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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

821 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 821
Hads: 4,657
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,235 | 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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 821 | Hads: 4,657
Photo of Pinknuggets
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottle into a Lawson's Sniffer

A:dark brown almost the color of black coffee with a very thin mocha head totally opaque throughout most of it

S: a deep aroma of roasted coffee beans and a hint of malt, very chocolatey and smooth right up my ally

T: yum the taste follows the nose lots of dark chocolate at first that then fades into a coffee flavor that quickly mixes with the bitterness of the malt. The finish is roasted coffee and bitterness 4.5

M:thin for an IS smooth and easy to drink and it definitely will warm you up on a cold night. Very low carbonation doesn't blow me away.

O: I really like this one balanced taste and true to the style the abv is well hidden. Above average imperial stout and good for being readily available but not my favorite

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Photo of thegodfather1076
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Presentation: Label overall look is phenomenal from the front,to the graphics. Front label has a bit of brewery info. Back label gives an awesome back story on the beer as well a short description of the beer, ABV info, and web info. Neck label states 2012 and the name of the beer.

Appearance: I allowed this to warm 10min before pouring from its 12oz bottle into a 16oz snifter. Narwhal pours out a deep dark brown almost black with a 2 finger reddish brown head of a medium density. Head retention was a bit of a disappointment last 1min 46sec before fading to an even thin foam film and a thin ring. Very nice lacing left behind! 4/5

Smell/Aroma: Smell has a licorice or herbal bite along with hints of dark fruit and a slight charred smokey woodiness. Hints of dark chocolate, roast coffee, and a molasses sweetness. Slight hints of alcohol can be detected. Very Complex!

Flavor/Taste: Taste starts with an herbal maybe licorice flavor that fades to a slight vanilla and dark fruit flavor. Middle is dominated by a charred woody dark chocolate and roast coffee taste. Finishes dry with a charred coffee malt flavor. A slight alcohol bite can be detected. Complex and intense!!!

MouthFeel/Drinkability: Full bodied and thick with a smooth mildly creamy mouthfeel. As drinkable as a 10% Russian Imperial Stout can be.

Overall/Comments: This is a very fine representation of the style that is robust and very complex. Does a good job masking the alcohol. May pick up a few of these to put away. Classified as a Russian Imperial Stout @ 10.2 ABV. Consumed 2/26/13.

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Photo of BlackBelt5112203
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter at cellar temperature.

L – Black color with a 3.5 frothy, rocky, tan head. Really nice retention and some good lacing.

S – Lots of dark fruits like plums and figs plus chocolate, vanilla, molasses, and some roasted coffee.

T – It starts off a little bit hot and then the sweet flavors of chocolate, molasses, dark fruits, and vanilla shine through. Big bitter roasted coffee shines through at the finish.

F – Full-bodied with good carbonation, a slick and velvety smooth mouthfeel, and a bitter finish. Bitter roasted coffee flavors linger nicely along with a mild throat-warming sensation from the alcohol.

O – This is a nice imperial stout. The dark fruit and chocolate sweetness is nicely balanced with the bitter roasted malt. It’s also ridiculously drinkable considering the high ABV. I’m glad I got to try this one out.

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Photo of SerialTicker
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I'm surprised that this beer "only" scores a 92... what in the. Poured into a shaker pint.

Appearance: Pitch black. Tan head. Poured nicely. A bit of lacing, but not much.

Smell: Chocolate. Some smoke. A lot of roast. Not much in terms of dark fruits.

Taste/feel: Well, that's some damn good stuff. Chocolate and roastiness, as you'd expect. Some smoke. Dark fruits in there a little bit (mostly as it warms), but not too much. Alcohol is hidden well as far as flavor goes, but there's a definite warmth there. A bit more "harsh" than some other RIS's, I suppose. The feel isn't quite as full bodied as some others I've had, which is a slight knock, but still excellent. Drinks a bit too easily.

Fantastic beer. Not much else to say about that. Underrated, in my opinion. Stands up well to some other, perhaps more popular, RIS's.

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Photo of BWED
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12 oz. bottle poured into a tulip.

A- Black. Dark brown head. Lingers at a quarter inch. Great lacing.

S- Big bittersweet roast. Chocolate and coffee. Alcoholic sting in the nose.

T- Relatively sweet. Chocolate is up there, but there is still a mild earthy hop bitterness. I was expecting that from SN.

M- Nice and thick. Bitterness comes out with a bit of astringency, but the sweetness is the the main component.

O- Really great. I was expecting a fair contribution of hops, but the sweetness, dark chocolate character was a good surprise. And stronger than one would think.

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Photo of dtivp
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a very dark brown, near black with a one finger dark tan head that fades quickly into a thin ring with very little lacing.

Aroma of dark roasted malt, dark coffee and chocolate.

Taste of dark roasted malt, nuts, dark roasted coffee with a slight sweet balance of chocolate and molasses.

Moth Feel was medium leaning full body with very little carbonation, creamy and the alcohol is very well masked, there is very little boozy warmth for a 10.2 % ABV beer.

Overall this is a very nice RIS, well balanced with a slight sweetness off setting some of the dark bitterness. This is a nice sipping beer on a relaxing evening.

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Photo of stephenjmoore
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours pitch black with an enormous thick mocha colored head.

S- Roasted malt, chocolate malt, cocoa powder, bitter dark chocolate.

T- Very malty with roasty flavors coming through the most with chocolate malt. The middle to end has notes of bitter dark chocolate that lingers as an aftertaste. There is a noticeable hop bitterness in there as well, along with a slight coffee flavor.

M- Full bodied, heavy, but drinkable, medium carbonation, smooth and frothy.

O- I am actually surprised with how different this beer tastes than other RISs. Very complex combination of flavors that border on cluttered, but make it a unique offering.

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Photo of thecheapies
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

750th Review. Sunday night beer fun with Sierra Nevada Narwhal. 12oz stubby bottle-dated November 2, 2012. Poured into a wide-mouthed snifter.

Pours black with some end-of-the-bottle sizzurp. The crema-colored head amounted to about a third of an inch and dissipated, eventually, to a wall-clinging ring. Decent legging. Looks good.

Black roastiness with embers of dark fruits and booze burning out in the nose. Big whiffs gather fragrances of black licorice, raisin paste, spicy alcohol, overkilned barley, cocoa, saltiness, charcoal, and a blown kiss of smoke. Lots of appealing earthy aromas throughout. A touch of floral hops make their way into the olfactory summary.

Very spicy burst at the beginning; a combination of gruff malt bitterness, roasty char, Challenger hops, and a rye presence. Cocoa solids, espresso, extreme roastiness, dark-skinned fruit, light licorice, baked earth, and bitter oats. A transient and subtle fruit flavor of peach is barely noticeable in the middle before drying out again and carrying out with char and strength in the finish. Almost contains a very mild chili heat.

Medium-thick. I like the boisterous spicy feel of the alcohol and hops. Carbonation is lower-medium and creates even more of a tickle.

An excellent beer for a windy cold night such as this. The weather's getting worse, the night's getting better.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I found a lonely four pack of this when I went to Gary's to pick up 2013 Bigfoot, and brought it home with me. Glad I did.

In a snifter this beer was black, really black, with just a rim of tan head.

Strong roasted malt aroma. Coffee. Charcoal.

The taste was mostly strong coffee, even a little bit on the burned side. There was a little bit of chocolate.

A dry, burned feeling in the mouth. Astringent.

Nice beer.

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Photo of geodonnokepyo
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

pours black with a creamy tan head that lingers around for a while. decent lacing.
aroma is not very pronounced but i can pick up dark chocolate and coffee.
Taste is like dark chocolate with a little roasted coffee.
The hop bitterness is the perfect amount to tickle the taste buds.
not extremely viscous like some beers of this style get.smooth and a tiny bit chalky at the end. the mouthfeel is really good.
overall this is a very nice imperial stout

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Photo of Roguer
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Solid, perfectly black brew, 1/2 finger light tan head, quickly fading. Thin but nice lacing.

Slightly boozy aroma, with a hint of grain, grapes, and cocoa.

Very nice bite to this stout: chocolate in abundance, some grapes, dry grain, and a very noticeable alcohol flavor. Sweet, but not quite overly so. Just a hint of burnt grain in the background.

Slight sting on the tongue, then it settles in with a wonderfully thick feel. Nice clinginess; almost powdery cocoa feel. The alcohol is definitely present, but it's in no way bad.

You know how reviews are always saying, "This beer hides a 10% ABV very well,"? Yeah, not so much here. That doesn't make it bad: it's thick, balanced, strong, and flavorful. It's got a very nice sweetness to it, but a nice bite to back it up. Excellent brew.

2013 vintage.

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Photo of WoodBrew
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Love this stout....Nice job Sierra Nevada! The beer pours opaque with off white head with slight lace. The scent has slight roast and espresso. The taste is has a slight maple syrup, dark chocolate and coffee flare. The mouthfeel is full in body with smooth carbonation. Overall this is great!

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Photo of Immortale25
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a Ninkasi Brewing pint glass. No readable freshness date.

A- Pours a densely opaque black color with a 1/4 inch light brown head that doesn't retain long before it becomes a thin ring around the edge of the glass and some light, wispy surface foam. Average lacing.

S- Dark chocolate and some roasty char aroma. Also a hint of vanilla and some molasses.

T- Packs a punch of dark roasted malt and plenty of hop bitterness. Alcohol is very subdued though and there are more notes of dark chocolate, molasses and black licorice. Aftertaste is bitter and heavy with more roast.

M- Creamy and chewy with medium-low carbonation and the most robust of bodies. So thick and dark, I feel like it's gonna stain my teeth and make me instantly gain five pounds.

O- What a bold offering from SN. It's sure to please stout lovers everywhere. I guess they figured, why mess around with dainty versions of the style? Go for the jugular! I'm glad they did. Great price tag for a 4-pack of high ABV beer, too.

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Photo of davey101
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage, bottled October 12, 2012. 12 oz bottle into a DFH signature glass.

A - Pours a dark black body with two finger mocha/red head. Settles into some thin edging. Solid amount of lacing and retention but nothing too impressive.

S - Roasted malt, coffee beans, cocoa powder and anise. Incredibly balanced. Just a great aroma.

T - Roasted malts lead into that signature SN grapefruit and pine hop profile. Finishes with bitter coffee beans and smooth milk chocolate. Just a touch of anise.

M - Smooth and creamy with nice carbonation. Alcohol is hardly noticeable and the beer really opens up as it warms.

O - This beer gets everything right, even as a fresh beer. Plus its SN so its at an amazing price and distribution. It seems less hoppy and intense than the the 30th Anny stout, but I really like this beer a lot.

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Photo of CuriousMonk
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Rustico's in VA. Pours jet black with a nice and dense tan head. Nose of sweet charcoal, coffee and chocolate. Flavors of a mocha forward stout with a fair bit of roast, dark nuts, and chocolate. Nice finish of bitter roasted coffee and hop bitterness which helps give it some length. This is a nice and complex stout from Sierra Nevada. A six pack of this is very reasonably priced as well. Welcome, Narwhal.

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Photo of superspak
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle into snifter, bottled on 10/5/2012. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1 finger dense dark tan head with great retention, that reduces to a small thin cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass. Aromas of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, dark bread, licorice, leather, tobacco, light pine, light smoke/char, and roasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roast/bready malt and light-moderate earthy hop notes; with good strength. Taste of huge dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, dark bread, licorice, leather, char, tobacco, herbal, light pine, light smoke, and roasted earthiness. Good amount of roast/char and herbal hop bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, dark bread, char, leather, tobacco, light smoke, and roasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible balance and complexity of dark/roasted/bready malt and earthy hop flavors; with a great roasted bitterness/sweetness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and fairly full bodied; with a very creamy and lightly sticky/chalky mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a slight warming present after the finish. Overall this is an awesome Russian imperial stout. All around great balance, robustness, and complexity of dark/roasted/bready malt and earthy hop flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the ABV. A highly enjoyable offering.

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Photo of ToasterChef
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A cellar temperature bottle poured into a small snifter.

It is a black beer with a small brown foam head. Lots of foam and film left behind when I swirl my glass.

It is has a big roasted malt aroma with some hints of chocolate. There is a s lightly boozy quality to the nose, but it isn't off-putting.

This is a very roasty beer! Lots of roasted, nearly burnt malts. A good amount of alcohol in the finish helps this beer feel very warm. There are some cocoa flavors that can be tasted once you get past the roasted malts.

As I said above, the beer is very warming. It has a small but sticky film that retains a small amount of sweetness. and a touch of burnt malts. The body is thick and carbonation is low.

This is a great winter Imperial stout. It's strong and warming and not too sweet. the roasted flavors make me want to drink this in front of an open fire. I'll get more of this beer.

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Photo of jzeilinger
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours pitch black and the head quickly dies down to leave a very thin lacing ring and a heavy cascade of bubbles when the snifter is swirled.

S - Roasted cocoa nibs, bittersweet chocolate, light charcoal & coffee beans, dark fruit is subdued and buried.

T - Dark roasted chocolate, dark fruit, coffee/expresso, charred oak, and chocolate bitterness that lingers on the palate.

M - Velvety smooth, soft carbonation, thick body and texture.

O - Sierra Nevada is coming on strong with some excellent big beers, this is yet another one worth seeking out for the stout lovers.

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Photo of bareju
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Bottle purchased in Ireland, left out of fridge for 15 minutes and poured into a pint glass.

A: Dark chocolate brown, almost black with a finger light brown head that recedes quickly and leaves a ring.

S: Very strong smell of chocolate and roasted malts, and a bit of alcoholic warmth just hidden under the surface - very nice. One of the best smelling beers I've ever had. The sheer strength of the smell is impressive.

T: Sweet chocolate followed by a bit of warm alcohol accompanied by a slight taste of cherry or fruity phenols. Warm alcohol lingers, slight bite in the mouth from the phenols, and finishes with dark roasted coffee and bitter hops. I really like the taste other than the phenols I'm picking up, the bite is a bit unpleasant. Phenols were replaced by spiciness as the beer warmed. Bitter coffee and hop taste lingers pleasantly long after the beer is gone. Tastes melded together cohesively as the beer continued to warm. Fruity taste ruins the taste for me a bit; reminds me of cherry cough syrup.

M: Full-bodied, creamy, low carb. Very easy drinking for a beer this big. Matches the sweetness of the chocolate and coffee notes excellently.

O: This is a very good beer, but the fruity part of the taste really threw me off. I'll have to pick up another bottle and see if I got unlucky or there's just something that I don't like. Everything but that one flavor is fantastic. Definitely didn't live up to its hype for me as far as taste goes, but still an enjoyable, if a bit disappointing, beer.

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Photo of Siriusfisherman
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pitchblack with a thick, creamy brown head. Excellent lacing. The aroma contains noticable alcohol and some esters, but is predominantly roasted coffee, chocolate, and dark fruit. A spicy/herbal hop character is detectable as well. The taste starts with a big bitterness and then sweet, roasted malt, very similar profile to the aroma. There is also a noticable alcohol taste that cleans out your mouth and allows the roasted flavors to linger. Slightly smoky on the tail end. The mouthfeel is full, but somewhat drying, carbonation and alcohol really cut the sweetness. It is briefly there but then suddenly your mouth starts to pucker and then the clean roasted notes are left.

Overall, this is a tasty brew. This is one of my favorite styles and Sierra Nevada does it justice. I would get this again, no hesitation.

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Photo of Dools9
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle poured into a Founders Snifter.

A: Black, black, straight up black. Two fingers of light brown head recede to a modest half finger and leaves big legs and lacing. Looks like a beast.

S: Upfront getting a big, bittersweet bakers chocolate component, sweet brownie batter, heavy roasted barley malt, some light espresso and caramel nuttiness.

T: Huge surge of smoky, mocha, cocoa nib, black bittersweet chocolate, black coffee, slightest citrusy/earthy hop presence, finishes dry and leaves a nice roasty aftertase. Not getting any booze on the taste whatsoever. Maybe a bit in the belly.

M: Medium to full, silky smooth, probably the best attribute of this beer, soft, velvety, and lush.

O: Very impressed, this was very enjoyable. It's basically everything I look for in a rock solid RIS and its super affordable. Glad I bought a 4 pack and will age a few to see how they develop if I can sit on them that long, we'll see. Well done SN.

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Photo of jtd1969
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Black n tannish head, Nice head retention and lacing typical Imperial Stout like

S - Chocolate, dark malts, some roast, little coffee

T - Roasty malts that finish with a delightful dark coffee taste. Chocolate tones through out

M - Heavy Medium body with medium carbonation. Nice hop finish, only a tad boozy after the after taste

O - A really good beer! SN has a winner here. I recommend any stout drinker to grab a 4 pack and try it out!.

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Photo of BierJager89
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: Black with a short brown head.

S: A touch of coffee and roasted malt in a weak nose.

T: Dark chocolate up front, a touch of floral hop character, roasted malt follows, then coffee in the finish with a touch of citrous and floral hop character at the very end.

M: Full bodied and smooth. Great.

O: One of my favorites from Sierra Nevada. Definitely recommended.

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Photo of mfavoino
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12 oz bottle on 19 Jan 13 at The Beer Stein in Eugene, OR.

A: Nearly pitch black with a finger or so of espresso head that settled to the rim of the glass. Very nice looking.

S: Strong burnt roasted malts, bitter chocolate, and a subtle coffee aroma.

T: Chocolate and a touch of alcohol heat hit my palate right away, then the dark roasted flavor came through. Some coffee bitterness, more chocolate, and dark fruits as it finishes. Left a strong roasted character lingering.

M: Full-bodied and thick, lower carbonation, and a touch hot with the booze.

O: Very good offering from SN in the RIS category.

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Photo of brother_kenneth
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Deeply black and fairly thick, with a nice amount of tan colored head. This dissipates rather quickly, although a minimal amount remains through the end.

S- Right up front are big notes of dark roasted malt, coffee, and dark chocolate. There is even a bit of caramel or toffee in the nose, along with the barely noticeable alcohol.

T- Wow, super roasty! This is not a sweet imperial stout by any means. Main thing here is bitter, dark chocolate (really, really dark) and plenty of roasted, burnt malt character. There is also a hint of booze on the back end. Medium body, creamy, and just barely carbonated -- excellent mouth feel.

O- This is an impressive effort from one of my favorite "go-to" breweries. It is a huge imperial stout that I suspect would even do well in the cellar. I won't be able to find out though, because I drank all of mine!

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 821 ratings.