Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bigfoot vs Your Mother New Years Style

What better way to ring in the New Year than a good old fashion throwdown?  Two beers, New Years Eve, a fight for taste bud supremacy, sign me up!  What two beers have enough gumption for this mission?  I searched high and low for two worthy adversaries and only two options stood out in the crowded beer aisles.  The contestants are the legendary Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and the new kid on the block Mothers Foggy Notion.  Barleywine for New Years Eve, oh hell yes!
The stage was set and it was time for the battle.  Both brews poured a seductive reddish brown with the Bigfoot being the slightly darker of the two.  For whatever reason when I put my nose to the glass of Bigfoot my brain envisioned an Olympic sized swimming pool filled with delightfully aromatic hop cones.  Then when I realized how epic my vision was, I took it a step further and envisioned the Olympic swimming competitions being held in this same pool of hops.  This made me chuckle but this is no laughing matter, back to the throwdown.  If Bigfoot is a pool of hops, then the Foggy Notion was a boxing ring of muscled up malt and booze waiting to uppercut you into next week.  I have to admit the nose on the Foggy Notion was almost intimidating.

First tasting note: “Bigfoot is f’n awesome!”.  There is a bit of sweetness initially and then BAM,  big beautiful hop character washes over your senses.  There is big big bitterness in this brew but it is so well done.  The bitterness sets right on the fence between super overly brutal bitterness and perfectly delightful full mouthed bitterness.  As this brew warms the malt character comes out of hiding with notes of brown sugar blending in with all that wonderful bitterness.  The interesting part is there is a slight fruitiness married to the malt character up front giving this brew complexity.  The finish lasts for ages but is not unpleasant at all.  I know I loved drinking this brew but I had a hard time pinning down the exact qualities of the hop character.  The bitterness is there for sure but there is something more.  As mentioned earlier there is a bit of fruitiness laced all the way through this brew but it is not an over the top tropical kind like in a lot of IPAs.  This fruitiness is more restrained.  There is definitely a resinous character to the bitterness and some earth tones as the bitterness travels further into the palate.  All I can say is WOW, Sierra Nevada pulls this off year after year.  I thought to myself at this point, “How in the world is the Foggy Notion going to compete with this work of brewing art?”

Foggy Notion:
I felt a little bad at this point because I thought my mind was made up on the winner before even trying Foggy Notion.  Could I be unbiased enough at this point to forget the fact I was swimming in a pool of hops?  I did my best to clean the hoppy deliciousness off of my palate and jumped into the Foggy Notion.  It was pretty evident from the nose that the Foggy Notion was going to be a different animal altogether.  Bigfoot was a hop monster and the Foggy Notion was going to plead its case with malty complexity.  Onward! 

First tasting note: “Different”.  This was a very unique brew to say the least.  There was good malt character throughout but there was a distinct drying quality as the brew progressed on the palate.  What was that?  To me this brew had a “barrel-aged” character to it.  The drying quality reminds me of something aged in oak barrels.  There is even some vanilla that pops up towards the end of this brew.  The Foggy Notion is similar to the Bigfoot in that it’s initial maltiness is married to a very pleasant fruity character.  The fruit character in the Foggy Notion is much less distinct than in the Bigfoot but does add some welcome complexity.  More pronounced brown sugar plays around in the Foggy Notion and it is accompanied by some light molasses notes.  There is enough bitterness in the brew to provide the necessary balance to the malt character.  The bitterness is not a main player in the Foggy Notion but it is detectable and adds nicely to the overall experience.  I checked the label to see if there was any mention of barrel aging.  It did mention it was aged for 6 months which nurtures notes of oak and stone fruit.  Hmmm?  I will definitely say the flavor leads you to believe it may have been on some wood at some point but it’s not an over the top thing were you would swear it had been on wood.  Very interesting.  This is one of the more unique brews I’ve tried in recent memory and definitely holds it’s own against the Bigfoot.

I really really want to call this one a draw.  I thought the Bigfoot had a lock on this throwdown with no questions asked.  It is true that while both of these are barleywines, they are playing from two different sides of the field.  Hop vs malt.  How do I judge these two vastly different brews?  I want to call this a draw but that is not what a throwdown is about.  Based on the fact that Foggy Notion was the serious underdog and held its own to the point of making me want to call this a draw, I will call it the winner.  Foggy Notion reins supreme and wins by the narrowest of margins in the FatCat New Years Eve Throwdown.

I wish you a very happy New Year.  May your New Year be filled with mountains of craft brew and for those more adventurous, homebrew.  Cheers!

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