I’m not a big fan of barleywines, but one of my favorite seasonal releases is the Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale from Sierra Nevada.  This is because the generous hop bill added to this beer makes it drink more like an Imperial IPA when fresh. Pouring Bigfoot results in a thick head densely populated with small bubbles.  The cloud-like head slowly retreats into the ruby amber liquid below leaving a nice lacing on the glass.  The beer has surprising clarity for the amount of malt that is used. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The aroma is slightly floral with an underlying mellow sweetness.  There are definite barley notes, and the nose also picks up on the alcohol present in this beer. When drank at about 45 to 50 degrees, this fresh Bigfoot tastes like a classic Imperial IPA.  The medium-heavy body gives a creamy texture and a rich flavor.  There is initial carbonation burn on the front of the tongue while a slight malt sweetness flows down the center before the hops take over the flavor profile. The bitterness is slightly floral initially but quickly transitions to a piney and dank bitterness at the back of the mouth which lingers in the aftertaste.  The high ABV is hidden well and is barely detectable as a slight burn. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The complexity of this beer makes it like drinking two beers in one.  As the beer warms closer to room temperature, the flavor profile changes quite a bit and is more in line with a barleywine.  There is more of an initial sweetness to the beer, the barley is more pronounced, and definite caramel notes are found.  In addition, the alcohol burn late and in the aftertaste seems more noticeable with the warmer beer.  The hops are still present, but the malt is more assertive in the warmer beer. The ingredients used and the 9.6% ABV make this beer a prime candidate for cellaring.  Based on my experience with previous years’ releases, the hop character fades drastically and quickly in the aroma and the hop flavors fade significantly after just a few months.  When aged for a year or more, the caramel sweetness really comes forward, and the beer is more easily recognized as a barleywine. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sierra Nevada Bigfoot is around $10-$12 for a four pack of 12 oz bottles.  Sierra Nevada says the beer is on shelves through April so grab some while you can.  I suggest giving it a try whether you are a hophead or a fan of the sweeter barleywines.  Drink one now and cellar a few.  It’s definitely interesting to see how the beer changes with time. Cheers! Alex* *With commentary and illustrative contributions by Kristin Loman  

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