Bigfoot 2008 – Barley Wine?

Posted on 02.04.08 7:47PM under Alcohol, Barley Wine, Hops, IPA, Tasting

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2008But the session #12 was on Friday, Keith. You were supposed to talk about Barley Wine then. And what’s with the question mark?

Well I finally got my hands on Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2008. Not sure when it became available here, but with the kids sick, it’s been tough to get to the packy for a sixer. A trip to BigY was just what the doctor ordered today, and it gave me a chance to get the Bigfoot (not at BigY, at the liquor store nearby).

This beer is so montrously hoppy, I can hardly deem to call it a Barley Wine. More like a Dark IPA. Or actually a Dark Imperial IPA. At 9.6% ABV, and probably 100 IBU (just an exaggerated guess), this thing is huge. The resounding impression is not of sherry or cherry or malts or mustiness or anything other than big hops. I should say BIG HOPS.

But I thought Mondays were Style Profile days. How does this fit in?

The alleged style of Bigfoot is Barley Wine. Some might call it Barley Wine-Style Ale (if the TTB has anything to say about it). <rant>Don’t want anyone confused between beer and wine. I can see it now, “Oh, who’s this Sierra Nevada brewing company making a wine? It’s called barley wine, and it comes in a six pack. I guess that even though it’s in the beer cooler, and made by a brewing company, it is probably a wine. I better try it.” Fade to living room scene. “Where’t the cork? What kind of…blech!…is this? This isn’t wine!!! This is a feakin’ beer! I’ll get you, Sierra Nevada… Hey wait a minute, this is way better than wine.”</rant>

Oh right, so it is supposedly a Barley Wine. But to anyone who ever had any other Barley Wine, it might be a bit of a stretch to call this a Barley Wine. Even Avery’s Hog Heaven, a mega hop Barley Wine, is more Barley Wine-like than this is. I am not saying in any way that I do not like Bigfoot. Because I do. I love it. It is one of the great beers. I wish it were around all the time. I might just go hijack the Sierra Nevada truck to get a hundred cases of this stuff. (To the feds spying on me: I’m just kidding. I’m going to rob every liqor store in town to get 100 cases.) But if you think this is a Barley Wine, it’s sort of like thinking Bud is a beer.

I am not trying to reflect negatively on Sierra Nevada – they might be one of the biggest craft brewers in America, but they are certainly not the bland product maker that Anheuser-Busch is. (It is never easy to spell Anhueuseur.) But there’s a valid comparison here. To view Bud as a beer, when you’re used to things like IIPA and RIS, you sort of have to squint your tastebuds a bit. Same thing with the Bigfoot. To call it a Barley Wine when you’re used to Anchor’s Old Foghorn and Brooklyn’s Monster, you have to squint the tastebuds.

So Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2008 is a great beer. Go buy some right away. But if you’re really keen on beer styles, don’t think of it as a Barley Wine. Think of it as a Dark Imperial India Pale Ale. Maybe an Imperial India Dark Ale. All I’m saying is don’t expect layers of malt to complexly wrap your palette. Expect hops to abuse you while the malts have all been fermented into alcohol to beat your dead horse of a liver into dogfood. God, I gotta go have another.

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