the unicorn of the sea

23 Nov
Dark as the water under the ice in the arctic…which is also the home of the narwhal...

I never thought of a narwhal as scary…until I saw this label

I was always fascinated by the narwhal as a kid.  What the hell was it?  Whale?  Some sort of sea unicorn?  It was both cool-looking and goofy, all at the same time.  The narwhal is actually an Arctic whale that feeds under dense ice packs.  It’s “horn” is nothing more than a tooth that grows outward from the mouth in a spiral pattern.  An imperial stout is probably a pretty good proxy for the dark waters found under ice packs, huh?  Kinda neat that a brewery decided to use this interesting creature in the development of a beer.  Sierra Nevada should get some props for the creative name.

They say it’s a malt-forward beer and they are not joking around.  It’s pretty much ink black with a head that almost looks pink in the right light.  The nose is all roasted malts, with a dry, coffee scent and hints of leather and smoke.  Flavors of licorice and cocoa dominate up front.  There is some thinness to the beer initially that turns into heavy and creamy pretty quickly.  The hops are not noticeable, but clearly there.  They are more of a background player in this brew.  The beer should be allowed to warm up for at least 20 minutes.  You want to drink this at a warmer temp because all those specialty malts will reveal themselves when the beer warms.  As mine got warmer, the earthiness and glossy mouthfeel asserted themselves more and more.  It became an exercise in luxury consumption.  All of this, along with the 10.4% ABV, make this a sipper on the coldest of nights.  Tonight was pretty cold.  Good thing I had one to warm me up.

This is a big, bold offering from Sierra Nevada.  Imperial Stouts can often be hard to pull off.  There is so much complexity in the malt profiles that all sorts of things can go wrong with the desired outcome (probably a problem a lot of beers have, now that I think about it).  Overall it is well done and worth a look if you are interested in the style.  By all accounts, this would do nicely with a 2-3 year cellaring, maybe longer.  At that ABV and with all that complex flavoring going on, you could have yourself one hell of a beer…with a little patience.

3 Responses to “the unicorn of the sea”

  1. Chad November 24, 2013 at 7:43 AM #

    Will have to see if I can find this. The desert has proven to offer mostly beers from. Colorado and a handful from Utah and Colorado.

  2. Chad November 24, 2013 at 7:44 AM #

    Oops I meant to say California and not Colorado twice.

    • Brian November 24, 2013 at 9:45 AM #

      As soon as I had this I thought of you. Right up your alley. Do I know my Chad beers, or what?

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