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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stone Epic Festival: The Final Chapter

Not everyday you get up to
drink whales bro
December 12, 2012 (12.12.12) is a beer day that I’ll always remember.  Not only was I able to grab a brick of Westvleteren 12, pick up my Barrel Aged Speedway Stout and get my hands on my Eclipse Futures, it was also the last time for next 89 years that the month, day and end digits of the year we all be the same (look out January 01, 2101).  Stone Brewing Company has been celebrating this numerological alignment since 2002 by releasing a new Vertical Epic beer starting with Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale.  Each subsequent Stone Vertical Epic Ale was released one year, one month and one day apart with the long term plan of allowing the consumer to open them all side by side on 12.12.12.
Given their commitment the phenomenon it was no surprise that Stone decided to go out in a blaze of glory.  Not only did they help throw Vertical Epic celebrations across the county (Including one at Out of the Park Pizza) they also hosted an Epic Eve Dinner.  The main event however was their big blowout festival the Stone Epic Festival: The Final Chapter.  This was the only large event at Stone that included all 11 of Stone Vertical Epic Ales together. 
Grabbing a ticket gave me access to 3oz pours from every Stone Vertical Epic Ale in a commemorative glass. Food stations that paired unique dishes to each of all 11 VEAs (Yeah I abbreviated Vertical Epic Ale, you wanna fight about it) I enjoyed and Three 4oz samples of your choice from four additional barrel-aged and cask versions. Personally I viewed this as a once in a lifetime event and knew it was going to be straight up epic (you know VERTICALLY EPIC) so I pulled the pretty pricy trigger and bought tickets the day they went on sale. Apparently it was not as easy of a trigger to pull as it never sold out in fact you could buy tickets at the door.
Eric and Marshall gearing up
to take down Epic Ales
I was able to convince both my buddy Marshall and the indomitable Eric Hammond to join for this experience.  Marshall’s finance Christa even volunteered to be our DD with was epic in its own right as it really took a lot of outside pressure off of the situation.  We got there pretty early and did a little shopping in the store (I might have bought my wife a Christmas present there – I doubt typing this will spoil anything since I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read my blog). They had closed down there entire bistro and gardens which was fantastic as it really did create a “A gorgeous festival atmosphere” that allowed us to enjoy our beers and pairings at our own pace (great discussion Stone).
The event kicked off exactly at 12:12 pm with Stone CEO and co-founder Greg Koch leading the attendees in a final countdown.  Going in my crew decided that we would buck convention and not do it in the expected order of 02.02.02 to 12.12.12.  We even asked Dr Bill for some tasting order advise (he recommended making sure we spaced out those that paired well with desserts).  By splitting which 3 barrel-aged and cask versions each of us got we were able to try everything they were pouring.

Here’s the order we did it in (with notes)
  • Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Aged In Bourbon Barrels (Added it Untappd)
  • Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Ale (Wanted it do it back to back, the bourbon had covered up a lot)
  • Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale (Eric says I can hash tag it as a white whales bro. #WhiteWhalesBro. This was a real treat and was fantastically drinkable for an eleven year old Witbier)
  • Stone 05.05.05 Vertical Epic Ale
  • Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale (Great food pairing and really a nice winter warmer or Christmas beer)
  • Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale
  • Stone 06.06.06 Vertical Epic Ale Cask (A lot darker than Eric’s regular version)
  • Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale aged in Red Wine Barrels (Really unpleasant – pass)
  • Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale Cask
  • Stone 04.04.04 Vertical Epic Ale
  • Stone 04.04.04 Vertical Epic Ale Cask
  • Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale (Different than all the bottles of it I’ve had)
  • Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale aged in Red Wine Barrels
  • Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale
  • Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic w/ French Oak
  • Stone 06.06.06 Vertical Epic Ale
  • Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale Cask
  • Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale (enjoyable little (yeah right) pepper beer)
  • Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale
Most of the food paired great with the beer, I recall only one match that changed the taste of the beer for me in a negative way, but with the exception of that job well done. Also if you wanted to try one of the paired items again you were easily given a second helping. The festival atmosphere was great as was the pace we enjoyed it at, we never felt like we had to race to a station to get a pour of anything. In fact once everything was flowing within the first hour it became rare to wait in any line for any beer.  In addition to the great pairing stations by each tap location, they also set up to food stations filled with bread, cheese, fruit and the amazing bacon bread which paired with everything. I also got the chance to hang out with the hosts of one of my favorite webshows, New Brew Thursday, Stephen and John.  Stephen came back later and crushed at our table for a while, which was really cool as he had a bunch of great stories to share. 
Overall this gave the Firestone Invitational Beer Fest a run for the title of Best Run and Best Overall Beer Festival of 2012.  The really did create something special with this one.  In a big way it’s sad that this was a once in a lifetime event because I would love to do it again.  Was it pricy? Yes. Was it worth it? Hell Yes!



  1. Of course I read your blog... so did you get me a new t-shirt?

    1. New brewing shirt... very nice. Thank you!


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