Style: American Barleywine
OG: 23.0° Plato
FG: 6.0° Plato
Malts: Two-row Pale, Caramel
Bittering Hops: Chinook
Finishing Hops: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook
Yeast: Ale yeast
Brewer’s Note: “Bigfoot is a beast of a beer, brimming with bold flavors of bittersweet malt and heaps of aggressive whole-cone Pacific Northwest hops. First introduced in the winter of 1983, Bigfoot is a cult-classic beer brewed in the barleywine style, meaning a strong, robust, bruiser of a beer with the refined intensity of a wine. Bigfoot is prized by beer collectors for its supreme cellarability. Under the proper conditions, it can age like a fine wine, developing new flavors and character as it matures in the bottle. Each new release or “expedition” is vintage dated. Collect your own and see the flavors develop and progress.”
Alas, that old stalwart of hoppy booze-heads, the great and venerable, Bigfoot Barleywine. I have had several different vintages of Bigfoot over my life, and finally felt like it was time to lay down a review and to cellar a couple of these bad boys for future verticals. Bigfoot’s label, by the way, is like most Sierra Nevada labels. It displays a gorgeous landscape scene, but this one also gives us a hidden Bigfoot, a crouching prospector, and a mule. I’m not as fond of the addition of people in the landscape scene, honestly. I feel like they add a cartoonish twist that takes away from the mountain scene. The fonts are all nice, and the scrollwork logo for the brewery looks cool (as always). I also enjoy the dark blue background color, as it really makes the label pop on the eyes. Clutter, however, is a problem on the label, and everything feels a little cramped and confusing. In the end, the label is an iconic Sierra Nevada label. It is eye-catching, but it has some flaws.
The beer pours a deep, candied, ruby color with a nice, off-white head that borders on the color of white sand and has a mild retention. As the head goes, it leaves a thick blanket of lacing on the glass. The beers body is deep in color, but clear and rather translucent, even in its darkness. When I splash the beer against my glass, it leaves the briefest of alcoholic legs, hinting at the booze within it. As a whole, the beer is quite nice on the eyes. On the nose, the beer smells like an old-school DIPA: damply piney, with a strong caramel malt shiver running up the nostrils to suggest toffee. As it opens up, I start to get hints of plum and prune in the malt. On the tongue, the beer tastes initially of hop bitters (mostly of the pine variety). The middle of the sip sees a touch boozy heat, and towards the finish, the bitters are greeted by a powerful burst of caramel malt sweetness, which bends this beer back towards balance. Boozy heat and sweetness return on the finish, combining to intensify the afterfeel of bitterness in the mouth. In flavor, this beer begins with a fresh burst of sticky pine resin, moving slowly towards fresh pine needles and bitter medicine. This medicinal bitterness slowly blends into an ooie-gooey caramel and toffee sweetness. The transition bring hints of brown sugar-coated plums and prunes alongside solvent-like alcoholic heat. The finish sees a beautiful burst of caramel bread that has me looking forward to the things to come. The aftertaste is decidedly bitter with pine sap and medicine. In the mouth, the beer feels full bodied with a sticky, chewy mouthfeel, a middling carbonation, and a definite tingle on the tongue that could be coming from the alcohol or from hidden acidity. The sides of the tongue are shocked with bitter-bite once the beer has left the mouth, and the mouth as a whole is left dry except for the far extremities which pool spittle. Overall, fresh Bigfoot tastes like a boozy DIPA in today’s world. It’s hot, it’s hoppy, and it’s got a nice balancing malt that finishes quite elegantly and lets you know this is an American Barleywine. Admittedly, I’m more fond of the English Barleywines, but this is a classic of the American style, and has some nice complexity to it. This beer is a classic for a reason and should not be missed.