Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sierra Nevada Narwhal

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1002) - Albany, New York, USA - NOV 6, 2013
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 quite well.

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, too. 
Grade: 8/10

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