Review: Stone Old Guardian

Stone has quite a few canonical beers. Arrogant Bastard is one of the best West Coast beers. Sublimely Self Righteous Ale acted as the model for black IPAs as they rose to ubiquity. Old Guardian is right up there for American Barely Wines.

While I spend a lot of time in this space talking about the joy of creating or trying something surprising and genuinely new, I do appreciate the standards. It doesn’t seem like summer without Saison DuPont. Two Hearted isn’t exceptional in any way besides being the best widely available IPA in the country. These beers act as guideposts for innovation and change. They are the established base that brewers use for inspiration.

A lot of times, I overlook beers because I see them all over. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to give the out there beers a break and go back to the beers that either created or defined styles.

Tasting Notes

Stone Old Guardian 2012

Stone Old Guardian 2012 (11%)

Appearance: This beer was not as dark as I expected. The beer is a coppery, tan, with ruby tinges when you hold it up to the light. There was a fluffy, off-white head that faded quickly to a thin film.

Aroma: The smell is all malt. Tons of caramel and biscuit comes through. There’s a hint of alcohol heat at the back end of the nose. It certainly isn’t cloying, but has a bit of sweetness to it.

Taste: The taste a bit sharper and drier than the nose. The hops are certainly not overpowering, but come in to help balance the flavor and keep it from being overwhelmingly sweet. At the front of the taste there’s plenty of caramel and malt. The hops follow to dry it out a little bit more. At the end of there’s a fair bit of alcohol heat. You don’t want to have a beer that’s 11% not to have a little kick to it.

Mouthfeel: It’s not as viscous as I thought it would be. There’s not much carbonation; just enough to keep it a little lively. It could actually use a bit more carbonation to keep it from being a bit syrupy. Still, that’s not necessarily against style for a Barley Wine.

Overall: I’m not exactly sure if this is the perfect beer for a 80 degree night with about 90% humidity, but this is certainly a good beer. I had this “cellaring” for about 6 months before cracking it open. That’s really nothing for this beer. I’d be curious to try it after sitting for a year or two. This is certainly a great example of a Barley Wine. There’s a little bit of that Stone, West coast style with the somewhat aggressive hopping, but I think that helps balance it out, rather than move it out of style.

 

Review: Short’s The Wizard

Part of our Michigan Beer Week.

Yet another of the beers I bought on my recent snowboarding trip, I decided to stick with the Northern Michigan theme and picked up a Short’s beer, The Wizard. They describe it as a barley wine brewed with raisins.

Short's The Wizard

Short's The Wizard

The beer has a great barleywine color and head, though it may be just a little bit darker than most barleywines. That could be due to the adjunct being dark in color, or more malt. Either way, no complaints here.

The aroma had plenty of malt, and just barely a hint of raisins – which, to be fair, don’t exactly have a strong aroma themselves. The flavor was a nice deep maltiness, but again, I hardly even got a hint of the raisin flavor. If you’re going to make a beer somehow “special” or distinct by including an adjunct, that should be present. I’m not asking for it to be overwhelming, just existent.

Lack of raisin flavor notwithstanding, this was an all-around mediocre beer. The malt flavors were present, but not as strong as you’d expect from a barleywine. It almost tasted a bit watered down, or more like a brown ale. Adding to that, when I was drinking it, I didn’t think it tasted particularly strong, but I quickly realized that probably wasn’t the case, as I got a buzz going before I was done with it. The flavor was weaker than the actual alcohol (11.0%) and malt content, which I don’t regard as a positive asset.

Overall, I would drink this beer again, but certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase it.

Barely Whining Barley Wine

Our most ambitious beer we’ve done, this beer also took us the longest to brew, and has involved the most maintenance while fermenting (no blowoff tube makes life hard…). As we can only fit about 12 lbs of grain in our mash tun, this was a partial mash, with some added liquid malt extract.

Grain

  • 10 lbs 2-Row
  • 1 lb 6-Row
  • .5 lb Flaked Barley
  • .5 lb Roasted Barley

Malt

  • 6 lbs Liquid Pale Malt Extract

Hops

  • 2 oz Northern Brewer (11.4% AA) 90 minutes
  • 1 oz Cascade (7.4% AA) 10 minutes

Yeast

  • Wyeast 1098 British Ale Yeast

We mashed for about 2 hours at 160ºF with 4.5 gal of water. We ran the mash through an additional time, then sparged with 170ºF water another 6-7 gallons. We ended up with about 10-11 gallons of liquid in the boil. As we only have a 5 gallon brewpot and 2 other medium sized pots, we spent about 3 hours boiling down the wort. Eventually (after slowly adding more and more of the runoff to the boil, along with the 6 lbs of malt extract) we got it down to right around 5 gallons.

  • OG: 1.119

After this yeast has run it’s course, we will add champagne yeast to dry out the beer to dry it out. As it stands, we’ll be lucky to get the beer to finish at 10% ABV, with a final gravity around 1.040 (for comparison, our Simple Bitter original gravity was around 1.048).