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Friday, February 01, 2008

The Session #12 - Barleywine

The Session LogoThe Session this month sort of snuck up on me. Here I am at 10:30pm finally putting pen to pad (or finger to keyboard, but that doesn't sound as cool) and offering my beer du jour for this month's theme - barleywines. A special thanks to Jon at The Brew Site for hosting this month's Session.

Barleywines are something of a hit or miss proposition for me. I tend to either really like a barleywine or really dislike it. I don't draw the line between the maltier English versions and the hyper-hopped American variety ... I have liked examples from both sides of the big pond. I don't know what it is exactly, but they're just typically not beers I get too excited about as a rule. So, my dilemma ... what barleywine do I write about for the session? I don't want to write about one I dislike, obviously. I was really conflicted about the matter until I paid a quick visit to the downstairs beer cellar.

What beer was there, staring me in the face? A slightly disty bottle of Sierra Nevada Big Foot Barleywine, "vintage" 2006. Perfect. I liked the beer fresh, now lets see what some age did to mellow this elusive beast ...

My review of a cellar-aged bottle of Bigfoot for your reading (or better yet) drinking pleasure:

This Bigfoot was poured into a wide-mouth chalice and presented itself with a pleasing reddish-orange hue. The head is bright white without much volume or retention to speak of. The beer appears to be nominally carbonated and a little inactive. The nose, despite the cellaring, is still big time on the hop presence upfront. Lurking behind, however, is a pretty robust sweet malt backbone to offset the hop attack just a tad. This aspect has possibly strengthened a bit, while the hops have diminished ever so slightly, but this beer smells substantively the same as I remember it smelling when it was fresh. Very nice. The palate is still surprisingly aggressive - not unlike a disgruntled yeti (sorry, couldn't resist). As the nose indicated, the substantial malt character really does work to "tame" the remaining strong hop profile this one contains. Pine, green tea, and a little citrus mixed with sweet mollasses and caramel. There is a lot going on here and the additional aging has given this beer a slightly rounder, sweeter taste. The mouthfeel is still a little biting and maybe just a tad cloying as it sits thick in the mouth. A pleasant and lasting bitterness from the hops co-exist with a persistent sweetness, keeping this beer from being overwhelmingly thick and sweet. Medium/full body. Wow ...what can I say ... I've had this one for a while now and it's been sittin' in the cellar just waiting for a rainy day. No rainy day availed itself, so we'll have to settle for a early February snow. All in all, this is still very drinkable in limited quantities, of course. A very good example, in my opinion, of an American barleywine.

This was my first Bigfoot sighting of the year, so we'll just have to see what another year brings (I still have two bottles of the '06 in the cellar). If you've spotted Bigfoot, but haven't brought yourself to haul it in, do so. Drink some fresh and forget the rest for a year. I have enjoyed seeing what a little time did to the '06 ... I will likely do the same for the '07.

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