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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: 4,654
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,230 | 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: 4,654
Photo of scotorum
3.94/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 on the label, if I'm reading the code correctly it was bottled November 4th 2012.

Poured from the 12 oz. bottle into a Samuel Adams nonick.

a: Pitch black, finger thick tan head receded quickly to even surface foam and some clingy lacing.

s: Overripe fruit, alcohol.

t: Heavy dark malt with quite a bit of hop bite, smoky finish. Significant alcohol throat burn.

m: Medium to heavy. Quite smooth with plenty enough carbonation tingle on the tongue.

o: A flavorful imperial stout with a lot of not entirely pleasant punch. Perhaps the year of aging did not serve it as well as could be hoped. Tough to do more than sip, although few imperial stouts aren't.

UPDATE 2/4/14: Had another from the same fourpack and it was very smooth with more dark chocolate and less smoky taste, Some chocolate also in the aroma. The more I do these comparisons bottle to bottle of the same aged beer, the more I am convinced that it is difficult to predict how some will react to aging, and in fact they may react differently from one bottle to another. Doesn't seem to make much sense, and perhaps it's my own senses that are varying, but I find quite a difference sometimes among bottles in the same pack. (Lagunitas Brown Shugga and Brooklyn's now discontinued Monster come most immediately to mind). In any case I'm raising my ratings based on this second bottle. a: from 4-4.25; s from 3.5-4; mouthfeel from 4-4.25. And overall from 3.75-4.

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Photo of artoolemomo
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- Pours up a reasonable amount of head which looks as if it will have excellent retention. The head is a dark beige/mocha color while the body is an opaque, dark chocolate black. A bit of sheeting forms above the surface of the beer.

Nose- A bit subdued and the only thing that has real presence is the slight bubblegum that I smelled while pouring. There is some caramel, some roasted notes, and hint of cocoa but I'm a little concerned about the dominant bubblegum. The bottle shows the same thing. This, however, begins to dissolve and is taken over by cocoa. Swirling shows the bubblegum as banana.

Taste- Definite cocoa on the front with a hint of raisins lying around the edges as this moves into more and more cocoa with noticeable heat appearing on my tongue and in my cheeks. Dark chocolate and coffee notes rise with a some burnt caramel and toast bringing up the rear of the finish. Slight cardboard but it's hardly noticeable. Some hint of cherry as well with notes of oak and vanilla. A little bit messy and a little bit boozy. Very complex malt bill that echoes oatmeal as well. Probably would benefit from a little bit of age as it is a little too sweet and a little hot. Some nuttiness. I like almost every aspect of the flavor profile but the integration seems to be lacking. A little bit of banana as the finish and linger fade? Still, a pretty solid beer. Reminds me a little of Founder's Imperial Stout.

Mouthfeel- Between medium and heavy bodied with a good amount of carbonation that gives it a chewy, chalky, gritty feel. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Drinkability- After the heat subsides a bit, this becomes a pretty easy drinking beer. Great price for a four pack of such a boozy and heavy style. Less than 10 bucks for a 4 pack is a bargain. It's not in the same league as the best imperials I've had but at the price, it's hard to say no to.

Overall- Very good, solid beer. Definitely should give it a try. It looks as if will be my highest rating for a Sierra Nevada beer, knocking off SNPA. I will definitely be buying this again. And also aging a bottle.

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Photo of Nugganooch
4.09/5  rDev -1.2%
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 LambicPentameter
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
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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3.79/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

$4.50 for the 12oz bottle, served in a tulip
Bottle code 2279213:35
Sampled 03MAR13

[A] A swift pour produces a slim head of medium-dark brown color, foamy and quick to diminish. A small ring of foam around the glass is all that is left 30 seconds after the pour. The body is completely black with no transparency at any point. Short, drooping strands of lace stick to 1/3rd of the glass. No lacing.

[S] The least impressive part of the beer. Semi-sweet chocolate, fudge and cocoa powder. Neutral yeast, maybe a few berry-like esters and evident alcohol. Nothing special.

[T] General chocolate and roast - neither are overpowering. Midpalate the bitterness comes forward in the form of fresh pine and rich soil. Deep chocolate notes return after the smooth bitterness fades. Long lasting flavor.

[M] Medium body with a silky smooth texture at first, but a semi coarse, long lasting effervescence later. The latter part is not exactly complimentary to the style in my opinion.

[O] For whatever reason, Narwhal performs a little better out of the bottle than it did on draft two months ago. It was really underwhelming at that point. Today, while a bit better, it still isn't as good as some regularly available high gravity stouts, like Yeti, for example.

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Photo of mvanaskie13
4.42/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a chalice, color is solid black, head is light tan - this is great looking stout.

Smell is big roast, chocolate, espresso, coffee grains, dry and sweet balanced in each sniff.

Taste is similar to that smell strong roast, espresso flavors, lots of chocolate undertones and coffee grain dryness. very solid bitterness to balance its strength, very hard to believe abv.

Mouthfeel is a little drying, probably the amount of bitterness to balance its strength, but not a hinderance to the flavors.

Overall, very great tasting brew - sierra nevada does a great job in the bigger beer categories, loved this one to follow holiday sweets.

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Photo of HamdenHector
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: very deep brown - virtually black; 1 finger relatively dark head that receded to a thin collar; OK lacing;

S: deeply roasted grain and bittersweet chocolate; a little boozy; a little smoky;

T: deeply roasted grain; a little nutty; a little smoky; finish has a little alcohol bite; a touch of bittersweet chocolate in the aftertaste;

M: full bodied - sticky; light to moderate carbonation; medium dry finish;

O: intense; a good way to an a session;

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Photo of SawDog505
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
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 chugalug06
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Kick ass three-finger foamy tan head. Brew is medium viscosity and burnt black color. Decent lacing, not great, but still nice.

Light, creamy, milk chocolate, coca, stiff.

Wet flavors for a RIS. Earthy mild dryness. Well put together and exposed. Great creamy milk chocolate flavors. Light and highly drinkable. Carbonation is medium and way smooth. Sweetness is tamed and even; well balanced. Bitterness is also balanced and well done.

Another fantastic brew from SN. Complex and very well put together. Highly recommended.

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Photo of Hoptometrist
3.43/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Served from the bottle into a globed glass

A- Poured a vicious vlack with a small dark mocha colored head that dissipated quickly. Some minimal splashy lace was left.

S- Big licorice, toasted coconut, and big whiskey notes. Very strong aroma with lots of booze on it

T- Follows the aroma very closely. Huge licorice notes, big whiskey notes, some toasted coconut, notes and some roastiness. Kind of an odd sour twang on the finish. Incredibly bitter stout, by far the most bitter stout I have ever had.

M Pretty thick mouthfeel, very creamy and smooth, almost velvety, big warming from the alcohol, and some alcohol burn

O- Great mouthfeel, but not one of my favorite imperial stouts. Pretty boozy and the sour finish is odd.

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Photo of zac16125
3.57/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into a tulip
vintage 2013

A: Pours an opaque jet black with 1.5 fingers width of light mocha colored head. Decent retention, and leaves a good amount of lacing.

S: Tons of roasted malt, stale black coffee, bakers chocolate, an almost bourbon-ish booziness, some herbaceous notes.

T: Heavy on the roasted malt flavors, which are accompanied by floral hop notes and a hoppy bitterness. Wasnt expecting that. I also get anise, stale coffee, and an almost sour dark fruit character.

M/D: Full bodied, carbonation non the heavier side for the style, ABV very well masked. Drinkability is average.

O: I dont love this one, kind of a weird flavor profile. I expect it to get much better with age and will revisit this in a few months.

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Photo of mattcrill
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

<< Review #700 >>

Aroma: Coffee, dry cocoa, and roasty malt characteristics up front. No fruity esters that tend to be more common in English versions. I get a bit of pleasant graininess that reminds me of oatmeal and maris otter malt.

Appearance: Inky black pour with a large tan batter-like head.

Flavor: Follows the aroma but there is more of a dark fruity flavor that reminds me of fig and raisins to match the coffee and cocoa character. Slight earthy bitterness that helps offset some of the malty character and just a touch of chocolate sweetness. Finish is pleasant and dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation. Slight dark grain roasted astringency which is pleasant and appropriate for the style. No alcohol heat which is surprising given the ABV.

Overall impression: Immensely drinkable given the style and size of this beer. A perfect 700th review. One of my favorite styles and one of my favorite breweries so this was appropriate. I hope they make more of this.

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Photo of Gatch
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
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 tastybeer
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Deep dark black and big fluffy head. All sorts of stringy patches cover the glass once it recedes. Aroma initially brings creamy sweetness. Then digging deeper there's caramel, tobacco, coffee, toffee, and a touch of something like black raspberry. Pretty straight forward Russian imperial style. Taste is milky caramel, chocolatey, a bit smokey, and bitter only subtly through the finish. Mouthfeel is key. Very velvety smooth. Like hot cocoa in beer form and cool of course. The higher ABV is totally hidden as well. I haven't been in a stout-porter/dark beer mood for awhile however this beer might be changing that.

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Photo of Scotchboy
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

SN Imperial Stout? Yes please. 12oz bottle split three ways into snifters...

A: A very dark opaque pour yields a very dark brown head with great lacing.

S: Tons of bitter roasted coffee on the nose, and an ever-present leafy hop bitterness (hey, this is SN)...bakers chocolate and deep dark roasted malt. RIS to a 'T'.

T: Follows the nose perfectly, roasty and bitter with copious amounts of coffee notes, dark chocolate notes, hints of darker fruit and licorice, dark roasted malt, almost burnt to the point of being a touch smoky? Light lingering herbal hop notes as well.

MF: Creamy with pretty good carbonation...a touch viscous with a bit of an alcohol burn (hey, at 10.2% its really buried, which is nice).

O: Impressed. Toss this thing in some harsh rye whiskey barrels and I'd say you have an all-time great RIS. As it stands its a great drinker now, and the alcohol is well-hidden.

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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 Shaw
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black, black, black with a short tan head. Looked like oil going into my glass.

Aroma of chocolate, coffee and alcohol.

Big roasted flavors mix with a bit of alcohol. Chocolate and molasses come to mind.

Great body, but then what imperial stout is thin and watery?

A good imperial stout. World class? No, but worth trying.

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Photo of brewskifan55
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter

A: Dark chocolate brown with ruby highlights. Not much head; a few bubbles. Great lacing.

S: Chocolate and licorice

T: Pile driving, hard core chocolate. malty, smooth. Robust as hell. A coffee aftertaste. Fantastic.

M: Heavy with medium carbonation. Thick, chewy.

O: Glad to have caught this big fish. A great imperial stout. Another winner from Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of BeerManDan
4.6/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured a thick black brew, with a little dark tan foam and no lace.

The smell of deep roasted malts and dark roasted sweet coffee, with a hint of alcoholic chocolate, filled the nose with a pleasant alcoholic aroma.

The flavor was of a slightly bitter coffee and roasted malts taste, with a hint of dark chocolate on the finish. This Russian Imperial Stout has a long pleasant aftertaste. Not overly bitter and the high alcohol and flavors have a very pleasant taste.

I'm back for a case next time out to BEVMO.

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Photo of daledeee
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Some more of this showed up. Got a 4 pack for a reasonable price.

Pours black with a medium brown head and great lacing.

Smell is charcoal, malt.

Wow, this one hits you in the face. This is the bitterest stout I have had. Loads of malt bitterness. Charcoal, oak, chocolate and sweetness as well.

The mouth feel is very creamy and I don't notice too much alcohol warmth. Overall this is a great example and unique as well.

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Photo of neenerzig
4.34/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into one of my snifters, this beer pours a an extremely dark brown, almost black color that lets in no light whatsoever. has a dark tan head that is about 1/4 inch thick when first poured that, despite the fact that I gave this beer a very rough pour, settled very quickly to a medium sized ring lining the inside of the glass along with swirls of foam on the surface of the beer. Okay lacing, but not that good. Aromas of caramel malt, hints of chocolate and vanilla, coffee, some hints of dark fruit that are all rounded out with a bourbon smell. pretty sure this edition of this beer was not aged in bourbon barrels, but it sure smells like it. Weird. The flavors match the aromas almost verbatim, caramel malt, chocolate and vanilla sweetness upfront, followed by some roasted coffee bitterness notes, hints of plum and raisin, rounded out with a touch of bourbon. Oh yeah a hint of alcohol too. The flavors mesh very well together as the beer sits and warms up a bit too. Has a slightly crisp, but mainly smooth, creamy, medium bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. This one really coats the palate. Easy to drink in the way an excellently crafted beer should be.


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Photo of larryarms847
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours pitch black and sticky, but looks a bit thin with a thin layer of light khaki foam.

Dark chocolate, vanilla, espresso, and earthy hops.

Huge roasty character, vanilla, espresso beans, and chocolate.

Heavy-bodied, light carbonation, sticky, leans thinner than I was hoping.

Overall, while outstanding in flavor and aroma, the mouthfeel was a bit thin for my taste.

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Photo of BlurryVisi0n
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Served in a snifter glass.

Appearance: Medium bodied that looks thin but still thick in a sense , tan head which rose to maybe a notch or two below a finger's length.

Smell: Wow, a beautiful mocha scent. You feel a chocolate aroma hitting you immediately. Strong but still subtle.

Taste: A nice complexity of cocoa and coffee, very deep and smooth.

Mouth: Stick as it gets and honestly putting the glass down is the worst part about this brew.

Overall: Awesome beer, would recommend to anyone who appreciates what quality truly is. Snifter glass preferred, salud!

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Photo of TwelveOunces
4.41/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter

A- Pours syrupy and as black as night. Almost no head to speak of but the head was a deep brown color. Impressive alcohol lacing.

S- A boatload of roasted malts, a slight dark chocolate. A big hop bitterness. A touch of alcohol.

T- A big crisp bitterness up front. Followed up by an absolutely massive amount of roasted flavors. Really lingers on the tongue to the point of being smokey. The beer definitely has a big chocolate flavor and feel which mellows it out and adds a whole new level of complexity. This is a hoppy stout, there are strong underlying notes of citrus and a lot of pine. Very dry and roasted aftertaste.

M- Big and thick, definitely a sipping beer. Almost no alcohol presence, it is hidden extremely well. Dry aftertaste. Really sticky.

O- This is an incredible imperial stout. One of the best non-barrel/aged stouts I have had in a good while. It is also priced incredibly well and is available everywhere. Definitely get some and make sure to keep some aside for the years to come.

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Photo of ExaltedNecrosis
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into snifter.

A - Pitch black with one finger of creamy dark mocha / chocolate head. Leaves a good amount of lacing on the glass.

S - A somewhat subdued aroma of roasted coffee and chocolate.

T - Roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and a slight hint of vanilla. There is a also a bit of booziness, though not very pronounced for a 10.2%

M - Super smooth and creamy. Thick bodied and somewhat syrupy with low carbonation; this goes down easy.

O - A fantastic stout from SN with the standard roasted coffee and chocolate flavors, with a velvety smooth mouthfeel. Nice bit of alcohol warmth as well despite it being quite drinkable.

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