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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:  http://stonebrew.com/timeline/030303 
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 taez555
3.98/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I was very curious about this beer after reading about the competition for homebrewers on their website. They have all the ingredients listed as well as the proper procedure for making it. So I was excited to see it on the shelf to give it to a try, to see if I might try making it for my next batch.

It poured a brown/ruby mahogony color with a very fine bubbled but thick tan head. It took it's time to die down over the course of a few minutes.

The nose was very subtle. Even after swirling for a bit and letting it warm up it still was very soft. What I could make out though were the classic belgian smells. Subtle fruit and spices.

The initial taste was very soft also. Some light roasty flavors. A nice bit of grape, plum, maybe even some apple fruit flavors.

What was really impressive about this beer was the finish. The first sip is soft but then as it tapers off you get this beautiful bump where you get hit with a bitter floral grapefruit hop and black pepper taste. The thing is, at no time is it ever overpowering. Full hop and pepper taste, but soft.

Overall it's a very smooth beer from start to finish. A little sublte, but a great belgian ale for a non belgian ale. I was a bit surprised to learn by reading at the website that this beer is made with half belgian yeast and half american yeast. It definately leans heavily towards the belgian side. Overall a really nice easy to drink beer. I am a big fan of the pepper kick at the end.

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Photo of AtLagerHeads
3.9/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Certainly this beer will get better with age and cellaring. As it now stands it is a lesser Stone beer which is to say that it is very good, but not great. The look is of dark amber to mahogany with a lively tan head and good lacing.

The nose is complex with much going on and hinting of rich malt, spices, yeast, and some hopping. The aroma is substantial and foretells that this also is going to be complex in flavor, and it is. The predominant flavor to my mind is the base malt sweetness, followed by hints of spice and then more hop flavor than the style would normally denote. These flavors seem less integrated than they would in most beers and I belive that this is where the aging process will begin to tell another tale each year in the future.

The feel is creamy and rich feeling, more filling than a highly drinkable beer should be and the alcohol level further limts this dimension. I look forward to many more tastings of this in the future when it will have matured from a very good beer to a great beer. I sure hope so given the number of bottles I've put back.

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Photo of BeerResearcher
4.43/5  rDev +13%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A dark amber body lies beneath an impressive beige head. The lace sticks in places, but mostly slides down atop the remaining thin coat. A candy cane, wheat malt, hop and alcohol aroma lasts in moderation throughout the glass. The rich and creamy body is caramel sweet. Complex flavors of toffee, roasted malt, molasses and camphor are quite forward. Spicy hop and some grapefruit bitterness blend in well with the large and deep body. The flavors blend more evenly as it warms. Additional flavors reminiscent of sherry, rum and bananas begin to appear. The omni-present alcohol, while fairly potent, never overwhelms. I saved one for the recommended opening on Dec. 12, 2012...providing I live that I long. In the event I don't; first come first serve!

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Photo of AlexJ
3.95/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A nice surprise at a friend's BBQ last weekend, this Epic pours a dark, rusty garnet color with a beige collar that lasts well in spite of it's higher abv.

Aroma is rather authentic in it's Belgian attributes when sampled cold; dark fruit, toffee, and musty yeast notes with plenty of dark berry. As it warms, more of the caramel, cocoa, and hoppy notes come out.

Flavor follows a similar structure; great overripe dark fruit, strawberry, and dry woody earthiness slowly fades to rich caramel , chocolate and light coffee bitterness. It's plenty hoppy as i expected. I don't know what Alligator pepper is but I don't taste it at all. Alcohol tastes higher than the claimed 8.5%, although it's not hot. Strange, but still good.

Body is pretty big, with a chewy mouthfeel that is more akin to a barleywine. I prefer a more effervescent BSDA.

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Photo of Westsidethreat
3.2/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On tap at Stone Winter Storm

A: Full creamy light tan head spreads out across a burnt umber toffee colored body. There is no bubble activity going on inside the body what so ever.

S: Subtle toffee with a coffee candy approach to it.

T: Subdued caramel and butterscotch with hints of lemon and grapefruit. Slightly cloying across the palate like a candy would be. Finishes with nips of honey and red apple.

M: Medium body with a bit of prickly carbonation.

D: This one was past its prime. Most of the desirable flavors had left the party.

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Photo of Treebs
2.58/5  rDev -34.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 2.5

22 oz. bottle served in a CCB snifter.

A: Pours a hazy dark amber color with some brown in the body. A thin, light tan head forms on the pour and recedes at a normal pace.

S: Dark fruit with a light over-cooked caramel. Some artificial chocolate notes, almost like a Tootsie Roll.

T: The taste really shows the oxidation, it wasn't that prevalent in the nose. Light paper, stale saltine crackers, medium sweetness and light Tootsie Roll.

M: Medium bodied with a medium carbonation level. The carbonation saves this one form being a complete drain pour.

O: This one didn't stand up as well as the 02.02.02. It was alright, but it had an old artificial flavor to it that didn't sit well with me.

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Photo of SixpointJMH
3.85/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

pours a slightly cloudy amber colour with a nice creamy, thick off-white head. very sticky with nice lacing. the smell is of butter, caramel fruit (mostly berries), bread and molasses. quite complex and quite nice. the taste simply lacks the complexity of the smell. tastes very "young" so to speak (which is understandable as this brew is set to mature properly 9 years from now) and the alcohol which was barely noticeable in the smell simple overpowers everything else here. it's warmth is nice but it's domintant flavour is not. whilst still enjoyable, hopefully this one gets better with age.

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Photo of goodbyeohio
4.04/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

this beer pours a dark ruby color with some slight head to it, not much. looks rich like a barleywine, but pours thin. reminds me of a fine wine.

smells of dark, roasted malts. burnt sugar and strong licorice. some orange is evident as well. could sniff this puppy all day.

tastes surprisingly hoppy for a belgian style.. belgian flavor in the background.. a true stone brew. wondering if they didn't rebottle double bastard with a dash of la trappe quad mixed in. this beer is not really what it claims to be on the side of the bottle, but sure is rich and flavorful. hops and coffee dominate the taste.

good, light mouthfeel balances the complex tastes. a winner. unexpected.

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Photo of russwbeck
3.45/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at Churchkey.

The beer is served a brownish yellow color with about a finger of head that is retained and laces well. It smells boozy with some malty caramel, and figs. The taste has dark fruits up front, but the booze comes quickly, and some roasted malt finishes it off. The booze is slightly offensive and takes the beer over. It's slightly under-carbonated and the drinkability isn't that great. This didn't wow me. I think it might be a bit too old.

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Photo of mschofield
4.12/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted at 9 months (12/03) old:
Hazy copper-brown, 3 finger frothy tan head.
Very strong roasted malt aroma, nutty, coriander, dark wheat orange, highly hopped.
Caramel, fruit (pear, apricot and raisin), smoky, peat type note as well, buttered bread. Almost a whisky taste, peppery, and tangy, nicely warming.
Drinkability is a fairly moot point for a limited brew, but the only thing holding this back is the ABV. I have one more stocked away in the cellar.

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Photo of BeerManDan
4.5/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

What a beautiful "Belgian-Style" ale.

When poured, a nice dark amber brown with little foam and a lot of lace in the glass. The smell of spices, yeast and wheat just is overpowing and pleasanto to the nose. The taste is a well balance of malts, spices, yeast and malts, combined it makes for a winning combination. This brings together a complex balance of a sweet/bitterness nature and is so pleasant in the mouth ond after taste.

Bring on more, I can't get enough of a good brew. Will store for future use!

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Photo of scootny
3.65/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A nice dubble. Light cola color with a light brown head and a bit of lace here and there.

Bready nose with a surprising amount of caramel and fruit. Figs and light Belgian funk..

Taste is typical for the style, with a healthy amount of dark fruits and malt. Light bitterness in the finish is dry and earthy. A touch of alcohol and light pepper spiciness.

Feel is thick and smoothly carbonated. Good winter weight.

A nice take on the style.

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Photo of beernut7
4.17/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I spotted this on the shelf the day after visiting the brewery. I hadn’t remembered seeing anything about this brew there so of course I had to grab as much of it as I could just for good measure. What a unique ass kicking brew. Pours a deep hazy brown underneath a thing lace. Strong ester yeast aroma with undertones of coriander. The flavor is just as heavy with a strong bitterness and Belgian white yeast flavor and the lingering essence of floral pepper. The heavy malt presence rounds out the complex build of this beer. Can be described on a whole as a concrete block pumped filled with a Belgian ale and dropped on your head from afar. Very heavy, very flavorful.

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Photo of Boilermaker88
4.12/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I found bottles of Stone’s ‘03 Vertical Epic in every store I checked out while in Indianapolis. I bought one for tasting purposes so I could store away the two bottles I already had. Presented as pictured, the ‘03 V.E. poured a clear dark brown color with a wispy off-white head and lots of lace.
The smell was a wide ranging blend of bready malt, caramel and molasses, some dark fruit and coriander and peppers. Overall, pretty sweet with a spicy edge. The taste had an earthily malty platform which served as a launching pad for flavors of coriander, pepper, some plum/prune, and caramel. The finish had a light bitter edge to it along with some alcohol, especially as it warmed. The feel was full, rich, and a bit raw.
Overall, the ‘03 V.E. is still a youngster at only eight months. The flavors still haven’t found the balance necessary for it to be a great beer. The alcohol content seeps through, limiting its drinkability. Nevertheless, this year’s offering in the Vertical Epic series holds a lot of promise and I can’t wait to see how it ages.

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Photo of axeman9182
3.53/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Alewife Queens for their VE event. Served as part of a flight.

2003 Vertical Epic pours a fairly clear amber, with a good amount of lacing despite the fairly wispy head. The nose is barely there, but with some effort toffee and dried fruit aromas are appreciable. The flavor opens up a bit, with toffee being joined by a bready maltiness. Sherry and fig notes mingle next, before a delicate pepper finish. The close does seem a bit abrupt though. The mouthfeel is a bit flabby, slightly chewy and under carbonated. It's not amazing, but I'm pleasantly surprised by how well the second entry in the Vertical Epic series has held up.

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

Dark cola colored body with a quickly disappearing light tan head. Scattered lacing was left on the glass. Rich ripe dark fruit sweetness filled the aroma. Some alcohol showed its face as well as milder earthy notes. Flavor was packed with sweet dark fruits and some toffee. Light alcohol and woody earthiness were lingering about. This really tastes like a barley wine to me at this point. Some spice also peaks through. Pretty thick and smooth feel that really warmed me up. Pretty drinkable stuff though the alcohol burn seems to get worse as it warmed. I remember this being good fresh and it is definitely interesting and could probably have gone a few more years easily.

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Photo of beergeek279
4.55/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Served in the 22 oz. bottle. The color is a dark amber, with a creamy white head. The smell is the typical rich, yeasty malt dubbel smell. The taste has hints of spicing like most dubbels but has a definite hoppiness to it unlike any of the Belgians I've had. Mouthfeel is remarkably smooth, with no noticable alcohol. Drinkability-wise, if I could find a bunch of bottles I'd certainly have a few more.

Wow...Stone puts its own stamp on a Belgian, and as always makes it even better. Though I sadly missed the 2.2.02 release, I'll be sure to get as many of the later releases as I can, and hopefully find my way to a 2012 vertical tasting...only 9 years to wait!

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Photo of TKEbeerman
3.27/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

A. Poured into my VE glass, this brew pours a murky brown with some caramel tones.
S. The aroma has some very woody natural tones, some brown sugar, and light dark chocolate.
T. The flavor follow suite, but with more chocolate, and a lack of belgium yeasty tones.
Mf. Mf is a little on the thin side and carbination is light.
Overall, not bad, but I expected bigger from a bsda

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Photo of marburg
3.92/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Looks big, smells big, seems big -- but isn't quite as large as perhaps I was expecting. Nonetheless, I greatly enjoyed this and think that it'll be interesting to see the reactions 9 years from now.

Pours with the look of a solid Belgian dubbel or other dark ale. The slightly off-white head, though short-lived for the most part, lingers in small islands atop the brew and around the edges of the glass. Strong peppery, phenolic aromas. This smells like a big, Belgian brew -- well-spiced and strong. Some notes of sweet fruit hide underneath the spice. A nice transition to the flavor, which is a solid base of malt sweetness followed by a burst of spicy flavor which begins the dry finish and somewhat lingering aftertaste of alcohol and, perhaps, light hoppy bitterness. It seemed to lose its luster -- and some of its flavor and mouthfeel -- as the beer warmed a bit.

All in all, it's very good. I was perhaps so excited by the premise that I'm selling the taste a bit short. But compared to some other Belgian-inspired beers and to Stone's other beers, this is surprisingly low key on the taste buds, I think. I'm definitely going to try to snag another bottle to keep for the future, and I'll be picking up 2 of each of the subsequent years to continue the drink-one-now-drink-one-later pattern.

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Photo of IrishRedRock
4.22/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

After I read all the stuff that went into the making of this brew, I knew tasting it would be interesting, to say the least. The nose and flavor are both really nicely complex. Pours coppery with just a little bit of a thin head. All sorts of notes in the aroma, sweet malt, alcohol, subtle hops, and a peppery spiciness. Whoa flavor whooo hooo!! Lots of things going on for me to pick out here. Very subtle in its hoppiness, especially for Stone, but enough to give you a nice little bite. Has a smoky flavor as well, in addition to caramel, clove, sweet buttery malts, and a trace of alcohol in the finish. Highly complex, nice smooth mouthfeel. They really did some very interesting things with this beer, and it turned out very nicely. Wish I had a few more to age.

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Photo of kbub6f
4.2/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bought online, ground shipping (unrefrigerated), several weeks in my fridge, reviewed 45F-75F.

A very nice, medium-sized, cream-colored thick head sits on a deep red/brown beer. Thin, foamy lacing rolls down the glass quickly, leaving sticky spots.

I smell caramel, a little fruit, a little fish, some alcohol and spice. Add some chocolate to that on the front. The pepper really jumps out in the sweet, dark, creamy, full middle. Are those apples? When cold, the finish is a little metallic, but that disappears completely at good drinking temperature. Otherwise, the finish is dry and a little chocolatey. This is a delicious beer. It's a little raw when cold, but settles down nicely. I may have to bury the others in the forest to keep from drinking them.

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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!

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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.

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Photo of OStrungT
4.27/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This beer pours a very cloudy, muddy brown color, with a very thin light tan head. What little head there is fades sllowly, leaving a small lacing.

This beer smells primarily of alcohol. Behind that, I smell some spice. Coriander is present. Also, I smell some earthy yeast. A slight malty caramel aroma is present.

As with the aroma, this beer tastes of alcohol. It has a sweet caramel malt flavor. It tastes slightly spicy. Also, some yeasty flavors are present. Much of the flavor of this beer are very subtle since it is somewhat old.

This full bodied beer goes down smooth. It is crisp and refreshing, despite the alcohol like flavors. It is very low in carbonation, but over 3 years in a cellar will do that.

I think that this beer would make a decent session beer. The only problem is that it is next to imposible to find.

Overall: Finally, I have had the chance to try this beer. Thanks to O'Brien;s Pub for making it available.

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Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
4.32/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Multiple bottles sampled by multiple BA's at the fine Brew's Cafe in Granville, Ohio. Kudos to Rocky for parting with some of this fine brew.

Appearance: Deep ruby red on the pour. Minimal head but I was rewarded with a very nice lacing effect in the glass.

Smell: Raisins all the way...with a spciy character that was hard to nail down with any conviction. Plus, the requisite hoppy influence of the Stone brewery.

Taste: I'm not the world's biggest (or even average) raisin fan, but this beer really tasted lovely to me. Raisin-flavored up front, with other intoxicated fruits playing second fiddle to the raisin. A good bit of hoppy bitterness is evident as well, but blends surprisingly smoothly with the fruity notes. Very nice.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth and creamy.

Drinkability: A thick, almost syrupy-sweet finish. Not much of an aftertaste and just a smidgen of a warming effect from the alcohol.

Note: I'd be curious to see how this ages. As you may know, the bottle states that "ideally" it should be aged until 12.12.12. I'll be interested to see how these reviews progress as cellared sampled are tried.

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