Though only released in limited batches, Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale is one of the most popular barleywines in America (it has a significantly higher number of user reviews on BeerAdvocate). Thankfully this is one of those cases were the popularity is positively correlated to the product's quality. The 2011 Bigfoot is a great beer.
To clear up any confusion: a barleywine is a beer. It happens to be one of the strongest beers available, with the average ABV ranging from 8% to 15% (for reference, Budweiser's ABV is 5%). Outside of strength of ABV, barleywines show considerable diversity with regards to flavor palettes.
In the glass, Bigfoot has a translucent amber color. The head is thick, solid almost. It reminded me of the bubbly, crunchy foam that will develop on the surface of a stagnant creek. Taking a deep inhale, I smelled mostly alcohol. Thankfully the flavor's strongest notes come from the hops, not the booze.
Bigfoot's flavor swirls between the bitter and the sweet, though to call it bittersweet wouldn't be quite right. The flavor moves from one pole to the other rather than existing as some combination of the two. The lingering note is a sweet one. For a strong barleywine, the beer is easy consumed, meaning you might go back for a second. Just be mindful of the ABV. You don't want Bigfoot to kick your ass.
2011 Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Available for a limited time