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.