Thanks to the tasting notes of Stone's head brewer Mitch Steele, the word on the street was that this was going to be more of a Belgian Porter than anything else. I love Belgian beer, I love Porter. On paper it seems like a no-brainer that I'll like it.
Leave it to Stone to challenge our taste buds every single time. It certain pours like a Porter, and smells uniquely like a Belgian Dubbel. But that's the end of normalcy for this beer. Once it's in your mouth, it's a whole new ball game.
It's sharp to the taste, and after about 10-15 small sips, and trying my absolute damnedest to analyze it in every Craft Beer Radio way I know how, all I can attribute the sharpness to is the hops. There's a slight coffee/burnt chocolate flavor there, but the bittering hops are definitely giving this thing an acrid punch that simply won't go away, no matter how long I let the beer sit and get up to (nearly) room temperature.
It seems to be playing every bit of it's nearly 9% ABV too, because the presence of alcohol did not leave me after I swallowed it. I swore after those first few sips that the alcohol on my breath was heavy enough to pull a Gene Simmons in my living room if I wanted to.
As I normally do with these Vertical Epics, I'm going to let this one cellar for a while - maybe until next year - before I try it again. It's definitely built to last, and will be interesting to see how this thing works it's way into the vertical tasting marathon session we'll have in 2012.