Old Guardian Belgo Barley Wine - Stone Brewing Company, Escondido
Belgo Old Guardian was one of just a couple Stone beers I recently picked up in a visit to Colorado. Knowing that Stone was already in talks to bring the bulk of their line up to Missouri, I wasn't looking to stock up on their beers... but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to grab a few of their seasonal and limited release beers. I always wanted to try the Old Guardian Barley Wine, and honestly had never heard of the Belgo version, so I decided to pick up a bomber. Barleywines are great, most of the time... I'm a little apprehensive about Stone's take on the style, but I'm willing to give it a try. I'll try anything if you add a little Belgian yeast to it.
This beer pours a copper color and has a hazy but not opaque body. It's thick, but translucent with a thin khaki colored head. Not much lacing here, the head doesn't stick around for very long after you've finished pouring it into your glass. The aroma coming off of this beer is pretty crazy. I expect Barleywines to be super malty with an obvious hop character, usually resinous and a bit sticky. The Belgo Old Guardian is sweet, tangy, a little sour and thoroughly yeasty. This isn't your average Barleywine...
The flavor of Stone's Belgo Old Guardian is, well... it's bizarre at first. This beer smells a bit like a Weizenbock, that's the closest comparison I can think of, but it hits your palate like a boozy Barleywine packed with spice, yeast, a ton of malted barley and a little extra alcohol just for good measure. There's a lot going on here and it's difficult to sort it all out at first. Your tastebuds are pulled in opposite directions at time, there's the sweet, semi-sour, funky yeast that seems more like icing on this Barleywine's cake. The yeast character adds a good deal of flavor but it never quite tastes like it's integrated with that big barley and spicy hop flavor. It's quite good, don't get me wrong, it just doesn't seem like the flavors have melded together. I'd really love to see what a little time would do to this beer.