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Dec 15, 2013 10:23 PM

2013 Bigfood vs. Foghorn: Barleywine blind tasting 1 year after release.

Okay, in anticipation of the 2014 barleywine season just ahead, thought I'd do a heads-up blind tasting of two flagships: the 2013 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and Anchor Old Foghorn.

Actual tasting notes follow:
Foghorn vs. Bigfoot, 2013, released Feb 2013. Tasted Dec. 2013 Blind.

1: Nice initial luscious taste, medium viscosity… but gives way to a bit of a lingering “swamp beer” flavor…. i.e. more of a pale ale backnote.

2: Greater depth of flavor… somewhat more lip-smacking…

1: Back to 1, a bit sweeter on second tasting… and the swamp note has cleared out (decanted?). Definitely more viscous, 2 is a bit more carbonated in texture….

Bottom line… after sipping back and forth, I’m definitely going with 1 due to extra sweetness… which the 2 never really achieves, remaining on the drier side throughout.

Nothing is meant to say that 1 is particularly great, but it is overall solid and relatively better on my palate for what I'm looking for in a barleywine.

1: Old Foghorn 2013
2: Bigfoot 2013

I should note this is consistent with my palate preferences between these two going back over at least the past 10 years.

BTW: Anyone know if Foghorn changed their recipe at all since going to the larger 12oz bottle instead of those smaller bottles they used to use? There was a cache to those small bottles like they "seemed" more concentrated, though the flavor seems the same.

I really like this beer, might not be quite my #1 barleywine but it's a go-to everytime and alot more accessible than greats like 3 Floyds Behemoth or Old Horizontal which just don't stay on the shelf... It's got the sweetness, the sticky viscosity, the complexity, love this stuff....

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  1. With Belgian beers, I notice that beers in smaller bottles (usually 330 ml, but sometimes 250 ml) age differently than beers in larger bottles (about 600 ml). So perhaps with Foghorn there is a difference in the way the beer ages in the tiny 7 oz bottles compared to the 12 oz bottles. Anyway, that is my guess; I doubt they have changed the recipe.

    Great review and observations. Both Bigfoot and Foghorn are truly great beers with timeless appeal.

    1. To clarify 2: "greater depth of flavor", it was more like "more pronounced and lingering flavor" on first sip.... but the flavor itself wasn't so complex, it just was too dry relative to the foghorn to win this.

      Also the greater depth was an initial impression... Foghorn just kept opening up like a wine... lost that dry skunk note fast, then got more carmelly with a swirl or two in the glass... whenever opening any well-made beer, especially aged, expect it may evolve in flavor.

      1. How do you store it in the year that it is aging? I mean, in the fridge, the cellar, etc.

        8 Replies
        1. re: TroyTempest

          The 2013 bigfoot I bought recently. The foghorn I've had in a cooler basement environment for the past year.

          1. re: TombstoneShadow

            I live in Austin, so I don't have a basement. I was wondering if i was to try this, where i should store the beer. Usually i have my AC on in the hot months, but sometimes the temps in the house hoiver around 80 when i'm out.

            1. re: TombstoneShadow

              Keep in mind Old Foghorn isn't bottle conditioned, so its aging potential is somewhat limited. I learned that the hard way. I wouldn't keep it more than a year.

              1. re: Josh

                Aging is largely a function of oxygen in the bottle, not necessarily yeast. There is only one guarantee with aging whether its bottle conditioned or not - change from the original product that was put in the bottle - wether that is good, bad, or ugly is dependent on each individual beer and the preferences of the drinker, not method of packaging.

                1. re: LStaff

                  I used to think that i'd like to do a yearly comparison of some of the seasonal beers, esp. the Anchor Xmas, as it varies from year to year. But logistics, and the inability to not drink it has kept me from doing it.

                  1. re: TroyTempest

                    " the inability to not drink it has kept me from doing it."

                    That's my problem, right there. Not likely to change this year either.

                  2. re: LStaff

                    Interesting. Anecdotally I've noticed that pasteurized beers seem to hold up much worse over time than bottle-conditioned. Is it possible that the continued action of the yeast over time helps forestall oxidation?

                    1. re: Josh

                      I wouldn't think that its the continued action, as the yeast go dormant when there is no food (sugar that it can process) left in the bottle, but you might be able to argue that yeast take up some oxygen during refermentation/bottle conditioning, thus leaving less oxygen behind which may slow the rate of oxidation/aging/staling. Lower storage temps will also slow the rate of oxidation as well as dark malts. Brewers have different bottling lines, each beer uses different ingredients, and everyone stores their bottles under different conditions - thus making blanket statements about aging unreliable. There are general guidelines to follow for beers that have the potential to age well, but even when followed (or not) some beers you wouldn't think age well do, and some that you would think would age well, dont. Throw in subjective taste preferences and aging really becomes a personal journey.

            2. RINGER... FULL DISCLOSURE.

              At the beer shop the other day I noticed a 6-pack of Old Foghorn still on the shelf. I asked the clerk if it was "the 2013" release...

              ... his reply was interesting: "it's released year-around now". I don't know if this is true, but the OF bottles I have tried recently are not clearly dated.... so I could have been comparing a young release to a year-old bottling in this tasting.

              Does anyone know if foghorn is a year-around Anchor product these days?


              1 Reply
              1. re: TombstoneShadow

                Here's your answer:

                I don't think it was ever seasonal, but in the old days it required some work to set up the bottling line for the 7oz bottles, so it was sporadic.

                Someone closer to the action can now correct me.