You can’t really talk about Barleywines without talking about another San Diego standard: Stone Old Guardian. I first reviewed this back in 2007, and it’s interesting to note that each year’s vintage has a slightly different alcohol content: the 2007 was 11.26%, while this 2010 bottle indicates 11.1%. And the 2011 edition, according to their site, will be 11.3%.
Simply put: Old Guardian is one of the best American Barleywines out there. I guarantee that opening a bottle of this will be a great drinking experience.
Appearance: Hazy and brown like a thick apple cider, with a creamy, dense head that could almost be a nitro pour.
Smell: Sweet and fruity with some very smooth brandy notes. Malty with toffee and hot caramel and broken down leather and dates and maybe raisins.
Taste: Sweet and strong with just the right amount of bitterness—both from alcohol and from hops. That fruity note washes over the back of the mouth and there’s a touch of burn from the brandy-like strength. Figgy, and cloyingly sweet, with earthy, pepper-spicy hops. Hits all the right notes.
Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and sticky sweet and rich; lovely palate-coating finish.
Overall: World class.