THE END OF AN ERA, 12.12.12 is the last of the Vertical Epic series begun a decade ago. After releasing a beer each year on the calendar’s only symmetrical day, one might wonder what Stone has left to say after 10 years of strong seasonal ales. But then one might not know the first thing about Stone. These Californian icons are nothing if not confidently creative and this series has thoroughly earned its name. The final chapter takes form as a strong dark Belgian ale, perhaps classifiable as a Christmas beer for its robust spice profile, but not so conspicuously estery. A closer analogy might be what pumpkin ales wish they were.
Indeed, such additions as allspice and coriander are assertive in the nose (joined by some citric and earthy hops and moderately caramelized malts) as well as prominent early on the palate. Instead of turning to pumpkin ales heavy-handed sweetness, though, 12.12.12 counters its early flavors with coffee malts, a refreshing dose of bittering hops, and an unexpectedly crisp finish. An alcohol level of 9% can be guessed at—not for its presence but for the beer’s overall body and depth of flavor. Warming and piquantly spiced but still surprisingly digestible, 12.12.12 deftly bridges the gap between nearly all of winter’s offerings. Fie on Gregory XIII that his calendar only grants us a dozen months.
Served: On tap (Beer Hoptacular, Chicago)