Many craft beer drinkers credit Sierra Nevada as one of their “gateway” breweries introducing them to the tastes of craft beer and drawing them away from boring macro beers. I picked up the often available Pale Ale many years ago and continue to enjoy it to this date. Today I find myself far from the old pale ale holding a Narwhal Imperial Stout which is part of Sierra Nevada’s High Altitude Series (Hoptimum and Bigfoot also in this series). Narwhal (2012) was release in October and has been highly touted by many beer drinkers/reviewers. The beer weighs in at 10.2% ABV and 60 IBU using Magnum hops and about a half dozen malts (including 2 Row Pale and Roasted Barley). One item to note for those watching their figure, this beer has approximately 305 calories which is far from 150 or less in the average pilsner or lager. The (hopefully) awesomeness of this stout will be worth it though. Let us drink.
Appearance is black as tar with dark tan head which recedes within 30 seconds. Aromas I detect are sweet chocolate, slight coffee, and a touch of smoke. Aromas are all fairly mild, but blend quite well. Immediate tastes are roasted coffee and a little chocolate with the smoky roasted barley coming through. I detect the alcohol after a sting of bitterness leaves the tongue. There is a silky smooth mouth feel creating a medium body. Overall, I would say they blend of roasted coffee, chocolate, and smoke come together quite well. It is interesting how the aroma leans towards the sweet chocolate (slight coffee) and then the taste is primarily coffee (slight chocolate). I think my favorite part of this beer is the silk like mouth feel. Probably not what the brewery would hope for as the highlight. The lingering alcohol taste is a bit much for my liking. I will rate this beer 4 Mugs out of 5 on the Draft Notes scale.
The Sierra Nevada website points out that this is a great beer to age, so I would be curious to try this after a year of two of aging to see how much of the alcohol dissipates. That would make me happy and push that rating up. Not sure I have the patience to wait though! Learn more about Sierra Nevada here: http://www.sierranevada.com/. Interested in Narwhals? Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narwhal. Rumor is they enjoy bacon.