Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 3, No. 9
What's a vertical tasting?

Dec. 5, 2002

A reader wrote recently to ask: What's a vertical tasting? We suspect the terminology comes from the wine where, where "vertical" and "horizontal" have nothing to do with the position of the taster or the glass. The terms offer a way to explain the selection of wines chosen for a structured tasting:.

A horizontal tasting features a number of related wines all chosen from the same vintage. A selection of 1985 Bordeaux, for example, or a group of 1999 French Shirahs, allowing the taster to compare and contrast similar wines grown in the same year.

A vertical tasting, on the other hand, offers a selection of wines from the same winery or region, all grown in different years. This is one of the most educational tasting formats because it offers the opportunity to taste the effects on wine caused by weather, growing conditions and changes in wine-making style over time, as well as demonstrating how wines change as they mature.


A beer horizontal is much like a wine. We could round up the current crop of Czech pilseners or Oregon-produced American Pale Ales.

A beer vertical is different than wine. One goal of brewers is to overcome the yearly differences in barley and hop crops to produce a beer that tastes as it always has. Unlike wine, most beer begins going downhill the moment it leaves the brewery and will never be better than when it is fresh. It's pretty silly to save those beers for a vertical tasting.

But some strong beers, some with spices -- and particularly those that are bottle conditioned -- can be laid down and later served as part of a vertical. The late and beloved Thomas Hardy Ale is a classic example, but Sierra Nevada Big Foot, Bell's Expedition Stout, Chimay Grand Reserve and many others are worth cellaring. We've written before about "When older is better."

Tasting notes
From The Celebrator Beer News Tasting Panel

Brewed by Full Sail Brewing Co. in Oregon
Rich brown amber color with the sweet aroma of apples, herbs and vanilla maple. Wassail is quite dry and tart yet delightfully creamy-tasting and chewy. Well-balanced with a nice finish. An altogether enjoyable stronger ale.

Brewed by Huyghe Brewery in Belgium
This beer will have you seeing pink elephants in no time. The nose includes hints of baked apples, sweet malts and spicy citrus. Creamy, chewy, warm, rich flavors with a long, lingering finish; this strong beer is surprisingly well-balanced with pleasant cherry wood notes. A good beer to enjoy with a spicy cigar.