It’s cold and gray outside; that means it’s time to crack those thick, dark, sprit-warming beers. Now is a great time of year to explore the world of imperial stouts, the proverbial king of winter-time brews. Here are a few heady, heavy imperials to remind you that these cold months really aren’t so bad.
I couldn’t quite handle Sierra Nevada’s new imperial stout on the first try. The Narwhal is a very robust beer; it’s sweet, malty, a bit smoky, and almost medicinal – a veritable elixir. I don’t recommend it as the first beer of the evening, but as an after-dinner drink or a nightcap, this beer will surely coat the belly and ready you for the deep waters of sleep.
The Narwhal’s ABV is 10.2%, so you may want to share this beer with a friend, or save some for another day – recap the bottle if you can, cork it, or transfer to an airtight glass container. The Narwhal isn’t very carbonated at all, so it will probably stay good to drink in the fridge for up to five days. In terms of aging, this brew has great potential for a couple years in the bottle – it will likely mellow out a bit and grow into a “first beer” beer.
Sierra did put out a very palatable oatmeal stout as a part of its “Best of Beer Camp” 12-pack this past August. At 9%, it could be categorized as an imperial, but it went down easy – a summery stout, still rich and dark but lacking those bold flavors and qualities of imperials such as the Narwhal. This beer, selected from Sierra’s 45th Beer Camp (What’s Beer Camp, you say? Sierra invites top brewers and beer folk out to the brewery for different sessions each year, they hang at the brewery and make their own beer. Mark Tambascio of Newtown, Connecticut’s My Place craft beer bar went a couple years ago; read all about it here.), is definitely a “first beer” beer.
We just got word that Little Pub in Ridgefield has New England Brewing Co.‘s (Woodbridge, Conn.) Imperial Stout Trooper on tap, and according to the Northeast Beer Hunter, this is a pretty rare treasure of a beer. He wrote about the Trooper for his piece on great Thanksgiving beers late last year:
“This world-class beer is only brewed once a year, and if you’re lucky enough to find it (not very likely) or still have a few bottles to open from last year’s stash, now is the time to open one. This one delivers strong on chocolate, coffee, and roasted malt with slight hints of vanilla, dates, and raisins. A real treat with an ABV of 9.2%.”
If you’re interested in giving the Trooper a try, I’d recommend getting to the Pub soon before it’s gone. They’re located at 59 Ethan Allen Highway in Ridgefield, and My Place, another surefire goldmine for stouts, is located at 8 Queen Street in Newtown.