Stone delivers great ales in less than great looking bottles. I can easily forgive the latter for the former.
The Barley Wine Style Ale is a '10 special release, and it does not disappoint. It pours a deep copper color with about two fingers of head that laces the glass well. A quick sniff reveals that it is extremely hoppy, and that's not a bad thing.
With more than 11% ABV there is kind of a boozy undertone to the flavor, though it's not too overpowering. More pronounced are the hop flavors mixed with some sweet maltiness. There are also hints of spices and grapefruit. There's definitely a good depth to the flavor, and while it's not quite up there with Nøgne Ø's barley wine, it's both complex and drinkable. A sipping ale, for sure.
Stone really is one of the great breweries and their Old Guardian is one of the better barley wines out there. I'm pretty sure jail time would be a good penalty for anybody who doesn't like this ale.
Vote for Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine 2010: It’s your civic duty!