A Departure from the Norm; Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout


Dat label!

I recently went to The Beer Shop with the intent of bringing home something to help me break the IPA habit.  I’ve become a one-trick pony when it comes to suds; give me heaps of hops or get the hell out.  It had probably been well over a year since anything but medium-bodied and crushingly bitter had crossed my palate.  I wanted out of the rut, and since winter is the season for stouts and porters, I decided to head in that direction.

As I stood before the stout shelves considering the merits of coffee stouts vs. chocolate stouts vs. oatmeal stouts, an outstanding bit of label design caught my eye.  I’m a sucker for attractive packaging, and a bold almost monochrome label with an image of a diving narwhal really stood out among the other bottles I was considering.  It isn’t just any stout, but an imperial stout which usually indicates a hearty abv and significant alcohol impact on the flavor profile of the beer.  I like beers that pack a punch, so it went into my sampler pack.


Light escapes neither black holes nor Narwhal.

I used my Stone Brewing nonic pint glass for this beer.  It poured an inky black and seemed slightly viscous.  The head was predictably colored like espresso foam and was not very long lasting.  I held the glass up to a light and the beer is so dark that it is completely opaque.  The nose is full of dark chocolate, a mix of sweet and bitter that comforted me; this was not going to be an overly sticky malt bomb of a beer.  When the first sip hit my palate, I did notice a slight chocolate note, but this was quickly overwhelmed by a smoky, earthy flavor that was delicious but difficult to identify.  The label mentioned coffee notes, but I didn’t explicitly taste coffee.  The high alcohol content (10.2% abv) ensured that each swallow finished with a noticeable sizzle that was very pleasant and helped add to the bitterness of the beer.  The slick, silky smooth texture and clean finish were welcome features.  I’m not a fan of syrupy beers that cling stubbornly to you palate once you’ve swallowed them down, so Narwhal definitely got extra points for leaving no lingering aftertaste or stickiness.

I was extremely pleased with this beer.  It is complex and a stout to its core without saturating your palate with malt.  Many of the stouts that I do not prefer are all malt and little else, but there is so much intrigue and mystery in this beer than on the fifth and sixth sip you are still trying to tease out and identify all components of it’s flavor.  I would recommend this beer to anyone who likes a brawny brew that will leave your cheeks slightly flushed after only one bottle.  I will definitely be enjoying Narwhal again in the future.

~ by schlippo on January 25, 2014.

One Response to “A Departure from the Norm; Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout”

  1. […] dark and malty brews, I acquired a bottle of Weyerbacher’s Heresy on the same outing as the last brooding brew I reviewed.  As I pointed out in that piece, I am a sucker for a good label.  I’m also a sucker for a […]

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