If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That being said, it never hurts to shake things up a bit. With their "Odd Beers for Odd Years" series, Stone Brewing is making the best of both approaches. Every other year, the crew takes one of their classic brews and releases it alongside a new, souped up version.
This week's featured brew uses Stone's Old Guardian brew as a base. This prototypical American-style barleywine is one of the brewery's annual releases, known for its aggressive bittering hops, boozy notes and huge caramel backbone. Unlike English-style barleywines, this version showcases bright, citrusy hops to offset the rich, toffee quality of the brew. At over 11% alcohol, the beer finishes with a slight alcohol warmth.
This year's "odd" release swaps out 20% of the grain bill with German wheat malt that has been smoked over oak. The result is -- you guessed it -- smoky! The smoke character is pronounced enough to remind you of a backyard BBQ, but not as overwhelming as some traditional German Rauchbiers. The smoky quality meshes nicely with the sweeter elements of the brew, notably the heavy malt character and fruity yeast notes. In classic Stone fashion, the hops continue to shine through to the fore, while the smoke covers up some of the boozy alcohol burn.
Given the myriad flavors of smoke, citrus, and caramel, this brew is fun to pair with food. Bill Sysak, Stone's pairing guru, recommends enjoying the brew with flavors such as merguez sausage, French onion soup, aged gouda, pecan pie, or a cigar. This brew will age nicely, so we recommend laying one down for a year or two. Stone Oak Smoke Old Guardian is on shelves throughout the Bay Area now. Grab a bottle, fire up the BBQ, and wish your way to the summer months.