all know what the Stone Vertical Epic is. I'm not telling you something you don't know, except I will reinforce that it's a thing of real scope and genius. Anyway, Stone sent me a sample bottle of 09.09.09, and I got it today, and for once, I'm not forgetting or hoarding, I'm drinking. Here's what I "tweeted" (and I put it in "quotes" because I think the word's "stupid", not because I didn't know what it meant, or because I thought you might not) about it:
Stone Vertical Epic 09.09.09 is black, smells of roast malt and sweet orange, roasted bitterness, not heavy, and just slightly medicinal... it's like an herbal tonic. Stone says: "Belgian porter." Reminds me strongly of the Ellezelloise Hercule Stout.
That's actually pretty high praise -- I really like the Hercule Stout -- but it makes me wonder: has Stone, in brewing this beer, created a style? Will there be more? Will the GABF include a "Cali-Belgian-style Porter or Other Dark Ale" category in their continuing efforts to suck up to the brewers of California?
Yeah, I'm a bit burnt about the whole "style" thing lately. This isn't a "style," and if there isn't a "style" that contains a beer like this so that contests can "judge" it and award it a "medal"... Well, that's a flaw in the whole idea of contests. And it can't be fixed by adding more semi-styles.
Back to the beer. Cathy went to bed, so I'm stealing hers. I'm picking up some unsweetened chocolate as it warms up, and a bit more malt sweetness under the overlying draw. The finish hangs in the mouth -- black coffee, maybe grounds -- but is refreshed with each sip as that sweet orange hits and fades, leaving the dry roasty bitterness. Good stuff, and hats off to the brewers.
This isn't an easy beer. It's not expected (well, unless someone said, "Hey, try this, it's a lot like Hercule Stout!"), it's not bitter or funky or super-strong. It's probably not something you'd move to just after mastering Samuel Adams. But it's very well-made (as should be expected from Stone these days), it's intriguing, and it's unlike 99+% of other beers. For a once-a-year one-off release? That's perfect.