My recent experience drinking a Sierra Nevada Black Barleywine on tap included funny banter. The bartender poured it into an 8 or 9 ounce snifter. He commented that a lot of beer drinkers want no part of a brew served in such a glass:
Him: Not a lot of drinkers want their beer in a glass like this.
Me: I'd drink this beer in that glass.
Him: Right! It's different than having a Miller Lite in this glass.
Me: I wouldn't want one of those in any glass.
Considering this beer's excellence, the serving device could not be more appropriate. It's a roughly 10 percent beer with really robust flavor. It presents itself well, sitting in the glass like a dark pool of tar with a thin layer of tan foam atop it that's more like a creek's eddy than an actual head. It smells of roasted barley, bread, and maybe a hint of coffee. The taste is devastating. You go in hoping to avoid the sometimes overly sweet barleywine caramel, apple, and honey flavors and your fears are eviscerated by bitter chocolate, roasted nuts, and - pledge, turn, prestige - that barley, grain, and wood flavor that grips the finish, taming the drink like bitters tame a cocktail. Bam! Enter beer heaven.
I've stressed this before. Sierra Nevada is one of the best breweries in the U.S. Forget the banal Pale Ale. Throw out the Porter. Those are the moneymakers. Like all the great brewers, Sierra makes a variety of outstanding limited production beers, ranging from Torpedo IPA, to Harvest, to the amazing Celebration Ale, to the Summerfest lager. The barleywines, though, may be the real stars, Bigfoot Barleywine and Black. Any serious American craft beer drinker should explore Sierra's formidable lineup. It's quite rewarding.
I do not believe Black Barleywine's available in bottles because I've never seen Sierra bottle any beer with this high of an ABV. Too bad. It's what I want at home to nurse these winter blahs - that is, the prestige.