Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine and select auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale - Stone Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Old Guardian Barley Wine Style AleOld Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

255 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 255
Hads: 1,884
Avg: 4.01
pDev: 31.17%
Wants: 69
Gots: 487 | FT: 33
Brewed by:
Stone Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  11.00% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: smerrell on 02-18-2012

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale Alström Bros
Reviews: 255 | Hads: 1,884
Photo of russpowell
4.35/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours amber with 2+ fingers of tan head. Much sticky lacing, good lacing

S: Pine & grapefruit & much booze

T: Follows the nose, some pineapple, rich breadyness & dryness up front. Herbal hops, a touch of caramel & much dryness, plus grapefruit by the truckload & pinesap, plus a touch of booze warmth. Finishes piney with some herbal & woody hops

MF: Chewy as all get out, skews hoppy, but there's plenty of malt body there too, subtle moderate carbonation

Full fledged hop assault, this would be a great one to take the winter chill off, but is going down great on a spring evening. The ABV is fairly well hidden. A great American Barleywine for hopheads & the rest of us too!

 681 characters

Photo of mdfb79
4.16/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

From 06/17/13 notes. 2010 vintage on tap at Pony Bar on the UES in NYC. 8 oz. pour, side by side with the oak and smoke version.

a - Pours a hazy amber brown color with one inch of off white head and moderate carbonation evident. Leaves some light lacing on the glass.

s - Smells of caramel malts, toffee, toasted malts, molasses, sugar, dark fruits, and bready malts. Very nice nose, loads of caramel and fruits, but not too sweet. I like it a lot.

t - Tastes of caramel malts, toffee, sweet dark fruits, toasted malts, sugar, molasses, bread, burnt malts, earthy notes. Taste has a little more dark fruity malts and is a little bit sweeter. Like the nose a little bit better.

m - Medium body and low carbonation, body is very smooth and creamy. Doesn't feel like 11% ABV at all.

o - Overall I liekd this a lot; I think it has aged really well. I've had it freshed and thought it was fine, but think 3 years on it has definitely improved it. Super smooth and easy to drink and a ton of caramel in the nose. Will probably pick up a bottle and store it away for a while now.

 1,078 characters

Photo of smcolw
4.3/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Size able head. Leaves ample blanketing lace. Cloudy amber to brown color where light passes in a murky way.

Sweet malt sugar nose. It smells like pre-hopped, pre-fermented batch of home brew. Some alcohol in the background.

Rich, thick and full of caramel. This could probably go well on top of vanilla ice cream. There's enough hop to prevent this from becoming cloyingly sweet. It's surprisingly easy to drink despite the 11% abv. The mouthfeel is chewy.

 461 characters

Photo of dbrauneis
3.92/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served in a bottle at Idle Hands in New York, NY

A: Pours a clear amber with a thin off-white head that reduces to a ring of bubbles at the edge of the glass. Light to moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Caramel malts, some light pine hops, and a fair amount of sweetness.

T: Nice caramel malts and toffee sweetness to this one followed by a pine hop bitterness. Some light amounts of heat from the alcohol and a nice amount of complexity.

M: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation.

O: Great sipping beer though a little sweet for my palate. Nice complexity in both the smell and the flavor. I like the hop bitterness on the finish that helps the beer from being overpowering in sweetness. The high ABV is fairly well hidden.

 739 characters

Photo of drabmuh
4.05/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into my Stone Old Guardian glass because that's how you are suppose to drink beer? Got it? Now do it.

Beer is dark amber / red and clear with a nice tan head of small bubbles, some lacing on the glass, moderate to low carbonation, nice retention.

Aroma is sweet, a little boozy, some hops too. A nice maltiness with a mild yeasty / biscuity finish.

Beer is big in body and nice on the finish. It is strong and not too boozy but the alcohol is present. The finish is quite bitter, nice yeast breadiness in the mid-palate, strong beer with a nice finish, a little dryer than I expected. These beers are better fresh in case anyone was wondering.

 653 characters

Photo of tdm168
3.88/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber into a snifter.

Pours an amber, plum color with a thin lacing of white head that fades quickly. The nose is quite fruity with notes of raisins, figs, and ripe cherries. The flavor is a malty, bready, caramel flavor up front that quickly turns to the same fruity notes from the nose, dark fruit, figs, raisins, ripe cherries and maybe plum. The finish showcases a decent, clean, balanced hop bitterness and a warm alcohol presence. The mouthfeel is full bodied, chewy, a bit syrupy, crisp, and just a bit heavily carbonated.

This is a decent beer. It's definitely a bit fruity, but is intriguingly complex. The fruity sweetness and the bitter finish at times seem to clash. As the beer warms, the flavors tend to play a little more nicely with each other. If you're a barley wine person, it's definitely worth a try.

 838 characters

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.25/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

650 mL bottle poured into a snifter. 2011 bottle. Reviewed from notes.

Appearance - Hazy reddish amber. Off white head. Sticky lacing. Some chunks of sediment.

Smell - Hoppy. Lots of barleywine malt aromas. Caramel. Very monotonic.

Taste - Hops and caramel. Well balanced, but it's just hops and caramel. Nothing wrong with it, as long as you're into hops and caramel. Bitter in the back.

Mouthfeel - Not boozy and not really heavy. Easy drinking and clean, but dull.

Overall - Unexciting. I wrote in my notes that it "hits hard." Take from that what you will.

 565 characters

Photo of johnnnniee
4.1/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

I was surprised to see I hadn't reviewed this one yet, I guess tonight we set that straight.
2009 Vintage.
Pours a slightly hazy orange amber color with a decent sized beige head that settles in quite nicely. Smells of caramel and brown sugar with a bit of dark dried orange, tangerine and plum with a hint of earthy hop and ethanol. The flavor is lots of fruity sugar with a hit of ethanol. Orange and dark fruits covered in a syrupy glaze with a solid hit of alcohol. Medium body with a light level of carbonation and a sweet resinous mouthfeel. Nice barleywine that I enjoy every year. At 3 years old this one is just starting to develop a sherry like note.

 660 characters

Photo of biegaman
4.22/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Despite a papaya-like colour, Old Guardian looks as rigid as the marble gargoyle on its label. My LED desk lamp may light up the beer but there's no way it's getting through it; turns out even pale amber beers can be opaque. There's not much head but I suppose that's to be expected.

This 2008 vintage smells every bit as sweet (figuratively, though also a little bit literally) than ever. Nearly 7 years in the cellar has only turned this into more of a honey pot of rich, nutty, buttery fruit. Loads of fresh mango, dried apricot, as well as pine resins abound.

Barleywines are something of an anomaly insofar as they can be ultra-malty and simultaneously rich and resiny with hops. This is full of both sticky and tropical flavours; it tastes like caramel coated pineapple or toffee-laced grapefruit. Neither sweepingly bitter nor sweet, this blends the two in a perfect marriage with an abundance of delicious nuances and just a pinch of spice.

Most seductive as always is the texture of Old Guardian. Dried and honeyed orchard fruits promptly excuse themselves on the finish, parting way for leafy-bitter, herbal notes of pine, spruce, and strongly-steeped chamomile that mingle with lasting impressions of toffee, marmalade, and wildflower honey. It has the components to be a powerhouse but is not.

Old Guardian is seemingly immortal - if not the beer itself then certainly my enjoyment of it (not to mention the fond nostalgia of vintages past). If my cellar consisted of just one brand it'd probably be this one. To my knowledge there is no liquid better suited to moments of quiet reflection. This was an early favourite of mine and one that I continue to return to year after year.

 1,705 characters

Photo of lacqueredmouse
3.78/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA. Shared with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe in Sydney.

Pours a lovely burnished copper-red colour with a fine, slightly overly frothy off-white head. Lacing is patchy, but the body is deep and heavy. It looks very clear and bright, but deep and suspicious as well. Love it.

Nose is heady and boozy, with a barley-sugar character laced with plenty of straight-up and possible straight-down hops. It gives it a slightly medicinal overtone, especially with the wafts of booze coming through. But really, it feels exceptionally sweet, with hops being the afterthought rather than part of the full process.

Taste is similar. There's a chewy, deeply sweet barley-sugar character throughout, that only really gets cut on the edges by the bright hop bitterness, and at the end, where the sharpness comes to a point. It's deeply sweet, however, yet doesn't have a lot of depth or complexity. It's a very odd mixture. I feel like this should be a heady maelstrom of intriguing flavours, when in fact it feels like a barleywine By The Numbers.

I mean, overall, it's good, right? It has to be. It's Stone, it's a barleywine, it's clearly well made and executed. I just really didn't connect with it though. It didn't have anything that got me excited or made me want another bottle right now. But it's solid and worthwhile, at least. That's about as enthusiastic as I can get.

 1,420 characters

Photo of barleywinefiend
4.03/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Poured a deep reddish brown color with good carbonation with a great dirty white cap

S: Caramel, light pine with a nice grapefruit presence

T: A nice hop bitternes, with a blast of Cascade hops presenting a nice grapefruit presence and a hint at pine. Some caramel and booze mix with the hop profile leaving a nice impression of the style. Finishes a bit bitter but not like fresh Bigfoot bitter and a bit sticky

M: Full bodied, well carbonated with loads of flavor

O: Very nice. Should withstand the test of time as most OG's do. Nice changeup by Stone.

 561 characters

Photo of rhoadsrage
3.8/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Served in a tulip glass)
A- This beer pours a slightly dense reddish-copper body with a sticky beige film supported by a slow carbonation.

S- The green hops has some fruity notes to it during the pour and a creamy rich dry caramel aroma with hints of lighter toasted malt.

T- The woody green bitter hops has some green licorice flavors to it with some hop lifesaver qualities. The big bitter hop bite in the finish turns pungent in the aftertaste and lingers quite a bit. The dry caramel malt flavors come through but it is never strong enough to offset the bitterness of the hops.

M- The medium-light mouthfeel has a gentle fizz and a soft alcohol warmth.

O- It seems like there is a nice barleywine in this bottle but it is buried under a bitterness. The malt comes out much more in the aroma but it doesn’t have the richness in the flavor. The big hop bite in the finish just to much.

 898 characters

Photo of LiquidAmber
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A two year vertical (and horizontal with the current oak-smoked Guardian)
2013: Poured into an Elysian snifter. Pours an orange-copper amber with a thin, patchy off-white head forming an almost perfect clover shape in the glass with a ring around the glass with light lacing. Surprisingly mild aroma of caramel malt, pine hops and grain alcohol. Flavor follows aroma with caramel malt, great piney and citrus hops, a bit of dark fruit. The hops dominate the finish, leaving a pleasant pine bitterness. Medium bodied with a hint of creaminess. A very nice hoppy American style barley wine.

2009: Also poured into an Elysian snifter. Pours an orange-copper amber with a thin off-white head formed a thin persistent film and ring around the glass with light lacing. Aroma of caramel malt, brown sugar, dark fruit and a hint of sherry oxidation. Flavor follows with caramel malt, dark fruit and mild grassy hops. Nicely integrated and the alcohol noticeable on the fresh Guardian is now well covered. Medium bodied with only a suggestion of creaminess (unusual for a barley wine aged this long). This has held up very well and definitely mellowed with the flavors and alcohol melded very well. Hops are muted, but identifiable. This will absolutely stay in my cellaring cycle, but scores about the same as the fresh one; the fresh shows brighter, spicier hops, but the alcohol is more noticeable. The older one is more muted in flavor, but more balanced and less boozy tasting.
Scores are almost identical, but the 2013 gets a half point off for being rather muted. Total score here is for the aged one.

 1,601 characters

Photo of DrJay
3.79/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

2013. Clear red with a thin, sticky beige cap. Very good head retention. Aromas of hops and booze, sugar, citrus and pine, a bit fruity. Sharp bitterness, earthy, sweet and boozy, sugar and malted barley husk, slight burnt/roast character, citrus in the finish. Pronounced alcohol heat, a bit rough on the palate with mild astringency. Fully bodied, low carbonation with a bit of creaminess to the texture. This has potential but still needs some aging to smooth out the rough edges.

2012. Clear reddish copper with a thin, yellowish cap. Fine bubbles, good head retention, sticky lace. Booze and caramel aromas, citrus, bready with a bit of candy sweetness, hint of rose petals. Strong bitterness with candy/caramel sweetness for balance, earthy, citrus pith, alcohol. Lingering bitterness and booze. Full bodied with low carbonation, a bit creamy with lots of warmth, nice texture. A palate wrecker that needs some aging.

 924 characters

Photo of puboflyons
4.29/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2012 batch, It has been in my cellar for about six months. Sampled on April 9, 2013.

I like the way it pours with its medium reddish to mahogany amber tone and its short, silky white head. The head becomes a ring. Handsome looking beer.

For a barleywine the aroma is more subtle and mellow. Certainly it is malt forward and sweet with a roasted note but the hops are played down. There is also a bit of a dark fruit character mingling in the background.

The body is medium to bold.

The taste is warming. malty, and sweet with the faintest of alcohol. The hop finish lingers briefly but tends to be low to moderate. This is a pleasant barleywine.

 649 characters

Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.38/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Popped a bottle that is a few years old. Wish I could remember how old, somewhere in the 2-3 year old range most likely. Pours out a deep burnt copper and light brown. Mild off white head in the .4" range. Heavy aroma of alcohol, two row and hops. Hops being last in the aroma equation, alcohol first.

Taste, gigantosaur beer, heavy sting of alcohol, full bready mush of a malt presence, massive. Hops really don't come through as much as Greg Koch insisted a few years ago at the San Diego International Beer Festival. If the bitterness and hops are going to be this high, I'd like to see less of a malt impression, more like a dipa, but then even many dipas these days are more like barleywines. This has the west coast hopping, but with like east coast hops and a heavy east coast attempt at balance with the gigantic malt bill.

I was surprised how much the hops stuck around years later in this one. Or maybe it was just the bitterness. Anyways, not really my favorite Stone beer by a mile, and as time goes on, I get less and less interested in this style of beer. Used to love it. Now, its only the old favorites and new blonde barrel aged barleywines that seem to do the trick.

 1,187 characters

Photo of pat61
4.5/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From notes: Aroma – rich intense malt, faint hops, fruit. Appearance: Rich amber, 2”off-white head, quickly dissipates. Palate: big malt, malty, caramelly, sweet, and then the hops come on, the hops are assertive but not harsh. Mouthfeel: Very creamy rich, malt, alcoholic, malty. Above average carbonation, chewy body. Overall: A big bitter, malty beer.

 358 characters

Photo of scruffwhor
3.95/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2012 release.

Depp ruby and copper colored brew. Decent, slow tan head for a barleywine . Pretty good bubbling too.

Rich, warm, caramelized fruity aroma. Sweet, toasty biscuits overwhelmed by syrupy fruit marmalade and alcoholic warmth. A little mustiness in there too.

Caramel meets with marmalade, heavily toasted biscuits, caramelized plums and apples. Add to that ,a sometimes bitter, alcoholic twang and palate. An obvious slow sipper best shared with family and friends, or selfishly by yourself.


 512 characters

Photo of clayrock81
3.7/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured a reddish brown with solid one-finger offwhite head and lace on top of lots and lots of barely malt, as the label states, but also lots and lots of floral hops to match it seems. Hearty, boozy malts are prevelant and a slightly sticky and medicinal feel. The malts only slightly overpower the hops, so while there is a good sweetness and some hop bite the sweetness doesn't stick out like it should. Thicker, less carbonation leads to a dry, bready finish w/ minimal sweetness as the ABV kicks in here. A good beer, nice sipper, but more hoppy than I prefer for this style so TO ME a tad off balance.

 607 characters

Photo of barczar
4.12/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy deep copper with a billowing, frothy dark cream head that slowly dissipates, leaving sheets of thick lacing.

Sweet, brown sugary caramel malt, toffee, muted grapefruit, resin, and caramel form the initial aroma. Raisins, dates, and prunes add complexity.

Flavor reveals underpinnings of grapefruit pith, tart tangerine, and lime, with a fairly sweet, toffee malt backbone, finishing resiny and fairly bitter. Rum-soaked dates, raisins, and figs add complexity.

Body is full, smooth, and luscious, with modest carbonation and noted alcohol warmth.

Great contrast of sweet malt and bitter hops, with tart, fruity hop notes countering dark fruit nicely. It's a little hot and a bit bitter for my liking, but the other notes redeem it very well.

 758 characters

Photo of VelvetExtract
3.6/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A-Poured dark brown and hazy. Head was minimal. Not much light penetration but this beer was blatantly brown and didn't tiptoe on the realm of blackness.

S-I was expecting more punch from the aroma. There was booze, a bunch of concentrated sweetness and some bitterness which was subtle. Dark fruits. Not very impressed by the nose.

T-The bittering hoppiness comes out more on the tongue. The hops lend much bitterness but are not very complex and do not leave much hop-derived flavor complexity. There is plenty of booze (although shaded in decently enough), and dark fruits laced in rich caramel.

M-Big body. Mellow carbonation. Bitterness lasts. Somewhat slick. A rich feel.

O/D-Full pint glass of this came in at $3.50 so I cannot complain about the price, but I was not satisfied with this beer. Most of Stone's brews are great but this one didn't hit the same spot for me. Still a nice juggernaut beer for a great price-per-fill.

 939 characters

Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.17/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Bottle shared with a friend this weekend. Poured into a wine glass.

Pours a hazy dark orange/amber, with a half inch fizzy head, and not a whole lot of lacing.

Smells like brown sugar, raisins, pine, citrus, booze, and brown sugar.

The taste is similar. A big hop blast up front, sticky pine resin and some citrusy grapefruit zest, followed by a big wave of sweet malt flavor- some brown sugar, caramel, toffee, raisin, and a spicy alcohol burn that is integrated into the flavor profile fairly well. The flavor combinations in the malt profile bring to mind candied plums and cinnamon raisin bread, it's awesome.

Medium bodied, sticky, boozy mouthfeel, drinkable despite the ABV. Low carbonation.

This was awesome, glad I finally got to try it.

 750 characters

Photo of barnzy78
4.5/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 Release, poured into a 25oz snifter. Pours a deep brown color with reddish hues when held to the light. Creamy beige head holds good retention and leaves some chunky lacing on the glass. Huge, rich caramel nose, with toast, grain, bread crust, piny hop, brown sugar as well. Tastes are complex and bold with rich and sweet caramel up-front, followed by an assault of the palate with pine resin. Bready, toasted grain, dark brown sugar in the middle. Full of flavor, well balanced, boozy on the finish with burnt caramel and pine lingering. Body is full, creamy but resiny, with ample carbonation. Overall, once again awesome Stone quality!

 644 characters

Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.84/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

22 oz bottle poured into an Old Guardian glass.
11.6% ABV, 2014 release, bottled 01/24/14, best cellared at or below 55°F

A - Light easily shines through this crystal clear, bright amber brew giving it one hell of an appeal. If that weren't enough, the ivory cap of foam that rests on the beer lingers for quite some time, leaving lacing on the glass for good measure.

S - Melted caramel sweetness coats heaps of cut-off bread crusts and toast with peanut brittle cooling in the background but this barleywine isn't without it's fair share of hops. The green cones impart a balancing piny bitterness that recalls tree sap as well as sharp grapefruit rind before warming alcohol gently tickles the nostrils as it passes through.

T - Like the aroma foreshadows, Old Guardian is hoppy but malt-forward, laying down a nice level of malty sweetness on the tongue. The rich bready characteristics offer toast and bread crust flavors that absorb and retain the hop-driven earthy pine sap notes like being dunked in hop tea.

M - The first few sips of Old Guardian coat the tongue in sweet malt and breadiness but it's not long before the hops catch up and sharpy attack the tongue with bitterness. This balance is key should Old Guardian remain drinkable beyond a few sips, which it sure does. Even fresh, the higher level of alcohol never becomes cloying or boozy but instead warms the throat and stomach upon the swallow - putting the perfect kibash on the brew.

O - Behind Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot, Stone's Old Guardian is one of the most iconic barleywines the States has to offer. Like most of Stone's brews, this beast is big and bold while offering deep malt and hop complexities that mingle wonderfully for a balanced and drinkable brew fresh but one that easily ages with the best of 'em which I've put to the test time and again.

 1,836 characters

Photo of CrazyDavros
3.75/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours copper with a large head.
Nose shows golden syrup, spicy and resinous hops, honey and caramel.
Similar flavours: honey, resinous and spicy hops and a massive aggressive bitterness.

 186 characters

Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale from Stone Brewing Co.
90 out of 100 based on 255 ratings.