This is only my second ever Barleywine, it's a style I've heard alot about but never got around to buying some to try. I actually got given this one to try so I still haven't actually bought one. As regular readers will know, I'm a big Sierra Nevada fan so it seems fitting that the first American Barleywine I review comes from their extensive stable of beers.
So about the style, American Barleywines are known for their high alcohol content and being hugely hopped. If you don't like hops you can still try the English style Barleywines, which are much more rounded and balanced out with malts. This one at 9.6% is at the low end for the style with many reaching upwards of 15% alcohol! Knowing Sierra Nevada's beers as well as I do I would be very surprised if this isn't amazingly bitter, let's find out now!
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot pours a deep amber colour with a cream coloured head. The head appears to have quite a number of small bubbles in it and the retention isn't great, quite quickly it dissipates to a thick rim with a small layer across the beer. Considering I haven't had many beers of this style it's hard for me to say the appearance is right for the style, but it's a pretty good looking beer!
The nose of this beer is pretty intense. There is heaps of sweet caramel malts present up front followed by a slight citrus tang. Lots of pine hops take over and these smell relatively bitter, I can also smell smoke and a touch of alcohol. The key element to this nose however is the hops, which smell seriously intense, this could be a great beer if the nose is anything to go by.
It's a hop bomb! This surprised me to be honest I would have thought that the malts would have been more prevalent than they are. This may happen with cellaring (I have put the other one I received away for a couple of years and I will report back.). The Bigfoot ale tastes alot like it smells except for the very distinct piney hops, which are delicious and much stronger than anticipated. There is a tiny hint of alcohol as the beer warms but it's by no means unpleasant.
American Barleywines are a style I'm going to have to try more of, they are a really good winter warming beer. This one is relatively easy to get hold of here in Australia and is a good alternative for those still not sold on the benefits of drinking dark beers in winter. It's also much easier to drink than many dark beers, even considering the 9.6% ABV. I really like the flavour of this beer and if I can clear some of my backlog of beers to drink, some more of this will find it's way into the fridge, and I might even pay for my next one!
it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!