Sunday, April 19, 2015

Stone Old Guardian Barleywine (2015 Classic Release)

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1329) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 19, 2015
Stone is a brewery I always associate with hop-forward beers and one imperial stout, though they’ve been making their Old Guardian Barleywine for years – I’ve just never tried it until now. This is probably the embodiment of the American-style barleywine in that the hops are prominent and give the beer balance, but not to the point of being an outright hoppy beer. It’s weird drinking a beer from this brewery that’s genuinely malty, but also a nice change of pace.

I split a 22oz bottle with a friend. We each poured it into tulip glasses. There was no specific bottling date, but it was clearly marked as the “2015 Classic Release”.

Appearance: Kind of an ugly shade of rusty orange/brown. It’s actually a pretty reddish color from a distance, though. Opaque. Pours to a large, yellowish, frothy head which retains and laces quite well.

Smell: Strong dark fruits and berries: cherry, strawberry and plum especially. Floral hops, but not as overtly hoppy as most Stone brews.

Taste: Slightly aggressive, dry bitterness immediately. Mild floral/herbal hop flavor up front, which is in turn followed by rich fruity notes of cherry, mixed berries and some stone fruit (no pun intended). The second half – and the finish especially – is rich with a caramel and toffee sweetness, but not to the point of being cloying. The alcohol is surprisingly tame, imparting just a subtle woody/vanilla note but doesn’t really define the palette. I might even say this beer is a little too well balanced as more malt character and complexity would’ve been nice, but what’s here is much more than simply passable. A vintage would be interesting to try as the hops would fade and the sweetness could come out more.

Drinkability: Going into this beer I expected it to be a beast. At 11.2% ABV, I figured Stone Old Guardian Barleywine would essentially be carbonated syrup. Though sweet and full-bodied, it’s surprisingly clean on the palate. In fact, the malts don’t linger on the tongue, the hops do (so few barleywines can make that claim). It’s extremely comfortable in the mouth and smooth going down with just a gentle warmth from the alcohol. Probably the only barleywine I’d recommend pairing with an entrée course rather than a dessert. 
Score: 9/10

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