Winter is coming, and with it comes a variety of rich, complex beers to try. From pitch black and highly alcoholic stouts to spiced winter warmers, winter beer is full of creativity and bold flavors. Join us as we trek through a variety of offerings this season!
Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Chico, CA - 9.6% ABV
Barleywine. It just sounds intimidating. A style that emerged from British “Old Ales,” barleywine is a wine-strength beer that is chock full of alcohol, sugar and bitterness. This week we’ll have a look at Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot, a classic American take on the style.
I mentioned this beer a few months back, as an example of Sierra Nevada’s overwhelming use of hops in their brews. While not the best choice for summer drinking, the elusive Bigfoot is perfect for cool weather.
In the glass, Bigfoot is a deep, rich ruby color with a small white head and a bit of lacing on the edges of the glass. It’s translucent but not quite transparent – perhaps a hint as to just how much sugar hangs in solution.
You wouldn’t expect anything named Bigfoot to smell nice, but this barleywine might surprise you. Resiny conifer, a bit of citrusy orange rind, tons of caramel and a hint of booziness hang in the air above the glass.
On the tongue, Bigfoot starts off vinous and intensely bitter with plenty of citrus rind and pine-centered hops. Mid-sip, sweet candied and caramel flavors hit, tailing off with toffee notes, booziness and maybe a pinch of sweet chocolate.
The beer’s aftertaste is surprisingly dry and lingeringly bitter, bringing the hoppy punch-to-the-face full circle. Make no mistake here - hoppy bitterness runs the show, which is what makes Bigfoot such a good example of an American barleywine.
This beer’s relatively low carbonation, high alcohol content and thick, syrupy mouthfeel make it a slow drink to get through, but luckily more flavors will emerge as it warms. Overall, Bigfoot is an awesome choice for a winter sipper, although it’s aggressive bitterness will be off-putting to many (locals have created the Bigfoot Challenge - drink a six-pack within an hour, no easy feat.)
The only real catch here is its elusiveness. Like the mythical creature it's named for, this offering is sporadic and can be tough to find, so be sure to grab some the next time there's a sighting!
Score: 5/5 pints.
As always, Gavel Media reminds its readers to drink legally and responsibly.