Old Guardian BELGO Barleywine | Stone Brewing

572 Ratings
Read the review
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.

For Trade:
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 572 |  Reviews: 302
Photo of shodrod
4.55/5  rDev +25.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(poured into a snifter)
This beer pours a deep, translucent red with very little head but noticeable bubbles along the edge of the glass at first. The aroma is quite complex with many subtleties all difficult to pinpoint: notes of strawberry, smoke, licorice, wood. The front of the beverage is quite oaky. The finish has obvious notes of the Belgian yeast added to this year's batch; the dryness really adds a new dimension to the glory of the barelywine. A wonderful take on a truly classic style!

 500 characters

Photo of julian
3.23/5  rDev -11%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: semi dark mahogany amber, cloudy, minimal almond colored, head that shrinks quickly. sporadic oily lacing.

S: some mild booze, earthy grassy quality, malt and hops balanced in the nose.

T: bitter hops, resiny, saison like funk/grassyness. Big time hops in this one. extremely bitter! probably one of the most bitter beers I've ever had.

M: expected level of carbonation for the style, extreme hop bitterness. finishes harsh.

D: Given the ABV and harsh bitterness, this is not very drinkable.

 498 characters

Photo of Billolick
4.43/5  rDev +22%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Stone bomber, Belgo Bwine, 2011 "Odd year release" version, picked up yesterday @ Ardsley, NY's DeCicco market.

Pours darker copper, lt. mocha head, stays at 1/8 of an inch, and leaves fine spots of lacing.

Malted up nose, with some whiskey and darker malt flourishes.

Full flavor BW, waves of caramel malts, infused with whiskey, some wood, smoke...with a long gently malty finish. Also some ripe tropical fruit comes to mind. I keep coming back to the smoke, the soft woody notes and the whiskey barrel undertones. Complex, dense flavors, heady stuff @ 12%, alcohol present but well hidden.

World class. Sublime. Got to get more of this one...

 651 characters

Photo of flannelman808
3.89/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: This one is colored with a red orange amber hue and is rather clear looking. Topped with a nicely sustained offwhite head which has good lacing.

S: Smells pretty fantastic I must say... very fruity. Blood orange or tangerine citrus pulp jump out at me as well as a belgian like yeast quality (looks like thats because they used belgian yeast go figure). Also notes of rose petal and other flowery perfume.

T: Hmm... not sure what to think on this. Its like a better stickier version of a belgian west coast ipa. I sort of think overall the sweet and dryness of it all works alright. Where old guardian is usually very sweet belgian yeast seems to have eaten more and dried it out a bit.?.. which I think I do like. However in the end perhaps too many flavors are competing for front and center. Fruity esters meets spice and meet in a sort of battle and not a merger. I like the notion of this beer though and would like to see more...

M: stiiiky icky

D: medium

 970 characters

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

Poured from a bomber into a snifter.

Beautiful copper/red-orange/dark amber. Pours with good head. Not the best lacing.

Great nose. Detecting the usual sweet malt and of course hops (what else would one expect of a Stone brew). But there is also something... something strange... is it spice? Hmmm... not sure but making me nervous because I'm not at all a fan of spice.

This is as far from the normal 'barleywine style' taste as anything I have ever tasted. Even including the recent "Black Barleywine" from Sierra Nevada's 30th series. Most barleywines range from the sweet malt bomb at one end, to the more well-balanced sweet malt plus hops with interesting and complex esters in the middle, to uber-hopped versions that have as many pounds of hops that went into the brew as any respectable IPA. But this Stone "BELGO" seems to fall almost nowhere within this traditional range, and seems to remind me much more of some sort of Belgian ale. I wish I could be more specific and tell you more precisely which kind of Belgian influence. But alas, I will not lie and must admit my knowledge of Belgians is far from expert (nor highly appreciated since I'm not into spices). However, my knowledge of barleywines is highly respectable. Therefore, I say confidently, this one is an oddity. Certainly a surprise for any lover of regular Old Guardian or barleywines in general. On the other side of the coin, if you love Belgians and Belgian spice, then this is the "barleywine style ale" for you and a must try! Cheers!

Still highly drinkable, I would just refer to my description of the taste to see if this is going to be more toward your preferences or not.

 1,662 characters

Photo of NickMunford
4.42/5  rDev +21.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a perfect amber hue, with pretty much no head or lacing. I did pour it from a bottle in a smaller than normal snifter, so maybe there wasn't enough of a fall for the liquid to produce a head.

S: The first thing that hits me is a delicious malty sweetness, which immediately makes me think Belgian rather than barleywine. As it warms up, a spiciness emerges which reminds me of a spiced beer... nutmeg, cinnamon and the like.

T: The Belgian influence is immediately apparent to me. If fact, it makes me want to expand my palate by trying more Belgians. I've tried a few and liked them, but tend to go for craft American brews before going to the world beers, but I need to remedy that. Anyway, back to the point, this is a great marriage of malt and yeast. The hops is balanced out well and comes in at the end with a mild bitterness.

M: This has a substantial mouthfeel, with moderate carbonation. There is a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.

D: This is much more balanced and drinkable than the regular Old Guardian, in my opinion.

I know I should score this a little lower for the style, because it seems to be half Belgian and half barleywine, but it tastes so good! I had to give it high marks.

 1,218 characters

Photo of BEERchitect
4.17/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is how I remember great barleywines to be- deeply resiny, malty rich, and the beverage equivalent to a swift kick to the teeth.

The pour delivers a deep mohogany, dark amber hue but with an unexpected clarity for both intensely hoppy beers and Belgian-style ales. A froathy off-white cap tops the beer but succums to the alcohol and weight of the beer rather quickly, leaving a thin lace around the edge. Light on lacing, the beer displays brandy legging quite proudly.

Barleywine aromas dominate with the bullyish balance of intense malt sweetness and resiny hop perfumes to match. Alcohol and phenolic spice rise as the carbonation settles and the beer begins to warm. Fruitiness could be attributed to the normal procession of American barleywines ro could be a result of the new Belgian yeast. Regardless, the spicy/fruity Belgian notes are there but are cleaner than in more classic Belgian ales- more like those of Flying Dog Ragin' Bitch or Stone's own Cali-Belgique.

Flavors are much more intense than the nose suggests as the malt sweetness takes on proportions of scorched molasass, dry toast, and caramel-rich breads. Hop aggression soon matches the hops with a growing resiny flavor and sharp bitterness- grassy, piney, and acute grapefruit. In the interest of Belgian yeastiness, the beer adopts added, yet understated fruitiness, along with a peppery, medicinal (perhaps a little soapy) phenolic character that creates as many contradictory flavors as they do complimentary. The intense richness of malt and hop resins combine for a minerally, quite salty taste (with a somewhat metalic note).

Rich with a blend of expansive malt and unresolved syrups give sweetness and a fat mid-palate while leaving a savory stickiness on the mouth. Still, the tongue piercing bitterness create the sensation of dryness on the throat. Bitterness is to the extent that questions a grassy astringency. Alcoholic heat gives restrained yet solventy warmth without the fusal character that's expected from a 12% beer.

The mere intensity of hops with spice, alcohol, and deep malts shout complexity, even at the expense of causing difficulty in drinking, even for the most die hard beer advocate.

 2,200 characters

Photo of katan
4.03/5  rDev +11%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz into a goblet

A - Pours a dark brown to almost ruby color. Strong mocha colored head formation, breaks down to a film with little lacing. Incredibly clear, brilliant.

S - Strong belgian yeast strain. Some white pepper, cardamom, and just a little fruity esters. A caramel malt sneaks in just behind it.

T - Malty up front, light amount of caramel and toffee. Mid-stream gets a very estery, super strong belgian yeast note. Somewhat sour, sweet and a little bit fruity. Finishes with a strong alcohol warmth that is well retained in the aftertaste. Well this is a belgo-style, I'm surprised the hops played such little a role.

M - Moderate mouth feel, body is strong, somewhat creamy and thick. Carbonation is overwhelmed by it, so hardly a player. Finishes with a little bit of a cloying sugary note.

D - Moderate drinkability - scary abv, very sneaky and well hidden. Slightly filling, a little bit of a sipper.

 922 characters

Photo of Vonerichs
4.1/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

It looks like a glass of caramel. Same color, and very murky. 1/2" of fluffy head.

The nose is sweet caramel up front, then settles into heavy banana and clove.

I really enjoyed the taste of this one. It's the perfect combination of barleywine and belgian yeast. Heavy on the caramel sweetness with the belgian attributes of banana and a spicey finish. It's phenolic, but not to much due to the caramel.

Heavy and boozy mouthfeel.

Drinkability is a little tough. On one hand, it's extremely enjoyable due to the complexity of the flavor, but it is heavy. The high abv puts a burn in the chest, too. Definitely a sipper.

As a Stone apologist, I think the "odd beers for odd years" is a great idea and they really proved it with this one. Thankfully, we can have our cake and eat it, too, because we get this and the classic barleywine. I can't wait to see what's in store for the IRS.

 892 characters

Photo of womencantsail
3.78/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at Stone

A: The pour is a dark amber in color with a finger of off-white head and minimal lacing.

S: Wow, a lot of spice (coriander and pepper) going on here. Lots of phenols with a bit of bubblegum. Quite a bit of booze on the nose and it cannot really be covered up by the caramel and bread.

T: A surprising amount of fruit flavor: banana, pear, and citrus. Like the nose, plenty of spicy phenols. The malt is prominent and is mostly of bread and semi-sweet toffee. Noticeable alcohol flavor as well.

M: The body is medium to full with a moderate level of carbonation.

D: This is significantly better than the previous Belgian Old Guardian, but it's still way too boozy for its own good.

 701 characters

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

Pours a bright copper color, slight haze, and a pretty nice off white head.

Aromas are very yeast dominant, bubblegum, and some booze.

Strong yeast flavors up front, spices, bubblegum, and light creaminess. Finish is dry, with some earthy hop flavors.

Mouthfeel is good, crisp and clean.

Drinkability is ok. It's an interesting tasting beer, but I mostly just get yeast flavors, and not a whole lot else. Worth trying, but I prefer the original version better.

 464 characters

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

Clear reddish orange colored beer with a small tan colored head.

Smell is distinctly Belgian. Sweet smoky with a spicy yeast aroma this smells strongly of cardamom. Scents of lemon, coriander and black pepper.

Starts out sweet with a cardamom aftertaste. Black pepper, lemon, coriander and a hint of vinegar. Can't taste the ethanol but you can really feel it warm your chest. Smoke and a little honeysuckle in this on.

Mouthfeel is thick.

Drinkability is OK. This one really needs time to develop, not yet ready for prime time.

 532 characters

Photo of rye726
4.13/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Nice to see more Belgo/American fusions. Poured from a 22oz bottle into a snifter at room temp. $7 for the bomber. Nice looking beer, oaky red color wit a silky beige head. Nose has a great fresh hop and peppery Belgian yeast presence over a malty barleywine. Taste is also well complimented by the additional hops and Belgian yeast. Great beer.

 345 characters

Photo of Zodijackyl
4.5/5  rDev +24%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

22oz bomber split with my brother. It's a February and this is a 2011 release so it is most certainly fresh despite the lack of a freshness date (that I can find).

Pours very dark amber with a thin off-white head. Aroma of sticky barley, somewhat creamy yeast and somewhat medicinal hops. Taste has less astringent bitterness and is less tannic than most heavier barley wines. Very creamy malt - barley and a very creamy taste and feel from the yeast, and perhaps a bit of wheat, or something reminiscent of Belgian wheat beers beyond the yeast. Quite a smooth and malty taste, but lacking the astringency of most barley wines. Mouthfeel is excellent, creamy and smooth. This is the most drinkable strong barley wine I have consumed.

 734 characters

Photo of Barleythenred
3.9/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A very decent drinkable brew, specially at 12%, but it is in need for aging. I give it about 3 to 5 years before opening. but other than that it was very good but again time needs to happen to clean out some of that ethanol flavor. Apricots are very apparent at the end. Hops bursting out like an IPA, with a subtle taste of Belgian yeast.

 339 characters

Photo of corby112
4.18/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked this bottle up yesterday and am curious how it stands up to the standard version.

Pours a dark golden orange/amber color with golden blood orange hues when held to a light and a one finger frothy yellowish-beige head. Decent retention, quickly settling into a thick lasting ring that leaves sporadic streaks and spots of lace behind.

Earthy aroma with hints of floral, pine and citrus hops countered by a sweet, slightly leathery malt presence. There's also some boozy sweetness in the nose with hints of light fruit and bubblegum. The citrus rind presence from the hops are nicely complimented by the sweeter bubblegum and fruit notes. The malt becomes more prominent as it warms with caramel, toffee and biscuit. Very interesting and complex smelling. Not as boozy and/or earthy as I expected. I'm really curious to see how the nose will develop with some age.

Full bodied, complex and well balanced with a blast of fresh, dank, oily hops up front that linger throughout over the sweet malt, booze and sweet Belgian yeast notes into a slight dry finish. Nice and dry/bitter up front with hints of floral pine needle countered by sweet citrus fruit flavor, notably pineapple, grapefruit and orange peel. This is quickly countered mid-palate by some subtle boozy heat, sweet malt and Belgian yeast character. The malt is only slightly leathery with hints of caramel, rye, toffee, biscuit and hazelnut. Toward the end of the swallow, the Belgian yeast flavors make an appearance giving off hints of light fruit and subtle bubblegum. I'm picking up some apricot and apple which blend really nicely with the sweet malt flavor and booze.

The ABV is excellently masked with only slight alcohol flavor and subtle warmth in the finish. This beer is dangerously drinkable making it hard to believe that it's 12%. Much smoother and more quaffable than most barleywines with less of an earthy, boozy feel and flavor. The combination of flavors make it extremely complex and unlike most beers I've had in the style. I was a little skeptical of this one but I really enjoyed it. Highly recommended!

 2,098 characters

Photo of FosterJM
3.85/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

261st review on BA
Bottle to snifter

App- A nice light red with some pink highlights. A pretty consistent one finger head that didn't last long.

Smell- Take a regular Old Guardian and kick it up with some yeast and funk.

Taste- This was pretty good. It took a while to get used to it but it was a nice blend of flavors. Had some crystal malts with a nice dose of yeast that paired well with the other flavors.

Mouth- A nice medium body with a matching carbonation level. Not too much of a lasting effect. Had that yeasty feel on the back.

Drink- Not a bad re-work of the style. I prefer the original personally.

 616 characters

Photo of BeerFMAndy
3.68/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle split and poured into a Duvel tulip. 2011 vintage, 12% ABV, Age at Cellar temp (55°F/13°C) or Below. Enjoy by 04-14-11 (which, laughably, has been determined as a typo)

Thanks to my fiancee for nabbing this at Binny's while I was in town!

A - Gorgeous clarity albeit filled with chunky yeast, the beer has a nice golden amber color that's topped by an off-white, poorly retained (alcohol-induced) head. Nice spotty lace is left adorning the glass.

S - Very dry, champagne-like Belgian yeast with light citrusy notes, white grape, earthy clay, and spicy esters. Munich and caramel malt play a nice role as a backbone but there isn't much in the aroma besides yeast.

T - Spicy Belgian yeast overwhelms the flavor with tart, citrusy notes and earthy undertones. The yeast has great qualities to it but it totally overshadows the normally complex malt backbone of OG. Citrusy, spicy hops poke through though.

M - Heavily carbonated and medium-bodied, the Belgo OG feels much thinner than normal. It's also very dry and slightly bitter-finishing, but it's got a very nice feel overall.

D - For 12%, this guy is very drinkable. Belgianized flavor and high alcohol are well done but at the same time the yeast is far too overwhelming and overall it reminds me nothing of a barleywine, especially the Old Guardian, and that's really my only "problem" with it, which I wouldn't say is much of a problem at all. An interesting stab at Belganizing. I'll get one or two more bottles, but they'll be in the cellar for a while. It seems like a beer that'll get better with age.

 1,584 characters

Photo of xnicknj
4.35/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into snifter glass

Pours a transparent deep burnt cherry with golden orange hues. A soft white head fades out into clouds of film with rings and spots of lacing left on the glass.

Plenty of malty presence in the nose with a noticeable Belgian funk followed by soft fruit sweetness. Light alcohol warmth and hop bitterness as well.

A nice punch of pine hops right up front, quickly followed by some sticky bitterness. The Belgian yeast comes right to the forefront with funk and assorted fruit flavors. Pineapple and grapefruit swirl with a bit of acidity. Boozy warmth with caramel and syrupy malt backbone. Finishes bitter, hoppy, and warm.

Fuller body, a bit syrupy and creamy, decent carbonation. This is still a bit hot but is super drinkable considering the ABV and complex taste. I tried this on tap a while ago and wasn't sure how I felt but I'm convinced right now.

 899 characters

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

From a 22 oz. bomber,

A: Pours amber with a medium white head, frothy, good lace.

S: Yeasty, leather, pepper, the Belgain character is overt and inviting.

T: Strong crystal malt flavour overall. The yeast is heavy and truly dominates the beer in a good way. Heavy leather, mushroom and bacon fat with a hint of funkiness, intense and flavourful.

M: Full-bodied, resiny but smooth, easy carbonation.

D: A really good take on the classic Old Guardian. Well worth a pickup, I loved this.

 489 characters

Photo of brew3crew
4.15/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

At jungle jims event with 1arrogantbastard. Had side by side with regular old guardian

A-pours. Deep amber with minimal head
S-funky and sweet. Belgian for sure.
T-tastes a lot like it smells. Belgian and malty. Not too much hops here.
M-medium bodied and pretty smooth
D-nicely drinkable but not as nice as the regular. Dangerous.

 333 characters

Photo of edrachman
3.91/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured from a bomber into a snifter with little white creamy head that leaves nice lacing. Deep amber color with hints of red.

Very dry aroma - presumably from the barley - with malty notes. Exotic fruit (rather than citrus) is in the background of the aroma - but can't exactly place the fruit. The alcohol really comes through.

Taste a fruity malt. There is a dryness as well. The Belgian yeast is definitely discernible in the taste, but a little tough to describe.

The mouthfeel is nice - good amount of carbonation and a certain smoothness that goes down nicely. The malt flavor makes the beer a little less drinkable than ideal, but otherwise top notch.

 662 characters

Photo of rdilauro
3.28/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a golden glow with little head. The two aromas I picked up was malt and citrus/honey. It was a very big beer, full, not very carbonated.
It was very soft, almost too soft. Too malty for my taste and the finish was somewhat boring.
I wish that the barley was match with some stronger hops and more flavor

 309 characters

Photo of cpetrone84
3.41/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had on draft at the Stone Total Tap Takeover in Baltimore.

A-pours a transparent orangish amber color with an off white dense and creamy head.

S-the nose brings light notes of yeast, very citric aromas, orange peels with notes of caramel malt backbone.

T-caramel malts and light notes of brown sugar set a foundation. this gives way to a nice spicy yeast. a big time citric hop presence is strong in the back adding orange peels with a hint of pine. the finish has a moderately aggressive bitterness to it.

M-medium body, very syrupy with a slightly muffled palate and medium to light carbonation.

D-tasty and balanced, nice amount of spice with enough malt body. the typical huge hop presence in the back.

 711 characters

Photo of sweemzander
3.21/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

on tap at the Barley House. Poured into a snifter.

(A)- Pours a caramel colored amber and produced a minimal but present white cap of foam that stuck around for a bit.

(S)- Very dry with a mineral-like yeasty bite. Bits of fig and caramel.

(T)- Similar to the smell. Very yeasty. That belgian yeast strain rlly takes center stage with some caramel and fig bits in the far background.

(M)- A good carbonation level to it. The one plus to the overpowering dry yeast is that it really covers up the 12% this carries along with the hop addition.

(D)- All in all an interesting take on Old Guardian, however I far prefer the regular version to this. I would be curious to see how this one would age, but from what I am seeing in this glass, I would be hard pressed to buy a bottle if the regular was next to it on the shelf.

 824 characters

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

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.