Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine (2011, 2012, 2014, 2016)

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is in Chico, California. I think they are one of the best across-the-board craft breweries in the United States; they don't make many "whales," but what they make is always quality, very drinkable, and nicely representative of it's style.

2016: The beer pours a deep and dark copper and amber in color. There is about a half-inch of off-white to very light tan head. The aroma is malty, dark fruits, caramel, and pine. The taste follows the aromas, hitting the same fruit and caramel malt notes, with piney hops that cut down the sweetness of the malt. The finish is a battle of dry and sweet, with moderate bitterness. The beer drinks smooth with soft carbonation. This is understated, delicious, and well-done.

2014 Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale - Again 9.6% ABV, the beer was packaged on December 10, 2013 for the 2014 release. The beer pours a deep, but shiny amber in color, tints of burnt orange, turning nearly ruby red. There is a relatively short head of light beige foam. The aroma is sweet, fruity, tangy, apricots and a bit of pine. The taste is rich and luscious, very ripe, jammy fruits, getting more apricot and some caramel notes. This is followed by a wave of piney, astringent, and bitter hops, adding in grapefruit rind and pine sap. The beer drinks smooth and soft, which is a nice complement to the very high bitterness. It is not boozy, but there is a nice warming effect.  

2012 Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale - Still 9.6% ABV, this year's beer pours a dark copper, dark amber, burnt orange in color with a half-inch of foamy, creamy head that is off-white to light brown in color. The aroma is fruity, malty, some sweetness, some bitterness, with dried apricots and jam. The taste is deep, rich, nearly burnt toast slathered with apricot and dark plum jam, with a very bitter and dry finish. There is again a definite dark cherry note as well. There is also dark caramel and strong tea with lemon. The bitter astringency on the finish is quite massive this year. I like the barleywine style when it is also heavy on the hops and not simply an overly sweet, malty alcohol bomb.

How's the 2012 drinking in 2014? I tried a 2012 bottle on June 6, 2014. The beer pours a dark amber and copper with some brick red thrown in. There is about a half inch of very light brown head. The aroma is malty, spicy, a tad funky surprisingly, and just a bit of dark stone fruit. The taste is roasted malt, some caramel, nearing sweet potato, tobacco, strong tea, strawberries, cherries, earthy, woody. Overall very good, but there are some light off-notes of band-aid and burnt plastic. While not strongly carbonated, it is well carbonated for a two year old non bottle-conditioned beer. There is some heat from the higher ABV of 9.6%. I find this pretty good two years down the line, but I like fresh Bigfoot better where you get more interplay between malt and hops.

2011 Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale - This 9.6% ABV beer pours a translucent and glowing, but dark, copper-orange-amber-brown. There is a half inch of off-white thick and billowy head. The aroma is sweet, caramel malt, a bit of zesty, aromatic hop and a touch of alcohol. The taste is sweet but not cloying, dark fruit like cherry, strong tea, and a massively bitter and very dry finish. I am not generally a huge fan of barley wines, but I have liked the 2010 and 2011 Bigfoots.  They are not cloyingly sweet and they finish dry and that is what allows me to like them.  The drawings on the label and six pack container are amusing.

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