Stone: Old Guardian Extra Hoppy (USA: Barley Wine: 11% ABV)
Visual: Dark mahogany red. Reddened whitish inch of a head. Clear body but with some carbonation.
Nose: Pine wood shavings and wood polish. Gingerbread and cinnamon. Roasted nut shells. Dried apricot.
Body: Bitter. Toasted chestnuts. Big hops. Frothy feel. Dried beef slices. Brown sugar. Dried apricot. Strawberry. Very light toffee behind. Light cherries. Hop oils. Glacier cherries and caramel late on.
Finish: Chestnuts. Lots of hops. Nutmeg. Charred oak. Very nutty. Malt drink touch. Light lime sorbet. Strawberry and cinnamon.
Conclusion: Nutty? When has a barley wine ever been nutty? Ok, that is a rhetorical question, I know you can probably bombard me with examples. I am wondering though – are we still even under the barley wine category by this point, as the abv seems to be the only thing that matches with expectations of the style.
This is nutty, roasted, bitter and charred – it doesn’t quite ruin you, partially because of the ghost of sweetness and smoothness haunting it but for the first half a glass or so it is utterly relentless and dominated by the harsh character. Over time the ghost gets to be a bit more of a geist on the poltergeist fashion – throwing out notes of toffee and cherry with just enough to give escape velocity and break free from the roasted core. Even there they are lighter, easily lost secondary notes. Though the angry spirit fights harder and harder with every sip to push the sweetness out.
Warmth does help, bringing out more sweetness, cherry and cinnamon – the hops get more heavy as well, but it is well worth drinking it this way as you get more of the root barley wine style.
If standard Old Guardian was intense then this is brutal – share a bottle or by the end you will just feel the hops. The main disappointment her is that the hop character is so simple – nutty and brutal but if feels like you are mainly getting the alpha acids rather than complex extra flavour. It is admirable for intensity but really lacks on subtlety.
In fact this taste kind of like what I expected Ruination IPA to taste like – i.e. ruining. It takes until very late on in the beer for the sweetness to do its thing and taste like barley wine. The hops don’t lessen, but for those moments the balance is far better – for most of the time leading up to that moment it is very intense but very single minded.
Background: You know, I tried standard Old Guardian a while back – nice, but I thought it laid the bitterness on a bit heavily which meant that it got a bit clinging by the end. therefore when I heard they did an even more hoppy version of it I grabbed it from Brewdog’s Guest Beer selection. Because of course. This paragraph may explain a lot about what is wrong with me.
Anyway, this is part of Stone’s “Odd Year Release” selection – beers released every other year. This is the 2015 version. Shared with friends, because I may be stupid, but I can just about learn from past experiences.