You know a beer is different if you buy it now and the brewery recommends not drinking it for five years.

You know a beer is different if you buy it now and the brewery recommends not drinking it for five years.


But, the Stone Brewing Company knows what it is doing. The beer is the Escondido, Calif., brewery's latest edition of its wildly popular Vertical Epic series.


"The Stone Vertical Epic ale series was one of those ideas you get in the middle of the night type things," said owner Greg Koch. "We love to have fun, and we look for excuses to have fun. In the beer industry, there are a lot of those. I've been a huge beer geek for more years than I can remember; since the late '80s and early '90s. Part of beer geekdom is you get really ecstatic about these Belgian styles. It's fun to have an opportunity to brew these classic Belgian beers."


The Vertical Epic series began on Feb. 2, 2002, and is set to continue until Dec. 12, 2012.


Each Vertical Epic is distinguished by it's date, such as 07.07.07. The series will conclude with the 12.12.12.


"I like things that I can look forward to," said Koch. "You can look forward to its release, and you can look forward to experiencing some of its changes."


In the beer world, vertical tastings are typically designed to try the same brew, but different vintages side by side to see how the beer ages: Does the too-strong alcohol taste mellow? Has the lessening of the strong, bitter hop flavor brought out other hidden flavors?


But, the Vertical Epic series is a little different. Koch and his crew took the opportunity to brew different Belgian-influenced ales - not part of the brewery's usual line-up beers.


The 07.07.07 is described as almost a blending of two Belgian-style ales, a saison and a golden tripel. It is full of flavor, with spices such as ginger, as well as both orange and lemon peel.


At 8.4 percent alcohol by volume, it is a little "hot" - describing a strong alcohol taste in beer-speak - so the recommended aging would probably do this ale some good. Not to say it's not worth drinking right now. It's still a wonderfully complex beer.


I actually recommend buying two of them - one to drink now and one to age. Trust me, it is hard to age a beer if you don't get to try it at least once. Plus, if you're like me, you'll keep some tasting notes so you can compare how the beer tastes fresh and how it tastes with some years (or months) on it.


"I highly recommend to people, if they don't have a true cellar to store it at 55 degrees, the next best is a refrigerator," said Koch. "A closet will yield some questionable results."


Stone is known for having aggressive beers. The ales they produce are considered by beer aficionados to be some of the best brewed in the world.


Most famous for their Bastard line of beers - Arrogant Bastard, oak-aged Arrogant Bastard and Double Bastard - Koch and partner and brewmaster Steve Wagner had a simple plan when they started their brewery in 1996.


"When we started this, Steve said 'If we're going to get into this, let's do stuff we like, not stuff we think people will like,"' said Koch. "We decided to not to try to make beer people think they want. People don't know what they want. We don't care what they want. We're going to be damned if we're going to chuck that out the window and make mediocre nonsense for people."


Not that Koch doesn't have a sense of humor about his beers. On the back of Arrogant Bastard bottles he tells people they won't like it: "This is an aggressive beer. You probably will not like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or the sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory - maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it's made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better. Perhaps you're mouthing the words as you read this."


The phrase, "fizzy yellow beer," has become quite common in the beer world when craft beer drinkers refer to big breweries such as Budweiser, Miller and Coors.


"One of the great prides of my life is I helped coin the phrase 'fizzy yellow beer,' and now it's used commonly," Koch said.


All that aside, Stone does have one of the most impressive beer portfolios around. Along with the bastard beers, the India pale ale, the Ruination (a double IPA), the pale ale, the Russian Imperial Stout and the Smoked Porter are all wonderful beers.


Now, with the Vertical Epic 07.07.07, what's on tap for 08.08.08? Koch has no idea.


"We haven't mastered the art of planning the full year ahead yet," he said. "We're still trying to master the art of trying to get things done on time."


The Vertical Epic 07.07.07 is available at the Warehouse Wine and Spirits in Framingham, Liquor World in Milford, Julio's Liquors in Westborough and Glendale Package in Waltham. Other Stone beers are widely available.


Also, a note for homebrewers, Stone posts the home brew recipes for all of their Vertical Epics on their homepage, stonebrew.com.


Norman Miller is a MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.) staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, contact nmiller@cnc.com or 508-626-3823.