Beer Review 0372: Stone 2013 Old Guardian Barleywine

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Why wouldn’t Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, California) make a Barleywine? The Barleywine style is hefty and usually smacks you around, either with high alcohol, heavy malts, or highly bitter hops. All those things fit in well with Stone, right?

Each February, Stone release their Barleywine — Old Guardian — and each year, the recipe is just a touch different. What doesn’t change is their promise of an onslaught of delicious flavors. The 2013 version, which isn’t much different from 2012, so I’ve been told, comes in at 11.6% ABV (alcohol by volume) and a massive 80 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Brewed with Maris Otter crystal malt, the hops used are Chinook, Cascade, and for the first time, Delta, which replaces last year’s Calypso addition.

This beer can be aged for many years. I picked up a 2012 bottle last year for review but never got around to drinking it, so I made sure to buy two 2013 bottles to build a vertical tasting. We will definitely be checking in to see how this ages in a few years.

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Out of the bottle, this beer produced an average size head, very creamy in texture and lasting in nature. The color of the liquid was deep amber, with some nice orange highlights when held to a bright bulb. The body was a tad cloudy; perhaps some of this was chill haze, but a touch remained as it warmed. There were no visible particles or sediment. Lacing was spectacular, leaving behind solid, thin, and weepy sheets of creamy foam.

The nose was two things: a great balance between hops and malts, and a classic American Barleywine. Although balanced, Old Guardian is still highly hoppy, presenting notes of grapefruit, pine, and flowers. The malts were exceptionally sweet; sticky caramel, bread, and a dash of cinnamon. The big alcohol is also knocking at the door, but it’s not overwhelming and serves to compliment the other aromas.

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On the palate, this is one beast of a beer. There’s an incredible amount of flavor, starting with a sweet, crispy caramel and grapefruit combination, with a definite hit of the alcohol, early and bold. Along with the alcohol came a gentle heat of some cinnamon; middle of the taste featured ample bitterness with notes of pine and flowers. The finish comes on with another hit of hot alcohol, which cuts through some of the heavy-handed caramel and bready sweetness. The final bitterness is grapefruit and dark pine. Full-bodied, Old Guardian is thick on mouthfeel, with a creamy and gritty texture.

Crisp and powerful fresh, there’s lots of boozy alcohol here but it isn’t too much if you’ve got a few Barleywines under your belt. But this beer will only get better with time, and as mentioned previously, we’ll be sure to check back in. If you’re enjoying fresh, come prepared to have your palate scraped…in a good way.

Stone 2013 Old Guardian Barleywine, 94 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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4 responses to “Beer Review 0372: Stone 2013 Old Guardian Barleywine”

  1. Ryan Lewis says :

    Do you feel your tongue coated with alcohol while drinking this?

    • allthesamebeer says :

      I tasted the alcohol more when I first took a sip, then all the flavors took over and masked it. This beer does have a nice burn to it and it will warm you up, but I didn’t think the alcohol was overwhelming.

      • Ryan Lewis says :

        Good to know. I enjoy a high alcohol beer at times but with some, it burns almost so much that the complexity (or lack there of) does not actually shine through.

        If certain brewers just toned down the alcohol by 1-2% it could be a enjoyable drink and not just a vehicle taking me drunky town. Maybe I’m just getting old though.

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