Monday, December 26, 2011

Ægir: Natt Imperial Porter – A testimony to excellence and elegance

Ægir’s brewery is nestled in the tiny and majestic fjord town of Flåm, Norway, and the brewery’s arrival to the scene there really completed Flåm as an attractive tourist destination. Ægir’s brews are noteworthy for their subtleness; indeed, it often takes a very perceptive palate to identify all the particularities in Ægir’s flavor complexes, as compared to Nøgne Ø’s more “in your face” approach, or so it seems. Both qualities are good, but this difference is why I sometimes prefer Nøgne Ø’s brews: You don’t have to work as hard to draw out and identify the different tastes. 

I’ve managed to sample Natt Imperial Port on three separate occasions, and this brew just seems to taste better and better over time. Like other Ægir products, Natt’s characteristics are subtle and delicate; they threaten to escape the attention of a causal drinker. In my view, this is one of the best Ægir products and is probably in my list of top five beers I’ve tasted in 2011. Life in the glass starts with a dark brown – almost black – color with a small but well retained tan head. The lacing is tight and sticky, although the most recent sample I’ve had was a bit weak in the lacing. 

Generally speaking, Natt Imperial Porter’s aroma is not amazingly powerful, but is instead loaded with subtle complexities, including faint hints of licorice, chocolate, berries, sweet malt, and more. But coffee seems to be a dominant aroma. The creamy mouthfeel and generous carbonation are accompanied by a variety of flavors, notably coffee, toffee, caramel, and licorice. There’s a wonderfully bitter climax right before the finish, leading to nutty and licorice flavors that seem to linger on for a few minutes while competing for the palate’s attention. What’s surprising about this is how easy it is to drink, largely due to the virtual absence of any alcohol taste, despite its 10 percent ABV. Natt Imperial Porter does lose some of its balance as the temperature exceeds 12 Celsius (54 f) and the alcohol flavor comes alive.

Overall, Natt Imperial Porter is a testimony to Ægir’s crafting excellence and elegance. While its price is awfully high, I strongly recommend sampling this. But do so with the expectation of having to work a bit to sort out the aromas and tastes. 



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