Revisiting: 2012 Narwhal (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company)

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

10.2% ABV


60 IBU’s

OG: 24.2 Plato

FG: 6.6 Plato

Bittering Hops: Magnum & Challenger

Aroma Hops: Challenger

Malts: 2-Row Pale, Caramel, Chocolate, Honey, Carafa, and Roasted Barley

From: Chico, CA


So I’m finally going to start cracking open some of my cellars offerings and let you know what a year (+) does to a beer.  The first to be given this treatment is Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal, which was first released last year and can be read about here. A bottle of this beer has been sitting patiently in my cellar/box-under-the-sink ever sense last year. With the pour, the beer appears a “deep coffee black with a dark khaki head” as past-me put it. The head seems to have a bit better retention this time around, which means I probably had a dirty glass in my first review… The head stays about an eighth of a finger’s width above the glass, but falls to an island-scrim in the middle. The beer is just as opaque as before, but does give some hints of ruby coloring when you shove it in front of a light. On the nose the beer is decadent. The age seems to have blended the smells nicely and added a touch of sherry-like notes to the mix. Rich baker’s chocolate blends with French roast coffee on the nose. The caramel and toffee seem to have blended their way into the sherry notes, which become more prominent as you shove your nose into the beer. There is a touch of wet cardboard, which is disappointing on my part, and also a touch of spice and sugar cookies as well in the nose. In the end, I unfortunately think the beer has lost a little of its nose to time, and what it has made up for the rich roast it once had doesn’t quite cut it in my book. On the tongue, the beer tastes distinctly like an RIS, so I’m not sure what past-me was talking about when I said “I’m not quite sold on the Russian imperial stout bit.” Rich smoke blends with just a touch of sherry, spicy booze, light char, soft cherry, and smooth chocolate. All the parts could definitely take longer in the bottle and blend more fully, but as is they are nicely smooth and creamy. Bitter roast is still the predominant taste, but light, sweet chocolate is working its way up on the palate, while acidity is subtly present throughout the mouth, and herbal hop-bitters do still play a part on the finish. When I first reviewed this beer, I said its mouthfeel was one of the best I had ever felt, but I’m not quite getting that anymore. The beer is silky with a chewy thickness, but the alcoholic spice definitely put a little tingle to the tongue that I could do without. This beer has a nice mouthfeel, but nowhere near the best. Carbonation in this beer, however, is damn near perfect in its softness and I think that is what I was commenting on in my first review. Slight notes of honey have started to move into the flavor of this beer as well, but the alcoholic spice is a little harsh and could definitely stand another year to cool down. In the end, I think I pulled the trigger a bit early on this bad boy, but oh well. T’was a good experiment. I’ve got a couple other world class imperial stouts sitting in the old box, so keep your eyes out for another of those coming hopefully sometime this winter. Cheers and beers.


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