Beer Review #265 Narwhal Imperial Stout

01-26-03We had a nice bit of snow here in northern Delaware last night and I was sipping on an imperial stout as the flakes came down. We only ended up with a tease of a 1/2 inch, but the beer at least measured up. Narwhal Imperial Stout is brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. This imperial stout comes in at a nice high 10.2%.

Like most imperial stouts this beer pours an inky black. It doesn’t pour as thick as some imperial stouts that I have had in the past. There is a decent tan head that stays longer than expected but eventually fades away to just a thin surface floating layer. I had no idea if this one was clear or not because this is one dark beer. Ever the thin layers near the edges yielded no light. The nose is packed with roasted malt. There is some slight chocolate in there as well. I didn’t notice anything on the hop front nor did I get any heat. Impressive. This beer just smells big. Maybe I have had too many imperial stouts in my day, but you can just tell this beer is big by the smell.

The roasted flavors of the nose carry through to the flavor. The roast is clean and enjoyable and not to “bitey” as other beers of this style that I have had. A nice bitter bakers chocolate flavor edges out the roast halfway though. A sight hop flavor comes in at the end. The hops was a bit piney but I honestly could get more descriptive then that as the malt bitterness ruled this beer. While I didn’t describe a lot of flavors, the interaction of the flavors really makes this beer complex. As the balance changes from roast to bitter chocolate to hops the beer shows itself fully.

I really, really dig this one. I’m usually split on liking/hating imperial stouts. They never seem to be able to achieve a true balance and any complexity that they do have gets overshadowed by roast or hops. This one stays complex and in balance. I really liked it and I’m going to be getting some of this beer to age in the basement for some time.