It would seem I’m late to the party on Narwhal, Sierra Nevada’s imperial stout. I’d never had this beloved brew until recently. Shame on me.
Emerging from the depths of oblivion, I finally know what everyone’s talked about with this brew, which sits at 93 on Beer Advocate.
Fittingly, the beer pours a midnight black, matching the dark chasms where its mysterious namesake dwells in the ocean. Deep aromas of dark chocolate and Chocolate malt dominate the nose of Narwhal, piercing through residual scents of vanilla cream, roasted coffee and figs. At 10.2 percent, it’s hard to ignore a warm, boozy bite at the end of each sniff. Cinnamon, charred wood and bittersweet cocoa nibs send you on your way home.
The beer offers a very dry mouthfeel and has a hard bitterness to it, no doubt aided by the use of high-alpha acid Magnum hops in the bittering process. English-bred Challenger hops are also used and are perfect for this type of UK-inspired dark ale with just a peep of earthy spiciness. Chocolate, Carafa and Caramel malts make for a bakeshop collection of tastes – think sweet rolls and freshly-made bread. While sweet caramel dances across every sip, there’s plenty of baked bread tastes and every sip finished with flavors of dark chocolate and roasted grain.
I’m keeping this on my radar for next year’s version.
- Malt: Two-row Pale, Caramel, Chocolate, Honey, Carafa and roasted barley
- Hops: Magnum and Challenger
- Adjuncts/additives: N/A
- ABV: 10.2 percent
- Brewery: Sierra Nevada of Chico, California
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac