I felt like tasting a commerical beer, after a long, long day... I just got out of a night class. Somehow I grabbed Stone's 5th Vertical Epic beer. I've got two of them. I still have the one Cynthia got by cozying up to our hot waitress at the Stone beer dinner. I'm aging that one, along with a bottle of 4/4/04. And I think there's one other Stone beer kicking around the cellar. At the dinner we had it with something really good. I think some sort of squash or pumpkin soup. It worked really well. By itself, right now, I'm not wowed. These Stone offerings can be so hit-and-miss...
It's color is pretty close to my dubbel--it's got a little darker head which suggests more roasted malt. The nose is full of dense dried fruits, a light layer of Belgian yeast phenols, and some hints of roasted malt. On the palate it's heavy and caramelly, with barley-wine-like levels of caramel. I checked the homebrew recipe version of this released by the very hip Lee Chase (their head brewer) and it's got a fairly large amount of Caramel 150L, which is a wicked dark crystal malt. I think it's too much and that it'll be 12/12/12 before that even begins to age out, but I could be wrong.
I guess my gripe with this beer (and my gripe with a few other Stone beers) is the issue of heaviness. I'm all for heavy beer where appropriate... You need major depth in an imperial stout, richness in a barley wine, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah, but it needs to be done with balance. A beer like Westmalle Dubbel, or Chimay Blue, is, while being high alcohol and rich, nevertheless paradoxically light and peerlessly balanced--and I've drunk both of these within the last five days. This is not balanced. It's just kinda clunky. It operates on the logic that more is more. And more is not always more, as has been well established. I'm not knocking it totally--it's not a bad beer by any means, but I find it cloying and would not want to brew something similar. The finish lasts, like, twenty-five minutes and that's just not necessary. Use more sugar and less crystal malt and you'd probably have something.
I need an antidote... Down to the cellar...
O.K. Let me just say that, whatever that beer's good points. I _HATE_ the finish. It will NOT go away.
So I'm resorting to the palate-scrubbing power of hops, hence a bottle of Eastern Thing IPA, which I've not had in a while:
Lovely cob-webby head. Medicore clarity, but dry-hops will do that. Aroma is marked by resiny, grapefruity love--the glory of the whole-flower Chinook dry-hop mellowed into elegance by extended bottle aging. The palate is a touch over-carbonated and may need to sit another moment (this sometimes happens with older beers), but I like the quality of the hop flavor--a little rough, but vigorous and lively. This being a highly-hopped beer, the finish lingers, but it does so cleanly, not cloyingly, and the bitterness disipates nicely after a few moments. I feel better now.