Stone Old Guardian BELGO Barleywine

22 oz bottle from The Beer Dispensary, Apex, NC, USA.
I approach this beer with a mix of trepidation, excitement and interest since I feel that it is likely to bring together two elements of beer that are usually at opposite ends of the enjoyment spectrum for , namely Belgian yeast and character at one end (the good), and aggressive, hoppy, high ABV American Barleywines at the other (the bad) – it promises to be quite the experience.
The pour is a VERY attractive, bright dark copper with some lovely clarity and a surprisingly good head considering the ABV. Lace and retention are also above average, certainly a good looking beer.
The Belgian character is evident immediately and I’m glad of that! It does manage to sustain the yeast notes throughout as well. Ultimately it DOES deliver the more harsh, hoppy, high ABV notes that one would associate with the regular version of OG, and that’s OK with me even if it’s not my preference.
The sugary alcohol clashes a little with the more subtle, Belgian nuance (and it’s even worse when the hops crash in), but since the American influence seems to cut in very late in the beer, it does seem to ‘work’. The lateness of that appearance helps the beer overall but it does significantly shorten the enjoyment of the backend and aftertaste and finish of the beer. In the end though, not too much lost.
It’s definitely a little bit ‘mad’, and certainly in the Stone mold of beers that push limits but this is one that does work for me – others have not.
All in all it’s clean, delivers at both ends of the spectrum and manages to keep the disparate, fighting influences if not exactly in harmony, at least at arms length. In the final analysis I found it surprisingly good.

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03/18/2011
Format:
bottle
ABV: 12.0 %
Appearance: 4.5
Taste: 4
Mouthfeel: 4
Smell: 4
Overall: 4
Total: 4.03
Series Name:
Year:

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