Barley Wines That Stand Out

Bob Barnes - Not Your Grandpa's Barley Wine

Barley Wine has long been one of my favorite beer styles. I think what appeals to me is the bombastic blast of sweet malt and alcohol warmth in every sip. This explosion of flavor is typically balanced with a healthy dose of hops, especially in American-style Barley Wines. The following are two new releases that stand out for their uniqueness, use of ingredients or aging technique not usually found in the style, or a new experimental hop.

Stone Old Guardian Dry-hopped with Pekko Hops

One of the few aspects of winter I like is the arrival of Stone Brewing’s annual release of Old Guardian, which always tops my list of preferred representations of the style. Originally created by Stone President and Co-founder Steve Wagner 18 years ago, the recipe changes only slightly from year to year, and this year’s twist was dry-hopping it with Pekko hops, a new varietal from Washington’s Yakima Valley that adds notes of stone fruit, orange, lemon and mint. The aforementioned hops are joined by Warrior, Delta, Cascade and Chinook hops added during the brewing, so not surprisingly, this beer has a healthy 75 IBU count. This 11% ABV Barley Wine pours a deep, rich amber with aroma of intense fruit. It brings forth flavor notes of tropical fruits such as pineapple and finishes with a strong hop presence. While I’m not much of a hop head, this brew has an abundance of malty goodness to balance well with the bitterness.

Full Sail Bourbon Barrel Aged Wheatwine Ale

Full Sail’s Brewmaster Reserve series allows its brewmasters to put their creativity, innovation and passion into small, limited-release beers. The brewers’ gift to us this year is their Bourbon Barrel Aged Wheatwine Ale. The name pretty much explains what makes this beer stand out from the rest. Originally released in 2014 to celebrate Full Sail’s 27th anniversary, it contains no barley malt and is cellared for one year in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. This 12% ABV, 42 IBU malt monster pours a rich honey hue with aromas of oak, vanilla and caramel. The flavor is mainly sweet along with some mild spiciness thanks to the wheat and it’s balanced with a blend of English and Northwest hops, which after aging mellows to impart flavors of vanilla, marmalade and dates.

Don’t delay in picking up either of these gems, as both are limited releases which won’t be around for long. Look for them on draft and in 22 oz bottles.

The Author:

Bob Barnes is editorial director of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional, regional correspondent for Celebrator Beer News and writes the Top 10 Beer lists for He welcomes your inquiries and can be reached via e-mail at

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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