Beer: Narwhal Imperial Stout
Brewer: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Description: Narwhal pours pitch black with no light escaping from within, and is topped with a heavy brown head that lingers throughout the drinking experience and leaves a wonderful heavy lacing on the glass. The aroma radiates with notes of roasted malts varying from coffee to dark chocolate to slight hints of caramel, as well as backing notes of vanilla. The taste backs the nose dead-on with the bitter chocolate malts hitting the palate first, followed by notes of coffee and vanilla before a lighter caramel character washes over and leaves a lingering coffee-like bitterness on the tongue. This is a full-bodied beer with moderate carbonation that lends itself to a smooth drinking experience. The high alcohol in Narwhal makes itself known only slightly, with a very tiny amount of alcohol heat coming through. Narwhal is an absolutely stellar example of the Russian Imperial Stout style.
Food pairing: The rich roasted malts, along with chocolate and coffee overtones, make Narwhal a prime candidate to have with dessert; however, there is much more that this beer can add to the dinner table. Try pairing Narwhal with your next barbecue dinner, whether it’s short ribs, brisket, or a juicy hamburger. If you top any of these with a sweet barbecue sauce, Narwhal will latch onto that sweetness and never let go, while enhancing the caramelization in the meat for an unforgettable meal. And yet Narwhal is right at home with desserts, whether they be of the lighter variety (such as chocolate mousse or carrot cake) or a heavier dessert, such as cheesecake, Narwhal is a dream pairing, preferably with cheesecakes that have fruit topping or chocolate drizzle. There’s always the tasty beer float if you feel like a fun treat; put two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream into your glass of Narwhal and just enjoy the evening!
The final word: Sierra Nevada has built itself a fantastic reputation that many breweries would give anything to achieve, and it has done this by brewing world class beers. Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale and Big Foot are top tier examples of this. Sierra Nevada consistently produces beers that are both highly complex and extremely approachable, which makes it a great brewery for craft beer newbies and fanatics alike. Another great thing about Narwhal is that it will age for many years in the bottle and become even more complex; it has the year of production prominently displayed on the front of the bottle. This is a great beer to buy a case of and save for a quite some time, tasting every year and taking notes to see how it evolves as time goes on. Whether you are looking to consume this beer right away or save it for future experimentation, Narwhal is a fantastic brew and great go-to for the winter season.
Rating: W W W W V
Where can I get it? Currently available in 12 oz. bottles at Goldstein’s Deli, Kingston; Joe’s Six Packs to Go, Dunmore; J & H Beer, Wilkes Barre; and Exit 190 Beer Deli, Dickson City.
Remember, enjoy responsibly! Cheers!
- Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer, and beer historian. Follow Derek’s beer blog at idtapthat.org.