When I mentioned I had a bottle of Sierra Nevada Narwhal to review for #stoutday, Chad and Matt quickly suggested we do a 3-in-1 review. So get your heads out of the gutter. This review is strictly PG.
I’ll offer my pics/insights and then pass the baton to Chad. Matt will wrap up the post and hopefully this post hits before the end of the day.
This beer wasn’t even on my radar until my local beer guy pointed it out and suggested I give it a try. Who am I to say no?
It pours a deep, dark black. I was able to coax a nice, tight head in the pour and it lingers nicely, leaving nice lacing on the glass.
It honestly doesn’t give me a lot in the bouquet. Very slight coffee, a little bit of charcoal, but not a whole lot, so we’re going straight to the taste.
Nice carbonation, tight flavor profile, but a bit underwhelming. It doesn’t have the depth I’ve come to expect in big imperial stout (ahem, Founders Breakfast Stout). There’s some coffee and bitter chocolate in there, but there’s not the richness or smooth finish I like in this type of beer. It’s actually a little bitter on the finish, but not in a good way.
I really wanted to like this beer and while it’s not bad, there better examples of the style readily available (Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, FBS).
Vitals: Served at 45F in my trusty tulip. I let it warm a bit before doing my review. 10.2% ABV.
Taste: B-. Not memorable.
Drinkability: C+. Too hot to drink more than one.
Packaging: C. Basic info, but not keeping pace with the market.
Value: B+. $10 for a 4-pack. Reasonable if you enjoy it.
p.s. I dug out an FBS to see how it compared to Narwhal and it wasn’t even close. The FBS is a different beast altogether, justifying it’s spot in the Craft Beer Social Hall of Fame. Now I will go take a nap and give Chad the floor….
When Jim asked me to be part of this Sierra Nevada Narwhal review I thought to myself “Good heavens, man! I already wrote one review this year! Do I look like some sort of machine to you??.” Fortunately I was able to summon the stamina to give this one a go, all in the spirit of National Stout Day.
I purchased this beer with high hopes. The description on the label appealed to all the things I love about a delicious imperial stout: the roasty malt flavors, hints of coffee, the cocoa and richness. I actually found myself hoping for a spontaneous snowstorm when I cracked this one open (sort of like the Coors Light commercials
**, only this time with good beer).
** p.s. anyone who can accurately interpret what the hell that commercial has to do with beer wins a lifetime membership to Craft Beer Social, free of charge.
I took this Narwhal out of my beer fridge and set it on the counter for a while while I fiddled with my camera taking photos. Stout aficionados will tell you it pays to let an imperial warm up a bit, since too much coldness can prevent you from experiencing the more subtle flavors. I thought I was doing everything right. The pour was silky smooth darkness with barely a hint of foam. The aroma was exactly what I’d hoped for: roasty deliciousness with the hint of coffee bean. I even bought a deep dark chocolate bar to go with it, hoping it would coax out even more of the flavors on my palate.
Founders Breakfast Stout – was this going to be your new competitor?! My hopes were high. I tipped it back for that first sip, shunning the chocolate bar so as not to be corrupted in any way. And then…
Booze. That was the first word that came into my mind. This one weighs in at 10.2% ABV, and I could taste every single one of those percentage points. Founders Breakfast Stout & Great Divide Oak Aged Imperial Yeti wrap me up in their delicious flavors to the point where I almost forget I’m drinking a relatively high alcohol craft beer. I’m sorry Sierra Nevada, but this was not the same experience. I could sip this one and appreciate what they were trying to accomplish with it, but the alcohol overwhelmed my enjoyment. I can’t see myself buying this one again.
Vitals: 10.2% ABV, served at around 50 degrees in my favorite “Look at me, I’m a sophisticated stout drinker” glass.
Taste: C+ It tasted like rich, boozy adult beverage. I did get a hint of bitter coffee, but it wasn’t enough for me to put this in the class of other great imperial stouts.
Drinkability: C I won’t say the “b–zy” word again because I’ve already beaten it into the ground. I can’t imagine drinking more than one of these in a session.
Value: Let’s see… paying $10+ for a 4-pack of a beer I wasn’t that fond of after 2 sips? Not what I’d consider “high value”.
Label Design: A I actually thought they nailed the label design for this type of beer. It’s too bad I’d want the beer itself to go down with the ship that mutant unicorn whale is apparently crushing.
Ok, so Chad’s not buying this one again. What about Matt?
After seeing that both Jim and Chad were going to review Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal, I decided to grab a bottle and give it a go myself. It has been a while since I have had a beer from Sierra, but their small bottle offerings typically do not disappoint. The beer poured very dark, mostly black with some brown highlights on top with a small tan colored head on top.
The aroma has lots of roasted malt, some cocoa, dark chocolate, and a little bit of espresso. There is a hint of pine and grapefruit right at the end. The flavor profile is quite similar to the aroma with more roasty malt, almost charred, with some dark chocolate and licorice. I picked up a little bit of mint in the middle as well.
Vitals: 10.2% abv poured into a tulip glass after sitting out a few minutes. Consumed over the course of 45 minutes.
Taste: B, A solid stout with most of the characteristics I am looking for in the style
Drinkability: B+, not a beer I am going to drink a lot of, but found this 12oz bottle pretty easy to drink and tasted none of the 10.2% abv.
Value: A-, Picked up a single bottle for $2.99 which was not marked up from the 4 pack for $12. A pretty good deal for a beer this big.
Label Design: A-, Yes, it still sort of looks like every other Sierra Nevada bottle, but I am digging the black label and the narwhal image.
So there you have it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While it sounds like Matt is in love and I wouldn’t kick Narwhal out of bed, Chad’s not so sure… he’s looking for another lover. I hope you enjoy our first “threesome” here at Craft Beer Social. 🙂