Brewery – Sierra Nevada
Beer – Bigfoot
Style – Barleywine
ABV – 9.6%
IBU – 90 IBUs
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.
This beer did a lot to change my perceptions of what beer was “supposed to be”. The first thing that I really dug into as far as beer cellaring is concerned, I still feel like this one is way better with a few years on it versus a fresh bottle.
The beer was first introduced to market back in the winter of 1983. Since then it’s become a staple of beer cellars everywhere – giving drinkers the bug worldover to start aging beer like wine, allowing time and oxygen to work its magic on the bottled elixir.
In 2007, the brewery switched all their formerly twist off caps to the pry off’s that you are most likely more familiar with… this of course extended to the Bigfoot releases as well. As to what difference a pry off cap versus a twist off makes for a beer that for all intents and purposes designed for cellaring… I’m not sure. I’ve not done enough testing (i.e. Drinking) to say for sure.
In 2012, the brewery started packaging bigfoot in 4 packs, and not the 6 packs that we had been used to for so long. The reasoning for the brewery was that for years as commodities had gone up, they just kept the pricing the same, and now it needed a little room to “normalize”. The change did very little to decrease the desire from beer drinkers to stock up on this gem every year, though.
My Thoughts On The Beer
Fresh – This is fairly easy to get your hands on, and if you’re a fan of IPAs, it’s probably right up your alley. This is a little unbalanced for me, hops crash right into your face, and overwhelm the taste of everything else – if that’s what you’re looking for, boom. Look no farther.
1 Year – Leaps and bounds more drinkable to me than the fresh bottle, the hops have already started to subside, allowing some of the malt to finally start showing through. Still needs more time, though, in my opinion.
2 Years – I start to taste some alcoholic heat at 2 years, not too much but enough to make me want to let it sit a little while longer.
3 Years – This is my least favorite age of Bigfoots that I’ve had. That alcoholic heat from year two really starts to pick up, and it’s what I consider an unbalanced mess because of it. Should you be able to look past the booziness, you might find some really nice sweet caramel flavors – but that’s hard to do.
4 Years – Just a year later, all that alcoholic heat that we had a year ago is gone. It’s as if someone flipped a switch and let the beer open up. This beer is smooth, it’s balanced. That might be what you’re looking for. Me? I like a little bit more malt to start coming through. This still needs a bit more sweetness to it.
5 Years – Finally, the malt starts to really pop at 5 years. Sweet, sugary notes dominate the background, with a sherry like aroma that makes me smile with each sip. This is a beautiful testament to what some time can do to a properly stored beer. Wonderful.