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Old 01-29-2013, 12:43 AM   #1
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Default Commercial Barley Wine - properly aged?

So I wanted to try something different and the 2013 release of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot caught my eye. Now, Ive never had a barley wine before so I want to make sure I get this beer at its peak. I do know that often times barley wines are aged for many months and read of fellow home brewers who have aged them for over a year before they are at their peak.

My question is, do you think SN ages this brew for a sufficient length of time before releasing it for sale or do you think I would be best served to let this sit in a nice cool, dark place and sample it in a few months?

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Old 01-29-2013, 12:53 AM   #2
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I thought about this when I bought a six pack last year. This is not my favorite Barleywine on the market and in general I think I like English Barleywines better with less hop flavor and more of a malt showcase. That said, if you like hops you should drink these now I guess. I was going to age them but got thirsty and had a few and then split the last two with a buddy so I had nothing to save.

Do you only have a bottle? If so you should drink the one you have and buy another to drink and age.

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Old 01-29-2013, 12:55 AM   #3
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A well brewed barleywine will be delicious right out of the fermentor, but will continue to improve with age. I don't think any commercial barleywines are sold in stores with more than a couple of months on them, apart from special releases and barrel-aged beers.

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Old 01-29-2013, 12:57 AM   #4
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Both. Not all barleywines are the big bad behemoths. The style ranges from a mere big beer (1.080 OG) to a leviathan (1.120 OG+). Most are best when they've had at least six months aging on them, and many of them can be kept for years, or even decades, and will keep on maturing and changing like a sauterne wine.

My advice would be to try some of your SN bigfoot now and see what you think. 2011 Bigfoot was pretty rough on the pallete when it first hit the market but it's drinkable. As they age, the hops tend to die down and the malts and other ingredients start to really shine on them. A lot of barleywines develop plum, prune and rummy characteristics as they age. If they've peaked, they'll start to taste like soy sauce and then vinegar out on you.

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Old 01-29-2013, 11:23 AM   #5
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I got several barleywines from last year cellaring...including bigfoot. I usually buy a six pack and if its delicious to start...I'll go buy another. Brown Shugga does really well (yes its a strong ale) and I got a bomber of Widmer Bros Galaxy barleywine aging (the bottle I had on New years eve was really sharp so I am hoping a year will help.) I've mixed in a few Chimays and I got a nice little collection going.

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Old 01-29-2013, 11:33 AM   #6
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I have never drunk or even tasted a barley wine before but received one as a gift this year. Having read this forum I have learned that aging them is a good thing so I put it in my cellar and will keep it there for awhile. But I just wonder what temp it should be cellared at? During the winter it is 40 degrees in there and in the summer maybe 55. What is the ideal temp for long term aging

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Old 01-29-2013, 12:19 PM   #7
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I save a bottle of Old Guardian and Bigfoot every year. I keep a few others too, but some breweries don't release every year, and it ends up consuming a lot of space over the years. Despite any aging process they go through prior to release, they undergo a lot of changes when you age them further. I highly recommend aging it, but for longer than a few months!

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Old 01-29-2013, 12:41 PM   #8
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I prefer most of them fresh. I like the big hop notes and bold flavors. Over time, those get muddled, and I find that the aged examples taste a bit one dimensional to me.

Bigfoot in particular doesn't age well, IMHO. Some years were better than others when released. I'm not certain that any were better with age (I don't have my notes right now, but I think I am recalling correctly).

There are certainly exceptions. Firestone Walker Sucaba is one that is likely very worth cellaring. It's well aged before it's even released, and it's a very unique barleywine for sure. I had last year's February release in September, and it was outstanding. I'd love to stockpile a few and try them over the course of a few years.

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Old 01-29-2013, 02:05 PM   #9
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American Barleywines are traditionally very hoppy, while English Barleywines are malt forward.
Both age very well.

Bigfoot is a hoppy beast when fresh, and ages real nice.
After a year in the cellar the hops become more herbal, and the beer balances out, after 2 years the hops have pretty much faded and the malt starts to shine, 3 years and older no problem it keeps on going on.

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Old 01-30-2013, 01:23 PM   #10
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Thanks guys, I bought a 4pk of these so Im going to celler 2 of them for at least 6 months and see how this big boy grows up.

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