My first impression of this week’s beer was that I had taken a big swig of a liquid, alcohol-infused Oreo cookie, and, I should add, that was a very pleasant experience indeed.
Let me start at the beginning.
For several weeks a big bottle of Barrel-Aged Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada had been catching my eye. The only thing putting me off was the nearly $20 price tag for a single bottle of beer (I hate to sound like a cheapskate because that’s not it at all; the real reason I look closely at the cost of things is because I am on a long-term, government-induced budget that does not allow for much frivolity).
But after a particularly trying week, I decided I had earned a $20 bottle of beer. And, don’t you know, things always taste better when you have earned them.
This beer tastes heavenly (and I do not mean that in the Christian sense; In fact, perhaps I should have referenced Valhalla instead because this beer feels like the “Ride of the Valkyries” in your mouth).
It begins life as the already very tasty Narwhal Imperial Stout, which you can by in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles for several dollars less than this single 25.4-ounce bottle of high quality/high potency (12.9 percent) stout (Geez, they couldn’t have cranked it up a notch to an even 13?).
The brewers at Sierra Nevada reserve some of the Narwhal to age in Kentucky bourbon barrels, which adds all kinds of flavors to an already high flavor beer.
The Narwhal is a rare, elusive, mysterious horned whale, known as the unicorn of the sea. Does that make this the unicorn of beers?
Now, as I’m halfway through this monster, I wish I had the regular old everyday Narwhal, just to compare them side-by-side. Another day, I guess.
Until that happy day, let me say a bit more about this barrel-aged beauty.
In addition to the aforementioned alcohol and Oreo (which implies dark cocoa and vanilla), there are deep, earthy undertones from the dark malts and oak barrels. There is also, I think, a sharp green bite from the oak itself.
The dark fruits make their presence known – plums/prunes/raisins. The darkest-roast coffees are there. Caramel and burnt caramel. Blackstrap molasses.
This brew is so sticky-rich with malt that I fear I’ll have to pry my lips apart at the end of the session with this giant bottle.
After dropping down for one bottle and finding it to be delicious, I wish I could buy five more to put away. I’d open one on the same day for the next five years and take notes on how they take to aging.
I grow sad as I near the end of this great big bruiser of a beer, knowing I won’t be tasting it again anytime soon. For those who want to take the dark journey this beer provides, buckle up. Since we are in the holiday season, this is an excellent beer to share.