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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
92
outstanding

852 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 852
Hads: 4,794
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.71%
Wants: 289
Gots: 1,322 | FT: 45
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

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: 852 | Hads: 4,794
Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black and dark brown pour out the bottle, impressive depth and thickness to it. Solid 1+" head on it, tan in color, great density, retention and lacing to it. This is professional grade appearance.

Aroma was full of roasted and chocolate malt. They definitely didn't skimp. Already wondering how the pricing on this can be so affordable (4/$9.99). Plenty of coffee like aromas, the dark, sludgy variety that sits on the pot all day at Denny's.

The taste is substantial bitterness that falls off the tongue as the large body absorbs and washes it away. As usual, Sierra Nevada doesn't short you on the hops. Very dry in the end. Not going to be mistaken for a milk stout, that's for sure. Alcohol in check.

A beer like this should make you re-evaluate why you spend $10 on a bomber of imperial stout that probably isn't as good as this.

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Photo of DrDemento456
4.07/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Finally found a bottle at Carnivores in Verona. Mixed and matched it for $2.50

A - I love the full inch of deep mocha head it almost always guarantee's a thick viscous pour. Color is as black as night and the head has both excellent lacing and stays around for a while.

S - A nice blend of citrus hops, charcoal, coffee roasts, bakers chocolate, and some alcohol. Seems very balanced and ABV smells well hidden.

T - Quite bitter and ashy as expected for such a high ABV stout. Those who do not like a sweet stout this is the beer for you the bitterness really clings to the palate. Under this I do get some espresso and coffee grounds and just a mild twang of bakers chocolate. I find it amazing I couldn't smell how much hops/roast is packed into this. Not bad.

M - Medium to thick in body, somewhat creamy and chewy. Man this is an imperial stout.

Overall its not as bad as say fresh Old Rasputin but it's still very strong with the ashy roast and hop aspect. If I was able to find older bottles of this or age them myself for a year this beer would be quite exceptional. Glad I don't love it since I passed on a second bottle.

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Photo of Brad007
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Darker than a moonless night with a nice brown head into my glass. Don't you ever get the feeling that the color of a beer isn't that interesting in the first place?

Cocoa, cream and roasted coffee notes dominate the nose. Dead-accurate. I'm excited to go further.

Dark and foreboding with all the fury of a New England winter. Coffee, cocoa and booziness abound. The latter is subdued, which is a big relief.

Mouthfeel is predictable with more of the roasted coffee than anything else. Much easier to digest when the alcohol stays in the background.

I believe this is a very good example from Sierra Nevada. I wonder if they'll do a yearly release like Bigfoot? They could certainly bump up the ABV, age it in oak, etc. As long as the base beer is done right, anything is possible.

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Photo of VelvetExtract
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Ink. Pitch black. Head is of respectable stature. The best part of the head is its color. The head is brown. Legitimate brown. Sierra Nevada consistently makes the best looking beers. What a beaut. Light lacing webs…boy is the head dark.

S-Dark dutch chocolate and French-press espresso. A bit burnt and smoked. The nose does not have any unique traits, but it is very finely tuned. Not super-intense, but aromatic enough.

T-An addition of dark fruit and a lick of black licorice join the gang of dark chocolate, coffee beans and smoke. Like dumping a spoonful of cocoa powder into a dark-roast java. The bitterness stems more from the roast than the relatively modest hoppiness. Narwhal is an oily sea-monstrosity of deliciousness.

M-Full bodied. I can just picture this beer coagulating and turning into gel if left alone for too long. Plenty of carbonation. Booze is masked perhaps too well. This brew could dethrone you if you aren't wary of the ABV. Too drinkable…although it does warm up my cheeks a bit.

O/D-Like Hoptimum, this brew is a textbook Imperial Ale. Also like Hoptimum, Narwhal does not attempt to do anything that hasn't been done before. That is my only true criticism of this brew. It is a scrumptious and blameless Stout, but it offers no unique qualities. Regardless, this brew is a beast!

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Photo of barczar
3.97/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque deep brown with just a hint of garnet highlights and a solid half inch milk chocolate head that slowly dissipates, leaving sheets of lacing.

Dark cherries, plums, raisins, chocolate, and roast malt begin the aroma. Toasted nuts, licorice, and tar add complexity.

Flavor reveals deep roasted malt, dark fruit, and a long, coffee bitter finish. Chocolate is slightly muted, in favor of tart cherries.

Body is thick, viscous, and chewy, with low carbonation. There's astringency at the finish, preceding alcohol warmth.

Probably the thickest beer I've ever consumed. Dark fruit tartness was a bit overpowering. Fairly boozy, as well. Good roast malt character. I'll probably like this better with some age on it.

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Photo of dgilks
3.96/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Inky, light absorbing black with a creamy, tan head. Nice head retention and good lacing.

An interesting aroma. Not intensely roasty. Rather there is plenty of anise and sweet malt. Some earthiness. Very much herbal.

More big, sweet malt there. The anise comes through in spades along with a touch of cocoa. A little chalky. It lacks a bit of brightness with it sitting back on the palate and the anise dominates.

Medium-full body with moderately-high carbonation. Quite dry.

A really interesting beer. I do like the cocoa flavour there and the earthiness is interesting. The anise is overbearing but the whole is good and it isn't an alcohol bomb.

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Photo of dar482
3.81/5  rDev -8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

This is a 2013 bottle with about 9 months on it.

The beer pours black with a light brown creamy head.

The aroma has dense roasted malt, sweet chocolate, mocha coffee, a touch of dark fruit of cherries and dried plums.

The beer has a medium plus luscious mouthfeel. However, there is still an aggressive kick of alcohol, as with the beer fresh. Lots of deeply roasted coffee and malt, bitter chocolate, with a spike of alcoholic dark fruit on the finish.

The beer is certainly helped with age, but it still very alcoholic, which detracts from the palate.

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Photo of Bung
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz. Pretty standard black pour, nice layer of light tan head.

Aroma, roast malt, anise, a light pine and herbal hop aroma.

Taste very balanced roast, chocolates and bitter. Dark chocolate, anise, coffee. Coffee and a muted pine linger nicely.

Mouthfeel, probably the best part. A near creamy well coating stout. Alcohol is pretty well hidden.

Thought this was pretty nice, much better than the beer camp imperial oatmeal stout, not quite as nice as the 30th anniversary stuff. Worth a try at the price.

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Photo of avalon07
3.58/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a black color and a thick texture. There was a half inch of tan-colored, foamy, long-lasting head. Pretty good lacing.

S: Definitely an underplayed aroma of coffee, chocolate and malt. Decent.

T: Tasted of light coffee notes, some dark chocolate, roasted malt, and maybe some dark fruit. There's also a very pronounced burnt quality as well. Not a bad flavor, but it could have used a bit more punch.

M: A very well-carbonated beer with a smooth finish. Medium-bodied.

O: This isn't too bad of a beer, but it doesn't necessarily reside among the top tier Russian Imperial Stouts. Still, worth a look.

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Photo of Jwale73
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I've been looking forward to trying this beer since I first heard about it. 12oz. bottle served in a tulip. Pours an inky black with a fizzy and effervescing two inch, mocha-colored head that sizzles and pops as it gradually collapses into a sudsy slick with a thin, bubbly band around the edges. Nose expresses dark, roasted malts, chocolate and brewers licorice - there's also a slight artificial sweetener character that reveals itself towards the back. Taste follows nose; however, there's also some smokiness in the flavor profile as well as molasses. Mouthfeel is medium-light (but closer to medium), with slightly oily texture, as well as a mild, even carbonation. Overall, a very solid RIS from a very solid brewery. Alcohol is extremely well-hidden, and balance is great. The only detracting qualities for me are the slight, artificial sweetener presence in the nose and in the flavor. Also, while the carbonation is not overly assertive, I would like to see it dissipate a little more. All and all, this beer is well worth your time if you enjoy the style.

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Photo of barnzy78
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Narwhal 2012, served @ ~55F
12oz bottle, pours black with slight chestnut hues at the edges of the glass when held to a light. Light brown head is thin and leaves some lacing down the glass. Big roasty nose with dark bittersweet cocoa powder and coffee. Smells powdery if that makes any sense? Tastes are complex and bold with lingering dark rich cocoa, espresso, booze, roasted barley, slight anise and pine on the finish. Mouth-feel is smooth and nearly full bodied, nice carbonation allows for palate coverage and depth of flavors. Overall, a very nice RIS. I'd buy this again, and hope I see it again next year!

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Photo of dirtylou
3.53/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz single

A funny thing happened last night while I was consuming Narwhal - I came to the sad realization that I really have no place in my cellar for a RIS not aged in some sort of barrel. Narwhal brings the heavy roast, chocolate, very dry, roasted and charred malts. It's just been done, and it's boring to me now. This would have been a great addition to the lineup in 2005, but it does nothing for me now.

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Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter.
10.2% ABV, number code on shoulder.

A - Almost midnight black, Narwhal quietly fills the snifter, even with a tall pour. The result is a low mocha head which briefly tops the black before sinking into it's depths leaving a ring of foam and a few splashes of lace.

S - Quite simple and closed off at first, Narwhal rises from the depths to a cold but soft nose of rich maltiness that expands from cocoa to dark chocolate developing with raisin and prune, subtle dusty earthiness, and a faint hint of warming alcohol on the finish.

T - Narwhal's flavor starts just like the aroma; simple and somewhat closed off. Rich roasted malt develops into subtle undertones of dark, bitter chocolate and espresso notes with a dry cocoa finish.

M - Like a good imperial stout, Narwhal is thick and rich with a milk chocolate smooth, velvety feel that slowly turns dry and bitter and rough around the edges from the heavily roasted malts. Warming alcohol emerges as this creamy beer coats the throat as it warms up for one pleasing winter stout!

O - Sierra Nevada Narwhal employs dark, roasted malts to create a deep depth of flavor throughout this imperial stout changing as it warms. A welcome addition to Sierra Nevada's seasonal line up, Narwhal is a wonderful sipping beer that encourages reflection on the malts' presence and use.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of ccrida
3.33/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Appearance is thick black with a small, dark tan/light brown head, quickly dissipating, no lace.

Smell is soft, sweet malt sugars. Robust alcoholic character.

Taste is robust and rich. Sugary, caramel, sweet alcohol. A little raisiny. Not a lot of depth here, the 10.2 is pretty bruising.

Mouthfeel is dry and thick.

Drinkability is ok, this is a big, brash, old school RIS. I like the fact that it's all malt and not hoppy, but it's too hot.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

poured into tulip glass.

Appearance: black bodied beer with a huge mocha brown head. The head has got some nice staying power. Spotty lacing once the head drops down to a thin cap.

Smell: Nice milk chocolate note and mild yet crisp roast note. Got a hint of fruitiness. It also smells like its got an oatmeal note going on as well. The nose is really great on this beer probably my favorite part the beer as a whole.

Taste: Moderately roasted coffee kick that mixes with a hint of black licorice. The beer finishes with a mildly sweet and bitter flavors that are best described as lingering bakers cocoa, tobacco, and molasses notes. Maybe even a hint of charcoal in there too. Bold and complex without being abrasive.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied beer with moderate carbonation. The beer is a little bit creamy while also being slick. Really smooth not a hint of booze in this beer that is just over 10%. Carbonation is really well done adding a touch of finesse because it has a soft feel to it as well.

Overall: This is probably the second best beer I have had drank that is brewed by Seirra Nevada; only trumped by the Black Barleywine they put in the large format bottle a few years ago. This is a well made Russian Imperial Stout. It got an hier about it; to me its an approachable beer for people new to the style and its good enough to satify some people with those "hard to please" palates. Bold flavors and smooth drinking. Sierra Nevada would be wise to make this a seasonal beer no doubt in my mind! This one blows away old raspy by north coast.

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Photo of tigg924
3.53/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap at New World Tavern, Plymouth--served into a pint glass.

Appearance: black in color, 1/4 inch head, opaque, minimal carbonation

Smell: roasted malt and cocoa

Taste: big time espresso, roasted malt, chocolate, and light traces of nut

Mouthfeel: medium-heavy bodied, low carbonation, sweet with roasty bitterness

Overall: An above average roasty RIS. If you like your RIS to have big coffee flavors, this is the beer for you. I would like to see a bit more creaminess with this. This is not a bad beer, but with so many great RIS, this is just above average for the style.

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Photo of Cyberkedi
4.81/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Aroma absolutely screams "DRINK ME!" Smoky, oily, with strong notes of roast malt, quality coffee, chocolate and molasses, it demands that you take more than a mere taste. It pours an oily black sable that could hide in the folds of Darth Vader’s cape, with a firm and fine-bubbled tan head that hangs around for a while. Smoky flavor has firm tones of top-shelf malt and chocolate - you’d think they had tossed Hershey bars into the mash tun. Subtle notes and hints of quality coffee, molasses and caramel sneak through. Sweetness is not too strong - this ain’t no dessert beer. Firm, smooth, somewhat oily texture has a good amount of fizz and leaves a smoky, chocolaty, lip-smacking finish. Nar this whal when you can! :D

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

Pours an inky black color, thick as can be - honestly, one of the thickest looking beers I've ever seen. Tan head, decent retention. Aroma hits with a handful of roasted malts, as expected; the bottom comes up with some bittersweet chocolates and deep, warming alcohol notes in the background. A light leathery and mild tobacco aroma as it warms, too. The taste comes through with a canvas of roasted malts upon which a painting of mild charring, smoke, deep cocoa, light black licorice, faint dark fruit sweetness, and bitterness almost resembling espresso is displayed. The sweetness comes in hardest in the form of licorice, but is met diligently with a bitterness that is present from nearly start to finish; slightly ashy and mildly floral and spicy - I'm assuming this bitterness is from the hop character, although some of it tastes like that old bitter espresso bean flavor, too. Burnt, smoked wood in the aftertaste with some ashy and leafy bitter notes. Slightly sweet, but bitterness rules the aftertaste when all is said and done. Silky as hell, super creamy and thick.

I was shocked at how delicious this was, but at the same time, I should have expected it. Sierra Nevada puts out a damn good product, no matter what it is, and Narwhal is no exception. For this price, this is a steal. Great flavors, huge body, amazing mouthfeel - if you like RISs, give this one a shot.

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Photo of Durge
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This imperial stout is a nearly jet black color with a nice light brown head and good lacing. The aroma offers clean, muted malt, nothing prolific. The flavor is full of thick malt and medicinal grass bite, mineral water and charcoal blended into a unique mouthful of stout. Sharp malty goodness, and not much else to say. Full bodied I'd say with a somewhat oily feel. Very tiny bubbles for a subtle but adequate carbonation. Quality stuff though not something I would have to revisit. Classy brew none the less.

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Photo of Darkmagus82
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into a pint glass

Appearance – Pours a deep-deep brown color with a one finger brown head. The head fades in over a bout a two minute time frame to leave a light level of lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma is big and delicious. It is largest of a sweet caramel and chocolate aroma with nice hints of vanilla and some light pine, dark fruits and coffee smell. Also heavy in the nose is a delicious and warming aroma of a bourbon smell giving mixing with the rest to give a sweet, dark, and warming smell.

Taste – The taste begins with a strong roasted malt, dark chocolate, and coffee taste mixed with the lightest hints of caramel and vanilla. The caramel fades fast from the tongue while the light vanilla remains constant throughout the taste. Toward the middle the coffee flavors grow even stronger in nature and are accompanied by a light earthy and pine hop taste. The pine and earthy flavors grow slightly stronger more toward the end with the roasted flavors that are in the brew also growing more roasted in nature. This darkening and hopping of the brew give a moderately bitter bite on the tongue, and when combined with a nicely concealed, but still detectable, alcohol flavor it creates a bitter cocoa and coffee flavor to be left to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is super thick and syrupy with a body that would be similar to taking maple syrup and diluting by half. The carbonation of the brew is on the very low side accentuating the thick feel of the brew. For a 10.2 % abv beer the body is much thicker then I would have expected (more akin to a 15 % brew). It is rather nice and appropriate for the darker characteristics of the brew, but is almost overwhelming due to the light level of sweetness to balance it out. Even so it is quite a feel and is overall rather nice.

Overall – A nice, big and roasty, stout that is on the drier ad thicker side. When in the mode for a great. not too sweet, sipping Imperial stout, then this is a great one to go to.

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Photo of CrazyDavros
3.75/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours black as the night with a large, dark tan head.
Nose shows chocolate, heavy roast, soft coffee. Also some light booze and a hint of wood smoke.
Heavy roasted flavours too, some chocolate and a fair bit of booze.
Nice creamy carbonation.
Would be even better if the booze wasn't so full-on.

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Photo of ZAP
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Black with ruby hues..

S-Shaved chips of quality dark chocolate....dark fruits (prunes, raisins, dried black cherries, plums)....some light coffee

T-Rich and malty...hop load is dialed back which I can enjoy....roasty malts lend a decadent expensive chocolate flavor....light coffee...dark fruits still there but lighter than on the nose...a bitter splash of alcohol on the late finish....

M-Big....Rich....Full Bodied...Fits the Bill....right about where it should be....

O-An impressive IMPY...would seem to be on par with most of the heavy hitters...great price too....

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Photo of AgentMunky
3.66/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a St. Bernardus goblet. Stamped 2279209:05.

A: Dark brown mocha head fluffy and promising. The body utterly opaque and darkest brown.

S: Dry malts, faint chocolate, distant roast. Low intensity. Rather disappointing.

T: Defined by the same dry, lightly toasted malts initially smelt. On the aftertaste (which comes too early) there is noticeable cocoa. The general impression is very nice, but comes in such brief bursts that it is hard to appreciate any of it without gulping, which is not what I want to do with my imperial stouts.

M: The mouthfeel take a back seat -- it is pretty much immemorable...which puts it above average.

O: Despite my inclinations, this beer gives itself over to easy-drinking. This is neither a criticism nor a compliment...This is one of the most supremely drinkable RIS I've ever encountered.

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Photo of maximum12
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

How have I not reviewed this? I’ve drunk cases of it, a big stout that you don’t have to crawl over sweaty neckbeards to get, it just sits around, ignored, common. 12 oz. bottle.

The pour is Bic ink black. Minimal carbonation. I try to sniff & get a 19” girl hair up the nose, yeah, just try to use a vacuum around my house. It’s like vacuuming up after a pack of shedding St. Bernard’s. Nose is sweet malts, nice roast, light chocolate mania. It’s never really been an inhaling beer for me.

Narwhal tastes like Saturday night happiness. A plethora plentile of roast greets the tongue, backed by a deep, sweet, smiling triple handful of malts. Milky & smooth enough that I suspect that many oats were harmed in the making of this brew. Drinkable as fuck.

Excellent beer that’s nothing special by the numbers, just beautifully executed.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 852 ratings.