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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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796 Reviews
no score

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Reviews: 796
Hads: 4,537
Avg: 4.13
pDev: 23.24%
Wants: 264
Gots: 1,166 | FT: 43
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.20% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 796 | Hads: 4,537
Photo of Bouleboubier
4.3/5  rDev +4.1%

(2014 version, packaged 07/24/14 - poured into a balloon)

A: just about jet black... dark tan foam, with some staying power, perhaps due to high-hopping

S: huge cappucchino roastiness with hints of black chocolate and a whisper of medicinal booze... piney hops out the ass... very bold aromas and quite inviting

T: cascading layers of intense roasted flavors roll and fold over the palate, while the back end bitterness and booze slowly fans out into and through the back part of the throat, stopping there and burning like a bonfire against a concrete wall, while falling quite short of traveling down the throat with any malt viscosity or hop resins - this is all on the first sip... subsequent sampling reveal more biting bitterness, dark chocolate, and a subtle spiciness, likely derived from a blend of (mostly) fusels and a healthy dose of the Magnum (sorry, Challenger's colorful personality gets swallowed up and wasted here)... not what you'd call 'sweet' this is

M: medium-bodied but built rugged and sturdy... everything drops off midway down the palate... soft, whiskey-like parching effect, but its heat stings... supremely bone-dry

O: roast, coffee, malt, hops, booze - that's the name of this game... it'd be nice to see how this develops over time, but I'm diggin' it for what it's got right now... I can't figure out why, but this tastes like a SN product - must be something in the water

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Photo of garymuchow
4.3/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Kinda stumbled upon this - wasn't looking for it, barely knew it existed, and there it was.
Poured into SA glass - black as coal with a rather big head for style, but it too is very dark. There is no light shining through anywhere.
Real nice coffee aroma. Pleasant and not over-powering. HInts of dark fruit.
Wow, nicely complex. Again with apparent coffee flavors. Sweet dark fruit up front. Then that passes through to more darker malt, but not necessarily roast, before hitting the roast/coffee flavors. New and fresh so it still has some sharpness. This combined with the carbonation brings it on even more. Alcohol in some warming effect, but really limited otherwise. Coffee flavor linger and assists in the adequate somewhat drying finish.
Smooth, even with the fresher carbonation. Moderately heavy, but really not much bigger than that.
Well done RIS. Especially with making it drinkable and not overwhelming for a beer of this size. I tend to like a little age on these, and I will give some bottles that opportunity. But having said that, this works well this fresh

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Photo of scottfrie
4.3/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle into snifter. 2012 four pack.

A: Pours black with a finger of milk chocolate head that quickly faded into a dense film.
S: Big chocolate, big hops (pine), with a well-integrated background roast. Vanilla and fudge are noticeable, with coffee being lightly detectable.
T: Follows the nose with rich and creamy notes of chocolate fudge, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, pine hops, hop resin, and vanilla. The finish is full of roasted malt and maybe a hint of coffee, and the aftertaste is bitter but smooth. There is a slightly boozy quality to the finish as well, but it’s not distracting.
M: Full body but not motor oil, with a very smooth and drinkable mouthfeel. Carbonation is fuzzy, soft and airy.
O: In a couple months to a year this beer will be drinking great. I love it now, but for those who want the bitter hops and the slight alcohol presence to fade away, sit on a few bottles. Thank you SN for release this as a four pack.

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Photo of Rollzroyce21
4.3/5  rDev +4.1%

Poured a 2012 vintage into a stemless wine glass on 22-Sep-14 (aged about 2 years).

Much smoother than fresh and the roasty chocolate flavors are holding up real well.

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Photo of samtrillo
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%

Black with no head and minimal lacing.

The nose is of cocoa and coffee and sweet malt.

The taste is much more pronounced. It reminds me of a dark chocolate covered coffee bean! A toasted essence to the malt. The back end of the taste profile brings to mind dark fruits, bittersweet craisin.

The mouthfeel is smooth and a little warm. Low carbonation. Very easy drinking for such a big beer in taste and ABV. Overall an excellent Russian Imperial.

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Photo of HattedClassic
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

The beer pours a decent foamy and tan head that dissipates quickly. The beer leaves some rather nice lacing around the glass. The beer itself is more of a really dark brown that borders on black instead of an actual black color or at least a black color with really dark brown notes.

The beer smell has unusually strong toffee notes for an imperial stouts. The beer has the usual light, bitter hops and roasted malt with dark chocolate smell. However, the roasted malt notes are fairly light and the toffee notes from the malt are front and center, which pulls the other notes together. The smell also has a very light alcohol note and licorice notes.

The beer taste is more roasted and more chocolatey than the smell. The licorice taste is very slight while the toffee taste is still fairly prominent. There is no real alcohol taste. The hops add a very interesting flavor to the mix. The hops give the beer a nice, underlying bitterness but it also enhances the fruitiness of the taste that follows it into the aftertaste.When the beer warms up a little, the beer has a nice toffeeish with dark chooclat taste that comes out very well.

The mouthfeel is heavy bodied with a little carbonation. However, the beer itself is very smooth and goes down very easily compared to other imperial stouts.

Overall, a very good imperial stout and worth getting when it's available. The taste is more complex and certainly different from other stouts because of the greater focus on the toffee flavor as opposed to the roasty and chocolate flavors that most other stouts have. I would definitely recommend picking this up when you can.

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Photo of DrinkMoreBigBeers
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle has a date of 285

A - Pours out thick deep dark brown, once in the glass it pitch black. Produces a nice finger worth of dark rich mocha head which dissipates rather fast leaving big bubbles along the glasses edge.

S - Right away I get a nice bold-sharp sweet bitter roast with dark chocolate, wood. No alcohol detected. A nice swirl of the beer in the glass really gets the aroma's going and is a must which helps release this beers nice bold nose. I could smell this all night!

T - Right away this one is creamy, with a rich dark roast, cocoa nibs, anise, slight raisins, bitterness in the finish that lingers. A rather nice sipper that delivers a massive flavor profile that keeps giving. Slight alcohol here but blends well with the rich flavors. Once I poured the yeast in it became more bold, and rather bitter. I suggest keep the last bit of yeast in the bottle.

M - This one is a full bodied smooth drinker, that does tingle the tongue from the bitterness. Carbonated well which keeps the flavors going over the palate. Some beers this full bodied leave a sticky residue but this one does not seem to.

O - I love SN and this one delivers. It is a sipper that is great in the cold weather season. It to bad it is hard to get a-hold of at this point in time. I believe this beer will become better with age because it has a pretty bitter aftertaste that kinda distracts from the dark flavors which I believe is from the hops. Also, this beer has some alcohol which will fade with age. It may get a higher rating when cellard for a while, but for now its just excellent. Cheers!

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Photo of toppoop
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - Aggressive pour into a snifter yielded a mighty head which shrunk down to a thin layer over the top. Slight lacing throughout.
S - Chocolate and booze dominate the nose with a touch of coffee and molasses.
T - Dark chocolate hits first with the booze to follow which clings to the palate for some time after a taste. A touch of bitterness at the end.
M - Very nice. Full and silky, clings to mouth and stays for some time. Very balanced carb as well.
O - Very good RIS. Think I'm really gonna enjoy this a lot more after some time in the cellar.

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Photo of JMScowcroft
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Narwhal Imperial Stout, poured into a Fiddlehead snifter.

Look - Pours a medium thickness brown-black oily with a 1" fizzy mocha head that dissipates quickly. Good lacing.

Smell - Roasted malts with baker's cocoa and some coffee notes.

Taste - Full bodied and dark chocolate with roasted malt. Quite good. Finishes roasted. Tasty.

Mouthfeel - Rests chocolate and roasted malt. Dry and slightly bitter. Not overly boozy at all. Good drinkability with low carbonation and a light-heavy body.

Overall - Super solid RIS. Another quality brew from Sierra Nevada!

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Photo of templar316
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I knew this would improve with time !! So much better now then when it first came out in nov(?). Pours thick and dark, no light, soft edgy lacing. Smell is slight in my Duval Tulip but the flavor burst's. There's vanilla here, sweet dark malt, and everything I want in a beer. Roasty coffee bitterness, cascade (and maybe willamette) hops. The rest of these will sit in basement till next winter. Perfect for 15 degrees.

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Photo of BriantheBeerGeek
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2013 (Brewed on the 214th day ) poured into DFH tulip glass.

A- Motor oil black like a Russian imperial stout should be.

S- WOW, getting a lot more tropical hoppy notes than I would expect from a RIS. Malt is present though with coffee , bakers cocoa, ripe banana, cherry, tobacco, slight espresso, molasses and leather.

T-Again, WOW. Definitely a SN take on an imperial stout. Everything I look for in a RIS but with lots of hop presence. I imagine that the malt will come out more with age. Definitely one to set back a 4-pack or two for a few years. Coffee, chocolate, fig, tropical fruits, licorice, lots of roasty malts, slight alcohol, very nice.

M-Huge, as it should be.

O-I wish SN would do more malt forward beers like this, one of their best. If you love imperial stouts this is a must have.

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Photo of BeerDawgs
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - Pitch black, with little head or lace. No other way to describe it!

S - Chocolate, hops, cocoa, sweet, dark grains

T - Wow..an amazing DStout. Sweet, but not too much, just right. Hidden ABV

M - Full bodied, well balanced.

O - One of the better stouts I have had. Well done Sierra Nevada!

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Photo of rodlavers
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Served in a pint glass, Narwhal pours about as black as you can get, with a thick and foamy mocha head, and lots of lacing.

Roasted malt and coffee aromas are dominant, but there is some chocolate in there as well.

Really roasted malt is the winner here, very prominent and present, with roasted coffee beans in there as well, just not too strong, which is a good thing, leaving out some bitterness. Taste is really nice.

Feel is the best part, super smooth and easy to drink, with amazing roast aftertaste.

Overall I am glad I finally had a chance to do a proper review; last time, I gave it a 4/5, but that was based on a 2-3oz pour after hours of drinking IPA's and other stouts, which was an injustice. Narwhal is a good and hearty stout. Cheers.

A few add-on comments. Slightly altering my review based on a my current view of Narwhal, which I justify by my evolving pallet -- no beer ever tastes EXACTLY the same each time

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Photo of heygeebee
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Briefly, looks on the money for an RIS, and rich and smooth on nose and taste. Velvety, mellow, luscious. Roasts, coffee, and dark choc to the fore, and less hoppy than we might expect from SN. Dry finish and less alcohol burn than you would think.

Overall, really solid and to style.

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Photo of facundoCNB
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

poured a thick black syrupy liquid into a tulip. two fingers of tan head and some nice lacing left behind. excellent retention. looks very nicely carbonated for a RIS.
smells of chocolate, dark roasted grains, dirt, coffee.
the taste is definitely different than most RIS i've had. nicely hopped up front. lots of very dark, rich notes. coffee, dark chocolate, tobacco, dirt.
a rich and creamy full body, slight alcohol warmth, mild carbonation. as the beer warms up, it develops more and more. i love drinks like this because they can last you a good amount of a night, tasting different every 5 minutes. you can barely taste or smell the alcohol. really bitter for a stout, which makes this one right up my alley.

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Photo of SebD
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: It has a beautiful jet black color to it. It has a nice thick dark tan head that stays around for ever and leaves lovely lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of sweet roasted malts, coffee, chocolate and dark fruit.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has a some sweet roasted malts, bitter coffee, dark chocolate, some dark fruit and an earthy hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: It has a low carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied with great flavors and aromas.

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Photo of jjchristiano
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Maybe the darkest beer I've ever poured. Held it up to a bulb in my desk lamp and the light did not shine through the beer.
S: chocolate, malt.
T: chocolate, malt, sweetness, low in IBU as I don't get any bitter hop. Little dark roasted coffee on the back side.
M: Smooth, lingering, soft carbonation.
O: A nice Imperial Stout in the Sierra Nevada lineup. I would buy again if I see it.

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Photo of LambicPentameter
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Reviewing from notes as I continue to catch up on past experiences. I drank this one on 2/22/14. Enjoyed out of a stubby 12 oz brown bottle with the vintage--2013--marked clearly on the neck label. Poured into a large snifter.

Appearance - Pours and inky black hole of color on the body, with no light able to penetrate whatsoever. A head of maybe a finger--probably a little less--of dark ecru colored foam that recedes quickly, leaving a generous film across the surface with slightly more thickness around the edges of the glass. Sparse, almost nonexistent lacing dots the glass intermittently as I drink it down.

Smell - Bittersweet baker's chocolate and roasted char from the malt profile are at the forefront, with a rich sweetness. There is also a slightly different element, with notes of anise, licorice and even black plum providing some complementary characteristics to the chocolate and roast elements.

Taste - The balance of the profiles in the smell have been reversed on the taste, with the fruit--plum, black currant, and prunes--and licorice elements being more overt and lingering on the palate long after I've swallowed. Some heat from the alcohol is faintly present, and the semisweet chocolate and roasted malt is there as well, but seems to provide more of a foundation than come through as the primary flavors.

Mouthfeel - Very full bodied and moderate-to-low carbonation, with a finish that lingers on the palate long after the beer is gone.

Overall, this is a very good imperial stout, and while I'm usually remiss to compare specific beers directly, I can't help myself. The body, look and feel remind me so much of my favorite RIS, Founders' version, that I think it's fair to note that they are cousins from the same family of oppressive (in a good way?) full-bodied stouts, but take different paths when it comes to aroma and taste. Where Founders is a bit drier, with a focus on cocoa, roast and coffee notes, this one leans more towards fruit and anise. My personal preference is towards the former, but this is surely top of the list when it comes to stouts that incorporate those dark fruits.

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Photo of ESPNman
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served in a The Glenrothes scotch snifter.

A - Pours a deep inky black, producing two fingers of thick mocha head. The head dissipates somewhat quickly, but leaves behind solid lacing. This looks like a thick and chewy Imperial Stout.

S - Lots of coffee and deeply roasted malt. Surprisingly little alcohol on the nose, although there is a hint of brandied fruit present. A bit of oak, leather, and chocolate round out the nose.

T - Much like the nose, but with more malt and chocolate. Not a lot of coffee present in the mouthfeel. It starts out extremely roasty, hits some of the chocolate with a hint of hop in the middle, and then finishes very sweet with a hint of alcohol. This one should age very nicely.

M - Thick, syrupy, chewy, and everything I look for in the style. This one really coats the mouth, and lingers for a while once you've swallowed. It's one of the sweeter stouts I've had recently, and leaves a sticky sugar finish on the palate.

O - This is another solid entry into SN's line of higher-alcohol 4-pack brews. It's a big Imperial Stout that's pretty similar to the 30th Anniversary Stout (I believe it was Ken & Fritz's). Chewy, high-alcohol, sweet, big, sticky... all of those characteristics that make a good Imperial Stout.

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Photo of BigBarley
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Live review! First ever Narwhal and I'm pretty anxious to give it a try.
A - Very dark, not quite as thick as a lot of RIS I've had lately, but still looks formidable. Head was atoundingly big, coming at about 2.5 fingers, and retaining 1.5 worth for quite awhile. (I pour hard, high, straight into the middle of the goblet so these things happen...) Head is deep khaki with good lacing.

S - Well... the first thing I smell is the Sierra Nevada Pineforest Hop Heavy Aroma (I think that's the official name at this point) with a definite roasty undertone. Smells much more like I'd expect a black IPA to smell like, but the black malt character is definitely there. Smells good, just not as RIS as maybe one would expect.

T - Not bad. Different. Exciting. Definitely not bad. You get hops throughout the whole mouth, I'll say that. But underneath is rich dark chocolate, deep bitter coffee and a very mild vanilla wrapping it all up. Sweet and exciting, while maintaining a unique balance between the aggressive hop profile and the black strong flavors of the stout body.

M - Creamy, velvety, thick. Not much carbonation, but works out in this beers favor. Smooth and delicious.

O - I was not let down, and I was definitely given a unique experience. I will drink this beer again!

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Photo of Tucquan
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had this on 2012-11-17 several other times (see notes) in Columbia, PA from a 2014 bottle. .

A - Opaque black with a brown 1-finger head and mild lacing.

S - Floral, brown bread, chocolate. Moderate level of aroma but very inviting.

T - Dark roasted malt, soy sauce/umami, significant char, smidge of dark chocolate, not too sweet, alcohol, pepper. Kind of brash when fresh but mellows nicely with age.. Finishes roasty and spicy. Good stuff.

M - Medium-heavy body and light-medium carbonation. Somewhat creamy yet dries pretty well.

O - Very enjoyable. Big flavors. Had this side-by-side with a 9-month old Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout and the Narwhal holds up quite well in comparison considering it doesn't have the bourbon influence. The KBS is smoother with more coffee, has a heavier mouthfeel and isn't as brash as the Narwhal - in other words, the KBS is better. I'm going to age some of the Narwhal to see if the brashness mellows out (it does - see notes)

Note: Had an aged one from 2012 on 2013-10-19 and the brashness has mellowed significantly. I like it better with a year on it. Had a 2013 vintage on 2014-11-15 and am finding it's equally delicious this time after aging a year. Had a 2014 vintage on 2015-10-03 and really enjoyed it. Raised my ratings a bit.

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Photo of alexgash
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle. Served at cellar temp.

Dark, well-used oil. Viscous. Finger and a half of thick, frothy, peanut shell brown head. Nice lacing. Rich nose of roasted malt, coffee, molasses, chocolate-y dark fruit, vanilla, and licorice. Also some herbal, piny, Scotch tape hops.

Roasted malt and coffee bitterness up front. Dark chocolate and figgy fruit sweetness fills in. Becomes more earthy, peaty, and bitter. Herbal, piny, numbing hop bitterness lasts through the finish. Vanilla and licorice around the edges. Warming. Full-bodied with a smooth, satiny feel. Very nicely done.

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Photo of BurgeoningBrewhead
4.27/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours like engine oil into a snifter; jet black with a thin brown head that fades into a loose topping of foam after a few seconds.
Smells of dark roasted metallic malt; coffee and chocolate, both dark and sweet. Simple but foreboding smell, unassuming but unapologetic.
Taste is very big, and much more complex than the smell suggests. Dark coffee and chocolate blends with sweet chocolate and dark fruit, as well as a thick booziness that warms as you drink.
Mouthfeel is thick and smooth, awesome.
Overall, this is a solid RIS. Definitely one of the more extreme examples, but a great one for those who love huge stouts.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.27/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter.
10.2% ABV, number code on shoulder.

A - Almost midnight black, Narwhal quietly fills the snifter, even with a tall pour. The result is a low mocha head which briefly tops the black before sinking into it's depths leaving a ring of foam and a few splashes of lace.

S - Quite simple and closed off at first, Narwhal rises from the depths to a cold but soft nose of rich maltiness that expands from cocoa to dark chocolate developing with raisin and prune, subtle dusty earthiness, and a faint hint of warming alcohol on the finish.

T - Narwhal's flavor starts just like the aroma; simple and somewhat closed off. Rich roasted malt develops into subtle undertones of dark, bitter chocolate and espresso notes with a dry cocoa finish.

M - Like a good imperial stout, Narwhal is thick and rich with a milk chocolate smooth, velvety feel that slowly turns dry and bitter and rough around the edges from the heavily roasted malts. Warming alcohol emerges as this creamy beer coats the throat as it warms up for one pleasing winter stout!

O - Sierra Nevada Narwhal employs dark, roasted malts to create a deep depth of flavor throughout this imperial stout changing as it warms. A welcome addition to Sierra Nevada's seasonal line up, Narwhal is a wonderful sipping beer that encourages reflection on the malts' presence and use.

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Photo of ONUMello
4.27/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 edition poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass
A: Pitch black color with a one-finger mocha colored head
S: Rich with coffee, cocoa, roasted malt and hops rounding it out
T: Also very rich with flavors that perfectly match the nose
M: Wow. Full-bodied, incredibly smooth but with a bit of a bite from the hops
O: This is a very well-made RIS that's incredibly enjoyable to drink

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 796 ratings.