Since 2002, Stone Brewing Company of Escondido, CA, has been brewing special bottle-conditioned beers every year (02.02.02, 03.03.03, etc.) as part of the Vertical Epic series. The idea is, you’re supposed to purchase each release, age it accordingly and consume all the beers together in a vertical tasting on December 12, 2012-provided you can wait that long.
With its composition as a Strong Belgian Ale, Stone 07.07.07 is consistent with past releases. However, this year’s variation is a Saison/Tripel hybrid brewed with four different malts and a blend of Glacier and Crystal hops. It’s then spiced with ginger, cardamom and the peels of grapefruits, lemons and oranges.
Another twist is that unlike past releases, 07.07.07 has practically zero hype around it. To our knowledge, Stone didn’t send out a press release, posted limited tasting notes and has yet to post their homebrew clone recipe. It’s a curiously quiet approach, but then again, Stone doesn’t advertise and consistently relies on viral word-of-mouth promotion of their beers. So is it worthy of any hype? Let’s find out.
We pour the ale into a Belgian-style Cervoise glass. Deep gold in color, with rich, bright amber hues; it’s topped with a healthy, creamy, white foam that laces and sticks well. Smells like a fruit cup with a powdery, slightly metallic background, as well as a soft floral bouquet and some distinct cardamom notes. Creamy on the palate: smooth, medium-bodied, rounded. A tad lackluster, though, due to a thin carbonation edge-the mouthfeel’s a bit thicker than expected. Tastes nice up front, with the zing of ginger and smack of citrus. Kind of sweet, with some toasty, bready malt notes, a hint of caramel and a light fruity ester that sits on a base of (somewhat) tamed cardamom. Some gummy notes in the middle. Spicy, peppery alcohol gives bite and warmth. Finish is quite dry, with a bready, earthy linger.
While this is a most interesting combination of the distinctive Saison and Tripel styles, 07.07.07 is not the strongest of the Vertical Epic series. Though the cardamom was probably used gingerly (sorry, we couldn’t resist), it just doesn’t work for us-cardamom is pretty damn aggressive. A better approach would have been to remove the strong offender and allow the nuances from the Belgian yeast to shine (no need for spices most of the time). Plus, it would have given more of a stage to the ginger and Southern California’s industrious citrus. It’s also lacking the light-bodied effervescence and dryness found in both styles. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if this beer smoothes out and improves with age.
Stone 07.07.07 weighs in at 8.4 percent alcohol by volume and is available for a very limited time. Buy two-drink one and age the other.
FOR MORE INFO: STONEBREW.COM
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