First Draft

Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot sets standard for barleywine

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GARY SEMAN JR./THISWEEKNEWS
Collin Castore.
By Collin Castore
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As hibernation is not an option for most of us, good strong beer comes to mind as an option to shake off the winter doldrums.

Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot barleywine is a perfect choice.

Despite the name, there is nothing wine-like about this style of beer. Barleywine was originally developed as a style for English aristocrats who had a penchant for strong drink. The first commercial example is Bass No. 1, brewed around 1870.

While this traditional English style of barleywine remains, more recently a hoppier American counterpart developed.

In the early 1980s Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada released Bigfoot, which set the standard for American style of barleywine. This brew, along with Anchor Steam’s Old Foghorn, which preceded Bigfoot by a few years, was the polar opposite of the thin yellow quaffs that dominated the beer market of the day. They were brewed quite literally with thousands of pounds of malt in a single batch, making them heavy, bitter and sweet – a winning combination. They pushed the limits of brewing science at the time and changed the way people thought about beer.

Sierra’s Bigfoot ($11.99 a six pack) has endured and is widely available today. Look for it at finer craft beer shops such as Weiland’s, Gentile’s or House Beer.

Collin Castore is a founding partner of Bodega, Barrel & Bottle and Seventh Son Brewing Co. 

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