This month, I decided to pick which beer I wrote about a little differently than normal. My routine has been to think of a beer that is delicious and would match the season well. But this month I’m letting serendipity choose the beverage. As I was walking through the local Binny’s, I came across a bottle of Stone Old Guardian: Belgo Barleywine and knew I had to choose it, or did it choose me?

I went into this completely blind.  I had no idea what to expect. I mean, a Belgian Barleywine? Who’s heard of such a thing? But coming from Stone, I knew it had to be good. After looking at their website, I found that the beer had been released on February 14th, so I would be drinking beer that was less than a month old.

The beer poured a very clear shade of mahogany and topped itself with a tiny, off-white head that dissipated very quickly. By the time I drank it, the head was almost completely gone. The aroma was very intense.  It had some caramel and citrus. There was even some dark fruits such as dates and raisins.

The flavor was just as intense as the aroma, if not more so. The first thing to hit me was the Belgian yeast. It was spicy and peppery, and it also gave a touch of orange peel. The bitterness came after the yeast, and it was bitter! This beer has 85 IBUs, so expect a huge punch of bitterness and expect a large, rummy alcohol punch as well. This beer weighs in at 12% abv so it is a great candidate to split with someone.

Over all, this is a very interesting beer, but what else can I expect from Stone. They have taken the intensity of an American Barleywine and added the spicy, phenolic elements of a Belgian yeast.

It is a well made beer, but the hops and bitterness seem to clash a bit with that Belgian yeast character. Perhaps some styles just aren’t meant to overlap. I would very much like to see how this beer ages though. With age, the bitterness will go away and lead to a much more mellow, Belgian experience that will allow you to taste the malt and the yeast in perfect harmony.

I plan to buy a few of these to put in the cellar, and at 12% and $7 a bottle, it’s a very cheap investment for a great tasting beer later.

For something similar check out Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot, Rochefort 10, or Chouffe Houblon – though, since there aren’t many Belgian Barleywines, these other recommendations have only small similarities with Old Gaurdian Belgio.

What do you think? Have you had it? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

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