Bigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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Bigfoot Barleywine-Style AleBigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale
7,630 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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Ratings: 7,630 |  Reviews: 3,104
Photo of Stubbie1
3.48/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2003 Bottle,

The appearance is a brown/amber color with a ½ inch off white head. The head fades leaving a very decent lacing.

The aroma is sweet. Hints of raisins, plumbs figs , molasses, caramel, and alcohol are present. Ther is also a faint whisp of Hops present. As I sit and take in more aroma the sweetness of the fruit it is quickly over ran by the alcohol.

The taste is sweet. A dominant malt start followed by a small wave of the fruit notes. Nevertheless, as you enjoy it all you’re slapped in the face with the 9.6% alcohol punch. There is a slight creamy smoothness to this beer and a smooth feeling is left behind on the tounge.

It is an enjoyable beer. One that you would put your feet up and unwind to watch some football on a cold winter day. For me, the punch from the alcohol is a bit too forward. It makes it somewhat hard to enjoy. Therefore, I could not sit and enjoy this beer all day. I will try the other 3 at the 9, 12 and 1 year 3 month mark just to see if there is a change.

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Photo of byrd
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2003 bottle and sampling -
I’m not a big fan of barley wines, but Bigfoot easily gets my vote for best of the bunch (that I’ve tried so far). Nice tight half inch head that reduced so a sticky lace. Great aroma of lots of sweet caramel and fruity malt with a slight hint of alcohol. Only a small touch of spicy hops to the aroma. Color is deep copper-brown and slightly hazy. A large amount of carbonation can be seen rising from the bottom of the glass, yet there’s only light carbonation on the tongue. The palate is similar to the nose with a good deal of caramel and fruity malt sweetness. The alcohol which is quite obvious is in no way awkward in its tendency to stand out. Instead, it melds with the other flavors only adding to the overall experience. Decent hop bitterness picks up toward the end to perfectly balance out the sweetness from the start. There’s a little roastiness to the finish and aftertaste which lingers for quite some time. Easily the best barley wine I’ve had to date, and I’ll certainly be looking for this one again.

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Photo of waughbrew
3.92/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Join me as I revisit the beer that first kicked my ass....

2003: Hazy dark amber with a big glorious egg-nog head that lasts forever. Big aroma of resinous, citrusy hops sting your brain. The hopping starts to resemble spicing - cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg, and cocoa powder. Malt wafts up mostly as light caramels, but also with a little cookie dough. Taste does not try to hide the alcohol - in fact it showcases it. Brown sugar taste in more present than I expected from this brew. Hops prickly on the tongue. Although I would not mind the alcohol and bittering hops knocked down a notch, this is still a wonderful brew.

edit: at one year old, the 2004 diminishes in hop flavor and bitterness, as well as the alcohol flavor. It becomes much smoother, but the finish loses some of its character.

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Photo of stirgy
4.82/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2002 version.

This is one big and bold beer. Poured out a rich ruby amber color with a long lasting and very creamy head. Wonderful lemon citrus hop bouquet intertwined with a heavy malt sweetness. The flavor is extremely rich and full flavored, but not overly sweet. Perfectly balanced. There’s a pleasant bitter grapefruit-like hop tang with some fruitiness. In the forefront are raisins, oranges and plums. Also has some cider and cordial-like qualities. A well rounded and complex ale that will put meat on your bones. This has to be one of the best tasting strong beers that I have had in recent memory.


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

10/23/03, 2003 bottling

This beer is grande! The nose is awesome. Incredible amalgam of scents, both VERY malty and VERY hoppy with some alcohol in there. Really nice blend. The taste is good, but really really hoppy. Even for a really big hoppy beer, I think they could tone it down a touch, but this was a 2003, I've had one a couple years old, I think it was a 2000, and it was definately more mellow. But screw that! I love Bigfoot!


edit 3/3/05, 2005 bottling

If I have a beer that I've already reviewed, but that I gave a poor review of (quality of review not gave the beer a poor score), see above, and I'm in a position to review the beer again...I'm gonna do it.

Very nice looking beer. Deep orange, auburn color. Very appropriate carbonation. Not too much. I am consistently impressed with SN's ability to naturally carbonate their beers and yet maintain such clear beers. This is why I'm skeptical that their bottling strain is the same as their primary ferment strain. And other reasons...but I digress.

gonna have to take the nose rating down 0.5 points. It's nice and big and hoppy...but that's it. I'd like a little more.

Really wonderful flavor. Big big hops just barely held up by the malt backbone of this beer. Nice sweet malt flavor, it's there, but it is overwhelmed by the huge citric bitterness. I like it.

gonna up the mouthfeel in this tasting. It has a very nice mouthfeel. Maybe it's the year, but this year seems much thicker. Nice mouthfeel to have something for those hops to skate around on.

Gonna have to up the drinkability rating 0.5 points as well. Just a really drinkable barley wine. This summer my buddy bought a case and we made 1lb hamburgers and hand cut french fries and drank 8 or 9 bigfeet a piece. Holy crap...we were fucked up!

So overall score stays the same, but I tweaked the individual category scores.

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Photo of Gavage
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Broke open a bottle from 1998. Let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes and then poured into a glass. It was a lovely deep auburn / burgandy color with a thin head. The aroma was sweet and alcohol was noticeable. The taste definitely mellowed over the five years, as it was still quite malty, extremely smooth, and a bit of caramel tones were detected.

The hoppiness that is present in current releases is much mellower and tamed from aging, but still is noticeable. The smooth flavors lasts long into the aftertaste, and the alcohol is quite noticeable. Always save a bottle or two for the future. It ages well.

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Photo of WaltTrombone
3.04/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

2003 vintage, served at cellar temps, 50-55F

Dark copper body, with a rocky tan head that subsided quickly, leaving a light wispy lace.Malt, alcohol, caramel and hops aroma.

The taste is bitter, way too much hops for my taste. Small notes of caramel, malt, prunes, cardboard, with an alcohol bite. Nice mouthfeel, a smooth, light creaminess.

The finish is hops, hops, and more hops. Mouth-puckeringly bitter hops. Did I mention hops? Oh, yeah, it's got some hops, too!

I have another bottle of this, and I'm going to put it away for a while. The general wisdom on the forum is that it'll mellow out after about a year, so I'll try it again later. As it stands right now, I'm too afraid of it now, this Bigfoot has big hoppy fangs, and a nasty disposition. We'll see if a stay in the klink improves its attitude...

10/10/03- Even after only 5 months, this beer has mellowed out a bit. That, plus I've been exploring some IPAs this summer, and have recalibrated my palate a bit. It had pretty much the same aroma, taste was about the same, except I noticed a cola flavor. Overall, the hops bitterness got toned down quite a bit in the taste and finish. The moral of the story is: this beer NEEDS to be cellared! If you're one of those impatient types, try to shop at a place that doesn't turn these over so quick, or be warned...

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Photo of RoyalT
4.8/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Appearance – Gorgeous, monster head that rose brilliantly, went down slow, and actually laced the glass which was impressive considering the high ABV. The body was a beautiful orange/brown color, thick and solid.

Smell – There are some big, floral hops to this one. These things filled the room. The deep, ripe, fruity scents are there as well. This ale has a tremendous bouquet.

Taste – This is monster flavor. It reminds me of The Guardian. Every type of hop flavor is represented here. This one will pucker your cheeks for sure. Then comes the classic barley wine sweetness. There’s also some smoke in there to boot. The only thing that’s missing is a sensation of alcohol from this 9.6 ABV ale.

Mouthfeel – This is the fullest beer that I have tasted to date. Every sip fills the mouth and bloats the cheeks.

Drinkability – This is dinner tonight. You don’t drink Bigfoot Barley wine, you eat it.

Update – I wrote the initial review with a 2003 sample. I enjoy this immensely every year but though I’d offer an update with a fresh 2006 vintage.

The consistency is amazing from year to year. If you get it fresh the ale is so big and explosive it makes you literally shake your head and call a friend. The ABW ages nicely, too, so you can burn the candle by both ends. Just an amazing ale all around.

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Photo of grynder33
3.62/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a chestnut color, small head, slight raisany taste, but with a heavy alcohol backtaste, a little chocolate came in at the end.. The aroma and taste were fine, but there was just to much of an alcohol backkick, and my friends pretty much agreed with me on this. The best strong beers shouldn't be this obvious.

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Photo of beerguy101
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2001 vintage. Medium brown color, large head. Big, bold, maltly and hoppy. Very malty barley wine style ale. Highly hopped, medium bitterness, balance by nice malt sweetness. Mouthfeel is very round and full, nearly chewy. High alcohol (9.6%) not really noticeable. Smooth tatste. Finish is smooth. Aftertaste is malt sweet and bitter

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Photo of Ianhockey91
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Not being a huge barleywine fan myself, i was skeptical when i first tried this one. It poured out a deep reddish hugh, wich allowed a little light through but not much. The aroma comes on as some fruit and malt at the beginning and hops and alchohol at the end. The taste is exquisite, with malts dancing on the toung and hops sneeking a shot in at the end, very very tasty, and seems to warm the belly. This would be a great nightcap beer, but beware they can catch up with you.

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Photo of dedalus
3.38/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

sampled from a bottle, 2003 vintage.

this beer had a beautiful appearance in the glass. i bought some brandy snifters specifically for barley wines, and poured the bigfoot into one of them. dark red color with a hint of orange-gold when held up to the light. thick, dark-cream colored head that dissipated only slightly, and left a gorgeous lace down the glass.

the aromas were extremely hoppy; mostly piney and sappy, with only a little citrus poking through.

erm, the flavor. i admit with more than a little embarrassment that i drank this beer before i knew there was a difference between british and american barley wines, and before i knew that barley wines are best when aged. i therefore raised the glass expecting hugely complex layers of malt tastes; imagine my surprise when this beer sledgehammered my tongue with enough young hops to tranquilize a rabid rhinocerous! pure pine sap through the start, middle, and the long, long finish, with only a bit of citrus, as in the nose. i finished the bottle with more than a little effort, and then read up on barleywines. next afternoon the rest of the six pack was resting comfortably in my basement, where it will age for about two years.

the mouthfeel was relatively thick, but without reaching syrupy proportions.

i strongly suspect that i will enjoy this beer much more once it has seen two more winters. if you're into lots of hops, go ahead and have this one young. otherwise i recommend aging. but not for too long; from what i've read, anything more than two years of aging and this beer will lose too much of its hop character.



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Photo of freed
3.78/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Its somewhat sad to report that this beer isn't as good on tap. Well, the version I tried wasn't.

Standard 16 oz. pint glass, deep brown with a hint of currant red. Significant head, nice and creamy brown. Somewhat of a surprise on this beer. Aroma is quite muted, probably due to the head, but still quite limited. Significant smell is of alcohol and apple. Taste is quite nice still, wide variety of malt sensations. Fruity and spicy with enough malt texture to make it a barleywine. Hint of hops which is enough to clean the finish. not as good as I'd hoped, but still quite pleasant.

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Photo of Rumrunner
3.45/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12oz.bottle 2003

A great dusky deep brown hue. Nice starter head and decent lacing. Scents are pungent with alcohol and hops. Heavy barley and grass scents as well.

Flavors are deep caramel and grain. A bread flavor with raisins follows up this barley wine. A heavy alcohol flavor also dominate this brew.

A very heavy bite and alcohol flavor sets the tone for the mouthfeel. Not the greatest. This one is a bit all over the place.

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

"2003" on 8/8/03
Powerful, boiling syrup-look to the bubbles which emerge from the brown liquid to create a crusty, tan-colored head.
It smells like cannabis... sticky, green, raw. Also there's a warm, blackish-brown brioche element that begins to outflank the herb.
I take a drink. This is an exercise in grade-B maple syrup flavor and boot-polish bitterness. It is a bitterness that coils around the tongue and gradually flexes until it leaves the generous sweetness rasping in a hollow, dry panic. There is sugar here without a doubt...and a lot of it. It's just that it is only enough to ease the outrageously bitter hop medicine. No flaws. Too young to drink. Wait 4 more years.

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Photo of Mustard
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12oz. brown bottle with no "bottled on" or "best by" date; $8.99/6 pack from the Wine House in West LA; 2003 vintage.

Appearance: Pours a vibrant amber; slightly hazy; fine, 1/4", off-white head; gentle ring lacing; not much head retention.

Aroma: More Cascade hops than I could ever imagine a barleywine having; caramel malts struggle not to get pushed around.

Taste: Are you kidding me? A thick, bready, malt sweetness has had its way with my mouth; I almost feel violated; pronounced, rolling hop-bitterness in the finish; floral, piney notes abound; slight alcohol burn to be discerned; traces of grapefruit, plum and fig. Smooth, almost oily, mouthfeel.

Notes: Bigfoot probably takes a year or two to come into his own; drink him young and you may be disappointed; I have no doubt his 2003 incarnation will mature into something stellar.

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Photo of Boilermaker88
3.16/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2003 vintage sampled on-tap at Heroe's in La Verne. Served in pint glass.

Appearance: deep brown color with a creamy tan head. Head faded slowly and left nice lacing on glass.

Smell: sweet/spicy aroma initially before hoppy pine scent comes out.

Taste: starts off slightly fruity - raisins, plums - and then hops assert themselves. Piney taste dominates and has a long bitter finish. Alcohol content is well hidden.

Feel: smooth, rich, and slick feel.

Drinkability: decent drinkability. %ABV a bit of a detracter and imbalance in favor of bitter hops also reduces drinkability, IMO. Overall, not too bad but not meeting all my expectations either.

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

Heavely carbonated to give a big head. A dark amber brown color. Smell is highly hoped and spicy with a touch of sweetness. Big and malty flavor with a great hop and spice finish. The hops are strong and take over the taste towards the end of the drink. It leaves the mouth dry but licking the sweetness off of the lips. Overall a great big barleywine.

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Photo of bierman2000
3.7/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Dark hoppy barleywine from the West Coast giant.. Dark mahoghany color with floral and fruity overtones.. it gets better as the ale warms and he flavors of raisins, licorice, and hops make thei way through the high alcohol content.A gret ale to sip and enjoy as the final one of the night.

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Photo of SheepNutz
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2003 vintage. 12oz. bottle poured into a tulip-style glass. It pours a deep ruby red with one finger of off-white head. There is a tad bit of lacing left on the glass. The smell is very hoppy with some spices, possibly clove or nutmeg. The taste packs a mighty hops punch with the right amount of spicy malt to help balance. The mouthfeel is heavy and rich. The drinkability is ever fair for this winter warmer.

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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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Bigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.14 out of 5 with 7,630 ratings