Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout

I have said before that I'm generally not a fan of imperial stouts, but I've said the same thing about brown ales, and look where that has gotten me. Fact is, I have found that the closer a beer gets to the standard of the breed, the more I tend to like it, regardless of the style. With certain styles, there is a bigger target to hit in the X ring, but that doesn't mean that styles that I generally don't like can't find the perfect balance.

Usually, I will say that a beer is black, and then I will clarify to say that it is really so brown or so red that it appears black. That's because a strong enough light source will allow me to see (usually around the bottom of a full glass) that blip of a different shade. Not this one. I've had very dark beers before (Pothole Filler and Nighttime come to mind) but this is almost certainly the blackest brew I've ever poured. Sorry to go on about it, but it's an inky black that is almost unsettling. The tan head is fairly minimal, and it leaves very little lacing on the sides. The aroma is sweet licorice and dark fruits. There's definitely smoked wood and coffee lingering underneath.

First sip is smokey and sweet I can definitely taste the coffee roast and the figs and raisins. It's a very dense beer - it's like a syrup or a liquor. The smokey taste lingers for a significant time after the drink is gone, and it's kind of nice. I think I'd like more of that. Maybe a swig will draw this out.

Tip-in is sweet malt, smoked oak, and a hint of licorice. The middle comes dancing along with its sweet, milky top and smokey bottom, and it just enjoys the living crap out of itself. As the finish approaches, a bitter wave come through, and it's followed by more smoke and coffee. The smoke and the bitterness of the coffee linger for a while like a cloud of bitter-sweet pipe smoke after a good meal.

Bottom Line: Reminds me of a good porter more than a stout, but it's damn good either way.



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