Redux Review 0016: Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (2013)

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This is a redux review that I’ve been looking forward to for an entire year.

Last year around this time, I reviewed Sierra Nevada’s Barrel Aged Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale, and gave it 97 points. It went on to become #3 on my Top 25 Beers of 2013 list. It was a classic beer featuring what is best about barrel aged beer: all the coconut, vanilla, and spicy alcohol that you could want coupled with a seriously great base beer, Bigfoot Barleywine, which I have rated 96 points on its own. No slouching here.

A little about Barrel Aged Bigfoot: Matured in whisky barrels, this was a long anticipated beer that was supposed to be released in 2012, but was delayed. 2013 marked the 30th anniversary of normal, everyday Bigfoot, so it was time to bring this particular barreled creature out of hiding. Aged in whisky casks for two years, Sierra says the hops have faded and the addition of wood aging brings forth vanilla, coconut, and raisins. The barrel version sees a hefty increase in ABV (alcohol by volume); regular Bigfoot is 9.6%; the barrel aged is a massive 12.2%. The release was limited, with some states only getting a few cases, and presentation is 750 ml bottles, corked and caged. This beer is actually a blend, as the brewery decided to use multiple types of barrels for aging, which included: bourbon barrels, Tennessee whisky, rye whisky, and single-malt Scotch.

Here’s exactly what I thought in my first review:

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Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 34 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 34 of 35 points

Final Score: 97, or classic on my rating scale.

So, what has one more year done to this beer, which was already technically two years old when I first sampled it? I find Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot line of brews to actually be one of the few beers that does indeed age very, very well. Only one way to find out; let’s pop that cork!

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Pouring stirred up a very small, soapy, off-white head that diminished rapidly. The beer was a amber-red color, and was quite murky looking; in bright light, it threw off orange highlights and was so cloudy, it was opaque. Although clouded, there weren’t any visible particles or sediment; I did notice a ring of yeast dregs at the bottom of the bottle. Lacing was sparse, only leaving a dot of foam here and there.

The nose is still as spectacular as it was at one year ago — we’ve got heavy notes of bourbon, woodsy oak, vanilla, coconut, and plenty of alcohol. But there is a noticeable oxidation present; that doesn’t deter tons of dark fruit, especially prune, raisin, and plum; and there’s lots of sweetness with burnt sugar and caramel. And although Sierra Nevada says the hops have long faded, there is a bit of sharp grapefruit still in the mix.

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Like the nose, the flavors are still all here, just a bit faded. Burnt sugar and plenty of thick caramel kick the taste off, then we’ve got bready notes mixed with vanilla bean, prune, raisin, and coconut. It hangs out here, fairly sweet, until the swallow when the more astringent notes of the barrel begin to show; a big blast of bourbon and oak show up, but they’re a touch faded and hot with significant alcohol. The finish presents a heavy bitterness, lots of sharp, woodsy whiskey, and minor notes of dark fruit and toasted coconut. Barrel Aged Bigfoot his full-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel.

Yep, this is still a classic beer, but it’s went a touch downhill. Oxidation seems to have faded the barrel flavors, but it hasn’t worked on the alcohol at all; it’s still really strong, which seems to be the exact opposite of what you want when you age a beer. But it’s still super tasty, and as it warms, it gets even better. If you find a bottle, I highly advocate you pick it up.

In redux:

Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 33 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points

Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale (2013), 95 points. Price: $15.99 US for one 750 ml. corked & caged bottle.

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