Bigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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Bigfoot Barleywine-Style AleBigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale
7,610 Ratings
Bigfoot Barleywine-Style AleBigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale

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

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.60%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by kbub6f on 02-06-1998

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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 7,610 |  Reviews: 3,098
Photo of jcalabre
3.4/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Originally sampled on 26 October 2002. I am writing this review from my notes. Bigfoot is a very good example of a barleywine. Nice malty flavor etc etc. However, I was underwhelmed by it. After reading all the kudos for this brew on the web & in newsgroups, I was expecting to have my socks knocked off. They weren't. It's a good barleywine, but nothing more.

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Photo of taez555
5/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

12oz bottle, 2003 vintage, tasted june 2003

This beer poured a very firm 1 inch dark white/tan head. The body was a ruby red/brown color.

The nose was in your face. A sharp citrus peel hop smell. Some black pepper and even pine needles. But overall an impressive tight in your face hop smell.

The taste was very full bodied and thick. Extremely bitter going down with that intence citrus peel/slight black pepper hop attack. The malt flavors are hidden a bit by the hops but are still there with a sweet malt flavor. It's as if this beer is pale ale concentrate.
It finishes about the same, very hoppy and bitter, lingering for quite a while.

Overall this is a great beer. Not for all occasions or something to be drunk in mass quanities, but... a must try.

2008 note.

I've been buying cases of this beer for the past couple years and aging it. Fresh this beer is stellar, aged a year or more this beer is heavenly. The malt and hops all blend together perfectly. The more I drink it the more I'm convinced this is THE greatest beer being brewed. Period.

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Photo of steelreign
4.87/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

This is as close as it gets to perfection for me - classic barleywine style, high ABV, great drinkability that you never tire's all there. And what a presentation right out of the bottle! A dark, heavy brown, with a noseful of wonderful notes consisting of pine, fruit, roasted grain, alcohol, raisins, malt...mmmmm!

First sip, I was in love. No, make that lust. I will scour the ends of the earth for this one, and after tasting it, you will know firsthand just why that is if you are a fan of this style. Supreme body and bursting with flavor, hops, malt, and alcohol; all the things that make the barleywine style not for the faint of heart. Rather, one that is uplifting and almost spiritual in its own right! I have yet to find another example of this style that has the flavor, ABV and drinkability of this fine crafted brew. Do NOT pass this one by if you see it. If you find it, try it, then find that you don't like it, email me and I may just buy the remainder of it from you! :)

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Photo of DESTRO
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

smells of hops, malts and fruit, pours a deep thick red with a small creamy head that leaves a wonderful lace. big hops upfront, piney, sweet molasses, light fruit...warming alcohol all on a big malt backbone. nice rich mouthfeel that coats the mouth and goes down nicely. an intense beer that i just love. the high abv is nice and warming and the drinkability is pretty high for such a strong brew, its so balanced that the big flavors dont become to much. i found this one ages nicely as well, one year seems to be perfect for my taste buds. a heavy duty barley wine.

$6.99 a sixer.

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Photo of texascarl
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

appearance = coppertoned brew, tan 'sticky' head

Nose - hops, fruit, alcohol

Taste - hops + malt = the embodiment of the word 'bittersweet'. Powerful hops, 3 tons of malt. Molasses, fruit. A delicious sipping beer. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Mouthfeel - thick, smooth.

Notes. Wonderful, powerful barley wine. It may be 'lawnmowing beer' season now, but I can't wait til the cold wind blows again. A good book, a warm fire and a bottle of Bigfoot.

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Photo of francisweizen
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Notes: 2003 Edition. This beer pours a glowing, red-amber colour with a very whispy, small head. The aromas are of alcohol, heavy hops and heavy malts. This is a sweet beer with a bitter edge to it and a great warming alcohol flavor as well. The mouthfeel is thick, but not 'chewy' or 'syrupy'. The drinkability is very good for such a high ABV brew. This is really *the* classic example of a northwestern, American barleywine. Simply awesome!


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

2002 vintage.

Held to the light, a strong almost-blood red body, with a tremendous stream of carbonation up the middle. Topped by a big bubbly biege head which rocked above the rim. Good looking lace. Aroma features some earthy floral and herbal hops, some caramel, and a wisp of alcohol. Taste and mouthfeel is of thick warm caramel melting across tongue, surrounded by a thick layer of hops to curb the sweetness, and pull it across the line to the bitter side of town. Not far, but across the line. Alcohol nips along at the heels, not a punch, just a warm glow. This is still one of the barleywines that all others must be judged by. The old man has still got it.

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Photo of Mark
3.7/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep amber - copper, with a tannish head. Aroma of sharp hops and alcohol. Hop attack on the palate but goes down fairly smoothly. Thick mouthfeel is nice. Compliments of a co-worker or I might never have tried this. Drinkability is O.K. at 9% plus this is not my usual preference. Good beer for when in the mood for this style.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2003 Version:

Deep amber brown mahogany with a huge caramel colored tan head. I poured this one into a 20 oz. Gulden Draak glass, and I couldn't do anything but sit stare and smell it for like five minutes. The aroma was simply amazing, I could literally sit here all day and enjoy the aroma. It's full of deep invigorating piney hops wrapped in maple syrup that are acting like pheromones, making me fall in love with this beer. The taste is one huge assault of malts and hops. The hop resins send shots of bitterness across my palate and the wave of malty sweetness of figs, raisin, and syrup sweep through finishing the flavor. Mouthfeel is syrupy fullness one full bodied west coast hop monster presenting the oily resins in the mouthfeel very nice. The drinkability of a beer this high in alcohol is so dangerous, but this is one beer to be enjoyed slowly it's an experience. In fact it's one that I would like to have again, I will tango with this classic west coast barley wine anytime.

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Photo of far333
3.55/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2003 batch: Hazy, dark iced tea color with a big, beige, foamy head. The head laces the glass as I drink. Smell is malty, with some fruit flavors that I can't really define. Mouthfeel is creamy at first, but leaves the mouth a bit tingly in the finish. Flavor is fruity, strong malt, and a mellow hop bitter, but the alcohol makes its presence known. A good barleywine, but not as smooth or full of character as I expected.

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Photo of nomad
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2003 vintage, drank in 2003...

Its color was a deep amber but equally oranged, like a deeply stained antique piece with faded edges and seams. Had a very steady almond-colored head and left some stain on my barleywine mini-tumbler.

Nose was of rosy malt and exploding raspberry and grapefruit and salty hops. Had a wicked roasted tone to both the malt and the hops - hops I would describe as newly harvested hops fermented in funk (in a good way).

Tasted of big hops and alcohol - exploding flavors of hops, grapefruit, and a twisted bittered raspberry. Had a good toasted malt background, but moreover a strong as hell bitterness, a real kick in the pants that feels good and healthy with time. After a long course of sipping a woody tone emerged underneath the hops. Also, after warming up, occassionally the first flavor that hit me through a newly kicked up head of foam was a straight shot of fruity sugar - it was a perfect way to start the plunge into the vat of lupulins. So, of course an extremely drying finish, yet not that thinned or dried of a mouthfeel, as it still held a nascently wet slide to it.

This barleywine takes the same strands and ratios of hops found in their classic Pale Ale and balloons their presence, yet it is still unmistakeably fruity and barley hearty. In other words, it does a great job even though it is on a far extreme of the style (i.e. the hoppier end). For me, an aged bottle would undoubtedly score much higher in flavor. I'm so glad such a good barley is so available and so cheap.

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Photo of padjo1
3.15/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Being a fan of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, I was,perhaps, expecting something of the caliber of their Celebration Ale or Pale Ale. Their Barley Wine (style) Ale provides an inviting appearance with a robust brown color featuring ruddy highlights, as well as a complex aroma that includes scents of pepper and orange. An odd scent, which transcends as hoppiness in the flavor, is probably attributed to the high alcohol content that comes off in its scent and amalgamates into the bitterness of its taste. Therefore, the taste would probably be improved by a long and intense breathing session or storage alone, as many advocates have suggested. A chunky mouthfeel doesn't help, culminating in a less than spectacular review. A more competent review could be submitted within a year after giving this prestigious label an opportunity to age.

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Photo of dmarch
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours with a dark ruby color with hints of orange and a long lasting head. Spicy hop aroma. A lot of hops, especially for a barleywine. The taste is a little more balanced. There is some malt sweetness underneath all the bitterness of the hops. Finishes with a warm alchohol taste. A year or two of cellaring would maybe tame this beer a little more.

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Photo of philipt
3.9/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap at the 10th Annual Southeastern Microbrewers Festival.

What a thorough and pleasant surprise to find this beer at this festival (shhhh...don't tell anyone that NC law limits beet to 6% abv).

Appears chestnut-deep garnet in color with a very creamy tan head. Quite a thick brew. Hops are the first to strike me in the aroma, also a roasted maltness appears too. Taste is thick, sweet and hoppy. There is a distinct malt flavor accompanied by a strong hops presence. Hops are the theme throughout this barleywine. Quite easy to drink, but served slightly too chilled.

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Photo of xgrigorix
3.61/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2003 vintage

Pours dark amber/brown with hints of orange. Just a touch of hazeiness from the yeast sediment. 1-1/2" of beautiful off white creamy looking head.

Hints of citrus, & medicinal scents in the aroma.

Big body & bold taste. Sip it slowly, loads of hop bitterness and warming alcohol to be savored.

Looking forward to cellaring the other five!

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Photo of ElGuapo
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A deep reddish brown brew topped with a huge mass of off-white foam that hangs around for quite some time and leaves huge amounts of lace all over the glass. The aroma is loaded with hops, but there is also a large amount of sweet fruit in the nose. It also has a slight hint of alcohol which one would expect from the 9.6% content.

A very hoppy start to this truly marvelous brew. Alcohol lets its presence be known, but it is not at all overwhelming. A nice amount of coffee and roastiness comes in later. Cherries throw themselves in there as well. This is one incredibly complex beer. I have been sitting on a case of the 2002 for a while, and I will surely enjoy every last bottle. The carbonation is light which aids in a very smooth mouthfeel that warms as you take a few swallows. Despite the high alcohol and intense array of flavors, this is a very drinkable brew. I can't say I will be throwing back a case, but you could have a couple, which is very impressive for the style.

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

Frankly my beer, I give a damn and this is an interesting brew, certainly worth a damn.

I was a little surprised on the sweetness to the aroma, but the hops do a dynamic floral dance up my nasal passages.

As I lift this pretty dark amber in for my first drink, the hops bite and spices provide a nice complexity to the flavor. The floral feel of the hops feel slightly acidic in the mouthfeel and aftertaste. The ABV calms the circuits in my head for a long summer's night sleep.

A good barleywine, yet again, Sierra Nevada proves itself.

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Photo of WanderingFool
4.53/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've been looking for the 2003 Bigfoot all winter and finally came across a 6 pack today. The beer is a nice clear dark ruby color with tiny bubbles floating up from the center of the glass. The light tan frothy head fades after a few minutes but leaves a nice ring around the glass and a sheet on the beer. The lace is thick and clings to the sides of the glass all the way down.

A hoppy herbal aroma hovers over the beer. I could also detect pine, citrus and alcohol in the smell. The thick mouth feel is warm and inviting and coats the tongue completly. Each sip is full of hoppy flavors blended nicely with caramel malt, orange peel and an alcohol finish. A hoppy bitterness is all that is left behind after each sip.

I look forward to this beer every year and use it as a benchmark to judge other barleywines. However, I did find this years version to be less hoppy than what I remember. I'll have to pop open a 2002 Bigfoot that I've got stored away to compare.

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Photo of Quaffer
3.98/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2003

Appearance: This was a deep amber brew that almost glowed in the snifter. The tan head rose up dense and fluffy, lingering for a long time. A few patches remained thoughout the entire drink. There was a ton of lace left behind by this beer, sometimes forming solid sheets of sticky, dense foam on the side of the glass.

Smell: There were big malt aromas, combined with tart cherry, toffee, cream, and strong alcohol. From the bottle, there was a very distinct smokey smell.

Mouthfeel: A full-bodied brew, that was smooth and creamy in the front of the mouth. As it moved back along the tongue, a carbonation and alcohol tingle gave this beer some bite.

Taste: My first drink was all big malt flavor combined with a nice smokiness. The smoke subsided after a few drinks, though. It settled into a huge, full malt flavor, combined with coffee and a subtle fruitiness. A strong hops bitterness emerged in the middle to balance out the big grain bill. It lingered well into the finish and then some. A spicy alcohol component also played a big part in the flavor, as well as added a nice warming effect. Gotta love that!

A very nice barley wine that would be terrific with a few years of age on it. While I really enjoyed it and feel that it is balanced beautifully, a little celler time to let the flavors combine and intermingle (for lack of better terms) would do it good. Not too long, though. I wouldn't want this big boy to mellow out too much.

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Photo of GeoffRizzo
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a beauty of an orange, bordering light red in color, the initial aroma of citrus and hops, prominent of grapefruit, this is a smelly beverage. A taste of hops up front, followed by citrus and hops, leads me to believe this could pass as a strong IPA here, the citrus does come in near the end, but the hops dominate, this bad boy is very delicious, very smooth and sweet and creamy, it lives up to its reputation.

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

Package: Stubby "heritage" bottle. No date guidelines. Cap denotes “2003 Expedition” and 2 men and a Sasquatch around a fire underneath. Label depicts a prospector examining footprints, while his mule shies away. 9.6% ABV.

Cost: $9.49 a 6-Pack at Bottle King

Presentation: Snifter at 50º

Appearance: Coppery, strong-tea color with some haze. Generated a medium-dense off-white head, resolving to almost nothing. Isolated strings of small bubbles stream from the bottom.

Smell: Provided a snootfull of hops at the get-go. In that signature Sierra style, they weren't harsh or off-putting as I find in some other brews. One can pick out some dark-fruity notes like raisins, green apple, and a citrusy element. Clearly reminiscent of Celebration Ale.

Taste: “Tangy” was the word that kept coming to mind as the beer made my mouth water. I don’t know how Sierra Nevada does this, but they practice perfect “hopsmanship,” pushing the limit just to the point before it becomes medicinal. There's a strong, pine-resin taste with a citrus edge (pummello?) that avoids the overt grapefruit flavor I find unpleasant. As I savored this; caramel, malt, roasted nuts, clove, allspice, currants, and dried plums emerged. Evoked the iodiney single malts from Laphroig and Caol Ila. At the denouement, the hops reasserted themselves in the long, dry finish. Whereas Old Horizontal starts sweet and dries out; this starts dry, ripens, and then tightens up again.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is a bit more assertive than some other barley wines, but matches well with the unctuous, palate-coating body.

Drinkability: A wonderfully drinkable barley wine that doesn’t flaunt its ABV. Obviously not a quaffer, this doesn’t shortchange you on refreshment or satisfaction.

As noted in my review of Celebration Ale, Sierra Nevada just knows how to do this kind of thing. Clearly, Bigfoot carries the hops banner in the barley wine wars, and does it proudly. Maybe not quite as complex as Old Horizontal, this promises that cellaring will be well-rewarded with more complexity, perhaps at the cost of some vibrancy. Less malty and sweet than some barley wines, this brew clearly demonstrates its Celebration Ale heritage.

Bottom Line: An “Imperial" Celebration Ale.

NB: A pre-1983 to 1997 vertical tasting in The Malt Advocate determined that 3 years of aging was the "pivot-point," where this seemed to reach its optimal condition.

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

2003 batch – date by blue print on top of cap. 2003 Expedition
Unique feature – 2 men and bigfoot sitting down by a fire on inside of cap.

This beer poured from the 12 oz. bottle a dark rusty red/orange color some-what cloudy but decent light could penetrate. The head was thick and foamy and fairly large, it was a creamy beige/light tan color as well. It left a full but chunky lace behind that stretched the whole way to the bottom of the glass. The aromas that came from the glass were of flowers (dandelions), hops, pine trees, some malt, light bitey citrus fruit, holly berries and some alcohol. The smells, I noticed, seemed to change in strength as it warmed as well. The tastes were BIG and pronounced. They were of bitter hops, and more hops (seemed to be the leader in this brew), wild flowers (dandelions), earth tones, pine trees, some sweet malt was noticeable but not strongly and seemed to be in the middle of the tongue, some roasted malt, dark plums, and a warmth that came from the 9.6% alcohol. This beer left my mouth, after each sip, with a dry hop taste that seemed to remind me of a dried flower. This beer gets better as it gets warmer, the flavors become more pronounced. I wouldn’t leave it sitting out around the campfire too long of it will disappear. A big beer that sneaks up on you like the elusive bigfoot in the woods, better get a picture or it will disappear and leave you with that feeling that something great just happened. Of course that could be the alcohol too.

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Photo of marburg
3.9/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Drank the 2003 this afternoon. A fine barleywine. Poured a not-quite-ruby color which when viewed in the light yields a reddish glow shining through a dark amber shroud. Aromas were of rum cake, citrus, and scotch pine needles -- a pleasant mix that took me a few minutes to really comfortably place and categorize in my head. Taste was similar. Very light citrus notes up front that get put to rest quickly by an overwhelmingly large hop presence. And that's all that limits this brew as far as I'm concerned. Some of this big hopped ales seem to numb my palate and irritate my senses a bit, and after one or two, I have to call it quits.

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Photo of BitteBier
3.9/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Translucent copper color. Head is minimal but clings well. Hops bitterness is dominant in the smooth nose. You know the alcohol is there, but it's toned down in the smell save for a little warmth. Medium, almost creamy, body with hoppiness that lasts from start to finish. Relatively sweet at the start; quickly dries out and fades to a warm aftertaste. Not as complex and balances as Bell's offering, but certainly a good beer.

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Photo of AtLagerHeads
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Quite a nice beer. This is a very potent ale with a strong, but balanced hops sense. Not for the meek, this brew presents a host of sensual assaults. My sample poured a very murky dark amber color reminiscent of very well steeped ice tea. Despite an attempt to raise a head I got little more than an eigth inch that was quite attractive giving the appearance of frothy liquid gold. The head dissipated to a very lttle remnant that hung til the end. Great lacing from the residual.

The smell gives away the strong hops presence but little else at the open. Perhaps the hops mask the other ingredients. As it warms there is a strong sense given off of caramel and malt that voids the intial hop sense. The high ABV is very apparent and in the taste from the start. This hoppy brew starts and finishes on the bitters. It has a gamut of fruity hints that begin to impress as the beer warms. Mouthfeel is very full-bodied and smooth, almost too cloying. Very heady stuff and a good beer to end the day. I made the mistake of putting it with lunch; it should stand on its own since it is more than capable of doing so.

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Bigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.14 out of 5 with 7,610 ratings