Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale - Stone Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic AleStone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

195 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 195
Hads: 286
Avg: 3.92
pDev: 17.09%
Wants: 89
Gots: 48 | FT: 5
Brewed by:
Stone Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Belgian Strong Dark Ale |  8.50% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: kbub6f on 03-03-2003

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

A new Vertical Epic will be released every year, with the goal being to collect them all and have a Vertical Epic tasting once the final Epic is released on 12/12/12. Each new Stone Vertical Epic Ale will be release one YEAR, one MONTH and one DAY apart. With Vertical Epic 03/03/03, we used some pretty interesting ingredients...coriander (a "Belgian-style" beer favorite!), alligator pepper (wow, bite into these little gems and you get a bigtime spicy rush of flavor), and a bit of both unmalted wheat and dark roasted wheat. And a blend of Belgian yeast and American ale yeast. And a nice selection of high alpha hops (a decidedly non-Belgian style twist). All told it makes for a dubble-ish taken-to-San-Diego-pushed-to-the-edge-and-slapped-around-a-bit beer. So, treat it gently. It's been abused enough already. Store it upright, cool and in the dark. It would enjoy a nice long rest. It will have plenty of patience. Now let's see about you ... In addition, we are pleased to provide the homebrewing recipe: 
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale Alström Bros
Reviews: 195 | Hads: 286
Photo of Rastacouere
3.43/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Clear garnet reflected medium brown. Head is thin and not lasting. Strong aroma, nostrils burning strawberries soaked in cinzano. Generous maltiness didn’t miss the flight in the chocolate and marzipan kingdom. Peppery and nutty with a fitting dryness. Remarkable well controlled basic flavors (bitterness, sweetness and acidity) by Stone’s standards. Medium bodied with moderately high carbonation. Very good take on the style if not for the remaining heat after almost 2 years and perhaps lacking in appearance and palate.

 526 characters

Photo of rousee
4.36/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ok--having this for 2nd time. Tried it before at BBF and thought the 2003 was 5 X better than the 04. That's why I bought it. Both are excellent but 03 seems to be considerably better --maybe the 04 will be better in a year..who knows? and this is a good example of why Stone is so highly regarded as a brewery--not only by me but by many others..

A-It pours a caramel brown -small head-no lace to speak of.
S-is a very malty -fruity--almost berry-like aroma. I guess these berries are hops that have aged properly.
T-is a sweet up-front-then malty --then hoppy then alcohol esters then some nice nuttiness. real nice taste--I'm upgrading to 5 cuz for the style it deserves it. I'm not a big brown ale fan but this one is exceptional.
MF--real positve mouthfeel. A fuzzy numbness which is very pleasant is goin' on.
D- nothing too hot here--1 bomber is plenty.

 867 characters

Photo of BeerBuilder
3.97/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours to a murky brown color with a tan head that reduces to a ring. The aroma is super malty, with a peppery, spicy smell too. I get a bit a diacetyl too. It has an alcohol aroma as well. The flavor is malty, and bready sweet. It reminds me so much of third coast old ale. It seems more like an old ale. Tasty, thanks so much to Fantome for this brew.

 352 characters

Photo of orbitalr0x
4.35/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've been waiting to try this one for awhile now. Pours from the bomber a deep reddish brown with a nice two finger bubbly off white head. A mix of deep caramel, pepper, clove and some banana. Quite inticing.

A nice mix of sweet caramely banana bread flavors infused with spicy, peppery nuances and hints of earthy yeast. Well balanced with a nice mellow citrus hop biterness on the back of the palate.

A super creamy, lush full body that makes it a joy to drink. Good complex flavor keeps me coming back for more...drinkability is very good here. Another enjoyable brew from Stone...I look forward to seeing how this one will hold up. Thanks to bigbeerdrinka and ppoitras for the chance to sample and cellar this one.

 726 characters

Photo of RBorsato
3.5/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Rich mahogany color with a moderate beige head and little to no carbonation evident but leaves some lace. Strong malty barleywine-ish type aroma with a light spice aroma (coriander?). Barleywine-like flavors dominate with not much else; not very Belgian at all but balanced well enough. Full bodied, smooth and creamy with a strong bitter finish.

Pass on this one and buy a good barleywine instead .. Just above average and more like a "3.3" in keeping with the theme... :-)

Per Bottle: Limited 2,500 Case Release

Per Stone website:
Starting gravity = 19 Plato (1.078sg)
Finishing gravity = 3.5 Plato(1.014sg)
ABV = 8.2 %
IBU = 48
Pale 2-row barley 89.45%, Unmalted wheat (red soft winter, flaked) 6.8%, Special B 2.5%, Chocolate wheat malt 1.25%.
Warrior (17.8%aa, .666oz in boil)
Centennial hops (.2oz for dry hop)
Alligator Pepper (aka Grains of Paradise, or Paradise seed)
Abbey Yeast strain 500 from White Labs & American Yeast strain

Brewed: 03/03/03
Tasted: 12/01/04

($6.99 / 22 oz.)

 1,043 characters

Photo of danadeny
3.92/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A cloudy light brown color and small head. Big smell of bread dough. A little pilsner hop and a fruit that i smell often in barely wines. Fisrt i notice that it is a hint like a barely wine, overall it is mellow. Hides the alcohol very well. Mild spicy hop finish, with little aftertase. Like a 1/3 barley wine and 1/3 pilsner and 1/3 scotch ale.

 346 characters

Photo of carln26
3.75/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured a deep garnet/mahogany, with a mild head (off-white in color). A gentle lace slides down the glass after a sip. The aroma has some malt aroma, caramel, maybe ribbon candy with just a touch of flowery hops. The taste has a mild alcohol flavor with malt, malt and more alcohol. The malt has a roasted nut edge to it. The hops do make themselves felt towards the end of the drink. This is a big beer with a medium/heavy mouth feel. Pretty drinkable, but the strength is felt, and could get you in trouble if you’re not careful. Not a session beer, but a good one for 1 or 2.

 579 characters

Photo of bigbeerdrinka
4.09/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed on 09/07/04..

This brew poured a deep brown chestnut like color with mahogony and ruby hues. A dense offwhite head forms showing off a nice carbonation which laces the glass majestically. Aromas are a bit faint in this brew.. (though I've never tried it fresh its truly hard to pick up much of a bouquet in this one). Of what's left of the aromas, I found there to be bits of carob and cocoa, a hint of spice (maybe coriander) and an almost nutty character to it. Other than that my nose could not pick up much else. For flavor this beer packs a much bigger punch than its aromatic qualities. Initial flavors are of carob and an almost slight smoky characteristic. These flavors are quickly masked by a scotch like raisiny flavor, some brown sugar sweetness, a bit of spice, and a bit of a phenolic flavor from the yeasties. The final tones of this brew show off an almost cherry like flavor which is only slightly subdued, a warm alcohol, and a nice dry finish. The carbonation to this brew is quite crisp for being nearly a year old, while the mouthfeel is just a bit on the thin side. Overall this brew has amazing flavors, though its aromatic qualities have not kept up as well IMHO, but for anyone who is aging these bad boys, i would only give them another 6 months.. I don't see how this one would hold up the last 9 years of the Vertical Epic series.

 1,370 characters

Photo of beerceller99
3.97/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz. bottle Sampled Nov. 2003
Pours a copper color with a decent head, but left no lacing behind.Mostly a caramel spicy smell. Strong sweet taste of burnt caramels and brown sugar followed by Stone's signature hop character though a very mild version of it.Medium body with a decent mouthfeel .Finishes with a warming, spicy-alcohol tang. Not a typically hoppy Stone brew.

 382 characters

Photo of winomark
3.52/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Mdium brown with a slight red hue. Soft, fluffy light tan head. Good malt and candy sugar aromas. Some smoked/toasted notes also there. Very inviting. Spicy (pepper?) upfront and sweetness in the mid-palate. Finish has the coriander flavor, and is long and dry. Flavorful and coating mouthfeel. Slightly cloying upfront, but son drys. A very intruguing beer. Wish I could have remembered what it tasted like 17 months ago. I hope my other bottles have th elongevity to show well through 2012.

 492 characters

Photo of fdrich29
4.14/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1 Pint, 6fl. oz bottle. "Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic ALe" Limited 2500 Case Release.

Just by reading the blurb on the side of the bottle you know there's a lot going on with this special beer. Some of the ingredients are listed on the bottle and they include coriander, alligator pepper, unmalted and dark roasted wheat, high alpha hops and Belgian and AMerican ale yeast. Ummm...WOW.

Head rises up and forms quite quickly into a large head but shrinks down to the width of a few pieces of paper just as fast. Leaves rings of lacing around the glass.

As the list of some of the ingredients would lead you to believe, the smell of this bad boy is mind blowing. So much going on I just had to smell it for a few minutes to soak it all in.

Tastes distinctly Stone, and as also stated on the bottle shares some characteristics wtih dubble style.

Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, very fun to drink.

Easily drinkable, so fight the temptation and cellar a few of these for down the road.

 1,000 characters

Photo of TinusTime
3.43/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ok I might be the only one, but to me the Verticals just dont stack up. It pours the colour of a light Dr.Pepper and smells of Spice and animal feet. Well and a little hops and malt. The taste is just kinda dull. Im glad I have 4 more of these to see how they turn out.. As for now I would rather drink Allagash 4 or triple to get my expense on.. Its good but not that good.. YET.. Oh well at least in 10 years i dont want the reast the beer knurds will be beggin for them.. God bless you EBAY

 493 characters

Photo of MuddyFeet
4.07/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a dark, dirty amber in color with no head at all. Thus, no lace at all. The aroma is of mild malts that hit the palate stronger than expected. Underneath the malts are hints of coffee and some sort of nut (hazelnut perhaps?). The beer was relatively flat (but that may have been due to my roomate leaving the firdge open for a few hours, beer was still cold but not as cold as if the door had been closed). I think the warmer temperatures brought out more of the flavors. It was very smooth drinking, but almost too bold and rich to enjoy more than two bomber bottles of this stuff.

 589 characters

Photo of RockyTopHeel
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark mahogany in appearance with little to no head and malty, distinctly Belgian aromas.

Flavor (mostly typically Belgian, with sweetness and malts intersperced with wheat tones and a nice, round mouthfeel) is very good now, but I'm willing to bet only a foreshadowing of what this brew will become down the road.

Right now, it seems a little young and fresh, and needs some character development...

 406 characters

Photo of RocketWidget
3.43/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

The bottle states “Designed to be aged until sometime after December 12th, 2012”. Well, patience may be a virtue, but it’s certainly not one of mine…

I don’t really know what to make of this stuff. Pours a cloudy brown amber, with hints of red. Head is off white and relatively long lasting, clings to the glass. The bottle claims this brew has coriander and alligator pepper, and I think I can detect those smells, because whatever it is I’m smelling it’s not the smell of a typical brew. Taste is…unique, for lack of a better word. I can taste the pepper here, along with slight hops and malt profile. But this beer is heavy, and not in a good way. Hard to drink, and not very rewarding. This was a good try, but I won’t be buying this again…unless, I suppose, in 2013 someone offers to sell me the full set of vertical epics. But that’s pretty unlikely.

 870 characters

Photo of rugger
3.99/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This is clearly another big beer from Stone Brewing co. however as they suggest it should be aged for a few years. You can taste the sweetness in it that is a little overbearing, however overall for the style and what it is supposed to be it is right on the money. Seeing as how Stone's beers are not available in my state or the surrounding states I will have to wait before I get any more of their beers. I did not know the story behind the beer when I bought it so I only bought one. If I knew the story I would have gotten two so that I could cellar one. I did see one on ebay the other day that I may go try to find. This beer looks good smells complex and has an even better story and homebrew competition to back it up. Hopefully I can find another one.

 760 characters

Photo of iokals
4.54/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Deep brown with gold tones in light. Small, quickly dissipating white head.

Aroma: Fantastic spicy plum aroma with a hint of pepper

Taste: Rich and full, sweet with a subtle alcohol bite on the back end. The plum aroma lends the subtle taste of that plum to the sweetness. Coriander spiciness balances well

Mouthfeel: Heavy, but not syrupy.

Overall: An excellent entry that hopefully will continue to age well (as I have more in the basement). Only problem (while very minor) is that the last couple sips were a bit more difficult than the first; owing to the thickness. Too bad they don't have 20 oz. bottles.

 635 characters

Photo of cbl2
4.35/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5


A hazy orange brown with a nice inch thick tan white head.


Very intriguing. Aroma is muted, subtle, though extremely complex. The coriander and pepper promised on the label shine here. Can't wait to taste.


I was scared of Stone after Arrogant Bastard, but this is amazing. The pepper dances on the tongue, and the coriander subtly reminds you of the belgium influence on this decidedly american ale. Cellaring without drinking will be tough!

 492 characters

Photo of Billolick
4.37/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Some say the stone brews are over rated. I disagree. Every stone I try, blows me away. This one was no differant. Bomber bottle. Poured dark and cloudy. Strong nose of phenolics, yeast and spice. Rich flavorful brew, vanilla, yeast, leather. malty and strong. This one left intricate lace. Very enjoyable, style buster. Strong, rich, intense flavors. seek out, store if you can. Enjoy this classy sipper.

 404 characters

Photo of lou91
4.03/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer was very alive as I popped the cap and poured it. It had a nice thick head and a beautiful amber brown color - the head almost sparkled. The nose was also nice with sweet notes characteristic of the style. Great tastes of figs, malt, honey with pleasant alcohol warmth. The taste is crisp and clean with a drying tartness in the finish. Humm, it is hard to predict how this will taste in eight years but I would have made these first beers much heartier than 8.5%. Still this is a great American style Belgian beer.

 525 characters

Photo of jvajda
4.13/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Dark brown with a large, creamy, white head.
Smell: A wine-like sourness makes the smell pretty intimidating.
Taste: Much easier than the smell. This is one of the most complex brews I've ever had. I taste figs, bananas, even nuts. The alcohol is pretty well hidden. Has a somewhat dry finish.
Mouthfeel: Perfectly carbonated and slightly creamy, this brew is welcome in the mouth.
Drinkability: Much more forgiving than other strong ales, this one can be appreciated by a wider audience. I plan on picking up a few more bottle to age.

 551 characters

Photo of RedDiamond
4.31/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Full-bodied malty aroma with lush fruity complexity. A truly profound smell. Has all the plums and figs of a Dickens novel. Pours a deep red-chestnut brown with little floaty yeasties and very soft carbonation that crafts a silky head. Pour it slowly to avert that slurry of yeast particles.

The taste expounds upon the smell and includes a mad spice rack of flavors that hint at nutmeg, allspice, and a chairlift ride up the sugar candy mountain. There’s also an alcohol edge to the taste. I’m not mad about the finish which is a little torn or fragmented, but I’m willing to give it another eight years or so to round out a bit.
This is a heavy, deliberate brew that improves notably at room temperature.

 720 characters

Photo of kennyo
4.42/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Brownish/copper color, hazy. Thin rising carbonation bubble stream. Pours with a nice head but disipates fairly quick until there is no head at all.

Aroma - Malty, sweet, slight alcohol

Taste - Sweet, malty, a little homebrewish. hoppy but not up to normal Stone brews. A little spicy on the back of the throat, alligator peppers???

 338 characters

Photo of FranklinPCombs
4.23/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a nice murky golden brown with a little bit of smooth foamy head, and very little lace. The smell was very bready (specifically pumpernickle), some fruity smells, including raisins and figs, a distinct peppery smell as well. An interesting musty fungus smell was there too, along with the backdrop of yeast and malt, with a touch of hops. Taste was pleasantly sweet, and very peppery. It had a bitter hoppy end with some subtle fig and plum notes and that same odd musty taste, which was not at all unpleasant, just unexpected. The mouthfeel was relatively smooth and light, with tiny yet sharp biting bubbles of carbonation. The alcohol became more apparent as the night wore on, of course. I broke out this beer with my brother as part of a kind of double hitter. He brought the Epic, and I brought the Double Bastard that I had been aging for a few months. Great beer to go along with the DB.

 902 characters

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.05/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale is one of the first quality beers that I bought. I immediately wrapped all four bombers in brown paper and put them in the back row of my beer fridge, mostly because I wanted to acquire more experience before drinking and reviewing such an 'Epic' brew. I am bound and determined to save at least one of my stash until 2012, but the time has come to drink my first beer in this series. I can barely wait to get the cap off.

Lucent copper with a reddish tint. The head is large, toasted tan in color and stiff/pitting. Despite the sticky appearance of the crown, not much lace is deposited; small ragged sheets and broken rings is all. Very un-Stone-like, but I'm sure that the high ABV and the relative lack of hops has a lot to do with it.

The nose was a bit of a letdown, until I reminded myself that this isn't one of Stone's hop monsters. It smells primarily of roasted, toasted caramel malt and is fruity and spicy. It's more restrained than I'd hoped, but it should open up with warming (it does).

The flavor follows the nose pretty closely: heavily toasted caramel malt with a solid up-front spiciness and undercurrents of fruitiness. A generous quantity of malt gives it a solid, bready, almost cake-like sweetness and the full, expansive mouthfeel contributes to the sense of richness. Dates and figs are at the head of the fruit parade, but I also appreciate apples; apple cider more specifically.

There's also that earthy, funky quality that comes with the use of Belgian yeast. The flavor really comes into its own with warming. The middle is now dominated by coriander and clove and the long finish by grains of paradise. It also has a phenolic character that reminds me of one of my favorite Scotch Whiskies--Lagavulin 16 year old.

Given my love affair with all things Stone, 03.03.03 can only be classified as a letdown. It isn't that they've done a bad job here, far from it. It's just that this is a style that doesn't overly appeal to me, so my enjoyment is necessarily limited. I'm glad that I have three more bottles stored away, but I won't be dreaming of them the way that I dream of this brewery's other beers.

 2,180 characters

Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale from Stone Brewing Co.
88 out of 100 based on 195 ratings.