Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bigfoot Vertical Tasting

Last night, we were guests of Sierra Nevada Brewing, at the Winking Lizard in Bedford Heights, OH for a guided vertical tasting of four vintage Bigfoot Barleywines. (Bigfeet?) Only four, because otherwise it would have been a horizontal tasting, har. Four draft vintages, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2009. The '96 and the '01 were from the brewery's archives, and had been kept refrigerated since production; the others had been similarly kept at the Lizard. Compared to bottled beer, there is virtually no post-packaging exposure to oxygen, so these all were very well-preserved. We were also provided with a selection of Wisconsin artisanal cheeses: a sharp cheddar, stilton, fresh gouda and an aged gouda. And to add to the fun, our buddy Ray Daniels talked about the aging process (as related to beer.)

Some quick notes, from memory:

2009- I happen to love Bigfoot on the day it's released. It has huge hop aroma and flavor and a very candy-like lingering bittersweet finish. The deep caramelly malt flavors are there, but in a secondary role. The intense bitterness can be a bit rough, and is off-putting to some people.

2006- Still a lot of hop aroma and flavor, but rounding out. The rough edge is gone from the bittering hops, allowing more caramel to come out. This beer was well kept, and tasted more like a year-old bottle.

2001- Wow. I've had 8 year old Bigfoot before, and it tasted mellow, with typical sherry character, round, fruity malt in place of the citrusy hops, and some not-so-good oxidative flavors, as well. This was more like getting in a time machine and popping back to 2001 for a beer. Citrusy hops, candylike bitterness, smooooth, and only the barest hint of oxidation. It actually seemed fresher than the 2006!

1996- OK, at 13 years, the hops are barely discernible in the aroma. But they are still there in the flavor, and the bitterness, while diminished, is still enough to keep the beer from seeming sweet. There's a bit of nutty/sherry, and some noted honey. Amazing.

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