Stone. Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t deny that they’ve made their mark as a brewery who’s not afraid to push the envelope. (see Ruination) The Old Guardian Barleywine Style Ale is a staple for Stone and just so happens to be a very well-respected brew among those folks who are into doing things like respecting brews. I, for one, happen to fall into that category. I respect. I’m a respecter. What I don’t quite get is the difference between a Barleywine Style Ale and a plain old Barleywine. What am I missing here? Honestly, I don’t think it matters all that much in the grand scheme, but if the style nerds aficionados want to shed some light I’d appreciate it. At any rate, on to the beer. The pour was like a barleywine should be – clean, amber with minimal head. The nose was a little on the subtle side, but there were nice hints of malty sweetness, caramel, fruit and spice, plus a hint of alcohol. The taste was a reflection of the nose for the most part, with a candy-like fruit sweetness leading the charge, followed by a rich toffee body and finishing with a distinct tinge of alcohol and hop bittering. It’s a nice, refined Barleywine (style) Ale, which a little age has served well. There is a mellowness to this particular bottle which I’m inclined to believe probably wasn’t there 8-10 months ago. Overall, I think this is a really great example of the style, but I’m not feeing quite as much hype as BA would have you believe. I felt like the omnipresent alcohol was a bit of a distraction, and both the mouthfeel and weight of the body were a touch on the light side to give it a full-on A+. It’s really good, though, and I wouldn’t hesitate at all to have some on hand regularly or recommend it to a friend.
score – 4.25