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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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793 Reviews
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(Send Samples)
Reviews: 793
Hads: 4,527
Avg: 4.13
pDev: 9.69%
Wants: 263
Gots: 1,164 | FT: 44
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: 793 | Hads: 4,527
Photo of russpowell
3.97/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours jet-black with 4 fingers of caramel colored head. Good lacing & average head retention

S: Roastyness & cocoa, some boozeyness, faint figgyness

T: Follows the nose, dark fruit as well, some charred grain & some booze rake across your tongue up front. Some coffee as this warms, a bit of carob & booze, plus some faint raisin, then a smattering of charred grain & roastyness, plus woody & herbal hops. Finishes dry, fruitty, with carob, roasty grains & the specter of ainise

MF: Fairly chewy with light carbonation, fairly warming. Carbonation perks up as this warms

A nice take on the style, I need to do a side by side with old Raspy, I don't this quite beats that , but kudos to Sierra Nevada for spreading its wings. Would buy again to be sure, a little less boozeyness would help the cause. Will age great I'm sure

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.68/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

The elusive Narwhal, this is 2012 brewed according to the coding system they use it's bottled on 2285210:23 that's 2012 285th day on the 2nd bottling line at 10:23 am. I couldn't pass this up even though they had fresh Hoptimum I sided with the Narwhal since I hadn't yet tried this imperial stout. Pours with a black velvet smooth texture, pitch black body fills up my Stone Imperial Russian Stout glass nicely. Big smooth creamy texture mocha tan head follows the body with fine speckled lacing, this beer has some legs as I swirl it around in the chalice. Aromatics are killer dark ripened vinous fruit notes with dark chocolate and roasted coffee, it's an excellent combination brewed in this glass. Even some brown sugar/molasses like malt character kicking in with subdued earthy hops well hidden by the roasted qualities of black patent malts. The perceived sweetness comes off as dark partially fermented cherries or plump juicy raisins or a combination of those two fruits, but there is a fruity sharp sherry character going on here. Flavor rides a wave of those dark malts but has a surprisingly sharp sweet slightly salty breathe of ocean quality, maybe a bit of soy sauce that I get from some imperial stouts...it's not overkill but a nice dose of something to offset the dark malts acrid roasted malt character. Definitely sweet cherry hidden in there with well blended alcohol, caramelized brown sugar, earthy herbal hops in the backend with some added bitterness bitter dark chocolate and hints of espresso bean reach the palate as well. Like I said initially this is a killer complex ale, full bodied even smooth carbonation it's a joy to have on the palate with each sip cleansing any lingering harshness away it's drinkability is downright dangerous one of the biggest easiest drinking imperial stouts I've ever come across.

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Photo of superspak
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
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 feloniousmonk
4.39/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Russian Imperial Stout. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, California. At last, after 30 years, an imperial stout from Sierra Nevada. Is it any good? Is there any doubt? Let's find out.

On tap. My second keg of the stuff, finally taking a moment to sit down and take notes on it.

Black as sin, under a lush, creamy brown head, leaving lace. Beautiful.

Aroma: plenty of cocoa, espresso, molasses, anise. Deep stuff.

Taste: Floods the mouth with thick, viscous, lush dark malt. Anise sparks up and leads the pack of the flavors found in the aroma, chocolate second, smoke and char are in their, too, amid espresso and the like. There's a fierce tug of war going on between bitter and sweet in this (plenty of hops below the massive malt.) Layers upon layers, wave after wave, intriguing and delicious. Vast, complex, richly rewarding.

Full-bodied, long, lush malty finish. With dark delight after dark delight. A sure hit for the stout fanatic. If you don't dig this, my friend, there's something wrong with you.

Although one thing I'm not entirely keen on is this: I can't think of the name of this beer without thinking of "Rock Lobster" by the B-52's.

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Photo of mdfb79
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 12/30/12 notes. Big thanks to BigSexy410 for giving me a bottle of this; don't think it has hit NYC yet and I've been wanting to try it. 12 oz. bottle poured into a pint glass.

a - Pours a pitch black color with one finger of dark tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Head lasts for a few minutes...looks fantastic.

s - Smells of roasted malts, bitter chocolate, vanilla, sweet chocolate, and some coffee. Nice nose, like it quite a bit. Nice nose amount of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts.

t - Tastes bitter chocolate, roasted malts, bitter coffee, espresso, vanilla, cream, toasted malts, burnt malts, some lightly sweet chocolate. Taste has more bitter chocolate and is lightly bitter overall.

m - Medium to full body more on the full side, and moderate carbonation. Body is pretty thick. No real heat to it.

o - Overall a really nice RIS; I love that it comes in 12 oz. bottles and would definitely buy a 4 pack of this if I saw it on the shelf. Loads of roasted notes and some bitter chocolate dominating the taste, it's quite nice and something I'd like to have again.

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Photo of chinchill
4.24/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12 oz 2012 bottle.

Unlike most people, I've had the barrel aged version of this prior to trying the regular version which I've cellared for a good while. Well, I'm happy to find that this regular RIS is exceptional if not quite as tasty as the barrel aged version. It certainly looks great: opaque black with a durable light brown head and lovely lacing. The high ABV is evident in the nose but otherwise fairly well hidden. Plenty of dark roasted grain flavor with minimal char and very light smoke -- just right IMO. Excellent bitter-sweet balance and mix. Some licorice. Pleasing and lasting aftertaste.

Feel: Full but not thick body. Near medium, soft carbonation.

O: Excellent and delicious. I haven't tried a fresh sample yet but I'd bet waiting until this is about 2 years old is a wise move. (High rating confirmed in June 2015 with a now older bottle0.

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Photo of jwc215
4.5/5  rDev +9%

Bottled on 07/31/14:

Pours black with a creamy brown head that has nice retention for the style/abv. Spotted lacing sticks.

The smell is of rich chocolate, toffee, espresso beans and molasses.

The taste follows the nose. The sweet chocolate and toffee/caramel is balanced by a light-to-medium coffee roast. Alcohol is very well-integrated. It has a robust finish.

It is rich and full-bodied, but not too thick.

This is a wonderful, dangerously drinkable Imperial Stout! Very well-made and enjoyable!

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Photo of drabmuh
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer is black with a tan head, thin, small bubbles, some lacing, moderate to low carbonation.

Aroma is sweet, a little boozy, a little roasty / malty. Smells nice.

Beer is medium in body, sweet, pretty nice for an off the shelf RIS. I'd have it again for sure. There is a mild sweetness, mild alcohol, nice bitterness, overall a nice beer. Yum.

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Photo of mdaschaf
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a very deep black with some brown highlights on top. Small khaki colored head with minimal retention and sporadic lacing.

S: Lots of roasted malt, dark chocolate, a little bit of espresso. I can also pick out just a little bit of pine at the end.

T: Roasty malt up front, more dark chocolate, a little bit of mint in the middle mixed with some pine. Some licorice as well.

M: Medium to full bodied with a creamy mouthfeel, low carbonation. No sign of abv.

O: Pretty good imperial stout, easyish to drink, lots of nice stout flavor.

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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 stakem
3.82/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a matching Sierra Nevada snifter. Big thanks go to Kegatron for gifting me with some of this. The brew pours black with a khaki colored head that froths up with more than a finger that is silky and paints the wall of the glass with a full webby pattern of lacing effect. When held to the light, the brew shows some ruby clarity faintly around the edges.

The aroma displays plenty of roast imparting faint notes of coffee, chocolate, earth, char and hints of citrus to fruity hops. The alcohol is present with a bit of fruity ester. When swirled, a bit of cheesiness and sulfur emerges with some mineral components. Overall though, this is a fine smelling brew for more than 10%.

The taste includes the previously mentioned dry roasted graininess that imparts flavors of coffee, and roasty earth. A bit leathery with the most mild touch of dark fruity alcohol notes. Some hop character is present giving this a touch of citrus and complimenting fruity to pine notes. The aftertaste has a bit of baker's chocolate included. As the brew warms up, that 10% alcohol starts to become readily noticeable with an almost neutral solvent burn across the tongue.

This is a medium bodied offering with a modest amount of carbonation. It is relatively smooth and easy drinking for something above 10%. I think Sierra Nevada was well overdue in putting a RIS into their regular lineup. This one fills the void in their catalog quite nicely. I would and will drink this one again when it is made available to me. Thank you for sharing Heath!

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very excited to try this one.

The appearance is near black with an oily beige head. The aroma offers dark roast, full bodied coffee, molasses. The flavor follows suit. Thick and rich. A touch of dark fruit. Big time dark chocolates and a touch of cacao bitterness. Palate coating with moderate carbonation. Zesty finish. A really nice example of the style.

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Photo of tdm168
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - pitch black with a short, dense, brown, foamy head

S - roasted malt, anise, chocolate, alcohol, caramel

T - roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, faint anise, licorice, some faint bitterness

M - full bodied, smooth, warm, well carbonated

This is a solid, delicious stout with a great flavor profile. I feel like I could drink a lot of this even at 10%. It has a great malt character and the hops are noticeable but balancing. This is just an all around good beer.

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Photo of Mora2000
3.8/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a black color with a large tan head. The aroma has some roasted malt as well as some dark fruit. The flavor is very similar. There is a good bit of smoke and heavily roasted malt. I also get some sweet chocolate and cherry notes, as well as a good dose of alcohol. I also get a bit of tobacco in the flavor. As the beer warms I get a huge amount of black licorice flavor, which I am not a huge fan of. Thick mouthfeel and medium carbonation.

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Photo of billab914
3.85/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1oz bottle poured into my Devil's Backbone glass. Pitch black in color with a thick foamy head filling the top inch of the glass. Nice retention and lacing as I drank it.

Aroma has dark, roasted malts mixing with milky chocolate. It's got a noticeable hop presence to it as well. The roasted malts bring a little bit of a coffee flavor with them as well. Nice aroma overall.

The taste also shows a good amount of hoppiness to it with some herbal and citrus notes present throughout. The dark, roasted malts are bold and bring more of a darker chocolate and coffee flavor out. A little sweet, milky chocolate in the finish along with a little alcohol.

The mouthfeel is on the heavier side with carbonation being a little above average for the style. Overall, it's a very solid beer. It's a little hoppier than prefer in the style, but it comes together very well. The roasted malts were very bold, which really liked. Very nice beer overall.

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Photo of smakawhat
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a snifter glass.

Out of the bottle pours dark brown, then hits with some very dark black walnut, almost midnight. Forms a solid cocoa and coffee like head, with lots of pinhead bubbles. Settles slowly, and manages to always keep a nice collar while drinking and a decent puck. Lots of leg coating and spotted catty lacing on the glass.

Nose is a little subtle. Simple roasted malts, but a nice waffer and ovaltine chocolate sense. Whoppers candy and malt. Mild char action, but mostly kind of closed. There is this sense this is sort of airy and light. Otherwise solid, not getting any coffee sense.

Palate hits with anything but. First notes of hop lime and grapefruit in the front palate, moves to a thick but waffer like dark bitter chocolate while consuming. Large surprising body melding with notes of char and more cocoa powder. Not particularly finding coffee on this but it's a superb feel, large since it seems unexpected from the bouquet.

Overall a great balance between hop action and roasted malt, a very controlled and fun beer, with not a boozy taste either for 10, a real fantastic stout very enjoyable.

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Photo of Billolick
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012, 12 ounce bottle, allowed to warm quite a bit.

Pours near black, dark tan mini head, tiny bubble film, slight collar and nice fine low sheeting with strands of lacing.

Nose is loaded with dark chocolate, and mild coffee.

Very tasty, ejoyable and smooth RIS. Waves of chocolate, just ground fresh coffee, as well as some vanilla sweetness. Velvety smooth on the tongue and coating the mouth. Put it all together and this is truly great stuff.

Went prefectly with a chocolate Xmass desert bon bon kinda thing

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Photo of BARFLYB
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle into a Sierra Nevada tulip style glass.

Narwhal poured out thick, a stout is a stout, this one has a very dark black color and a sturdy inch of dense dark tan bubbles like chocolate milk. It fades away into a small cap up top leaving minor splotches on the glass. Smell is pretty balls deep, scents include bakers chocolate, earthy hop tones, licorice, roasted malt, smores, and some minor dark fruit. It smells great. Taste is superb, just a big RIS, no bells or whistles. With so many RIS out there they kind of run in circles with one another. Narwhal does the same. Taste includes most of the scents up above, but the two characteristics that stand out to me in this specific RIS is licorice and dark fruit. Body is full and carbonation keeps the beer going after some warming, while this indeed does warm up to me. A one and done beer in a sitting with the body and alcohol. This is another RIS that I will be keeping in touch with during the cold months and possibly building a vertical down the line, which seems like the right thing to do.

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Photo of Lare453
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz into a dfh glass

A. Black with a thick cocoa head that dissipates fast. No lacing.m

S heavy dark malt, coffee, cocoa, bitter dark chocolate

T surprisingly light sweet beginning, bitter chocolate and roasted coffee overwhelm the middle and end. The aftertaste is slightly boozi with a nice milk chocolate.

M a little thick, rich, smooth, fantastic.

O wonderful. A nice big one from Sierra Nevada. Very impressive.

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Photo of Halcyondays
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle,

A: Pours a pitch black, with a medium light tan head, some solid spotty lace.

S: Roasted malt, hint of dark fruit, charcoal, licorice, dark chocolate.

T: Dark chocolate and a lot of licorice. Light residual sugar, with a hint of hops in the finish.

M: Medium to full-bodied, soft carbonation, creamy, long aftertaste for the style.

O: A solid RIS, it reminds me a lot of Old Rasputin with a bit more licorice in there. The price is great, well made, well worth a try.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.9/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured into a De Struise snifter. 2012 bottle (duh).

Appearance - Murky in the pour. I bought it today, so maybe it was agitated, but still, shouldn't be that icky looking. A temporary brown head. Settles to the slightest of rings and not much else.

Smell - Roasty. Alcohol all over. Gives it a fruity aroma. Coffee roast most persistent, though.

Taste - Quite a bitter stout. Bitterness from start to finish. Coffee and deep roasted malts. Sweet molasses. The finish gets almost ashy in its roast. Like a tobacco flavor, I guess. That's the hip word to use. Alcohol bite in the finish with a licorice, raisin fruitiness.

Mouthfeel - Thick and chewy. It's boozy, but I like the alcohol in it. Really adds to the profile. Well carbonated.

Overall - Well, it's Sierra Nevada, so it's always going to be well-made. I might have to stock up on this the way I do Bigfoot. I could see myself getting a hankering for this in June when it's not on the shelves anymore.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a dark and oily tar black with a brown head that laces the snifter well.

The aroma is roasted, smokey and perhaps a bit meaty. Some alcohol lofts above the darkness.

In the taste, dark chocolates, charcoal, tobacco and a firm hoppyness. Not to boozy though very strong. There's a subtle note of dark fruit. Earthy, light herb, big malt. Right about what you would expect for the style with perhaps more emphasis on his than many. Quite good.

The mouthfeel is full bodied, smooth and well carbonated.

Overall this is a nice big stout from Sierra Nevada. Totally drinkable and something I would have again.

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Photo of johnnnniee
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a solid black color with a huge fluffy tan head that slowly recedes to a cap on top. Smells of coffee and dark chocolate with a hint of caramel. Earthy citrusy hop aromas meld nicely with light aromas of dark dried fruits. The flavor is sweet with caramel and chocolate with a nice shot of espresso. A bit of earthy citrus hop flavor but mostly a roasty bitterness in the flavor. Light dark fruit flavors with a hint of alcohol round out the flavor quite well. Medium to thick body with a light to moderate level of carbonation and a sweet creamy velvety mouthfeel. Very nice Imperial Stout I really enjoyed this one and I guess I need to get back to the store to buy a few more to lay down.

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Photo of BillRoth
4.4/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Have had the 2012 fresh and the now just opened the 2013 @ I year after cellaring.
In both cases found a rich well crafted RIS with very good appearances and excellent carbonation and mouth feel. It drinks perfectly despite the 10+% ABV. On the merits of its brewing it is a top notch RIS and holds it's own against many of the very best RIS available.
What separates it is a distinct rich coffee/espresso like coffee quality that doesn't so much dominate as it is the singular flavor in the midst of a blend of anise/licorice, roasted grains, dark molasses flavors. Like Alesmith Speedway it just has a personal flavor of its own. Seems to be a combination of the brewer's art and the coffee chosen in the blend.
Just a great coffee RIS. Flavor profile is different of course, but I would buy this the way I look forward to Founder's IS, Bell's Expedition Stout and the much more common but still extraordinary Oskar Blues Ten Fidy.

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Photo of GarthDanielson
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage, this was poured from a bottle into a mug. The beer is almost completely jet-black, with some chestnut highlights. No head, but there is a touch of bubbly filmy ringing around the surface. Aromas of chocolate, roasted coffee, a touch of booze, and earthy tones. Flavors are strong and rich, with a heavy roasted coffee backbone supporting a boozey and oaky highlight. Very deep and layered. Bittersweet chocolate laces throughout the palate, as well as a touch of bourbon. The aftertaste is bittersweet and roasty, with a slight booze linger as well. The beer is rich, but very smooth in mouth, and fairly light for an RIS, which makes it extremely palatable. Smooth, bitter, and rich finish. Very easy to drink despite the increased ABV and "big" flavor profiles.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 793 ratings.