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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: 4,661
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 23.19%
Wants: 270
Gots: 1,237 | 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: 4,661
Photo of Ego
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

$20 for a growl fill on this ? mad props to Copper Mine Pub in N Arlington NJ

devilishly black, totally opaque, lacing ? legs? yeah... got that, the head retreats pretty quickly but easily comes back with a quick swirl-o-rama, the head itself is a nice dark cocoa tone, this looks impy...

burnt wood left outside, the spicy note of licorice, bitter chocolate, hints of smoke and molasses,
hints of mint like toothpaste

taste etc...
initially pretty smooth but man this sucker is heavy, like drinking a cannon ball, woah this thing is thick and weighty, this is big boy territory right here... the first blast is sort of the sweet end of things with the malts parading the molasses across the mouth, then the after bomb drops... we're taking a trip to flavortown folks (can I say that without comping Guy Fierri ?).. anyhoo, the aftertaste slapped me so hard (insert one liner here but it probably involves my mom), you get some deep dark euro chocolate that teeters on barelywine-ish flavors but never loses the RIP style, the booze is there but really lends itself to the mix here.

luckily I have my bro and his current girl to help me out with this growldog, cause otherwise I am taking a trip to passoutville. damn, this is one deep dark sucker, maybe not my fave RIS but it is bold, any RIS fan needs to check this out, it might be the spanish fly to your.. well..

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Photo of SometimesIfart
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours pitch black with a one finger dark mocha head that sticks around. Left spotty lacing.

S - Deep roasted malts, dark fruits, slight alcohol.

T - Deep roasted malt up front, alcohol in the middle, and very very dark, I guess you could almost say roasted like a smore chocolate finish. It's almost like it melts in your mouth.

M - Thick oily body with very lightly stinging carbonation.

O - Overall, I'm completely convinced that Sierra Nevada can do no wrong. In my opinion, this stout had a one of a kind flavor. I don't know how they managed to make the flavor seem as though it melts in your mouth. I'd definitely have again and I wouldn't mind aging one.

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Photo of fmccormi
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Straight pour from 12oz pry-off bottle to a 25cl Duvel Single tulip; bottling date of October 5, 2012 (“2279209 : 46”) printed in white ink on the shoulder of the bottle, making this beer just over six weeks old on the date of consumption.

Appearance (4.0): Body is black as night—no surprise there, but there’s just absolutely no light passing through. The head is a dense two fingers of dark tan-colored foam, which dies down at a reasonable pace. “Dark tan” doesn’t do it justice, though—there’s milk chocolate out there lighter than this shade of brown. Modest lacing and moderate head retention, but both decent for the style.

Smell (4.0): Just roasty as hell—not in a charred wood kind of way, but in a French Roast coffee kind of way, or like dark chocolate-covered espresso beans. Picking up notes of molasses, anise, bitter, dark chocolate, some alcohol vapor, some smooth oat character (seems to me, anyway). Really nice nose on this bastard.

Taste (4.5): Not as bitter or charred as the nose might indicate—but not overly sweet in any way, either. Very satisfying chocolate and coffee notes, mainly a drying bitterness that accompanies very dark chocolate along with the modestly charred, very bitter but deeply flavorful character of espresso beans. Some burnt multigrain toast fleshes out the malt body, leading into a somewhat bitter finish that hangs on and continues for a while. The hops add a surprisingly clear citrus pith-type bitterness along with a somewhat bright citrus fruit (think mixed orange and grapefruit juice) flavor under the roasty malt body. Huh. Was not expecting that, but it’s quite nice. Damn, this is really, really good.

Mouthfeel (5.0): Very full-feeling with a thick, oily body that coats and paints every surface of your mouth and throat. Has that drying, vaporous feel on the finish that comes from the high ABV, but it’s not unpleasant. This kind of forces you to sip—it makes me want to exhale and take a couple of breaths after each sip before I take another, which for this size and style of beer, I really appreciate. Carbonation fits the style very well, never prickly but full and lush with a filling, foaming character on the way down. Holy hell.

Overall (4.5): To be honest, this is quite a bit better than I was expecting, and I was already expecting that Sierra Nevada would do a pretty good job. Turns out, they did an excellent job. This is a full-bodied, full-flavored, but attractive and pleasant-drinking imperial stout with a couple of unexpected and very welcome turns here and there. I’m not into most aged beers, but I’d be willing to bet this would be a good candidate. Outstanding, and a job well done by Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of jondeelee
4.45/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Narwhal opens to a thick, black aroma bursting with ash, coffee, tobacco, and black malt, but these supported by an equally thick layer of heavy cream and caramel. Anise and black pepper dance in the background, adding spicy notes, joined by black breads, yeasty wheat dough, and toast crust. A reveille of dark fruit esters – fig, date, prune, black cherry – joins with blackstrap molasses and cocoa to add a layer of deep sugars, and the hops bring grapefruit rind, pine, pink grapefruit, and light hints of dandelion stem to form a bitter, citrusy buzz that nicely complements the sugars. Though the beer is not barrel aged, there’s a charcoal-and-vanilla bourbon-like undertone as well, adding delicious alcoholic liquor aromas to the mix. On the whole, the aroma is fantastic, being rich, fruity, black, hoppy, ashy, and bourbon-y, offering pretty much everything one could wish for in an Imperial Stout; the only way to improve this would be to actually bourbon barrel-age it.

On the tongue, the beer starts off black, and then gets even blacker, with massive waves of ash, coffee grounds, semi-burnt cocoa, black malt, and tobacco rushing across the tastebuds. Though these dark layers never let up, they are met after a time by a good layer of vanilla-soaked heavy cream, and a nice fruity layer of figs, dates, and prunes. Burnt pecans, toast crust, and heavy black breads add further earthiness, deepening the complexity. In subsequent sips the bourbon-like vanilla-and-charcoal notes gain more ground, adding alcoholic goodness to the mix. Hops are less present here than they were in the nose, but do add pine resin and grapefruit rind, creating some bitterness. The aftertaste is a continuation of the ashy notes, with sugars hanging on for all they’re worth, and at least the ash lingers on the tongue for a very long time. Mouthfeel is medium, and carbonation is medium.

Overall, this is a fantastic Imperial Stout, though it should be noted that it’s not for the faint of heart. This is mostly due to the tobacco ash and black malt notes, since at times they were so powerful that I felt like I had a mouthful of cigar smoke – especially in the aftertaste. But for fans of the style, there’s really not much else one could want in this beer, except perhaps some barrel aging. I did find the mouthfeel more watery than I would have expected, but almost everything else in here is excellent. Well worth trying.

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Photo of nodder
3.93/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A- Black with a one finger light tan head. Fades quickly leaving slight lacing and alcohol legs on glass.

S- Dark roasted malts, coffee, dark chocolate, slight dark fruity notes. Slightly boozy smell also.

T- Standard RIS flavors. Coffee, dark chocolate, an earthy/fruitiness there also. A bit more alcohol taste than expected but this is still very good.

M- Medium mouth with slightly more carbonation than expected. Finish is bitter but nice. There is a definite alcohol burn on this one but not overpowering.

O- A bit boozy but still good. Gonna throw a bottle in the cellar for a year and see if it mellows.

12 oz. bottle

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Photo of Beer-A-Lot
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

An outstanding and delicious imperial stout. Superb chocolaty and coffee flavors. a smell that doesn't disappoint. Rich and smooth. Perhaps my favorite beer from SN. What can I say? I love this style, and Sierra Nevada delivers on my high standards for stouts. Will make this a regular in my rotation, along with Ten Fidy, FBS, FIS, and others. Well done.

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Photo of Jacobob10
4.04/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle. Pours a deep black color with a large frothy tan head. The head dissipates into a thin film that is quickly revived with a swirl of the glass. Aroma is great, comprising of coffee, dark chocolate, and roasted malt. Flavor follows suit and adds a sweetness and bitterness into the mix. Thick texture and chewy. Full bodied yet incredibly smooth and drinkable for the high ABV. Great imperial stout that I probably would not go out of my way to seek out but would enjoy anytime.

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Photo of maxcoinage
4.44/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12oz bottle (2013 Vintage) into oversized snifter with a solid inch head that was mocha colored and took it's time to settle down. Color of the beer is pitch black.

The aroma consists of dark chocolate, coffee, dark fruits.

Taste includes dark roasted malt, coffee, caramel, very noticeable booze, some hoppy bitterness

Mouthfeel is rather thick, but not as much as you'd think at over 10%, medium carbonation, leaves a nice coating on your mouth and throat.

Overall it's a very enjoyable RIS, as I like boozy stouts, though I could see how some might think this is too hot. Looking forward to see how this changes with some age on it.

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Photo of MadScientist
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Jet black with a creamy, express colored head that has a good long retention period.

S: A solid roast with some licorice, moderate coffee and light citrus hop aroma. There is a low caramel malt sweetness and a light alcohol sweetness as well.

T: A huge malty flavor with rich dark flavors of roast, coffee and caramel along with a moderate sweetness. There are some underling burnt sugar and slight charcoal in there as well. The citrus hops flavors and bitterness are at a medium level. The balance is about equal between the bitterness and sweetness and almost out to a medium finish. The hops bitterness lingers a bit an edges out the dark roast flavors.

M: A full bodied beer with a moderately-strong level of carbonation.

O: Rich and full with equally strong malt and hops character; simply an excellent beer. I'm hoping this will be easy to find than Night Stalker where I live because Narwhal is running neck and neck with it as my favorite Imperial Stout. There will have to be a side by side tasting to for me to call a winner though.

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Photo of craftaholic
3.7/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Absolutely pitch black. Even with a flashlight held against it there is no light getting through that barren void. Had a layer of creamy tan head that left a little lacing and had subtle legs.

S - There's a lot of alcohol in the nose. With that there is hints of rich chocolate, hops and dark grains

T - There's a very strong coffee flavoring and after that it's a true melting pot of nuances. There is vanilla, grape, chocolate, grain, even a touch of citrus. Alcohol is present especially in the aftertaste but the malt is there to help mellow it somewhat.

M - Creamy and rich. Surprisingly more carbonated than expected.

O - It's definitely bold in both a flavor way as well as in the booze. It's a good sipper for sure.

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Photo of BurgeoningBrewhead
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

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

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Photo of timontheroad
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a dark black, only a little foam that faded to a light film, left no lacing. The aroma was of dark chocolate, slight coffee, sweet malt, and just a hint of dark fruit. Taste was of sweet chocolate and coffee, with some bitter hoppiness and alcohol burn. Mouthfeel was medium bodied, with some alcohol, but not too much. Just right. Overall, this beer is super tasty, can't wait to see what a year of cellaring has done to it.

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Photo of seedyone
4.59/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From bottle at home. 2014 on bottle. Now this is what I call a stout. Look, smell, taste & feel are all very rich & full. This stuff makes no apologies, it just stands up straight & says "take it or leave it." I thought I caught the slightest hint of licorice/anise under my nose but it dissipated like a wisp, then came back again in the finish.

Alcohol taste but little of the burn. The chocolateness is of the bittersweet kind.

Every taste keeps saying to me "no kidding around". A real swashbuckler & I'm really enjoying it.

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Photo of minterro
3.72/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bought from Little's wine and liquor

A&S: Pours about a finger of milk chocolate colored head, which dies very quickly to nothing more than a small ring. Solid black colored beer that poured. Sweet dark fruits present complemented by some black coffee. alcohol is pretty hot when it warms.

T&M: Dark roasty coffee is pretty much all I'm getting in the taste. Even as it warms, not much as far a chocolate or other classic imperial stout characteristics. Surprisingly pleasant bitter finish. Not super creamy, but smooth.

Overall: About what I expected, nothing special, but nothing bad. Won't buy again, just really wanted to check it off my list.

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Photo of Samp01
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle from mike67. Pours a deep slightly viscous black with a small brown head. Aroma and Taste of dark roasted caramel malt, some mild liquorice notes, dark fruit with some notes of dark cacao and mild espresso flavors with a dark toasted malt bitterness on the end for balance. A full bodied, creamy body on the palate with moderate carbonation and sticky mouth feel. A good full flavored brew, rich and creamy. Overall this is very good, delicious and flavorful brew.

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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 Jeffreysan
4.93/5  rDev +19.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

12 oz bottle, poured into a goblet.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, completely opaque, pitch-black color with practically no head what-so-ever, except for an extremely thin halo of foam that gripped the sides of the glass.

Aroma: Strong, rich, earthy aromas of roasted malt, freshly baked dark bread, dark chocolate, dark molasses, licorice, vanilla and some boozy alcohol.

Taste: Wow! Extremely strong flavors of roasted malt, dark chocolate, dark molasses, coffee, licorice, brown sugar and some nicely balanced hops.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and pretty smooth, as there is very little carbonation. With an ABV of 10.2%, there is quite a bit of alcohol on the palate, imparting a pleasant warmth in the mouth while being drunk.

Overall: This is another excellent stout! Massive flavors of roasted malt, coffee, dark chocolate, dark molasses, coffee, licorice, brown sugar and some nicely balanced hops, awesomely blended together in a chewy, smooth quaff. Fantastic!

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Photo of mabermud
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A - Pitch brown. Beige, reluctant head that develops into a light halo.
S - Sweet lactose. Dark chocolate + sweet coffee.
T - Smooth, sweet coffee and milk chocolate.
F - It goes well with everything else.
O - Very nice. I will have it again.

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Photo of TreyIsWilson
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Pours a motor oil black with a one-finger tan head. Light amount of lacing.

S - Roasted malts and dark chocolate. Also picking up a hint of dark fruits.

T - Lots of big roasted malts. Coffee and dark chocolate are also well represented. Nice alcohol burn in the finish.

M - Heavy body with medium carbonation. Thick creamy mouthfeel. Leaves a stickiness on the tongue.

O - I really enjoy this stout. For the price this is hard to beat. Lots of big flavors going on.

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Photo of Tuck_leepulin
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz Brown bottle with pry-off cap and bottled on "07/31/14". Poured into a snifter

Appearance: Pours black with 1/2 finger of tan head

Smell: Roasted malts, chocolate, and cocoa

Taste: Similar to the aroma with mostly roasted malts and licorice and cocoa, with slight alcohol warmth

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied

Overall: A great representation of the imperial stout style. All the roasted flavors are present and has great balance. Theres little bit of alcohol but not overpowering.

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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 tewaris
3.75/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Deep brown with a mocha head. Good retention and lacing. Malty and roasty aroma... somewhat campfire like. Taste is more aggressive with a solid kick of bitterness derived from both, hops and roasted malt. Long burnt finish. Medium body, apt carbonation. Will drink again.

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Photo of superdedooperboy
4.02/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Celebrating International Stout Day the right way. 12-ounce brown glass bottle poured into a Duvel-branded tulip glass. Served at approximately 45 degrees F.

Pours pitch black -- this thing isn't letting any light through. A small one-fingered head of mocha foam rises up and falls away just as quickly as it came. It settles to a thin cap on the surface of the brew, leaving behind a nice webbing of lace on the walls of the glass as it empties.

Roasty and chocolaty on the nose, with notes of chocolate-covered cherries and currants making their way into the mix. Rich, decadent and inviting.

Delving in, the most noticeable quality is the mouthfeel -- this stout is thick, smooth and creamy on the tongue, gliding over like silk, followed up by a light prickly carbonation that wipes it all away.

Fairly sweet in the opening, with an intense deep malt character taking hold. Chocolate, molasses, burnt toffee file in, followed in the middle by roasty espresso notes. Here, some citrusy hope notes actually find their way into the fray around the edges, but they dissolve into the rich mix just as they become perceptible. Espresso and bitter dark chocolate fall into the rear, mingling with some dark pit fruit before falling away into a bit of booziness. The alcohol warmth carries into the finish, which is rather dry and punctuated by lingering notes of dark chocolate and black cherry.

An exceptional Imperial Stout overall, with a succulent mouthfeel that is perhaps its best quality. Nothing outlandish here, just solid Imperial Stout as it should be. Why Sierra Nevada took so long to release a beer like this is beyond me, but it displays all of the attributes of quality brewing that the brewery is known for, and will undoubtedly become a quick favorite for cellaring and general wintry imbibing.

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Photo of JamesMN
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: In a long list of the most opaque black beers out there. Two finger light brown head that leaves nice lacing.

Aroma: Coffee, molasses, cream, chocolate syrup.

Taste: Heavy on the bitter black coffee flavor. Dark chocolate as well but not as prominent. Not quite as roasty as I was expecting but still quite robust. Very bitter probably more due to the malt bill than the hops utilized because there is no discernible hop presence. Still, a nice change of pace from the usual RIS (although I probably wouldn't classify it as such). Dry finish and lingering black coffee bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a good level of carbonation and pretty easy to drink but more of a sipper.

Final Thoughts: Not my favorite but a very good Imperial Stout, especially if you like coffee flavor in your stouts. Would I drink it again? Yep, got a few in the cellar to see how it does with some age on it.

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Photo of AirBob
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%

A- Thin layer of khaki colored head which quickly dissipated. Deep black body. Sparkling off-white lacing.

S - Coffee grounds and chocolate syrup.

T - Sweetened, burnt coffee and unsweetened chocolate. Some earthiness in the middle. Finishes with numbing boozy heat. Very bitter dark chocolate and burnt coffee.

M - Low carb. Full bodied. Bitter finish helps to cut through any stickiness.

O - Bitter. Reminds me of sweetened Starbucks house blend with some booze. Could be better balanced, but the bitterness cuts down on the stickiness which made this more drinkable than other beers in the style.

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