Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (2012)

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Chico, CA

Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale

9.6% ABV

When it comes to barleywines, I’m partial to the English style of brewing, which focuses more on the malt than the hops. With English-style barleywines, you get those rich dark fruit notes with hints of plum, molasses, brown sugar and cherries that make them excellent for sipping and slowly enjoying.

American-style barleywines, on the other hand, focus more on the hops. They’re dry compared to the across-the-pond style with a stronger hop bite backed up by a deep, rich malt character. Still, they’re a bit more biting than I’d like them to be.

That being said, barleywine is still one of my favorite style of beer, and I’m never one to pass up a good offering, especially something as classic as Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot. Considered the quintessential American-style barleywine, Bigfoot is an annual release by the historic California brewery. As with most Sierra Nevada beer, Bigfoot is hopped out, yet still very well-balanced with a strong malt profile.

Bigfoot pours a deep redish brown, verging on an amber, and is fairly hazy. The finger of head on top dissipates fast and doesn’t leave much lacing behind. But, of course, at nearly 10%, it’s got alcohol legs that stick around.

The booziness hits you right out of the bottle, but is balanced with a piney hop note. Typical of what you’d expect in an American-style barleywine. As for the smell, there’s hints of toffee, caramel and small hints of orange and citrus from the hops. There’s also a nice oakiness to it as well.

The taste is sweet on the mid palate but the hops kick in like crazy on the back. The bitterness from the hops comes through something fierce, too, and lingers for a good long while. The alcohol is very present as well. The hops impart a big pine taste, and that oak quality is present as well. It’s a somewhat biting finish, but still an easy one.

While much hoppier than the barleywines I’ve had lately, Bigfoot is still an excellent example of what Americans have done to the style. I’m still heavy on sweeter and more mellow barleywines, but with the history and clout behind this one, it’s one every beer geek should have.

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