Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sierra Nevada "Bigfoot"

Barley Wine Style Ale
Purchased at Bottleworks. Seattle, WA
Read more about Sierra Nevada on Beer Advocate.

Aroma: Surprisingly up front is a moderately strong citrus hop aroma. Like grapefruit and orange peel. Subtle malts are present in the aroma with some melanoidin character, as well as a hint of alcoholic spice.

Appearance: A crystal clear ruby red that in a way borders on burnt orange. There is a small amount of sediment left in the bottle, but if this is a bottle conditioned beer it pours incredibly clear. During the pour a thick, three-fingered head formed. It faded reasonably slowly to a short and creamy off white head, though a great deal of lacing is left behind on the glass.

Flavor: Caramel malt sweetness greets the tongue at first but is quickly pushed away with assertive citrus hop bitterness that dominates the tongue and overall flavor. The oily hop character lasts into the center of the flavor profile before the beer finishes with an assertive and spicy alcoholic bite. The hops come back again once more with the bite of grapefruit rind.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with high carbonation, like pin pricks across your tongue. There is a slight stickiness in the middle but this is quickly dried out with hop bitterness before the beer finishes with a warming, in fact quite a hot alcoholic presence. In the finish there is a strong emphasis of this alcoholic presence, but the hops really come back again with a resin like character. There’s quite a tenacious bitterness throughout.

Overall: This is an extremely hoppy example of a Barley Wine Style Ale. If Sierra Nevada had written “Double IPA” on the bottle instead, I’d be convinced it was such. For a Barley Wine I feel this is overly hopped and doesn’t have the malt richness I expect to back it all up. The hop bitterness dominates the palate, the flavor and the nose. For a Barley Wine where hop bitterness may be moderately strong to aggressive, it misses the mark on the fact that there is very little malt character. You really have to look for it to find the barley. This beer doesn’t just lean toward hops, it stands upon them.

I was always under the impression that Sierra Nevada bottle conditions all their beers. The clarity of this beer suggests they have either used an incredibly flocculant yeast, or this is simply not bottle conditioned. For a Barley Wine Style, I wouldn’t be troubled by some haze.

This beer may do well with some age in the cellar. The hop bitterness would fade and given time the alcohol presence would hopefully give way to some more malt complexity. If someone gives me more of this beer, that’s probably what I’ll do with it.

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Beer enthusiast and advocate. Recognized beer judge and traveler of west coast beer destinations.