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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

796 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
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 JGlitz87
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black and nearly opaque. Slight tan head.

S: Roasted malts. Little bit of chocolate

T: Lots of flavor. Roasted malts, chocolate, caramel, little bit of bourbon barrel taste. Slightly boozy.

F: Thick body and no carbonation. Very smooth. Hides it alcohol content well.

O: Very good beer. Not the best RIS I have ever had, but certainly good. Looking forward to see how it ages.

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Photo of LampertLand
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Sierra Nevada 'Narwhal' @ 10.2% , served from a 4pack of 341 ml bottles purchased for $14.50

A-pour is black from bottle to glass with some ruby red peeking thru the glass edge as a small tan head quicly dissapates leaving a streaky lace along the pint

S-smell is boozey , roasted coffee

T-crisp & clean 'RIS' , some smokeyness on the swallow

MF-low/mild carbonation , full bodied

Ov-ok/good beer , ok 'RIS' , the smokeyness dominates this brew

prost LampertLand

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Photo of jdhowe
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz bottle of 2013 vintage from Davis Beer Shoppe enjoyed on 1 September 2013. Reviewed from notes.

A: Pours an opaque black with 1 finger of mocha-colored head. Very little bits of light show brown through the edges of the glass. Minimal lacing is left down the glass.

S: Strong malts up front with roastiness and smoke predominating. Alcohol and some dark fruit are also evident and follow the stronger malt and smoke character.

T/M: Smooth and smoky up front with dark fruits following. Cacao mid-sip leads into roasted coffee bitterness on the finish. The mouthfeel is thick but not oily with plenty of carbonation.

O: The smokiness is a little strong, but otherwise I really enjoyed this beer. I'm a bit dismayed that I forgot to pick up a 4-pack before I left; the price point is pretty good.

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Photo of rayre
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a St. Bernardus Chalice.

A: As black as they come… thin brown head with good retention .

S: Roasted malts, coffee

T: Dark chocolate/Cocoa. Roasted coffee/malt

M: Very light for an imperial stout. Does not coat the mouth. Good carbonation.

Overall this an enjoyable everyday stout. The flavors are subtle, with good balance between the alcohol and malt. The mouthfeel is to my liking and a big plus to me. It's always nice to find stouts in a 12oz offering, and I could see myself rotating between Narwhal and Old Rasputin as far as stouts to keep on hand in a smaller format.

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Photo of Gatch
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Deep black with a dark brown head that's thick and creamy leaving decent lace and retention.

S: Great, sweet, roasted malt aromas with hints of molasses, dark fruit, currants, and some booze.

T: Big roasted malt paired with bittersweet chocolate and super dark coffee. A bit of earth, dark fruit, molasses, brown sugar, and warming, sweet booze.

M: Crazy smooth, massive flavor, and the right body and feel. Stellar at room temperature.

O: Everything is spot-on. A very well-crafted RIS. A fun and tasty sipper.

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Photo of TheMultiYeast
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours nearly opaque black with half a finger of head

Big immediate roasted character in nose, bittersweet malted chocolate, dark coffee, smoke, some booze..woody, earthy.

Some malty sweetness then smoky roasted goodness, bitterness, coffee again, lighter chocolate notes than aroma, nice bitterness to balance malt complexities..very nice..smoky bitter aftertaste.

Feel is everything I want from an imperial stout..thick, chewy, delicious.

Dope release!

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Photo of woosterbill
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle, 2012 vintage (obviously), into a Duvel tulip.

A: A straight pour yields a solid, dense light-brown head above a black body that glints crimson when held up to light. The head settles slowly and leaves some nice lacing. Lovely.

S: Spicy, with dark chocolate, spruce, and light booziness. The hops are huge, overwhelming everything else - but I expected no less from SN. Really nice, albeit in an almost Black IPA kind of way.

T: Follows the nose, but with a bit more malt richness - lovely brownie batter sweetness leads in to the highly bitter, spicy finish. Really intense, quite tasty, but a trifle harsh on the back end.

M: Creamy, substantial but not sticky. Excellent.

O: Really nice stout - reminds me a bit of '09 Imperial Stout Trooper, the year it was super hoppy. Good stuff.


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Photo of TheDoctor
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottled: 2013

Pours a murky black (opaque) with ruby edges in the light, skiff of brown head evaporates to nothing but an anemic ring. Little retention; minimal arcs of lacing. (3.5)

Chocolate and molasses. Baker's chocolate, coffee, molasses, figs, woodsy leather, subtle alcohol. (4.25)

Chocolate and coffee. Bitter chocolate on top of cocoa, with some baker's chocolate for good measure, dried dark fruits, coffee, roasty malt husks. (4)

Medium-full bodied, with well-hidden alcohol, low carbonation, a little less sludgy than some. Fairly clean finish (4)

Very good RIS.
Tons of bitter chocolate with some oak and leathery characteristics pretty evely distributed as well.
Pours about like a boozy beer does (not all of them, though, hence my lowered score) with a bittersweet nose. The port-black liquid isn't super thick but tastes about like the aroma, but with a creamy sweetness in the finish and a pretty drinkable presence on the ol' palate. Big, but not needlessly so.
Would have again; well-worth a try. (4.25)

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Photo of SawDog505
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured down the middle of a 16 oz snifter, bottled on the 279th day of the year, and close to room temperature like the brewer would suggest. Pours a slick midnight black, with a massive 3 inch brown head that coats the sides of the glass with lace. The smell is anise, coffee, chocolate, and hints of smoke, balanced very well. Taste is very aggressive with all those flavors, probably will mellow with time, I will definitely hang on to a case of these to see what time will do, not complaining. Body is medium large, plenty of life especially for its size, a little dry as you should expect, and very approachable. This is a wonderful and affordable imperial stout at $8.99. Sierra does it once again!

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Photo of hardy008
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours black with a 1 1/2 inch foamy tan head, with nice retention and lacing. Smells like dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, and cocoa.

The flavor is nicely balanced with dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, and cocoa. Both bitter and sweet, without being overly bitter or overly sweet. Very nicely balanced.

Medium to full bodied with mild carbonation. Creamy, and the alcohol is very well hidden for having an abv of 10.20%. Very nicely made, and a must try.

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Photo of ZBowden
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours pitch black with a small tan head, smells of roasted malts chocolate caramel slight hops, tastes boozy malty chocolatey caramel slight piney hops, thick chewy mouthfeel.

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Photo of tykechandler
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A- pours black, little head, but with great lacing

S- malty, maybe some chocolate

T- boozy, with roasted malts, chocolate, tobacco. this beer is hot, with the slightest bit of a hop backbone. pretty intense shit.

M- feels so nice and thick. i love it.

O- nice, but pretty over-the-top. i am really glad i have another that i am aging. i have a feeling this will be just incredible in a year or two. it's good right now, but there's no way it doesn't get miles better.

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Photo of dbossman
4.09/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Black with a solid but fairly quickly dissipating head; beautiful lacing

S: Big roasty coffee beans; some dark fruits; hoppy bitter up front with a sweet chocolatey malt undertone; this is a big beautiful and delicious spelling beer

T: Deliciously bitter and roasty; quite a bit of booze but the coffee and chocolate come rushing in afterwards; I wish it had more sweet balance--quite bitter in the finish (though I imagine this will improve with some age)

F: Creamy and viscous

O: A nice, thick, boozy stout; I wish it had more balance though; like I said, this will get better with age

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Photo of drdiesel9483
4.09/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Look - very dark brown color. Great brownish head that last for a good amount of time.
Smell - I can smell the alcohol, chocolate, and lots of coffee.
Taste - coffee taste with some alcohol. Sweet chocolate taste as well.
Feel - smooth, with great medium carbonation.
Overall - I let this beer sit for about 6-9 months and it was fantastic.

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Photo of Nugganooch
4.09/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle w/ a nonic style sampler glass

A: SN Narwhal pours black with a thin coffee brown edge. Semi-thick and oily but not sludgy at all. A few fingers of mocha tan head succumb to the large air pockets rather quickly leaving behind just a collar that dots the glass with cling.

S: Smells of dark malted grains with a lightly roasted coffee redolence. I am getting waves of earthy pine and bakers chocolate. There is a hint of smoky char rounding out the nose. Aromas come together not unlike chocolate cake in the glass which is really quite nice.

T: Super dark roast malt flavors rich with a dark chocolate sweetness. Spent coffee accompanies an ample piney bitterness that peaks towards mid palate. I am getting lots of earthy charcoal throughout and some toasted herbs at the finish. Light alcohol warmth. Smooth, tasty, and delicious. A really well rounded Impy from the Chico boys.

M: Moderate to heavier in body with a nice even carbonation. Provides a smooth creamy texture with a slight crisp hoppy bite on it. Finish is sleek and wet.

D: Some crazy dark roast character here with impeccable balance as to be expected from Sierra. Generously hopped at that. Narwhal wont size up to most whales,bro but this an instant classic if there ever was one. Smooth and very approachable for the style.

As if I needed another reason to love this brewery SN delivers anyway.

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Photo of ac22rush
4.09/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black and oily like the deep dark waters inhabited by the Narwhal. Some dark khaki foam lines the outside of the glass that gives way to some delicate lacing.

Smells like dark chocolate, raspberries, burnt caramel and cherries.

Taste, great dark and carmel malt profile up front comes nice and sweet warming the soul, then all those great magnum and challenger hops come in on the back end giving this brew wonderful balance.

Overall: This brew lives up to the high standards found in every other Sierra Nevada beer a benchmark imperial stout any craft beer brewer could aspire to. Cheers!

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Photo of woemad
4.09/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle from a 4-pk purchased at J.B.’s in Spokane for $10.99. It was literally the last they had of it, which was fitting, as I somehow missed this when it was released. The name reminds of an utterly absurd moment in the movie Elf.

Super viscous-looking when poured into a funky Sam Adams glass. From the looks of it, I could run my car off of it. Modest tan head that dropped fairly quickly into a sudsy ring, but never quite disappeared. Spotty and streaky lace.

Fairly standard aroma for the style. I get brown sugar, coffee, and chocolate. The high abv percentage is not noticeable in the smell.

A little more bitter tasting than the nose indicated, but that helps balance things nicely. In addition to the qualities I noted above, there’s also a prune-like dark fruit flavor, and a little bit of smoke. Quite dry at the swallow. Again, there’s no sign of the high alcohol content.

Fairly full-bodied, with a sticky mouthfeel.

A very tasty addition to the Imperial Stout ranks. Not quite as complex as some, but still very good. Dangerously drinkable at 10.2% alcohol - not a session beer! Glad to see SN do this style of beer.

"Goodbye Mr. Narwhal."

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Photo of MarioM
4.09/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into Delirium tremens snifter.

A: Dark tan creamy head with medium lacing when swirled. Head mostly dissipated to a thin film in about a minute or two. Dark but clear and medium carbonation.

S: Dark brown sugar, dark roasted malt, chocolate and some dark fruits like raisins and figs as well.

T: Wow, I had to double check the abv because this is so smooth... Very drinkable. Light roastyness, not as sweet as the aroma, fruitiness is not very present as well. Good dark roasted character with some well balanced dark chocolate bitterness that lingers with just a tad bit of alcohol presence at the end. Great beer with just enough sweetness to balance it out but not a syrupy mess at all. Does not feel like its as big as it is.

M: Medium bodied and drinkable. Slight roasty sweetness at the beginning with a nice bitterness in the middle and finishes with a great alcohol dark chocolate mix.

O: Can't believe its a 10.2 % beer, first sip seemed like I was drinking a nice smooth roasty chocolaty oatmeal stout. Will be buying this again, especially for its price. Definitely a hard choice between this and Old Raspy... Need to do a side by side but highly recommend this beer. Prime example of why Sierra Nevada is as great as they are.

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Photo of Brenden
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pouring motor oil-thick and a mean-looking black, Narwhal's got the look of a big imperial stout. A thick, tight brown head sits at one finger in height on this brew. It recedes after time, leaving a pretty heavy ring of lacing at the top with some legs to follow.
The aroma takes some time to pull out completely, but this beer's full of big, malty goodness with heavy notes of roast, lots of espresso, and unsweetened chocolate. As it warms, a gentle sting of alcohol comes out from underneath.
In the flavor, it's clear the brewers chose to go against the cloying sweetness of some other big stouts; in fact, this one nearly foregoes the sweetness altogether for a different profile entirely. The espresso and very-much-unsweetened baker's chocolate are the flavor highlights, but a touch of something like molasses along with a bit of charcoal make for a stronger, more bitter taste (in a good way). A bit of (very) dark fruits linger underneath if you know where to search.
The feel is thick, rich and robust. Somehow very heavy isn't too heavy for this beer, as it doesn't just sit on the palate or weigh it down. Instead, it moves very nicely, with a downright velvety creaminess on the tongue through every sip. There's a crisp nip that doesn't get too much in the way.

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Photo of yamar68
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Classic imperial stout appearance... near pitch black, an edge of copper clarity, a finger of khaki head that recedes to a dense collar.

Fresh coffee notes, burnt chocolate... quite impressive actually.

I was a bit skeptical of this beer but Sierra Nevada nailed it - it's a textbook example of the style. Smooth chocolate and a hint of coffee, slight vanilla notes, entirely delicious.

Very, very good.

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Photo of rlee1390
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A-Black, some carbonation, one finger brown head.

S-Roasted malt, slight chocolate, some coffee as well.

T-Very malt heavy, dark chocolate, coffee, some burnt notes. Mild Bitterness in the finish.

M-Medium to heavy bodied, some carbonation, smooth.

O-Glad to see Sierra Nevada making an Imperial Stout. Now to try aging some.

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Photo of dbrauneis
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

A: Pours a clear but opaque jet black in color with light to moderate amounts of gentle carbonation along the edges of the glass and some faint crimson red + cola brown highlights. The beer has a finger tall dense foamy dark tan head that slowly reduces to a thin film covering the majority of the surface of the beer and a medium thick ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of roasted malts with lighter notes of cocoa, espresso, and dark fruit (raisin and plum). There is also a light aroma of anise/licorice and ash.

T: Upfront there is a moderate flavor of roasted malts and slightly burnt malts with a light amount of ashiness. That is followed by light flavors of anise/licorice and some light notes of dark fruit sweetness (raisin and plum stand out). Finally there is a moderate flavor of freshly brewed espresso and hints of bittersweet chocolate. Overall the beer is moderately bitter with a lingering bitterness.

M: Slightly heavier than medium bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation.

O: This is a really nice big stout - the alcohol is well hidden but this is definitely a sipping beer (and best served on a cold autumn/winter evening by the fireplace). Nice roasty flavors but a little ashy so folks that don't enjoy that would be better off not grabbing this one.

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Photo of Maxwell
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

The beer pours a deep coffee black with a dark khaki head that fizzes away quickly. The body is opaque and dark with no carbonation bubbles present. Lacing is sticky and cloud-like, though thin. The beer smells like dark coffee and dark chocolate. Roasted malts are very present in the nose and give the beer a beautiful overarching feel of “Big Stout” which is precisely what I want from this beer, but there are also some slight notes of toffee and caramel which add complexity to the nose. The beer tastes wonderfully rich with roasted malts that suggest black creamy espresso. Chocolate is also present, equally as creamy, and very dark. The bitters are light and slightly citrusy in the background of the taste, but there are some rough charred notes in the flavor. The beer begins as black coffee, transitioning into dark chocolate with light citrus bitters from the hops. The close is bitter black coffee and slight hints of the citrus hops which come through strongly if you force yourself to belch. The alcohol is pretty hidden in this beer, with just a hint of it showing through at the open of the sip but quickly being lapped up by the roasted malts. The does return lightly in the aftertaste as a weird slight burning tingle. This flavor is very classic as far as imperial stouts go, though I’m not quite sold on the Russian imperial stout bit. The beer is a perfect example of the style but nothing above and beyond it. The mouthfeel of this beer, however, is one of the best I have ever felt. Creamy and thick, this beer sits on the tongue as an angelic liquid; it leaves the tongue coffee dry, with light wet notes on the very fringes of the mouth. Saliva is thick and chewy when it does run, and it begs for more. This is legitimately what makes this stout. The mouthfeel is incredible, even if it is a little strange for a stout. Overall, I’m pleased with this stout. I kind of wanted more in terms of flavor, especially in the hops category, but the mouthfeel makes up for most of my complaints. The taste is classically average, but the mouthfeel is above and beyond. This beer is worth a try, especially since Sierra Nevada does so few stouts. I know I’ll be cellaring at least one of the bottles for quite some time. This beer is obviously not the top of the style, but it is fantastic, drinkable, and has a mouthfeel to die for. Try this beer and you will not be displeased.

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Photo of watermelon
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a tulip and finished in a snifter.

A: Pours an inky black with a thick carmel head. Excellent retention and tons of lacing. This is everything one would hope to see when drinking an RIS.

S: Chocolate and dark fruits in the nose as well as lots of toasted malt. Alcohol in the nose could have one thinking this was BA. Nose could have gotten more points if it was stronger. and more complex.

T: Lots of chocolate up front. Lots of roasted flavors some licorice. Bitter flavors on the back end, its hard to tell whether these come from hops or coffee notes. Some alcohol present as this warmed up but fairly well hidden for a 10.2 percent beer.

M: Nice and oily up front lots of chewiness as well. There is a bit astringency on the back end which I could do without. Some alcohol warmth but not much considering the ABV.

O: I really enjoyed this. I would love to see a barrel aged version of this. I think Im going to let my last bottle sit to see if aging mellows out the hop bite a bit. For the price defiantly pick this up.

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Photo of elNopalero
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

UPDATE: May, 2013

This pours a dark black brew with a cocoa colored foam topping. There’s an aroma of sautéed mushrooms which dominates. It’s earthy and mellow with a dialed back roast profile. I get mushrooms & soy sauce as I nose and sip. The flavor has a mellow roast with soy sauce & mushrooms dominating. It warms well and remains a smooth sipper. Six months out on this and I found it much more enjoyable than fresh.


I have slain the Narwhal!

This beast pours a pitch black with a thin layer of foam. Aromas of dark roast coffee, dark chocolate and a sharp espresso dominate. The flavor has a hop forward bitterness as well as the coffee and espresso characteristics. An earthy mushroom taste develops as it opens as well as some soy sauce characteristics. The body is sharp but somewhat off balance. I get a dark chocolate flavor and sharpness, when what I want is more velvety smoothness to ease such a rich brew along. While it holds up to warming it is still hot with a noticeable alcohol presence. It strikes me as having some rough edges that could be softened with a little more time to rest.

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