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We Tasted The Latest Bigfoot Ale Alongside The Whiskey It Was Aged With

Every so often there’s a beer and bourbon collaboration that cuts through all the static of the endless cycle of beer releases. Sierra Nevada’s brand-new Bourbon Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale is a partnership with the bourbon world’s most beloved distillery, Buffalo Trace, and made a sizeable impact when it dropped last month.

The bottle of ale masterfully blends the world of Northern California craft brewing with the biggest name in Kentucky bourbon. And — spoiler — it’s really goddamn good.

The thrust of beers like these is in aging. Sierra Nevada’s already very popular Bigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale is renowned and collected because you can cellar it for years. It’s a great aging beer — I always like getting a six-pack and drinking one per year to get a sense of how the brew changes over time. For this drop, Sierra Nevada and Buffalo Trace basically teamed up to dial in that aging process for you. They landed on “up to” seven years of rest inside used Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. bourbon barrels.

Let’s see how well they did aging this year’s limited edition Bigfoot Ale. I’m also going to pair this beer with the whiskey from the barrels it was aged with to give a deeper understanding of what’s going on flavor-wise with these products.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Bourbon Posts Of The Last Six Months

Sierra Nevada Bourbon Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale Aged 7 Years

Bigfoot Beer Review
Sierra Nevada

ABV: 15%

Average Price: $29

The Beer:

Bigfoot Ale is made with Caramelized and Two-row Pale malts. That base mash is hopped with Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook hops. The result is a dark and dank beer with a massive IBU (90!) and enough complexity to age for years someplace dark. In this case, that dark and hoppy brew was filled into old Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch bourbon barrels and left to rest in California for up to seven years. Finally, those barrels were batched and bottled at a hearty 15% ABV.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a rush of burnt espresso beans and dark and waxy cacao powder on the nose with a hint of singed bitterness next to dark fudge brownies that feel like their dripping with more melty dark chocolate, brown butter, and tart red berries with a slight sense of blackstrap molasses and the darkest caramel you’ve ever seen. The palate leans more toward that brownie vibe with a sweet sense of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and rum-raisin. The body of the beer is lightly effervescent next to sweet oakiness and a supple sense of marzipan with a whisper of orange oils lurking deep in the background. The end is more akin to a chocolate cream pie with a dusting of dried tart cherries, vanilla, and nutmeg.

The Whiskey:

Buffalo Trace’s Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch is an entry point to the other 12 expressions released under the E.H. Taylor, Jr. label. The whiskey is a blend of barrels that meet the exact right flavor profiles Buffalo Trace’s blenders are looking for in a classic bottled-in-bond bourbon for Taylor.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a lush and creamy grit vibe with spicy cinnamon and clove next to pecans, maple syrup, singed cherry bark, and old lawn furniture with dead leaves strewn about. The taste hits on a buttery toffee vibe with a dark and old leatheriness next to dark chocolate tobacco, dried ancho chili peppers, and more of that sharp woody cinnamon with a whisper of salted black licorice lurking in the background. The end has a sense of salted caramel and cinnamon candy next to malted vanilla ice cream, huckleberry pie, and dark cherry tobacco rolled into an old leather pouch.

Bigfoot Beer Review
Zach Johnston

The Beer and Bourbon Together:

The beer has a deep sweetness tied to dark and slightly bitter espresso and dark chocolate that’s greatly tempered by the sip of bourbon, creating an almost mocha latte cut with orange oils and a tart cherry vibe on the initial taste. The nose of the beer changes slightly toward tart cherry and pecan waffles with maple syrup and chocolate chips with a hint of eggnog popping up. Back on the taste, a sour sense of cherries vibe with deep and dark winter spices — clove, star anise, cardamom, and nutmeg — with a sense of dark chocolate cake with a light vanilla frosting bespeckled with crushed almonds or walnuts.

Overall, there’s a bit more fruitiness to the beer when paired directly with the whiskey. There’s also a lighter sense of the bitter chocolate that drives the whole taste away from a gooey brownie toward a Black Forest cake.

Bottom Line:

Yeah, this is an excellent beer that truly takes you on a journey. Pairing the beer with the whiskey only lengthens that journey and takes the whole sip to new heights.

I would recommend priming your palate with the whiskey first and then sipping the beer to get the full Black Forest cake vibe. Or not, drink your beer however you want to drink it. Still, this is a great pairing and a great example of how smells and flavors can build and accentuate each other to create a greater whole.