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Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

3,011 Reviews
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Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style AleSierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.60%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by kbub6f on 02-06-1998

User Reviews
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Reviews: 3,011 | Ratings: 7,336
Photo of beertaster13
4.8/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a nice dark mahogany red with a thick cream off white head that is gorgeous. The smell is a blast of citrusy pine hops with hints of spices and sweet caramel malts. The taste is strong up front with citrus pine hops, blends well with the apple crumb center and the thick syrup ending. The spiced malts perfectly blend with the bitterness, wow really gives the tatebuds a kick. Medium to full bodied and will call you back for more, damn good.

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Photo of twilight
4.55/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2003 vintage. Sampled 7/30/04

Pours a deep, deep garnet with a thick head that disappears almost instangly, but leaves the beautiful lacing upon it. Aroma is of big malt with some hops. It smells rich, to tell the truth; it prepares you for the big flavors of... Thick intitial malt taste with the hint of hops finishing with a mouthful of hop bitterness aftertaste and the malt peeking through the spaces between your tongue. Yum yum to the hop aftertaste. It's thick and wonderful. I'm not a huge fan of the barleywine style, but this one is pretty damn amazing. Mouthfeel is thick and coating. It goes down well, but excessive hop burn detracts from the drinkability. So what about the high ABV. Let this one be your nightcap before you pass out into the luxe of your bed...

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Photo of WetCoaster
4.92/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

One year:
Probably the best beer I've ever had at this point. Absolutely sublime flavor. Magnificent.

Six months:
Well, it's about six months later--let's see what's happening. In celebration of Lance's sixth TdF victory, I thought I'd pop one out of the cellar.

Appearance: Wonderful golden cherry color with fine and surprisingly active carbonation. Short lived tan head with no lacing, but thick legs on the glasswall.

Smell: Incredible. It now has a unique honeyed sweetness, a rich, smooth, balanced blend of malt, cherry, citrus, caramel, brandy, with a much more muted spruce/pine hops scent lingering in the background. There is a slight alcohol sharpness as well.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Wow. Deeply malted, slightly buttery with cherry and whiskey notes. There's still a spicy hop bitterness, particularly at the finish, but the balance is now much better. There's a slight smokiness in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is creamy and dense.

Drinkability: It's gone from undrinkable to so drinkable it's scary--it's delicious.

I am amazed that a beer could undergo such a metamorphosis in only six months. It's so much better than when it was fresh it's hard to believe it's the same beer. Should be absolutely fantastic in a year--I can hardly wait.
(Original review: 3.65)
Ah, the 2004 has arrived. I’ve put the rest away, but let’s try one “freshy” and see what happens.

Appearance: The beer is beautiful to look at; it pours an extremely deep, clear amber with ruby undertones. It has very little head, and what’s there is gone quickly. It leaves thick lacing and legs on the glass throughout.

Scent: The scent is surprisingly subdued, some green apple yeast ethers, pronounced hops, but none of the booming malt, dark fruits and spice you might expect from a big barleywine.

Flavor/Mouthfeel: As has been mentioned before, the taste can be described in one word: RAW. Right off the bat, you get huge, spicy fresh hops, pine/spruce flavors, and thick, viscous hop oils; you can almost cut it with a knife. However, that’s just about all there is. There’s a faint black cherry malt sweetness in the background, and the expected Irish whisky alcohol heat in the finish, but the balance is tilted WAY over to the hop camp.

Drinkability: As it stands now, the drinkability isn’t great; it’s a bit too rough, unbalanced and heavy for me. One is more than enough.

This is a serious, well-made beer but, in its current state, anyway, it’s not a good barleywine. With its huge green hop flavor and almost non-existent malt/black fruit/spice flavor points, this is far more convincing as an Imperial IPA.

It’s just way too fresh. If you pick some of this up, cellar it, forget about for six months or so and come back to it when the hops mellow out. It should kick ass.

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Photo of claytri
3.38/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bigfoot (2004) pours a deep brassy gold with hints of purple. The aroma is of malt and alcohol. The look and smell hold the promise of a hardhitting beer. The taste is a little surprising. Being pretty bitter with a lot of malt in the background. It's feel is very oily and leaves a lot of caramel on your tounge. I don't find this to be a very drinkable beer. The only times I've found it to be satisfactory is when I wanted a large volume of alcohol or on the end of large volume of beer. As it warms the bitterness becomes overpowering. After trying Young's Old Nick, I purchased a six of this expecting a real treat. That was in January, I am drinking the fourth now in July. A move towards the balance you see in Young's Old Nick would be welcome.

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Photo of Crotor
4.24/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is one helluva beer.

And that's one helluvan understatement.

Just drank a bottle of the 2004 vintage, and I must say that it gave me chills... It's only a couple of months old right now, but the hop bitterness already seems much more subdued than it did in the 2003 Bigfoot. The hop aromas, however, are amazingly strong. The treacle-malt flavor is more noticable for me than in previously encounters with Bigfoot, and this pleases me; it adds a good deal of sophistication to what would otherwise be a simplistic hop-monster beer.

Drink this big, hairy, NW barleywine slowly, perhaps alternating sips with bites from a slice of extra-sharp cheddar cheese, and you may very well have a religious experience.

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Photo of bigbeerdrinka
4.31/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2004 Edition

Appearance: Pours a deep dark copper color with amber and ruby hues. A nick thick plush head about an inch high shows off this beers beauty. Perfect lace.

Smell: Strong notes of big malts and piney citrusy hop nose. As usual this beer smells rediculus, and has a final alcohol aromas which lets ya know that this is a big beer.

Taste: This beer initial shows off its big malt profile, with flavors of dark fruits, caramels, and toasted sweetness. The hops follow up right behind giving a piney and bitter flavor. Also this beer has some juiciness to it, making my pallate go nuts. So many flavors, so complex. This beer finishes with yet more hop bitterness and flavor with compliments its big size!

Mouthfeel: Smooth rich and creamy I don't know how much more I can expect from a barleywine.

Drinkability: This beer is almost as drinkable as a session beer. Smooth flavors hide the alcohol till the very end.

Overall: Another great job by Sierra Nevada. Thank god I have 10 of these in my cellar aging!

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Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
4.45/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

[2004 edition tasted 2-15-04]

What better way to celebrate my birthday and the snow falling outside than with a fresh bottle of the Bigfoot?!

Appearance: This year's 'foot pours a rich-looking brandy color with a lovely-looking off-white head that died quickly away to a wispy, ever-changing swirl atop the beer. Very nice lacing of the glass.

Smell: Blasting notes of floral hops mixed with medicinal alcohol physically slap your nostrils into submission. Lagging along behind is a bit of malty sweetness that does nothing to tame tame the tempest raging in your nostrils.

Taste: Hmmm....things are somewhat amiss here. This is one brash and raw beer. Titanic dose of leafy hops entrench themselves onto your palate and only grudgingly move when the medicinal alcohol arrives on the scene. There is some token caramel sweetness that drifts across the palate after the fiery and bitter rawness dies away. Finishes with a long-lasting bitterness that is only magnified by the oily resin on the lips.

Mouthfeel and Drinkability: A big beer, to be sure. Medium-high body with smooth carbonation. Despite the aggressive and raw hoppiness of this beer, it still shines as a creamy palate-coater. Drinkability takes a hit due to the harshness of this one.

Notes: It's everything I've some to expect from the Bigfoot. However, this is a beer that is certainly in need of some aging. It's extremely hoppy and, for lack of a better word, unbalanced. Despite the flavor profile, I am 100% certain that, given some time, this will mellow into an incredible symphony of flavors. I've had a 4-year old version and it was amazing. There's no reason to doubt that this one will age into a classic. I've got 11 bottles left and that should make for a great ride starting next winter.

Edit: Revisited this vintage (6-30-04) and it has certainly mellowed. The brash bite to the flavor has been attenuated by almost 5 months of conditioning. The result? Silky smooth on the palate and wonderfully balanced. A more pronounced cocoa-smoky flavor is evident. Hops have faded considerably, allowing more time for the array of malty sweetness to stand center-stage.

Original review: 4.5/4.5/3.5/4/3.5

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Photo of euskera
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2004 Expedition...

Poured a dark orange-brown with a small bubbly head that had good staying power. Smell is distinctly hoppy with some alcohol overtones and a slight hint of caramel. Taste is superb, with the hops as the vanguard. The sweet malt hangs in the air, with a piney nutty feel that I just can't pin down tantalizing the taste buds before they are overwhelmed by the hop thunder. Mouthfeel is divine; my tastebuds are almost not worthy of the Yeti in this mysterious brown bottle.

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Photo of Globetrotter
4.58/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Procured at Bottleworks in Seattle, my bottlecap states "2004 Expedition." The brown 12oz bottle sports a label depicting an encounter between some old bearded prospector type and the Bigfoot himself. No ingredient info on the label. I opened it on 6/26/04.

Pours a slightly murky orange hue under a voluminous (what? at that ABV?) 3 finger beige head with great body, and lots of lace as it slowly settle and drops down the glass. Sweet, syrupy malt nose typical of a barley wine. Very thick mouth, with high carbonation. Lots of flavors here, from caramel and barley to pine and floral hops. The blend is smooth, but the components are also easy to pick out, with the malt surfacing early, then yielding to a substantial dry bite. The aftertaste mirrors the experience, with an almost honey sweetness competing against coffee ground bitterness. This is a truly exceptional product.

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Photo of 99bottles
3.73/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a nice red mahogany color with a tiny reddish tan head that soon just became lacing. Sticky rings lead down my empty pint glass.

Smell: Very much like grapefruit. Very tangy, from obvious hop prescence.

Taste: Youch! Very sharp and bitter hops attack from the get go. Really, very one dimensional. Some sweet carmel tries to get at tastebuds, but the astringent aftertaste of hops crushes it. Very piney, very bitter.

Mouthfeel: Good thickness and body. Doesn't really cloy. Whoo, its difficult to find anything in there except sticky hop oil.

Drinkability: No. At this point, this beer needs some time to mellow out. The hops are not kept in check, and they need to be for this to be decent. I'd give it at least 2 more years if you have that sort of patience (I obviously don't). Could be excellent, just not yet.

Update: I found this on tap and had to try it, even though I knew it wasn't my favorite. More mellow, less assertive hops and a nicer malt balance. Still doesn't hold a candle to my favorites, but it's much nicer on tap when it's fresh.

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Photo of PorterLambic
1.82/5  rDev -56%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

Wow. This was quite an experience, sadly not a good one.
Reddish brown with a coarse 1" head, decent lacing.
Smells of spice, alcohol, malt and fruit.
Taste is spice, fruit, malt, alcohol. Starts a little rough, way too hoppy. Finishes with a extremely noticeable and harsh piney, almost turpentine, aftertaste that get horrendously rough, very bitter.
Mouthfeel was medium-bodied, but not smooth.

Definitely a beer I will NEVER drink again, barely able to choke this one down, and it wasn't because of the alcohol. It did not improve as the temperature came up, quite the opposite. One was definitely enough. If you want a barleywine style ale, I would suggest Anchor's Old Foghorn instead, or any other.

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Photo of rkhaze
4.57/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2004 bottling. Pours a bright red/amber with a dense rocky tan head. No lace but coats the glass nicely.
Hop smell hits from 18" away. Fresh and citrusy. Closer inspection reveals some pepper and spice. Nicely offset by a sweet malt and caramel aroma. There were also hints of fruit, vanilla and alcohol.
Great rich taste upfront. Sweet malt and caramel backbone countered by the clean, tangy and resinous hop flavor. Finishes with a bit of fruit, tea and an intense grapefruit bitterness that really takes over and coats the tongue. The malt certainly gets lost near the end. The alcohol didn't come through much in the taste.
Medium to full bodied with a slightly oily mouthfeel and some creaminess. Good amount of carbonation.
Huge flavorful beer. Nice job of hiding the alcohol. Definitly a hop heads version of a Barleywine.

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Photo of matyp99
4.88/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2004 vintage bottle, pours a reddish-copper coler with nice 1/2-1 inch head that takes sometime to dissipate. Aroma is a rich malty sweetness that has a slight alcohol smell at the end. A nice mouthful that is not to heavy. Taste has a nice level of sweetness which is complimented by the bitterness that comes through on the finish. A slight fruitiness is detectable but is definetaly an undertoned taste, which considering the near 10% ABV helps mask higher alcohol content. The finish lasts for several minutes which includes the sweetness and bitterness. I will admit I have enjoyed this beer for many years.

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Photo of oracle
5/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2004 vintage 12oz bottle served in a 16 ounce shaker style glass.

Ths beer poured a deep dark amber color with 1.5 inches of thick tan head which gradually reduced to about a quarter inch which left lacing for the entire depth of the glass.

There is not much that is mild about this beer. It announces its presence strongly, right from the get-go with a smell that exudes hops with small malty undertone. The higher alcohol content is also evident right from the beginning as well.

The first few sips let you know right away that this is a beer to sipped, not gulped. The hops come through very strongly, as does a complex blend of citrus and carmelized malts

The mouthfeel is heavy without being too over powering. While the finish is strongly hoppy, it doesn't stick around too long afterwards.

For such a strongly flavored beer with this much alcohol, it is suprisingly easy to drink and can easily catch up with those who do not treat it with respect. Drinking an entire growler at one sitting is a mistake.

At $35/case, its not cheap, but it is one of the absolute best beers around.

Highly recommended

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Photo of woemad
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle purchased at Huckleberry's in Spokane for $1.69. 2004 vintage.

Poured a cloudy reddish amber color with a small light-tan head that immediately dropped, but left a foamy ring for the rest of the beer's duration in my glass. Not much lace at all.

Smell is primaarily of hops, but there's a maltiness in the background. This smells like an IPA.

While the taste is again dominated by citrusy hops, the maltiness is much more noticeable. I'm going to have to get more of this and age it to see if there is more of a balance with time. This seems like it's just on the cusp of having a great balance, it's just not quite there yet. It still tastes great, better than a similarly-young bottle of Old Crustacean (I know, I expect it to be better with age), it just hints at being capable of being better. If it does age well, it will be fantastic.

Mouthfeel of this is perfect. It's medium bodied, to the point that it goes down easier than 9.6%abv has any right to!

This is a very drinkable barleywine if you are a fan of IPAs. Someone less enamoured of hops might find it a tad bit bitter, but what would they be doing drinking a barleywine, anyhow? This is the best barleywine I've had in a while, and I can't wait to see how it is when the flavors have melded a bit (I'm going to buy a sixer of this at the next opportunity).

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Photo of garymuchow
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This sample is a 2001. I find the newer samples, i.e. not cellared, a little too sharp. I prefer the aged ones.
Aroma is a nice mix of rich matl with fruity undertones, and surrounded by hops.
Pours with a large firm head that becomes rocky. Dark amber in color (reds to brown). Some setiment. Looks good.
Initial taste notes the cloyness of the malt. This is intense and flavorful. Hops first present in the dryness at the finish and with bitterness. Fruitiness from the malt finishes with a sourness and a dryness. Alcohol hidden well.
Feel has a rich softness despite the cloyness. I like that. Very good ale smoothness.
If a guy can tolerate the intensity this is quite nice. The older I get the more I enjoy these.

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Photo of AbePhroman
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I got a 6-pack of this for $8.50. I thought that was pretty cheap for this area. I have had this before but wanted a fresh taste in my mouth before I wrote a review.

Poured a dark, fiery, amber with a white head that laced well down the glass. Very hoppy aroma with some fruity hints. Also the alcohol is present in the smell. Very hoppy taste but the fruity hints make it less bitter than one would expect. Goes down smooth. 9.6% is a decent abv. Very drinkable in my opinion for a beer of this caliber. Would recommend highly, especially if you like barley wines.

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Photo of Reidrover
4.47/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I find it hard that after 450 odd reviews I have never tried this West coast legend..so here goes.
I poured the bottle into a Chimay chalice..and have to say it looks gorgeous in it..its murky yet at the same time glowing brown ale..with a nice sized tan head that eventually fades to rather luxuriant laceing.
The aroma of this is excellent..strong fragrant spicy hops, some floral aspects, a great whiff of cultured alcohol Scents of dark fruits and plums.
Lovelly complex taste ..first a lovelly malty sweetness, then a intense yet welcoming bitterness..followed by more creamy sweetness minglefd with alcohol. The alcohol bitterness stays at the back of the throat..and warms slowly all the way down to the stomach..were it leaves a content and satisfied heat.
Very nice on the palate, quite an adventure in every sip!
Despite the biggish alcohol content i found this pretty drinkable, even on a muggy warm night..in the winter this would be superb.

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Photo of silenius
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2004 version

Appearance is an opaque brown with red glints. The off white to beige head is about 1 finger thick at the pour and quickly settles down to a thin layer coating obscuring the beer. More head than other barleywines I've had.

The smell is hops and sweet malt. Integrated very well for me.

Taste is heavenly! Hops and malt in an incredibly well balanced integration. This is a WOW beer in my book. Nice to have one of these every once in a while to let me know I can still be wowed by a beer. I love the way the bitter hops and sweet malts come crashing down in alternating waves. Complexity!

Mouthfeel is thick and the carbonation surges out of the beer when it hits my tongue. Almost syrupy in texture.

Drink this one over an hour and taste all it has to offer as the beer slowly warms to room temp. Each temperatures changes the nuances of this beer for a great experience. Not for the faint-hearted or those used to drinking flavorless beer.

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Photo of TagoMago
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12 oz. short bottle - 2004 edition.

Appearance: Dark amber color. Pours with a nice, rocky head. Beautiful lacing.

Aroma: Intense hops with some fruity esters. Alcohol is quite prominent.

Taste: There is an upfront hop punch with a fusal alcohlic finish. Any maltiness is almost completely dominated by hops. The beer is full-bodied and very smooth going down. A bitter hoppyness lingers on the palate.

Overall: This is a great barleywine, though quite a bit more hoppy than I like my barleywines to be. The reminds me more of an Imperial IPA than a barleywine. But overall, this is a topshelf beer from start to finish.

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Photo of RockyTopHeel
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2004 edition.

Red, chestnut-amber in color with a frothy beige head that leaves a nice lace on the glass, this Bigfoot may be young, but I couldn't resist cracking it open. The aroma is soft with hops and citrus. The flavor has a great complexity: a nice, almost understated hop presence layered among a lattice of soft, bready malts and interlacing of the strong alcohol content, leading to an excellently balanced, round flavor.

Best of all, I now have a basis of comparison for aging...

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Photo of HappyHourHero
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


Big grapefruit citrus hop aroma, some candied floral hops, all on a solid malt base. Light resinous brown head left a bit of lace as it faded to a film. Mahogany colored beer with a brilliant ruby hue. Butterscotch malt flavor up front followed quickly by an infusion of hops. Finished with an incredibly hoppy bitterness. Lots of potent flavors in this tasty young beer.

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Photo of bnuttz
3.83/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2004 vintage bottle

appearance: a ruby copper color with a nice head

smell: malty goodness, a very nice floral hop aroma, smells of raisins possibly

taste: hops overload! wow, sweet on the palate with a definite hop bite, this is a very good barley wine, a little too hoppy for what i like in the style, but very good nonetheless. alcohol is definitely sneaky here, one must be careful.

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Photo of assurbanipaul
3.96/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Brand-spanking-new 2004 bottle. Pours a dark chestnut with a long-lasting beige head. Nose reaches me from several feet away, candy-sweet malt and fruit, raisins. Lots of lacing on the sides.

Initially, taste is rather dry and hoppy. Deep roasted, caramelized malts appear in the background but the fresh, bitter, floral hops dominate the flavors. Have to admit, the rating took a nose-dive here.

Better flavor balance approaches as it warms, almost a different brew altogether. Sweetness emerges, more malt and pine spiciness comes out to level the playing field. Some light orange citrus in the aftertaste, no detectable alcohol tastes at all.

Mouthfeel is lighter than expected for the style, a bit of a bitter hop shock but smooth enough to drink easily. Overall, a bit of a brandy nature with some dry hops thrown in. Needs to lay down for a year or two to let the hops subside a little.

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Photo of mntlover
4.52/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Apperance at a new store in town is greatttt. My first Bigfoot 2004 model and my first barley wine. Deep copper color with nice cream color head that falls to nice ring of foam. Smells of wondeful floral hops and a touch of malt. Tastes great mmm beer big malt body complemented by hop flavor not overly bitter perfection in balance, tastes smooth and wonderful. Mouthfeel is heavier then it looks this could be dangerous think I could finish the whole six now. Wish I had opportunity to compare other years this is one great brew. Will be buying atleast a 12 tomorrow if not more they only had 2 cases. Love this beer.

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Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 3,011 ratings.