Last month Stone Brewing of Escondido, California, released the 11th and final beer in its Vertical Epic series, the 12.12.12 ale (the numbers refer to December 12, 2012). The series began more than ten years ago with a beer called 02.02.02, making it nearly as long-running as the Bell’s Batch series. Subsequent entries have been released one year, one month, and one day apart (03.03.03, 04.04.04, and so forth), and each has been a unique one-off. All have been Belgian inspired, bottle conditioned, and strong enough to benefit from cellaring, and Stone has encouraged drinkers to hang on to bottles for “vertical” tastings throughout the years—”vertical” in this case means involving multiple subsequent releases of beer from the same brewery (in the world of wine, “horizontal” tastings include many wines from a single year, often from the same vineyard or the same territory).

Stone came to Chicago in April 2010, and because I don’t have especially formidable beer-trading chops, I’ve tried only the Vertical Epic ales released since then. The 10.10.10 is a Belgian-style golden tripel brewed with dried chamomile flowers, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), and just-pressed muscat, gewürztraminer, and sauvignon blanc grapes. The 11.11.11 is Belgian-style amber ale brewed with cinnamon and Anaheim chiles from New Mexico’s Hatch Valley.

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.