Old Guardian BELGO Barleywine | Stone Brewing

302 Reviews
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Old Guardian BELGO BarleywineOld Guardian BELGO Barleywine

Brewed by:
Stone Brewing
California, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by srroos on 02-08-2010

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 302 | Ratings: 572
Photo of colts9016
3.21/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

2011 Edition

A one finger light tan head with terrible retention. The color of the beer is murky with some mahogany and orange hues. The beer does show some life with carbonation bubble dancing it way to the top.

A rich sticky caramel sweetness assaults your nose. Citrus, toasted malt, biscuit, bread, toffee, floral and some yeast.

The beer has a caramel, wood, vanilla, citrus, toasted malt, bready, yeasty, floral, and resin

The mouthfeel of the beer is carbonated, and slightly astringent.

This beer pales in comparison to the the Old Guardian BW. It tastes as if they dry hopped stuffed it in a barrel and then bottled it. The beer is big and boozy, yet lacks refinement like its brother. It is a decent barley, but it could be much better.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
3.19/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Very orange colored barleywine, much like a dipa. Aroma was belgian spice rack, fucking huge.

Taste dropped lots of caramel, yeast and citrus. Huge hops and malt. Its hella hot, lots of alcohol wafting all the time in this one. Yeast still giant. Its a big beer that does nothing subtle.

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Photo of Slatetank
3.89/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

thanks to Mark for sharing this enjoyed chilled from the bomber in a tulip.

The color is dark brown with tan head and lace sticks with translucent clarity. The smell is malt with a date-like aroma with fruity yeast and nutty aroma with slight hop scent. The feel is good with tangy and spicy entry with moderate carbonation and bitter middle with decent balance and spicy alcoholic finish.

The taste is good with bitter herbal flavor mixed with nutty dry malt flavor and tropical accent in the yeast flavor with almond paste type sweet element and caramel in the back with some hop bitterness interspersed into a lightly alcohol flavored finish. Overall this is a very good belgian yeast fermented American barleywine American hops adding citrus and bitterness to balance

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Photo of Davepoolesque
3.75/5  rDev +3.3%

Bottled in 2011. This comes off as an English Barleywine in an American Belgian Barleywine style. It almost tastes like it's barrel aged. Lots of caramel, vanilla and wood. Very intriguing.

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Photo of bushbeer75
4/5  rDev +10.2%

22 oz brown bottle [release date of 2/14/11]

2011 Stone Old Guardian BELGO Barley Wine Style Ale filled my glass snifter with a light hazy dark copper color forming a short 1/2-finger light tan head that dissipated quickly to a foamy collar, The nose is fruity, floral, sweet, and light spice with a large amount of hops especially considering this brews age. The taste matches the nose beginning with sweet flavors of light brown sugar, dark fruit, toffee notes and caramel. Then a strong hop bitterness is present
The mouth feel is smooth, but sticky with a dry hop bitterness and alcohol bite/heat at the finish. There is also ample carbonation. The ale has a high-medium to light-full body.

After approximately 3-1/2 years of aging Belgo 2011 still showcases strong hops - It is a sipper for sure.

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Photo of biegaman
3.6/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

The "BELGO" part is as emphasized in the appearance as it is on the label; this much froth and foam is equivalent to bold, capitalized print reminding us that ONLY BELGIAN yeast could produce a head of such mass and magnitude. Otherwise, however, Old Guardian looks much the same glassy, clear-ish, burnt amber beer as always.

What I love most about American barleywines is their combination of rich, sticky-sweet maltiness and candied, citrusy hops. Old Guardian - even fermented with Belgian yeast - exemplifies that profile as good (maybe better) than anything else; the figs, flower petals, dried apricots, and candied grapefruit are completely unperturbed by the yeast.

When aging beer, the yeast is typically the last thing to go. Hops, they fade fast. Malt, it thins out and oxidizes. Alcohol, it mellows. But the yeast, it seems to sometimes gain strength when left to brood at the bottom of a bottle. And yet this beer, distinguished by its use of Belgian yeast, at three years of age, has plenty of malt and even hops but little appreciable yeastiness...

Which is especially curious because Belgian yeasts have invariably the most character, distinction, and longevity of any. Indeed, this 2011 vintage has held up mighty fine but seemingly with no thanks to any additional esters or phenols. The crushing bitterness, the familiar dried and rotting orchard fruits, honeyed malt and nut brittle notes of standard Old Guardian still prevail.

Old Guardian is a consummately American barleywine. Even fermenting it with a strain of Belgian yeast can't change that. I didn't quite understand the appeal of a 'Belgianized' barleywine and, frankly, I still don't - it didn't make the beer any better or, surprisingly, more distinct. Maybe a side-by-side tasting would yield a different conclusion, but I didn't like this enough to buy it again.

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Photo of mverity
3.42/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Bottle poured into a snifter. Great reddish-amber-brown color with thick tan head that held pretty well. Good lacing and legs. Full body and medium carbonation. Aroma is of toffee, some mahogany, medium roasted malt sweetness. Taste is funky. The big thing that throws me off is that it tastes like burnt marshmallows. That burtn flavor is front and center and I'm glad I was splitting this bottle because I would've drain poured it if I tried to finish it myself.

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Photo of BedetheVenerable
3.58/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: 22oz brown pop top bottle with typical Stone painted label. 2011 vintage, supposedly best by 4-14-11...I guess this was supposed to be drunk young...woops! Poured into a Duvel tulip 3-23-13. This wasn't very popular, from what I remember, but I bought it anyway, as I've been curious what a 'Belgian' barleywine would taste like ever since I heard of 'M' from Midnight Sun.

Appearance: This beer pours a deep orange amber, with glowing burnt orange highlights and good clarity. A dark ivory/light beige cap shows decent stick, especially considering the abv and age.

Smell: Interesting, though I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. Some generic dark fruit, sticky, sweet tropical fruit (especially pineapple), a brief whiff of alcohol, and sticky caramel. Rich, and fairly potent; I'm just not sure if I like it or not.

Taste: It's a bit more balanced on the palate, where the riotous fruit aromas of the nose are not quite replicated. Still fairly big booze here, even after two years. Clean, firm bitterness is still fairly forward as well, though not over-the-top. Moderate brown sugar, caramel, and juicy fruit notes make this somewhat reminiscent of pineapple upside-down cake. Not a ton of depth, and it's a bit strange, but it's not exactly unpleasant.

Mouthfeel: On the heavy side of medium-bodied.

Overall: Certainly not the best barleywine I've ever had, but this certainly isn't bad. I'm not sure how much the 'Belgian' character comes through here...perhaps it's fallen off somewhat over time, or perhaps the tropical/pineapple fruit flavors derive from the Belgian yeast. If I remember correctly, this was between $6.00-7.00 for a bomber, which is a great price for a bottle of barleywine. Overall, not a bad value for the money, and not a bad beer, though I PROBABLY wouldn't pick it up again if it was re-released.

Overall: 83 = B

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Photo of DenverLogan
3.37/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

22 oz bottle...2011 date...poured in a big tulip shaped Gulden Draak glass.
Pours a copper color with amber head.
Aroma of big malts but a touch of oxidation.
Big carbonation and mouthfeel.
Flavors are overwhelming with oxidation. Yikes...one may say I shouldn't rate an over aged barley wine, but the fact is these get circulated, and amongst geeks/tasters, we want to try aged beers. Stone prides themselves with unique and aged beers and that I respect. Flavors are of a brilliant mix of hops and tasty malts, strong alcohol but not bitter and biting. Lovely brew that should have been poured relatively fresh.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.31/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

650 mL bottle poured into a CCB snifter. 2011 bottle.

Appearance - Pours a deep burnt orange with a small off-white head. A little bit murky.

Smell - Smells like honey. Really. Exactly like honey. Fruity. Apples. Fascinating.

Taste - No honey here. Slightly sweet up front. Fruity, like the aroma. Apples. Immediately caramelly and then a strong hop bitterness. Astringent in the back. Hot, too.

Mouthfeel - It's hot, but not that bad. Well carbonated. Sweet without being syrupy.

Overall - The reviews make this sound like it's going to be awful. It's a rough beer, but its flavors are just a bit better than average.

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Photo of dfillius
4.08/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass
A: 2/3 finger cream colored head with good retention. Crystal clear burnt sienna liquid is sublime!
S: Cocoa, caramel, Belgian yeast phenolics - clove, banana, no alcohol at first. Upon warming, the alcohol is there, but not super-bold. Citrus hop aroma builds.
T: Sweet, then a tad high on alcohol, then bitter from hops, closing with Belgian funk. Fruity alcohol is apparent more on the second sip than the first - almost overwhelming. Some apple. One of the better barleywines I've had. I think the amount of Belgian flair added to this is perfect.
M:Rich, full, a bit warm but nice and finishes dry. Warmth is a bit tingly.
O: Strength shows, but still tasty and not hot. I wouldn't order a second, but i would buy again next time it comes out.

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Photo of Flounder57
3.65/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle was poured into a large Duvel snifter.

Appearance: This beer poured a one finger head that has reduced to a thin layer. It is a cloudy mahogany/amber color with some vision of bubbles coming up the side of the glass. Nice lacing on the glass as the beer was drank.

Smell: Caramel sweetness, citrus and grapefruit, spicy yeast, brown sugar, and a fruity aroma separate from the citrus.

Taste: Same as aroma. Lingering bitterness and some booze on the palate too.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, full bodied, low to medium carbonation, a bit dry, and lingering bitterness

Overall: I have had this bottle for about a year now, but maybe should of held on a bit longer. Then again, it is cold and rainy outside so a warming barleywine is a good call. A good barleywine, but would go with others over this one.

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Photo of casualfan
3.36/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle (2011 Odd-Year Release) into a snifter.

Color was a deep burnt orange. Very low carbonation. Almost no head.

Smell was subdued, with some fruit drifting through. (I will admit I had bit of a cold, so my assessment might be off!)

Taste was not as bombastic as some of the previous reviews led me to expect. There were some hops bitterness, and some spiciness from the Belgian yeast. At 12%, you can feel the heat.

Overall, it was fairly average. Glad I tried it, and I would like to give it another shot with a fresher bottle if it is rereleased.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
4/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 release poured from a 22oz bottle into a snifter glass.

A: The beer is a murky medium brown color, with a short off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains caramelized malts, brown sugar, a good amount of hops and little fruit.

T: The taste starts out sweet with flavors of brown sugar, caramel and fruit. Then a strong but not over-powering hops bitterness comes in. The malt character is hearty and there’s a faint hint of Belgian yeast creating a good balance. There’s also a little bit of an alcohol sting. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp and smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

O: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, very strong kick, good representation of style, this is a solid stronger beer to sip on for a while but I find the regular Old Guardian to be much better.

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Photo of Rutager
3.02/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

2011 bottle

Appearance. Pours a murky burnt orange with a finger of off-white head.

Smell. Banannas and cloves, sweet caramel, a little citrus fruit, berries and white pepper. Not too shabby!

Taste. Sweet caramel, molasses, metalic bitter hops, a little citrus and fruity yeast.

Mouthfeel. Full body, low+ carbonation, warm.

Overall. Some nice flavours, some not so nice. Way too warm for me as well. I've had worse.

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Photo of rapidsequence
3.26/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle, has a sticker for $7.99, but I don't remember where it came from. I guess its 9 or 10 months old now.

Appearance: Pours dark orange amber with a bit of chill haze that clears quickly and leaves a nice clear beer. Off white head with scant retention and lacing- its 12% though.

Smell: Rich fruity and caramel malt. Lots of phenolics from pleasant spice to bandaid. Also acetone and jet fuel-like fusels that burn the nose a bit.

Taste: Just too much burning. Burns the mouth and nose. The Old Guardian in the background is still good, but its wrecked by the heat and overly phenolic flavor.

Mouthfeel: I'm surprised how well the mouthfeel holds up. Smooth and sticky, leaves a long finish of the good tasting part of the beer.

Overall: This is a great idea, but it didnt turn out well. It needs to be lower gravity, and matbe fermented cooler. This is a hot mess.

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Photo of kylehay2004
3.45/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Single finger head with excellent lacing on a cloudy amber with a slight golden hue body. Lots of malts, caramel, candy sugar in both the aroma and the flavor. The flavor is fairly boozy though and very sweet. This upsets the smoothness and drinkability of the beer. The flavors are overwhelming and the alcohol content makes it worse. Body is medium with moderate carbonation. Overall the malts are over the top and the flavors produce contrasts that make the beer seem disorganized.

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

-2011 Odd year release-

Pours out a pretty ruby color with a thin skim layer on top for a head, which fades to a thin orbital ring in the glass, no real lacing left behind.

Smells most strongly of booze, medium strongly of caramel, toffee, peaches, and herbal / citrus hopping, and least strongly of all, a teeny tiny ghost of Belgian yeast phenols. (Despite having been aged to the point where it should have been greatly amplified) What happened? To be perfectly honest, I was interested in the brew aged it for the *purpose* of bringing those raunchy yeast notes forward...and it just didn't happen for some reason. Disappointing.

Flavor follows the example of the nose. Sweet caramel and hot booze, candied fruit and pine / grapefruit with a twist of orange peel. And hardly any Belgian character at all. I was expecting a lot more Belgo in my Belgo barleywine. Very strange how cellaring did not bring the Belgo out at all when usually the yeast takes over completely.

Medium body and low carbonation, really hot boozey finish, needs to be sipped for sure.

Honestly....I'd say that given my personal experience, this one is actually better off consumed fresher over cellaring.

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Photo of CHickman
3.63/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2011 Odd Year Release: pours clear amber color with a gorgeous 2 finger tan head that faded slowly, leaving decent spotty lacing. The second pour from the bomber had a lot more sediment in it and was a very cloudy pour – night and day difference in clarity.

Smells of grains, floral hops, caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, herbs, tea leaf, some citrus and booze; really strong alcohol aroma that seems mostly malty overall, but the alcohol screams hello with each sip.

Tastes grainy up front, with sweet malt, yeast, syrup, caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, herbs, tea leaf, floral hops, peat moss, some citrus notes like lemon zest, and booze like red wine or a heavy liquor like bourbon; almost seems barrel aged as sweet, tart fruit notes show up later, and the booze is mellow and sweet while being quite strong at the same time. The aftertaste is bitter with a sweetness like brown sugar or molasses, which trails off with a slight yeast funk and heat – the mild burn slid across my tongue and then down my throat until it stopped and warmed my stomach. Kind of a cool experience except for the fact that it’s August and hot as balls outside, so this would have been great to open in late November. For a Barleywine this is to be expected, and I think that this aged bottle was much better then the fresh bottle I had last year.

Mouthfeel is smooth and almost watery, with a medium to heavy body, very light carbonation and a bitter finish that has a slight kick.

A slow sipper that was better aged, but the aging could not keep the ABV in check as this bomber messed me up (again); it was drinkable and had some nice moments, but it’s not a beer I’d seek out. It was good, and I like some of the complex components, but other parts of this need help and perhaps the aging let the yeast and booze overtake the hops which made it a little one dimensional and sweeter then I would have expected.

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Photo of mactrail
2.82/5  rDev -22.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Orange and coppery amber in the Saxo tulip. Smells like brettanomyces and butterscotch. Head flattens out before too long. Only a few stray bubbles enliven the appearance.

Truly peculiar. So hot with alcohol, it's like some kind of salsa. The bitter burn also kicks in making this tough going after a few sips. Very woody, and the bitterness makes it taste like something charred and doused with red wine. Fain vinegar hints. Sugar seems to have been eaten, though there is some lingering candy flavors. The Belgian yeasty taste is nice for a while, but it gets lost in the sourish, spoiled fruit flavors.

I wish Stone would get over the need to overdose so many beers with hops. This is so bitter after a while it is just undrinkable. From the 2011 batch in 22 oz bottle.

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Photo of XicanoBeerRun
3.53/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Aged for one year.

Poured a reddish orange haze. Zero foam. Looks flat except for two small clusters of bubbles clinging to the top.

I smelled the Belgo yeast when I poured it, but did not notice it as much in the taste. The yeast was a good compliment to the traditional barley wine flavors. I could smell the alcohol in the finish. The aftertaste was a little tart and sour, which I was not expecting. Nutty, apricot, butterscotch. I felt surprisingly more carbonation than I expected based on the pour. For some reason this beer made me salivate while I was drinking it. The bitterness of hops has not faded too much.

I’ll have another.

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Photo of soulfly1492
4.32/5  rDev +19%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Aroma: Can smell this one from several feet away during the pour. Lots of barley, caramel, citrus hops, spicy yeasty phenols. Lots of dark fruits as well, dates and apricot. Mild alcohol.

Appearance: Cloudy, looks like a cup full of caramel when held up to a bright light. Deep copper, like caramel of course. A pour from high above the glass develops and a moderate head which is light brown with orange highlights. Great retention, like an espresso, a nice thin frothy layer. Obscene amount of lacing.

Taste: Wow. Super bold. Moderate barley, lots of pine and orange citrus hops. Some dark bitter grapefruit. Some sweet apricot also. Definitely seeing the Belgium yeasty phenols. Tart citrus. No flavor is particularly harsh, just bold all around.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Slick and creamy.. Finishes dry, of course considering the 12% ABV and boat load of hops. Mild to moderate hop sting.

Overall: Bold and beautiful. A bit over the top but it goes down quick nonetheless. The aftertaste lingers for some time.

Notes: 2011 Odd-year release. Drank on 4/4/2012.

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Photo of Boto
4.2/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz. bomber: This one pours a clear, coppery amber color. There was a finger of a dense, almost tan head on it that left some lacing. The aroma is nice. Belgian candi sugar, yeasty, bready, grapefruit, banana and some clove aromas, as well as a few others lurking in there. The taste is nice. Some citrus and pine bitterness. Also has an underlying caramel and Belgian candi sugar sweetness underneath. Hint of spiciness. The Belgian breadiness and yeastiness that I get in the nose don’t really show up in the taste. Very drinkable.

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Photo of Glibber
3.67/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had this on tap at Bitter Creek in Boise. Was a little hesitant to try this because I have had some overpowering Barleywines, but this one was pretty good. A full pint for $5 at 12 ABV was a value that could not be beat. Not much of an appearance, but that is common with barleywine. There was the hop presence, but not overpowering at all. A little bitterness, but mild. One of the easiest drinking barleywines I have had. My wife hates Barleywine and she liked this one.

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Photo of Kendo
3.9/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2011 version, aged at Westmere Beverage until March of 2012, when they sold growlers of it. Consumed on 3/31/12.

A: Poured from the growler into a Sam Smith's nonic-style pint glass. Body is hazy, orangey-amber, with a small off-white head the settles fast. No lacing left behind.

S: Orangey citrus, caramel malt and toffee. A touch of tannic astringency, reminds me of an oak-aged ale, though I know there's no oak here at all.

T: Toffee, big-time caramel malt, citrusy hops(oranges - think Southern Comfort or Cointreau) and alcohol. That 12% ABV is definitely noted, with heat at the back of the palate and down the gully. A good amount of hops remain for a juicy bitterness at the finish, providing a little bit of balance on top of the big malt profile. I'm not really getting much from the Belgian yeast strain.

M: Just about full-bodied, with a slightly slick feel to it.

O: Good. I'm knocking it down to a 3.5 here because of the high alcohol - it affects drinkability, and it also plays a major role in the flavor profile, with the ABV heat on the back of the palate. Still, this is good stuff. Would be nice in a snifter next to the fire on a cold night.

Edit, 3/7/13:

Finally drinking the bomber of this I've had in my cellar for awhile. My impression, after another year of aging (compared to my last, growler review of this) is pretty similar. Body is turbid amber with orangey hues. I get sweet, honey and toffee-like scents along with muted orangey/citrusy hops on the nose. Taste - again I feel there's an oak-like tannic impression at the back end of a caramel, toffee malt profile, with decent hop bitterness. Alcohol is noted, both in the nose and the taste, as well as in the heat in the belly. I'd probably give it a slightly lower score now - say a 3.75 - but it's still interesting and decent.

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Old Guardian BELGO Barleywine from Stone Brewing
3.63 out of 5 based on 572 ratings.
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