Updated Review 03/11
Curious to see what this has done in a few months.
Definitely more Belgian yeast character for me, and the grape elements seem to have dropped off quite a lot. This is not good news for me, since I really embraced them in the fresh beer and that is what I enjoyed the most, back in October 2010.
Alcohol seems a little more prominenet too. A few peppery notes have come to the fore as well.
I still really like this, but it has changed somewhat over the last few months and for me it has lost something. It produces some bubble-gum burps. Quite Triple-ilke in some regards.
Scores NOT adjusted at this time.
Original review 10/10
In a word – spectacular.
The beer (somewhat strangely) pours in two very distinct halves (I wasn’t expecting the sediment to play such a role).
The first pour has a bright, perfectly clear appearance (beautiful clarity) with lively carbonation and a light golden hue that makes it look crisp and clean. The second half (obviously with a decent amount of sediment) pours with a fair degree of haze and less head/carbonation. Nevertheless, both halves have good head and retention/lace (considering the ABV) in the Duvel glass. Is this bottle-conditioned??
Nose and taste are both distinctly vinous which I am delighted with. Having heard that the beer had all of these grape elements, I was concerned that the content would have been hyped and that those elements would be subdued or not there in full effect – there was no need to worry, they are at the core of the beer and its presence. Wave after after of sinus clearing alcohol, edgy but clean vinous grape notes and serious white-wine acidity bring together a truly beautiful beer. It IS edgy; it has a fusel alcohol element; it screams organic volatiles, but it comes together with grace. Some grape skins, a little gooseberry and some other semi-hard green fruits, but ultimately a delicate beer that could stand up as a fine beverage in many culinary circles.
At first the edginess bothered me a little, but on reflection I think that it makes the beer. It is going to be interesting to see how this smooths out over time, but I would not want to lose too much of the clean, sharp grape notes.
Alcohol packs a FULL presence, but at the same time serves to give notice that respect for the quality of the beer is required. Warming, light burn in the chest reinforces the wine angle. Despite this, the beer seems REALLY light to me and the drinkability is huge even considering the alcohol content. The aftertaste delivers a pleasing bitterness with a clean, German feel to the hop base.
All in all the best VE Epic in many a year, and a beer that showcases a whole bunch of things magnificently well. I don’t know if this was a tricky beer to brew – maybe not – but no matter how difficult the process was it is a spectacular success. Stone does this from time to time for me, i.e. blows me away. 13th Anniversary was the last and the first Arrogant Bastard many years ago was another, and perhaps I’ve become harder to please over the years but this is a beer for the annals.