Sierra Nevada Narwhal

Tasting: December 24, 2012
Style: Imperial Stout

Sierra Nevada Narwhal
(c) 2012 popsonhops

A narwhal is a whale that lives exclusively in the Arctic Circle. Its name is derived from the Old Norse word “nar” meaning “corpse”. It seems that to the ancient mariners, the grayish, mottled coloring of the whale resembled the pigmentation of a drowned sailor. The tusk of the narwhal is actually an elongated canine tooth and can be found in both male and female whales. The female tusk is short and straight, while the male tusk spirals grows to lengths of five to ten feet. It is said that the tusk doesn’t serve any hunting, defensive, or ice breaking purpose — all of which would be handy. However, the tusk is akin to the mane of a lion or the feathers of a peacock simply a decoration used in attracting a mate.

The connection between a narwhal and a stout? Well, the brewery offers the connection that a narwhal is known for their deep dives (true) and this stout is known for its depth of malt flavor (TBD). Sierra Nevada has added this to their newly formed High Altitude line of seasonal four packs. The line includes the familiar Bigfoot Barleywine and the fresh hop, Hoptimum. The vitals are massive — 10.2% ABV with an original gravity of 24.2 degrees plato. Anything over 17 is considered dense or rich with fermentable sugars.

Pour is dark and very opaque with a coffee-colored head that vanishes over the next minute. There is an easily detected aroma of espresso and that flavor sneaks up on you with your first sip. Massive coffee, charred smokey malt, bitter dark chocolate. I tastes a few minutes for my palate to adjust to the onslaught of flavor. Mouthfeel is rich, carbonation is somewhat present and the alcohol, while warming, is nicely concealed. This would be nice with a little age. Maybe if I get some next year. Overall a very nice coffee-based stout. Wouldn’t mind seeing a bourbon barrel-aged version of this stout. A very solid 88.

Merry Christmas.

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