I poured a 12oz bottle into a goblet. It was bottled on 9/24/13 and cost $3.99 ($0.33 per ounce).
Appearance: Opaque black hue, no visible carbonation. Pours to a
surprisingly large, dark brown, frothy head which laces and retains
Smell: Black licorice with minor notes of coffee, though alcohol is quite prominent.
Taste: Sierra Nevada is known for their hoppy beers, though Narwhal is
probably their most notable stout. It gets a lot of acclaim from my
fellow craft beer enthusiasts, though I probably wouldn’t equate it to
some of the world class examples of the style. It’s a great example of
an imperial stout brewed to spec.
The flavor profile here is familiar, but in a good way. The palette is
significantly sweet with notes of caramel, milk chocolate and black
licorice. It’s also quite bitter with a strong presence of roasted malt
and astringent hops. The alcohol is a major component to the taste as
well - imparting a dryness and maybe just a hint of smoke. Definitely
satisfying and enjoyable, though it doesn’t exactly break new ground in
the imperial stout field (not that I think it’s meant to). A beer that
could likely be enjoyed by newcomers and connoisseurs alike.
Drinkability: I was a little intimidating going into Sierra Nevada
Narwhal when I saw the 10.2% ABV on the label. I was prepared for a
heavy, intense body that could only be sipped. I was quite relieved by
how smooth and comfortable it was in the mouth. While there is a
significant alcohol component, it’s a gentle warmth that works with the
palette rather than against it. The mouthfeel is actually thinner than
I’d expect and the aftertaste is a bit cleaner than most of the style,