I have this small problem with stock piling lots of great beers to be saved for a special occasions. Special occasions happen a lot less often than I find great beers to celebrate it with. And with the finite amount of available space in my refrigerator dwindling down due to the ever increasing collection of beer, my wife Linda tends to remind me in her own special way that unless I want to pour spoiled milk on my breakfast cereal and eat lots of rotten fruits and vegetables, I better do something about reducing my beer collection. And since Linda appreciates good beer as much as I do, sharing a beer with her to celebrate this slight reduction in the beer inventory tends to go a long way in defusing this volatile situation.
And so for the inaugural Open It!, a celebration of drinking great beer for no other reason to enjoy it, we shared a bottle of Stone Brewing’s 2010 vintage of their Old Guardian Barleywine. I found the 2009 version, opened shortly after it’s release in January of that year, to have a lot of good flavors, but plenty of rough edges that left an unpleasant harshness. And so figured giving the 2010 version 10 months to soften up and mellow out would result in a much better drinking experience than the 2009 version. And yes, waiting those extra months did pay off.
Pouring the amber colored brew into our glasses created a medium-sized frothy foam, which dissipated in a couple minutes, suggesting a rather low malt content for the style. As you would expect from Stone, hops were in abundance both in the aroma and taste. As the initial pour suggested, there was very little caramel and toffee-like malt in this barleywine style to hold back all the piney and grapefruity hops. The 10-month aging worked to the advantage of this brew, as it had much smoother, almost ticklish feeling on the tongue instead of the mouth puckering astringency I recalled from last year’s version. Also noticeable was a little alcohol heat. If the bottle didn’t say “Barleywine” on it, I’d guess it was an Imperial IPA.
For the next version of Open It!, we’ll celebrate reorganizing all my home brewing equipment scattered around our apartment.