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 jophish17
2.5/5  rDev -31.1%

Photo of getkrunkhoe
2.5/5  rDev -31.1%

Photo of emdawg
2.5/5  rDev -31.1%

Photo of UpToMeBeer
2.56/5  rDev -29.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Ordered this on-tap at Fresh Craft in Denver. I like barleywines-- and I've liked other Stone offerings a lot-- but this one is disappointing.

A -- goldish light brown; one-finger head with minimal lacing.

S-- a combo of floral yeast, spices, alcohol, sugars, orange.

T-- a strange arrangement of conflicting flavors. Not as much alcohol as I like in a barleywine. I don't claim to know why, but the prevailing taste I get is what I imagine soapwater would taste like. With a hint of honey on the finish.

M- My palette was too confused to enjoy any aspect of this let alone the overall experience. A fuller body, I think, would help.

Overall, it's just too out of balance. Seems like a daring experiment gone wrong.

 721 characters

Photo of drinkiusmaximus
2.62/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Odd beer for sure.

A-pours reddish amber with two fingers head that recedes quickly with no retention and no lacing.

S-alcohol and leather with a touch of barley.

T-hot alcohol burn with rum soaked raisin and caramel.

M-thick syrupy with lingering heat.

D-not sure but I think this is the only one of these I will ever have.


 339 characters

Photo of akorsak
2.71/5  rDev -25.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A bomber bottle.

A: The barleywine has the right look, a coppery amber color, barely transparent, with a thick head. That head reached nearly three fingers and dries in clumps.

S: That's an unusual nose. Candi sugars drive a hard bargain, sweet with a pear and apple sweetness. Plenty of thick malts are amidst the yeast, as is a syrupy shot of anise. LaChouffe with an excess of malts.

T: Too much anise, so much that it easily cuts through the Belgian yeast. And that yeast is pretty damned formidable. Barleywine flavors are lurking below the surface, strong and thick, they just don't have much of a shot at making it through. So cloyingly sweet that I can't stomach the beer. A noble experiment; but so was New Coke.

M: Sweet, the Belgian yeast strain carries its weight and then some. Not your mother's Old Guardian; and if you love her, don't introduce it to her.

 874 characters

Photo of Phelps
2.73/5  rDev -24.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Sent by nlmartin in the Blind Beers BIF. This here’s a bomber that I poured into a tulip and reviewed blind.

Cloudy copper with a frothy half-finger head of cream-colored foam that fizzles away quickly, becoming a thin, sticky ring.

The nose is fruity with Belgian esters of pear and apple, along with some citrus and herbal mint. In the background is a subtle, weird smokiness, akin to pork and black pepper.

The flavor is absolutely overrun with alcohol. Behind the heated blast are hints of curacao, toffee, black pepper and caramel. Yeesh.

Medium-high carbonation peppers the tongue from one angle while the beastly alcohol attacks from the other. The runny medium-light body fizzes up softly as it moves about. Fumes blaze through the nose and set my chest ablaze. If I breathed out near a flame, I think it would ignite.

Well, there’s nothing outright damning about this beer, but there’s nothing redeeming about it either. It’s as if the Belgian yeast went into a rebellious teenage stage and started producing only alcohol instead of flavor and aroma. Damn teenagers.

 1,092 characters

Photo of IdrinkGas
2.75/5  rDev -24.2%

Photo of patrick802
2.75/5  rDev -24.2%

Photo of deadliest
2.75/5  rDev -24.2%

Photo of Gosox8787
2.75/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Presentation: 22 oz. bomber bottle poured into my Portsmouth Brewery tulip glass. Served at room temperature.

Appearance: Light brown to darker orange in color. Pours a one finger white, piloowy head with decent retention.

Aroma: The Belgian yeast definitely hits first. Lots of fruit notes and clove here. Hints of caramel and booze soaked raisans behind that. A touch of grassy and herbal notes round out the aroma. I really do not get a cohesive aroma from this. A lot of the notes don't really work well together at this point.

Taste: Belgian yeast notes of fruit and clove are definitely present and assert themselves first. There is definitely a strong caramel and dark fruit presence here as well. There is also a ton of hops here. Bitter, astrigent hops really take over the beer and actually completely overpower the other components at times. The hops really do not pair well with any of the other components, especially the Belgian yeast. Together, they impart an artificial and almost band aid quality, which clearly is not appealing. There are some qualities here, but they are drowned out by bitter hops and too much booze.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied and smooth. Not a ton of carbonation. I would prefer a bit crisper feel for a beer that feels this heavy, in flavor and feel.

Drinkability: I had a lot of problems finishing a bomber of this. The ABV was not too bad for 12% but I just really did not enjoy the combination of flavors working here.

Overall, an unbalanced beer without any direction. Too many big flavors that do not compliment each other. The amount of hops used really confused me, they add no nice hop flavors, just astrigency and bitterness. I would not be against revisiting this beer with some age on it, but I have to imagine it would need at least two or three years for the hops to subside and the malt to become the attraction, when paired with the Belgian yeast. Definitely would not recommend this to anyone at this stage. I was letdown a little by this.

 1,997 characters

Photo of moonknight31
2.75/5  rDev -24.2%

Photo of EDubLovesBeer
2.75/5  rDev -24.2%

Photo of champ103
2.76/5  rDev -24%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A: Pours a hazy brick red color. A two finger white head forms with good retention. Sticky lace is left as the foam recedes.
S: Sweet candy malt up front. Citrus and banana aromas. Soapy and oily hops dominate after that.
T: Follows the nose with a large sweetness up front. Like boiled candy. Then the citrus fruit flavors come in. Heavy on the wood flavors as well. Again, really soapy hops that leaves a strong lingering bitterness. Mix that with the sweetness, and I am not really a fan.
M/D: A medium to full body. Low on the carbonation. A very slick and oily feel. The high alcohol is very present. This will be a chore to drink.

Not a surprise that this is just over the top. To many things going on for me to even tell what I am tasting, and nothing melds together. I respect Stone, but rarely enjoy their beers. This is an example.

 842 characters

Photo of dciBA
2.77/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Poured from the bomber into my big DFH snifter(c'mon DFH make these available again). On the red side of copper in color and a little hazy. Some sudsy head formed initially but faded quickly to just a skimming. A decent amount of soapy lacing.

Smell is boozy initially, followed by lots of caramel sweetness. There's a noticeable fruitiness as well as some hop aroma. The smells fight for attention and honestly don't mix well with each other.

The flavor is much improved over the smell but still a little messy. Fruity on the front of the tongue, caramely and sweet in the middle and plenty of bitterness on the sides. Plenty of good flavors, but none of them interacting well with each other. I can't help but think this is the fault of a strong booziness that penetrates every sip.

Mouthfeel is slick with hop resin and has a pretty hearty body. Carbonation is good for the style, just enough to bring out the hops. Finish is fairly sweet with a solid warmth after every sip. Lot's of good pieces to this puzzle but as a whole it just doesn't work.

 1,056 characters

Photo of raszputini
2.77/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

I must say to begin with that I am very picky with barleywines. Many I just dont' like. This is an interesting combo a barleywine with belgian style yeast and sugars. Nose is what you'd expect - a combo of belgian fruitiness and phenols along with the yeasty nose from a barleywine. Taste starts like a trippel with coriander and belgian sugars and then morphs into a barleywine. Complex - definitely not a session. Rough around the edges. I think simply pouring a blithering idiot into a cheap trippel would yield similar results.

 531 characters

Photo of gdkersey
2.79/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

A: amber-red, pretty interesting color. an aggressive pour yields a small off-white head, which doesn't stick around for long.

S: some really great aroma here - coconut, vanilla...not sure how else describe the slight alcohol aroma but reminds me of spiced rum

T: big alcohol burn. lots of tangerine and grapefruit, which intensifies as the beer warms.

M: carbonation works well, a bit thin

I'm actually getting a headache as I drink this beer. It comes across as hot and alcoholic and doesn't give up. I know this is a beer that should age well, but this beer really suffers from drinkability when it shouldn't.

 617 characters

Photo of bamadog
2.8/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Review is from notes taken on 3/10/2011 and poured from the bottle to a goblet.

Appearance: Pour is a dark apricot/coppery color with lighter orange highlights and it starts with a 1/4 finger creamy off-white head that fades quickly to a thick, but uneven skim hanging around on the surface; body is fairly hazy and shows moderately slow carbonation bubbling up from the bottom; only a couple of small spots of lacing are left hanging around on the sides of the glass.

Smell: First and foremost, I would say there is plenty of Belgian yeast flowing out of this one and it has a bit of a smooth banana like aspect to it and is probably the best aspect to it next to the sweet bottle.

Taste: Sad to say it, but it's a bit of a mess -- lots of the Belgian yeast right up front and there's a super sweet blast of malts (possibly some candi sugar in there as well?) and it turns the stomach a bit as it's a little too sweet; then there's the assault of the strong and grassy hoppiness that one would expect from Stone, and if it wasn't for unbalanced sweetness, it would probably be pretty good; definite presence of big alcohol rounds it all out.

Mouthfeel: Body is moderately thick and of medium mouthfeel; carbonation is smooth and fitting of the body; a very thick and sticky coating is left all over the palate and the belly is left quite warm from the 12%ABV.

Drinkability: Not too high -- the uber-sweetness turns it and I can't finish the bottle. Worth trying, but only once.

 1,483 characters

Photo of Brent
2.81/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Started on a great note, with a radiant caramel color and sturdy head. Belgian yeast aroma. Good so far. First sip, big caramel malt with sharp hops that quickly begin to wrestle with the funky Belgian yeast notes. Going downhill now. Alcohol that first claimed notice with peppery bite now heats up, growing hotter with each sip. Hops take on a raw, herbacious note that does not play well with the Belgian character. Gaining speed on the downhill run. Toward the end the beer takes on a too-young, unfinished character, too rough to enjoy at all. Perhaps a year under the belt will settle this beer down, but I don't ever see the flavors coming together.

 656 characters

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.

 774 characters

Photo of SkunkWorks
2.82/5  rDev -22.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22 oz bottle from the 2011 release poured into a Southampton IRS release day snifter, served at cellar temperature. I have only had a few barleywines so keep that in mind as you read the review.

Look: an aggressive pour yields a finger thick head of off white foam. The body is clear and orangey amber in color. Good looking beer.

Smell: I really did not care for the smell. It seems like everything that could go bad with Belgian yeast aromas went bad with this one and I found that it clashed pretty thoroughly with the heavy hopping, malt and alcohol that is present in the rest of the beer. It isn't integrated at all and there are some medicinal smells in there as well. Not particularly inviting.

Taste: incredibly sweet with malt, huge resin flavor, obvious alcohol, medicinal phenolic notes... all in all its just a bit too much for my palate to take in at once and it all clashes with each other. The alcohol and unpleasantly bitter resin character only amplifies as this beer warms, and by the time I'm at the bottom of the glass, I am finding each sip to be more and more difficult to drink.

Feel: the medium-full body is good, as is the level of carbonation, however I can't give this a good score because the alcohol burn is simply too much and the lingering, resinous bitterness is unpleasant.

Drink: as I mentioned above, this was a sipper from the get go but as I reached the bottom of my glass, I really didn't enjoy drinking this beer. I finished the glass but barely and would not have again.

Overall, I truly did not care for this beer. While I haven't had that many barleywines, and have reviewed even fewer, I did not care for this beer at all. The flavors clash too much and the Belgian yeast adds a very unpleasant character to this beer. I am surprised to see so many people enjoying this beer. I am also surprised that this made it out of taste testing at Stone. This is unfortunate, since I ordinarily love Stone. You can do better than this, Stone! I would avoid this one. Cheers!

 2,016 characters

Photo of Arbitrator
2.85/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

2011 vintage, chilled bomber into a glass.

A: Pours a clear, reddish-maroon body with a short-lived beige head. It leaves a very light collar on the beer. The reddish tint (especially when pouring) reminds me of cough syrup.

S: You can smell the Belgian yeast right away (literally, the yeast), and its effects after. There's a phenolic presence of clove and white pepper that work well with a note of booze. The crystal malt of the base beer shines through with caramel and toffee aromas. It's floral and rose-like.

T: This beer is weird. It starts off with the same imbalanced maltiness I found in the base beer: lots of caramel and toffee. Then the hops come in, but they don't impart any particular flavor, just a lot of bitterness, which pulls into the aftertaste. In the meantime, the yeast gives the beer a spicy, peppery finish that accentuates the booze bite. I find myself grabbing onto the small, estery presence and trying to enjoy what fruit flavors I can pick up (apricot?), but the yeast just isn't expressive enough on that front. This is better than the base beer, but it misses its potential by a long shot.

M: Oddly clashing body. The hops leave their bitter mark; the yeast leaves spicy, peppery phenols in the finish; the booze produces a burning heat. The carbonation seems to be right on the body, but it's one right thing out of several flaws.

D: Far more drinkable than the base beer this year, though I'm not suggesting it's amazing by any means. I put down a bomber and I'm content not to have it again.

 1,540 characters

Photo of errantnight
2.86/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bubblegum and banana and spun sugar.

Stone Old Guardian has always been a bit of a conundrum... burdensomely hot, bitter, and sweet when young, it mellows into something just shy of sublime somewhere between 6 and 18 months then starts to fade elegantly from there. What is it not lacking? Dryness. Or fruity esters. So why add them?

I don't know. It's not a BAD beer, but the heavy fruitiness and soft bubblegum-y sweetness of this yeast strain is not my particular bag, it doesn't do particularly well with resiny, citrusy hops, and the slightly dryer finish only increases the harshness and does nothing to cut through the bulky, caramel-malt middle. It lacks the mouthfeel or body or subtle nuance and yeast complexity of something like, say, a quad (not that it's trying to be one).

It's not one note, but it's very few note. It's not particularly harsh or unpleasant, but I can't see myself being in the mood for it, either.

 933 characters

Photo of flipper2gv
2.9/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Thanks a ton to crossovert for this bottle!

A: Cloudy burnt orange color with a creme white head. The head is creamy, one finger and half high, retention is pretty good and lacing is just as good.

S: This smells exceptionally sweet. Lots of candi sugar in this. Strong aromas of vanilla, maple syrup and brown sugar. Light molasses and toffee. Caramel is near overwhelming. Light grassy hops in the background. Some cinnamon, prune and dates from the yeast (I think).

T: Kind of mix of sweet caramel, vanilla, maple syrup, brown sugar and grassy/floral hops. Chaotic.

M: Heavy body with light carbonation. Quite sticky.

O: Well, it's not a very good beer. I tried to let it age a bit to make it less chaotic but I'm still unimpressed by the brew.

 751 characters

Photo of AgentZero
2.93/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A - Hazy orange colored beer that poured with a big, foamy head on it. Surpringly low stick on the sides.

S - Belgian yeast is upfront and center. Quite pungent, with a smell of fruits and ethers. Some coffee, toffee, and floral notes round out the aroma.

T - A dose of caramel and toffee with some floral and herbal notes. Then the yeast really takes over. I don't particularly care for the combination of strong belgian yeast and barleywine notes, it is overly pungent.

M - Too much soapy carbonation and fizz, pretty full bodied.

D - Kind of hard to drink this, not even considering the high ABV. It is just an odd tasting brew that I don't care for in most circumstances.

 680 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.