Each week throughout the football season I'm going to suggest a good beer for the ubiquitous pre-game tailgate. Let's be honest, with tailgates it's not always top quality that you're looking for. To steal a phrase from the heinous beer terrorists at Budweiser, you want "drinkability." (or what a real beer connoisseur calls "a session beer") So, be warned, these may not be "the best" beers around. But, in the words of Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson "IT'LL GET YOU DRUNK!"
Way back in April, I took a trip to NorCal on some family business. Not San Francisco, mind you, but the tiny burb of Chico, some three hours northeast of The City (Northern California, if you didn't know, is essentially endless). What I found, I kind of liked. Chico's a cool little college town, in many ways rather like Boulder, home to Chico State and a bunch of outdoors-types. More importantly, it's also home to one of the biggest, most important craft breweries in the county -- the iconic Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Their imperial stout, Narwhal, is this week's gameday beer-o-the-week.
I'll be honest, I'm not a huge fan of some of Sierra's more famous beers. By this point, I've had so many of their classic Pale Ale's that I've lost a taste for it, and their newer stuff, like Otra Vez and Beer Camp, are big misses, for me. Narwhal, however, is a whole different story. I love this beast! A big, meaty imperial stout with character and life, it's one of the best of the style on shelves today. Rich and deep with flavor, this velvety smooth brew tastes of chocolate and espresso, with a pleasant mouth feel that is far from that motor oil/syrup style that can bog down lesser IPs. It finishes creamy and clear, and there's even a note of hops, for which the brewery is famous for. Oh, so good!
When I was at the brewery, they were pouring a barrel-aged version spiked with vanilla and orange peel, which tasted a whole lot like a chocolate orange. It was outstandingly good, beyond anything else I tasted while I was there. As I understand it, it was only ever going to be available at the brewery, so, barring a trip to Chico, you're SOL.
Standard Narwhal, however, often finds its way out to Colorado (when in season), and can otherwise be ordered online. If you find it, give it a try. Sitting at 10.2% ABV, it'll keep you warm as we dip into November, and those tailgates start to get colder. Their standard barrel-aged version is also distributed, and is even more deserving of your time and money. Either way, if it says Narwhal on the bottle, you won't go wrong.
Happy Friday! Go Buffs, beat the Cardinal!