Exposing the Tracks of the Bigfoot

by Kevin Brent

The first time I tried Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Ale was out of the trunk of my roommate’s white 1982 BMW four door sedan. It was early at the party, I was standing outside when he pulled up and he was strangely hushed, peering around like he was being watched. Actually, more like he was being stalked.

He wound his way up the staircase upon which I was standing, careful not to bump anyone or attract the wrong kind of attention. He grabbed me by the arm and without a word turned and directed us back down the path from which he came and to the rear of his vehicle.

“Pour out your beer,” he said solemnly. “I’ve found it.”

And with that he popped his trunk, whipped out two dark bottles and unknowingly perpetuated my personal and at times obsessive odyssey with a strange beer created in Chico, California.

Bigfoot Ale is officially labeled a “Barley wine”, consists of nearly ten percent alcohol, and tastes nothing like any kind of beer made anywhere in the world. It is only brewed three months out of the year, from February to April, and each brewing is identified by its year, dated prominently on the top of the cap.

It is rich, full, and sweet and it is definitely not for everyone. It embodies the methodology of the love hate phenomenon—you either like it or you don’t.

I love it. I did since that first night where I didn’t leave my friend’s car, cowering deep in the dark cover of his ajar car trunk, gently swilling bottle upon bottle until the sweet, potent nectar had rendered me euphoric and unable even to babble the area code of my own telephone number. In other words, I was hooked. Permanently.

For the last five years of my life I have spent a reasonable amount of time during the first two weeks of February following the tracks of the Bigfoot.

See, they don’t make much of it, in comparison to the regular output of Sierra Nevada brews, and it must be requested by stores and specially ordered. In other words, for the last five years, it was nearly impossible to come by. But I found a way.

Approximately 60 miles to the east of Huntington Beach, bordering the barrio between Whittier and La Habra, sits the Grog Shop, an undiscovered beer mecca. They carried Bigfoot and I set off to develop the all important relationship with my provider. Things worked out splendidly and soon I was able to reserve my own case, which the store proprietor would hold for me in a small enclave beneath the cash register, covered, for some reason, by a worn Aztec-styled wool blanket. I never found out exactly where the blanket came from or what special powers it possessed, but I began to feel blessed that my case was worthy of its protection. Then again, Whittier was hot as hell and I didn’t have air conditioning in my car during those long drives.

Anyway, I would make the drive for my specially reserved case of Bigfoot, ducking past the stream of novice Bigfoot hunters who would come clumsily searching from all directions, all on the heels elusive elixir. I would conquer all of them, I would complete my yearly pilgrimage, keeping my Bigfoot locked in the trunk of my 1984 Toyota Camry just as my dear friend did years before, and when I would return I would secretly share it with a designated connoisseur like myself and …

And now it’s available everywhere and there is plenty to go around for even the most timid of adventurers. My liquor store is bursting at the seams with it, so much in fact it sits in its rack untouched and unmoved, little six-pack animals all in a row, mass marketed and so much further from extinction then I ever thought possible.

It’s not that my affair with the Bigfoot has lessened over the years. But, as they say, what would be the reward without the chase, and the chase has ceased to exist. It still tastes the same, but now it’s like shooting the trapped tiger in the cage – the thrill has vanished.

But the point is still clear and the fact remains that Bigfoot Ale must be sampled by all. New relationships can and will be founded. Fresh bonds will be formed. Just like the time I was handed one from the deep recess of a jungle poised as a trunk bed.