Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review: Sierra Nevada's Narwhal Imperial Stout

Ah, the fabled Narwhal. Last year, when I was just getting into the big craft beer scene, I had heard about it. People raved that the 2012 release of Sierra Nevada's seasonal imperial stout was simply awesome, and, of course, that the barrel-aged version was even better. So this year when the store I work at got a shipment of Narwhal I immediately swooped in and nabbed a 4-pack. It's actually pretty affordable, all things considered. Heck, it was my International Stout Day pick for Untappd!

So, time to get down to brass tacks and dissect this arctic beast of a beer!

Appearance: 3.5/5

Narwhal pours a beautiful midnight black with a nice finger-and-a-half worth of medium tan head. The head quickly recedes to a nice, thin foam rim laying on top of the beer. Definitely a stout-looking stout!

Nose: 4/5

Good amounts of nice, dark cocoa and darker malts, including coffee, make up the majority of the nose. Typical malts for a stout nose, but the dark chocolate really smells fresh and pungent, which is a nice note. As I continue to nose this beer, I note some sweet fruity aromas in the background, like licorice and grapes. The layers of this beer's nose are great.

Taste: 4.5/5

Bitter baker's cocoa is the first thing I taste. It's nice and rich. The cocoa, much like in the nose, is accompanied by roasty coffee. The darkness and complexity in this stout are just amazing. At the end of each sip, some subtle fruity notes come into play, as well as some spicy, slightly astringent alcohol. And that's to be expected from its 10.2% ABV.

Mouthfeel: 4/5

Since the carbonation is minimal, Narwhal feels creamy and smooth. The body is super thick and roasty, which I love. This brew really fills the palate.

Finish: 4.5/5

The bitterness of the cocoa is most notable in the finish. That, coupled with some licorice notes, make the finish on Narwhal quite deep and pleasant.

Total Score: 85.5/100

So this was a very enjoyable and rich stout. I think the most prominent achievement Sierra Nevada brought to the table with Narwhal is the cocoa note that dominates this stout. It's bitter and dark and amazing. Overall, this is a very rich stout that I'd recommend to anyone. It's affordable, tasty, and good either warm or cold. Try it while it lasts!

Until next time, cheers!


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