Every once in a
while, a beer comes along that makes you sit up and take notice. It
absolutely commands your attention, and from the very first sip you know
that this is something special, something to be savored, something to be
enjoyed. Such a beer is Stone Old Guardian barleywine style ale from
the Stone Brewing Company of San Marcos, California.
Stone’s slogan for this beer is Guarding against all things plebeian.
Webster’s defines plebeian as: “crude or coarse in manner or style :
COMMON”. If there is one thing that barleywines (and Stone beers for that
matter) cannot fairly be called, it is common. Barleywines, after all, are
huge beers, loaded with malt and hops and generally of very high alcohol
content. Stone Old Guardian is no exception, having a formidable
alcohol content of 9.91% by volume.
Stone Old Guardian is a very limited release brew. It’s scarce as
hens’ teeth, and special thanks go out to Epinions very finest Tom Carr
(4-1-1) for making it possible for me to try this beer. Other limited
releases by Stone include Imperial Stouts, IPAs, and the idiosyncratic
Double Bastard Ale. Be sure to see Tom’s page for some great reviews on
Stone’s 2000 release of this brew won a silver medal at the Great American
Beer Festival in the Barleywine category, and that should come as no
surprise after you’ve tasted this brew, which compares very favorably to
such classics as Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and Rogue Old Crustacean.
Stone Old Guardian barleywine style ale 2002 release pours to an
amber-orange color with a very light head formation and a complex hop and
caramel nose. The palate is packed with strong notes of fresh bread,
caramel, fruit, and sweet sticky malt. These flavors are permeated by a
slowly intensifying hop bitterness that absolutely explodes in the finish,
where it combines rather agreeably with a strong alcohol warmth.
This is without a doubt one of the finest barleywines I have ever tasted.
The Tomahawk hop bitterness is unbelievable, simply over the top. Tomahawks
are a great bittering hop with about 17% alpha acid content, and they give a
grassy-minty buzz to the beer here. Stone Old Guardian would be a
great candidate for cellaring. In time the hop character will diminish
somewhat, allowing the rich malt flavors to become more pronounced.
This is definitely a sipping beer, best enjoyed as a digestif or nightcap
before bed. I enjoyed a 22-ounce bottle after a hearty supper of my Beloved
Barbara’s World-Famous Enchiladas™, and it proved the perfect libation to
slowly enjoy on a full stomach.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For
reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.