Beer Review 0218: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (2012)

In the late winter of every year since 1983, Chico, California’s Sierra Nevada releases a Barleywine named Bigfoot.

Brewed to 9.6% ABV (alcohol by volume), Bigfoot is definitely a big beer on paper. Although this one is heavily malted, the IBUs (International Bitterness Units) register 90, and this beer is dry-hopped with Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook hops.

Of course, Sierra Nevada was established in 1980, the product of homebrewers Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi. Today, they produce the United States second best-selling craft beer, their Pale Ale. The brewery recently announced plans to open a second facility across the coast in Asheville, North Carolina, slated to begin production in July of 2013.

The pour gave way to a large and creamy off-white head, lasting in nature. The beer was absolutely gorgeous, a deep red in color towards the top of the head, more honey orange in the middle of the glass, and even lighter towards the stem of the glass. Bigfoot is clear in body, free of particles and sediment, and right from the first sip, leaves excellent lacing. The sheets of suds are like spider webs clinging to the vessel. Good stuff here. You’ll want to take a picture.

Along with being visually appealing, Bigfoot is a feast for the nose, too. The first thing I picked up were the malts, dominant with sweet caramel and supporting notes of toffee and just a slight touch of coffee. There’s a great hop background, here, too; classic Sierra Nevada grapefruit and pine. This beer hints at darker fruits, fig and raisin, and there’s a twist of mild alcohol to round things out. Bigfoot smells very inviting.

But don’t let that easy-going aroma fool you: this is a beast of a beer, just as it is named. The malts begin the taste with caramel and toffee, but this quickly turns into a bitter hop bomb. Sierra Nevada sure have a way with puckering grapefruit and thick pine, and it’s in full press play here. And that’s a glorious thing, if you ask me. The finish comes on very bitter but as it plays out, the sweeter notes again present themselves, with the taste being washed away in sweet caramel and bitter grapefruit. Mouthfeel was medium; unlike most Barleywine beers, this one wasn’t thick or sticky. It was, however, foamy and gritty, and did dry the mouth out.

In short, when I think of Barleywine, Bigfoot immediately comes to mind. Year after year, Sierra Nevada put this beer out, and every freakin’ year, they nail it! I consider this a must try for the craft beer enthusiast…so go out and find it, will ya? I promise, your senses will be rewarded.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (2012), 96 points. Price: $13.99 US for a six pack.

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