Saturday, February 9, 2013

#1,394 - Not At All Mysterious

The Arctic Ocean is simply an amazing place. I was there, so I can tell you this from experience.  While I was not in it for long (I removed my shoe and sock and stuck my foot in the Beaufort Sea ("Bow- furt"), a specific region of the Arctic Ocean), I can say I was there. It was 2004 and I was in Barrow, Alaska. 

Spectacled Eiders, Thick-billed Murres, and Yellow-billed Loons were just some of the bird-goodies I observed on that trip. Snowy Owls, too. Oh, and Red Phalarope.  Cripe - I cant forget the Stellar's Eiders.  
While Polar Bears would have been exciting, we didn't see any.  Heck, any big Alaskan mammal could be cool to see. Even a whale.

Yeah, I guess I should remind you that whales are mammals, not fish.  They are warmed blooded, give live birth, have hair (only eyelashes in this case) and nurse young with milk. They breath with lungs, too.   Fish, on the other hand, breath with gills, are covered in slime and sometimes suffer from "hole-in-head" disease (alot like a Republican). 

Anyhow, one of the most mysterious whales of them all is the Narwhal. I so wanted to see one.

The Narwhal is different things to different to people.  To Native Alaskans, the Narwhal is 20 feet of food.  The flesh is rich in Vitamin C.  In "Elf", it is the kind creature that wishes Buddy well on the search for his dad.  To vacationers, seeing one would be the highlight of any trip, I would think.

In any case, one cant help but to be captivated by that tooth. It certainly reminds many of a unicorn. While the unicorn is completely fictional, that narwhal is the real deal. Maxing out at eight feet in length, the tusk is actual the left upper canine tooth that pierces the upper lip.  Every once in a while, the right tooth does the same thing!  It will have two!

As fascinating as it appears, scientists still don't completely understand its function.  Some suggest it is a secondary sexual trait like the mane on the lion.  Others aren't so sure, but they can't seem to offer up any better ideas.  Primitive cultures suggest that is has magic properties. That certainly can't be it.  Folklore and myth - bah!  Here we are in the 21st Century and its purpose remains a mystery.

I should mention I saw a Narwhal last night. Really. I did.

Brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Narwhal Imperial Stout (#1,394) highlights six different malts and three hop varieties. The combination is a masterpiece of brewing. 

Fresh crude might be a fair way to describe this beer as it pours. Black. While other beer snobs noted a thick, lush tan head, my beer had nothing of the sort. Okay, whatever.  On the nose, solid notes of both coffee and chocolate were present. To boot, there was an underlying tone of some mystery "sweet". I can't be sure what it was, but it certainly added to the allure of the aroma.  

The first aspect of the tongue that strikes you is the thickness.  Very syrupy and very smooth. Very.  Smooth.  At this point, the chocolate and coffee notes become even stronger while the hops notes (basically undetectable in the aroma) start to move along.  By the time you swallow it, the hops have pushed to the front and you are left with a very satisfying but very subtle dryness.  

What a superb drink. Narwhal, the mammal, is apparently still a very mysterious creature.  Narwhal, the beer?  There is no mystery. Buy this beer.   Five out of five.  

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