Printer Friendly

Brew notes: top barrel-aged barley wines.

Notes from the tasting panel for Modern Brewery Age, by Peter V.K. Reid, editor of Modern Brewery Age; with Gregg Glaser, editor of Yankee Brew News, and Tom Conti and Robert Lachman of the YBN tasting panel. Joining us each week is a rotating cast of tasters, to include Dr. Steve Victor; economist Ernie Adamo; home brewer Phil Simpson; Greg Zannella, field sales director for Northeast Bev.; Tess Szamatulski, co-founder of Maltose Express Homebrew Shop; Former rocket scientist Mark Szamatulski; Redhook brewer Frank Fermino; Marty Juliano, Northeast rep for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Renzo Kian-Kubota, artisanal beer buyer for Harry's of Fairfield, CT, and David Talbot of the Ultimate Beverage Challenge. Every month we sample at least 40-50 beers. We write up the ones we think are the best of a given flight of beers; Five-mugs denotes "Superb" with all panelists in agreement; Four mugs denotes "Very Good"

Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Chico, CA


Goose Island's King Henry Barleywine was often considered the classic American barrel-aged barleywine, but capacity constraints led to its discontinuation (the company is replacing it with a Bourbon Country line extension) Now Sierra Nevada has fielded a 2-year-old barrel aged Bigfoot, and we tasted it to see how it stacks up against the old King.

The year 2013 marks the 30th Anniversary of the introduction of Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot barleywine. Thirty years! It's a reminder of just how far ahead of the curve Sierra Nevada was back then, and, as you uncork the new Bigfoot, you are reminded how close to the cutting edge they still are.

This 12.2% ABV Bigfoot was aged in a mix of bourbon, Tennessee Whisky, rye and single-malt scotch barrels for 20 months. The once potent hops have faded (slipping from 90+ IBUs to the neighborhood of 12) but there is still some vestigial hop in the nose, and pleasing hop flavor and bitterness in the body of the beer.

What strikes the drinker first is the aroma, redolent with the whiskey and wood from all those casks, but not raw or hot, just rich and inviting. The beer lives up to that nose, with layers of oaky vanilla, toasty coconut, and caramel coated dark fruit. It's a beautifully mellow drink, with no sharp edges, just warming rich flavors.

"A little bit of hoppiness to counter the whiskey barrel in the nose," said taster Ernie Adamo. "Aroma very strong whiskey and vanilla."

"Lot of oak in the nose, you get the vanilla, and some caramel," said Greg Zannella of Northeast Distributors. "This was 20 months in the barrel, and there's enough hop content to hold up to all that aging."

"There's some subtle hop flavor that helps balance it out," Ernie agreed.

"I love the flavor, I love everything about it," said Phil Simpson. "There's enough whiskey flavor to justify it, and tons of flavor, a little coconut and vanilla, dark fruit, caramel and big malts. Wonderful!"

"I love this beer," echoed homebrew shop owner Mark Szamatulski. "Whiskey and hops. A really good nose, the hops are overpowered by the whiskey, but the hops reassert the balance in the flavor. Lots of vanilla and dark fruit."

"A beautiful beer," said craft beer retailer Renzo Kian-Kubota. "This is the perfect hybrid of whiskey and beer. Not much hop in the nose, but a nice fruitiness. The barrel brings it in the flavor, melds it down, leaves nothing but beauty on my palate!"

"More complex and richer than regular Bigfoot, lots of vanilla, and wonderful flavors," said Dr. Steve Victor.

"As it warms, all that flavor comes out, oak and whiskey," said Robert Lachman. "Good stuff."

"Sublime, one of the truly great barleywines," said Pete Reid.

"Just give me a snifter of this in front of a roaring fire,' said Marty Juliano of Sierra Nevada. "It's a great barleywine, and it doesn't feel like 12%."

"A wonderful barleywine," agreed Tess Szamatulski. "It's intense, with layers of aroma and flavor. Rich toffee! I just think this is is amazing, warming and good."

"You don't get many barleywines that age this well, this is a classic," said Greg Zannella. "I speak with authority when I say this is fantastic with sugar cookies."

King Henry Barleywine Goose Island Brewing Co. (A-B InBev) Chicago, IL


As it happens, we cracked our last bottle of Goose Island's King Henry at our most recent tasting, so it was still fresh in our minds. This was one of the great barleywines, and Goose Island is said to be fielding a suitable successor under the Bourbon County name.

The vintage we were drinking was aged in Pappy Van Winkle 23 bourbon barrels, previously used to age Bourbon County Brand Stout.

This was a truly great barleywine, and was aging well when we uncorked it. Aroma was chocolate and caramel and dark fruit, carrying into the flavor and joining with bourbon and vanilla.

"This is a dark, dark barleywine." said taster Gregg Glaser. "Oxidized aroma, more dark fruit as it warms."

"Ethanol or regular?" said Tom Conti. "Alcohol and dark fruit in the nose."

"I love the aroma! Rich and raisiny and prunish," said Greg Zannella. "Dark fruit meets wood in the flavor. Nice body, almost a little syrupy."

"The bourbon character is well integrated, " said John Henry, U.S. Army (ret.) "despite the 13% ABV, this seems lighter than many barleywines, I really want to drink this."

"Holy mackerel! All that flavor," said Gregg Glaser. "Raisins, and treacle and blackcurrant, prunes and toffee and figgy pudding!"

"A phenomenol beer," said Robert Lachman. "Lovely mouthfeel and body and sweetness, with some chocolate. A bit sweeter than your average barleywine, one of the best I've had."

"A gem," John Henry agreed. "Goose Island should be proud."
COPYRIGHT 2013 Modern Brewery Age LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Goose Island Brewing Co; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Mar 4, 2013
Previous Article:Boening Brothers to handle Spider Bite.
Next Article:Veteran exec provides sales and mktg guidance to brewers.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |