I know I’ve been on a bit of a Sierra Nevada lovefest recently, but they make good great beers, so what can I say? My most recent taste of this breweries consistently nice beers is 2009’s edition of Bigfoot, Sierra Nevada’s seasonal barleywine. For a seasonal beer and a pretty high alcohol (9.6% ABV) one at that, Bigfoot is priced quite nicely at $8-$9 for a six-pack, so there should be nothing stopping you from buying 2-3 sixers of this and laying some down to age it. Because of the alcohol, in the right conditions barleywines do age nicely.
There are really two types of barleywines, the English and the American. The original English style is going to be very rich and malty with lots of sugary types of flavors (caramel, toffee, etc). The American version tends to be… drumroll, please… hoppier! American brewers are obsessed with this cannabis cone and Bigfoot is no different. I have little experience with the barleywine style, so I was expecting something sweet, low in hops, and basically a malt bomb.
Well, Bigfoot couldn’t be any different. If I didn’t know what the label says, I would call this an imperial (double) IPA. The hops in this beer come at you like a manimal from the woods. Yes, there is some bready maltiness in there, too, but that’s just a backbone for the huge hop flavor and aroma to spring from. The aftertaste just keeps on going, too, reminding me of a good cigar in the way that you can have a puff every minute or two but the flavor lingers on and on and on and… you get the idea. Sierra Nevada’s website lists the beer at 90 IBUs!
I’ve commented in the past about being fairly disappointed fairly consistently by double IPA’s because they just don’t have the hops I’m looking for. To me, most double IPA’s are lower in hop flavor than a normal IPA, and they leave a sticky, sweet coating on my tongue. This 2009 Bigfoot, ironically, is exactly what I think of when I want a double IPA! It has some malt character, huge hops, and a pretty dry finish all things considered. It pours a gorgeous amber color with a nice head and it does well as it warms up. There is a lot of alcohol on the flavor, pairing nicely with a warmer drinking temperature, but the alcohols are not “hot” themselves.
Bigfoot is a beautifully crafted beer and I am going to put down at least one or two six packs of it and revisit a bottle every 6-9 months to see how it changes with age.