Sierra Nevada Barrel-Aged Narwhal

rating_excellent89 points

In full disclosure, here at The Basement Beer Tastings we’ve recently discovered a bit of a  personal bias.  Okay…you caught us.  When pressed under the intense fluorescent light of the basement, that would be biases.

First, it appears that many a panelist can be too easily swayed by the dark side.  Woh, woh, woh, slow down there Kylo Ren…we’re talking about the temptation offered by a dark (and thick bodied) stout.  No one here will be joining The First Order any time soon.

sierranevadanarwhalbarrelagedSecond, apparently we’re all suckers for barrel aging.  Yes, yes, we know.  Barrel aging may be the latest brewing fad worth discussing.  But, we’ve found some pretty amazing brews due to our penchant for barrel aging.

What’s that you say?  Errr…  Indeed you’ve caught us again.  We’ve certainly found a stinker or two.  In our defense, the Shock Top was bequeathed to us and not actually sought after.  And the Two Roads? Well, that’s all on Rick.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself, “Where’s he going with this? ” Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Narwhal…that’s where!

To use one of panelist Jon’s favorite sayings, “Let that soak in for a moment.”  (Much like the barrel aging soaked into the beer. See what I did there?)

For those unfamiliar with Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal, it’s their annually released imperial stout.  But even more elusive than that yearly offering is the limited run Barrel Aged Narwhal — aptly named, since narwhals are known as the “unicorns of the sea.”

And what’s harder to find than a unicorn?  Possibly one that’s been barrel aged.

I’ll stop here to mention how the panel had pretty high hopes for this barrel aged beauty.  Considering none had experienced the standard Narwhal, the expectations were rather unfounded.  Besides from the fact that we had so greatly enjoyed Sierra Nevada’s Barrel Aged Bigfoot, there was really no rhyme or reason to the amount of hype surrounding the beer.

Honestly, it probably had to do with the length of time it took us to procure a bottle.  With each passing trip to the liquor store, the legend of the elusive Narwhal grew.

Thankfully, Narwhal did not disappoint.  As a matter of fact, many of the panelists felt it had surpassed their already inflated expectations.

Not too much time needs to be spent on appearance.  Guess what, it’s black.  And it looked beautiful, standing out in particular was it’s smooth, syrupiness while poured.  There were traces of red in the head, but most of the panel were transfixed by the complete darkness filling each glass.

Right away the scent of bourbon found the panel.  Traces of marshmallow, coconut, chocolate and vanilla were also noted.  It seemed as though the long wait was going to pay off.

So, here we are at taste.  Using the panelists’ own words, taste was described as “delicious buttery bourbon, vanilla imperial stout” and “smooth, creamy bourbon.”

Mouthfeel was deemed highly viscous, noted as both buttery and syrupy.

Aftertaste provided a slight burn. Welcome to the party, bourbon.  Vanilla and smoke were two flavors noted to linger.  In the case of Narwhal, it seemed the aftertaste augmented the beer’s favorability.

Every panelist could see themselves easily drinking Barrel Aged Narwhal.  Popular sentiment was that it needed to be savored and enjoyed slowly.  Panelists pictured themselves enjoying a relaxing evening with this smooth sipper of a brew — most likely on a cold night, sitting in front of an impressive fire.

Overall, despite elevating this stout to almost unattainable levels, it certainly proved to be a truly excellent beer.

So now, it’s time for you to develop your own myth about the great Barrel Aged Narwhal.  And if you happen to stumble across this unicorn of a beer, without hesitation, buy it.  You’ll surely be glad you did because, honestly, how often can one say they’ve caught a unicorn?  And, a barrel aged one to boot.

(Appearance 9.43, Smell 9.29, Taste 26.43, Aftertaste 18., Drinkability 25.57) 

Sierra Nevada Barrel-Aged Narwhal Appearance (10) Smell (10) Taste (30) Aftertaste (20) Drinkability (30) Total (100)
Jon 10 9 27 20 28 94
Mike 9 9 28 16 28 90
Rick 10 9 27 19 25 90
Amy 10 10 26 18 26 90
Eric 10 8 25 17 24 84
Sue 8 10 25 18 23 84
Ken 9 10 27 18 25 89
Average: 9.43 9.29 26.43 18 25.57 88.71