American barleywines are definitely on my long-term aging list. AS opposed to English style barleywines, American barleywines tend to be more on the hoppy, bitter side while English versions are sweeter. In 2012 I opened a 2006 Old Guardian to find it still very bitter and able to last for many more years. In the interest to see how much more development it has gone through, I reached for it again.

The carbonation has held up nicely. The pour is a golden orange that produces an off-white froth of a head that diminishes fairly quickly.

The aroma is sweeter with some hop bitterness sitting faintly in the background. Caramel and toffee with a bit of a bread/biscuit character make up the bulk of the aroma. There is no sign of alcohol or much beyond the malted sweetness.

The flavor shows slight signs of oxidation, but not nearly as much as one might expect to find on an eight year old bottle. The hops have waned greatly in just these last two years and there is just enough bitterness to add some balance to the sweetness. The flavor follows the nose. Caramel, toffee, and some lighter fruits. Not so much citric. The carbonation is a bit lower than what you visually perceive and has smoothed out the mouthfeel greatly. The alcohol is somewhat evident in the back of the taste, but only as a lingering finish.

Describing the taste of this beer almost doesn't do it justice. Seeing the journey from fresh to as old as this is has been a great one. This beer mellows out really well and becomes a well blended, well balanced beer. Being overly hopped when fresh gives it that staying power and trying it at this point shows that I definitely prefer this one at the 7-8 year mark. Letting this go for too much longer might start tipping the scales a bit too much, leaving the flavor with even less bitterness and creating a malt bomb.


Our CELLARED series aims to explore the world of aging beer and sharing the effects of time in the bottle. Bottles have been kept away from light and at temperatures between 44-60 degrees. Individual experiences may vary depending on storage environments.

Posted on January 2, 2015 .