As I’ve probably said before, I’m a huge fan of Stone. And, whether or not I’ve mentioned it, I love a good Barleywine. The Old Guardian that Stone releases every year is something I look forward to , much like a child does their Christmas gifts in December. It’s always awesome & I’m always greedy and buy at least six bottles to sock away for future drinking enjoyment. Sometimes, said bottles last me up to two years. This release (2014) Bottled on January 24th 2014 did not last that well, as I greedily consumed every last bottle except for this one, that made it past the one-year mark.
First off, I have to say that I adore the simplicity that is the malt and hop bill of this beer. It changes a bit every year, but the good folks at Stone have always abided by the “KISS” rule when it comes to their malt-bills, for the most part. (KISS=Keep It Simple, Stupid!)
I will post a clone recipe that I came up with, that’s damned close to the original release of OG (Old Guardian) at the end of this review. I started with the recipe from the book in the photo, “The Craft of Stone”, and added a few tiny tweaks to adapt it to what I remember my first OG tasting like. If you aren’t an all-grain brewer, I’m sorry… I wouldn’t attempt a beer of this complexity with malt extracts, just because they’ve never given me the results I wanted. (Not to say that I haven’t had some excellent beers brewed with such, but you get where I’m going with this.) Anyhow, on with the show.
Stone 2014 Old Guardian pours a rich burnt amber, with well-suspended chunks of sediment that stay aloft throughout the drinking experience. The head kicks up quickly, forming a pillowy, foamy beach-sand tan cap with somewhat uneven bubbles, that fades in less than a minute after the pour. It leaves small patches of angelic lacing, that cling to the glass, and don’t really seem to want to go anywhere as I sip this booze-monster.
Speaking of Booze, with age, OG has become incredibly deceptive in this department, smelling more like the atypical raisins, dried figs, and caramel malt notes one would expect from a beer of this magnitude. 11.6% ABV, you say??? No. Freaking. WAY. And yet, there it is. Hints of cinnamon and allspice berry jump out at me, like over-sugared kids at a birthday party, and the hops are almost all but gone. There is a slight grassiness that remains behind, but other than that, the heavy hopping this beer gets has taken a huge backseat to the rich toffee-tinged excellence that is Old Guardian. The alcohol warms the sinuses as the beer reaches room temperature, but still doesn’t betray the massive ABV that hides behind all that malt. There is a nod at creme brûlée here too, but not in the way that a certain New York Brewery (that shall remain nameless) beats you over the head with the same aroma, and flavor. Sipping time, here I come!!!!
Sweet Baby Moses. I’ll start off here, saying that the booze is a bit more apparent on the palate. Not in a harsh, fusel-alcohol or “hot” sort of way, but in the sense that it adds a surprising amount of dryness to what was a much sweeter beer 14 months ago. The roasty malt takes center stage, dancing in drunken revelry with dates, nut brittle, cacao, and more raisin and spice. There is an inherent nip of saddle leather on the finish, as well as some tingly pepper. The carbonation has died down considerably, so much so that when I opened the bottle, the “PSSSST” you normally get from a beer was more of a “pss”. The particulate matter doesn’t seem to influence the flavor much, as I wrote notes for tasting this with and without, using two different glasses, and don’t really pick up much difference. The hops are gone completely from the palate, and the creaminess of this magical unicorn of a beer makes it a danger indeed. It is far, far too easy to put back!!!
To wrap things up, I’ll say this, and be brief. If you still have just one bottle of this release left, hang onto it for just a bit longer. I believe it would hold up and improve for another year, at least, since the oxidization monsters “Cardboard” and “Cooking Sherry” have yet to rear their ugly heads. If you have multiples, DRINK ONE NOW!!! Take notes, and compare when you open the next one! Your palate, and your brain, will thank you.
As Usual, thanks for taking the time to read my brain-droppings! I hope they entertained you, made you think, and possibly made you chuckle. If you have any questions, beer-related, homebrewing-related, or otherwise, please feel free to reach out to me here, or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Cheers, folks, and keep being awesome Humans!!!
<Matt The Beer-Guy>