Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2013 + 2014

As reward after a busy weekend of house cleaning and unpacking boxes I decided to open a 2013 and 2014 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.

The epic saga of “moving house ” continues with our pile of Bunnings receipts and list of things that need to be done both growing at steady rates.

Weekend #2 involved much cleaning and unpacking and I also learnt about spakfilla in early hours of Sunday evening. This resulted in a sleep deprived me wandering around the house looking for holes and cracks in the walls to practice my new found skill.

As reward after a busy weekend I decided we would open a 2013 and 2014 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.

The Bigfoot is a barley wine style beer, a style with British origins that experienced a resurgence with the craft beer revolution in the United States. This resurgence, according to The Oxford Companion to Beer, kicked off with Anchor Brewingy Co’s Old Foghorn release in 1975.

“Within several years barley wine had become something of a seasonal show off amongst American small brewers,”

The Oxford Companion to Beer

Barley wines are a bit like a passionate footy fan – uncompromising, boozy and loud. Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot is no exeception. It was released in 1983, four years after the company was founded and has a cult-like culture around it because it is a damn good beer only released once a year and it ages wonderfully, well if you can keep your grubby little mits off them of course.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2013

Despite my relatively poor impulse control I managed to hold on to a couple of 2013 bottles and here’s my notes from each –

July 2013 – rich, fruity, caramel and toasty

September 2014 – rich cooked caramel aromas, stone fruit, raisins, burnt toast and a warm boozy finish

Clearly I was a little less wordy last year, not sure why, perhaps I was just too busy drinking it to write down tasting notes more than five words long.

Another year seemed to give the 2013 Bigfoot more depth, everything got a little darker, thicker and more caramelised.

Delving into the 2014 Bigfoot by comparision was almost bright with its rich red fruit and soft tropical fruit flavours. But don’t be fooled, the heft of the beer was ever present with the malt providing that great caramel, toasty base but when layered with more fruit you end up with a beer that rivals any port for its richness and complexity.

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girl+beer meets Steve Grossman

Last night Steve Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s beer ambassador and brother of founder Ken Grossman, was at Five Bar in Mt Lawley. He is spending a few days in Australia visiting Perth and Melbourne, maybe even Sydney if my memory serves me right.

I don’t remember the first ever Sierra Nevada Pale Ale I had but I do remember the first time I had it off tap. It was when I was on holiday in London where I spotted it at a pub, perhaps one of the All Bar One venues.

I got excited, I’d never seen it on tap and having worked for Little Creatures I knew Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was the beer that inspired Creatures own Pale Ale. I had to have one!

That was quite a few years ago now and whilst my love of beer has only grown and I’m always looking for something new I still find myself coming back to Sierra Nevada fairly regularly, whether it’s the annual Bigfoot Barleywine style ale or the Ruthless Rye, or just picking up some Pale Ale case you know it’s going to be good. Sierra Nevada is like a comfy old chair and I mean that in a really good way!

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2013

Last night Steve Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s beer ambassador and brother of founder Ken Grossman, was at Five Bar in Mt Lawley. He is spending a few days in Australia visiting Perth and Melbourne, maybe even Sydney if my memory serves me right.

For someone who had flown in from the US that morning he was extremely upbeat and awake. I found Steve really engaging in a very sincere and polite way, not over-the-top or brash, just friendly and nice and great to have a chat with.

Steve Grossman kindly taking a photo with me

I awkwardly approached Steve and got to have a chat about how his trip was going, what his plans were, what he thought of the bars he’d visited so far and a little about beer camp and the new brewery in North Carolina.

“Beer Camp Across America is a multi-weekend path of beer festivals, a rolling tour that will cover 4,800 miles, celebrating the collaborative spirit of the craft brewing community with the fans that have buoyed its success. There’ll be seven stop —in cities with thriving craft beer cultures—moving geographically west to east, much like the craft movement has historically spread. The festivals will appropriately begin and end at Sierra Nevada’s two brewing locations.”

From Sierra Nevada Media Kit on their website

Incidentally there’s a great interview with Sierra Nevada Ken Grossman that was done during this beer camp rolling festival that you can check out here. It’s by Michael from Good Beer Hunting, my new favourite beer reading material.

When I asked how the logistical side of this years beer camp went, a seven stop tour across the country, he replied “a nightmare!” but I think he had a smile on his face. He also said the new brewery, though a little behind the original schedule, was just weeks away from opening their doors.

To celebrate having Steve in town, Five Bar had three Sierra Nevada beers on tap –

  • Snow Wit – a white IPA
  • Nooner – a session IPA
  • Harvest – an IPA showcasing either a hop variety, region or hopping method

Taps at Five Bar

The Snow Wit was my favourite, perfectly balanced and rather than just tasting like an IPA and looking like a wheat it was a great harmony of soft tropical fruit, a little spice and a really clean easy finish.

Five Bar matched this to some corn, jalapeño and cheese croquettes on a pineapple salsa, a really nice match with the beer easily cutting through the deep fried ball of yum (yep, that’s my other name for croquettes) and there was just enough fresh jalapeño to provide some contrast but not so much it destroyed everything else.

Croquettes at Five Bar

Next up I had the Harvest, juicy tropical hops mixed with caramel sweetness and a good match to Five’s steak tartare, served with horseradish, egg and an anchovy. The anchovy gave the dish to suitable omphf that it needed to stand up to the intensity of the Harvest. It was also nice to have a salty contrast to the beer’s fruit and malt sweetness.

Steak Tartare at Five Bar

Last I had, as I am sure you can guess, the Nooner and this was lovely and I wrote no notes at all. By this stage I stopped taking notes on my phone and just enjoyed the people around me and the beer in my hand. Happy Monday!

girl + chilli

Chilli con carne is more than just a tasty meal, it’s the total delight at having a kitchen bench full of spices and colour and the aroma filling the entire house. It’s about slouching on the couch afterwards in your favourite trackies and being full and happy. And yes, it’s totally made better with beer.

I love chilli con carne; it’s warming, inviting and bursting with flavour. It’s a dish that falls into my “home food” category, i.e. I’m very unlikely to order it at restaurant because my love for it is greater than just the dish itself; it’s about my total delight at having a kitchen bench full of spices and colour and the aroma filling the entire house so much so that our dog is practically drooling. It’s about slouching on the couch afterwards in your favourite trackies and being full and happy.

Granted I could say this about a lot of dishes if I really thought about it but it is particularly true with chilli con carne.

Last week I had a go at making Paul Mercurio’s version from his Cooking with Beer book. I’m surprised that I’ve owned this book for a year and only just tried this recipe. Shame on my beery heart.

Chilli con carne

Weizenbock – a strong wheat beer, ‘bock’ indicating strong and ‘weizen’ German for wheat.

The recipe calls for a 330ml bottle of Weizenbock and I immediately wished I hadn’t drunk my last bottle of Mountain Goat / Brooklyn Brewery collaboration beer, the Hopfweizenbock – a hopped up weizenbock. With such strong wheat beer characters like banana and spice, coupled with biscuit, stone fruit and a good punchy finish, well it would have been pretty damn good.

Nøgne Ø Tiger Tripel … a little barnyard, dried pineapple, stone fruit, spicy, crisp citrus and a little red fruit. Sensational!

However, having enjoyed all the Hopfweizenbock I had to find a suitable substitute in our fridge. I decided on Sierra Nevada Kellerweis and a splash of Nøgne Ø Tiger Tripel, hoping my beer mathematics would work – Kellerweis + Tiger Tripel = Weizenbock.

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Nogne O Tiger Tripel

The end result was an amazing chilli con carne, seriously one of the best I’ve made. I think this will be the chilli con carne recipe, the go-to recipe. My partner and I matched it with the Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, the wheat beer qualities like spice and coriander complemented the dish perfectly. The beers uber-refreshment also made for a fantastic palate cleanser for the heat in the dish.

Chilli con carne with Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Click the image for the full recipe
Click the image for the full recipe