I have developed a bizarre sense of patriotism when shopping for brews. I tend to find myself drawn away from a lot of the imported craft beers simply due to the mentality of “buying local”.
While there is a lot to be said for supporting local breweries it can sometimes mean you end up missing out on some really amazing beverages.
Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale was one of the first craft beers I tasted. It had become one of my go to beers. I didn’t pay much attention to their range, and the name Sierra Nevada became synonymous with a light, citrussy experience. That was until I encountered their Narwhal Imperial Stout.
The first thing that I noticed is just how dark the bottle was. That combined with the almost completely colourless label clearly sets the tone of things to come. “Narwhal” is written large in white lettering with the unicorn-esque sea beast illustrated beautifully below.
The moment you pop the cap you are hit with a wonderful malty cocoa aroma and it pours about as dark as they come. Held up to the light there is not a chance of it getting through. Its head is thin and temporary, but has an extremely appealing caramel colouring.
The richness of flavour in the first sip is intense.
At 10.2% you can really taste the warmth of the alcohol but it is nestled comfortably between a sweet dark cocoa flavour and a bitter kick of roasted coffee beans. As with most Imperial Stouts I’ve tasted the carbonation is low but has a creaminess that really enhances the flavour. The smoothness also stops it from becoming over bearing. Even after my taste buds had acclimatized I found each sip never lost its initial intensity.
This is a stout with a wealth of flavour, easy to drink despite its high alcohol content but rich enough that you’ll want to take your time. Sierra Nevada have created a genuinely impressive imperial – a great beer to start the night on, or to close an evening off in style. Easily one of the best I’ve tasted and definitely one I’ll be picking up again.
Dave Cooney September 2016