Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale 2009 Review

Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. | Beer: Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale 2009
Style: American Barleywine | ABV: 9.6% | IBUs: 90
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2009For many, one of the highlights of the American craft-brew calendar is the release of Sierra Nevada's Barleywine, Bigfoot. This is my first year sampling Bigfoot, and my expectations are rather high. I'm pretty late to the party though, as this is the twenty-fifth yearly iteration of the brew. In an industry filled with so many new beers, an American beer with a quarter-century history is due some serious respect.

Not only is this my first year trying Bigfoot, but this is also the first Barleywine I have reviewed here on PintLog. Barleywines are traditionally the biggest and richest of the British Ales, with mountains of malt and alcohol rates up to twelve percent. As it is with many styles, American Barleywines typically have a bigger focus on hops than their British counterparts. Barleywines are also one of the styles that typically benefit from extended cellaring, and Bigfoot is a classic candidate for extended aging.

Clocking in at 90 IBUs, Bigfoot is certainly on the hoppier side of the Barleywine spectrum, which is no surprise coming from Sierra Nevada. Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook are the hop variaties employeed while the backbone is compred of Two-Row Pale and English Caramel malts. In the immortal words of beer guru Michael Jackson: "Bigfoot captures the imagination, and its character is as big as the name implies, with a huge hoppiness in its earthy aroma, a chewy palate, and a great depth of flavor." Let's dive in.

Appearance: Somewhat hazy deep red body with red laser beam highlights. Two fingers of caramel-tinged head that leaves great lacing.

Aroma: Lots of hops, lots of malt, and lots of booze - just what I expected. Relatively balanced in its massiveness, but the hops take the spotlight. It's a complex mix: perfumey Cascade hops, dark fruit, spices, caramel malt, and alcohol.

Taste: Again, intense and complex. Masses of grapefruity and piney Cascade hops riding on top of a very solid caramel malt base with everything simply dripping with alcohol. Still plenty of dark fruit and spices flavors here.
The aftertaste is brilliantly bitter and boozy.

Mouthfeel: So chewy you could chip a tooth with
good carbonation. A great dry, boozy finish that segues into a long-lasting hoppy aftertaste.

Drinkability: Very filling and obviously a sipper. One is certainly enough, but a second is still tempting...

Verdict: Bigfoot, like any good Barleywine, is simply a massive beer. Everything about it is larger than life. There are enough hops to make it unique, but not so many that the lines are too blurred with a Double IPA. I can't wait to see how this ages.

Grade: A

Note: While this review is being published in July, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh this past January.


Dustin said...

Hey Chris. I have to tell you again That I love your site. So much great info. Anyway, I was wondering if you could drop me a quick line when you get a chance and let me know what SN usually releases it's Bigfoot Barleywine each year? It looks like maybe in January? My email is dustinjblodgett at yahoo dot com. Thanks and happy drinking (and brewing).

Flagstaff Daily Photo

Unknown said...

It's usually mid-January, though the exact date will depend on your local distributor.