Sierra Nevada’s Buffalo Trace Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine Is Beer’s Answer to Premium Whiskey

Bottle of Sierra Nevada’s Buffalo Trace Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine beside case.
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Sierra Nevada brewery has just dropped an incredible collaboration with Buffalo Trace distillery nearly a decade in the making. Their first batch of Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel-Aged Bigfoot is a barleywine-style ale that spent the last seven years aging in barrels that once held Colonel E.H. Taylor bourbon.

It’s barrel-aged beer season, and the closer we draw to the end of the year, the more likely you are to see your favorite small and mega breweries rolling out darker beers with bourbon mentioned on the label. But Sierra Nevada’s release is special, in part because of the super-massive wait the brewery endured before finally releasing this beer.

Closeup label/bottle of Sierra Nevada’s Buffalo Trace Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine.
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The fact that Sierra Nevada laid these barrels down in roughly 2015 is incredible when you consider how many breweries are hesitant to let their whiskey-aged beers linger for more than 12 months. The level of flavor extraction you get from seven years in wood is substantial—many of the best bourbons don’t age for much longer than this.

Barrel-Aged Bigfoot probably bears the closest resemblance of any uber-rare, barrel-aged beer to Sam Adams’ Utopias, which uses Buffalo Trace barrels as one of its dozens of components. Some of the components in Utopias have been more than two decades old in past releases, but bourbon barrels make up just one small portion. Barrel-Aged Bigfoot is a bourbon bomb.

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We tasted Bigfoot and its barrel-aged new sibling side by side to compare. The first thing you’ll notice is the dark color of the beer. The barrel-finished beer is noticeably more umber, only showing some hints of the reddish tones of the original. The head is also greatly reduced in volume, with larger bubbles.

Aromatically, these two don’t even seem to be the same beer. Rich tootsie roll and dark coffee notes sit atop deeply toasted malt on the barrel-finished beer, while the original Bigfoot is still producing dry and citrusy wafts of freshness.

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On the palate, the barrel-finished beer is like dessert. Big gooey bites of s’more and chocolate-dipped vanilla-caramel ice cream cone seem like they’re going to overwhelm your palate. Then even bigger waves of intensely rich chocolate ganache smack through the finish.

Bottles of Sierra Nevada’s Buffalo Trace Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine on a metal production table.
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Bottled at 15 percent ABV and offered in standard, 750 ml bottles, Barrel-Aged Bigfoot comes in a familiar E.H. Taylor canister like the namesake whiskey. It’s a gorgeous looking package, and the bottle is aesthetically pleasing. As a pour, it’s a big, celebration-appropriate beer to pop the cork on with friends later on a cold night.

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That’s if you can get your hands on it, of course. Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel-Aged Bigfoot sold out immediately online, but it will be available in select markets this month. Online it was priced at $29, but your price will vary by state and taxes.

What won’t vary is how hard it’ll be to get your hands on this one—and there’s no word yet on whether Sierra Nevada will release it again. We hope they started on the next batch at least six years ago.

 

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