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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

826 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 826
Hads: 4,676
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,244 | 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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 826 | Hads: 4,676
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 bareju
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Bottle purchased in Ireland, left out of fridge for 15 minutes and poured into a pint glass.

A: Dark chocolate brown, almost black with a finger light brown head that recedes quickly and leaves a ring.

S: Very strong smell of chocolate and roasted malts, and a bit of alcoholic warmth just hidden under the surface - very nice. One of the best smelling beers I've ever had. The sheer strength of the smell is impressive.

T: Sweet chocolate followed by a bit of warm alcohol accompanied by a slight taste of cherry or fruity phenols. Warm alcohol lingers, slight bite in the mouth from the phenols, and finishes with dark roasted coffee and bitter hops. I really like the taste other than the phenols I'm picking up, the bite is a bit unpleasant. Phenols were replaced by spiciness as the beer warmed. Bitter coffee and hop taste lingers pleasantly long after the beer is gone. Tastes melded together cohesively as the beer continued to warm. Fruity taste ruins the taste for me a bit; reminds me of cherry cough syrup.

M: Full-bodied, creamy, low carb. Very easy drinking for a beer this big. Matches the sweetness of the chocolate and coffee notes excellently.

O: This is a very good beer, but the fruity part of the taste really threw me off. I'll have to pick up another bottle and see if I got unlucky or there's just something that I don't like. Everything but that one flavor is fantastic. Definitely didn't live up to its hype for me as far as taste goes, but still an enjoyable, if a bit disappointing, beer.

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Photo of Catracho5
4.57/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12 ounce bottle poured into a Belgian tulip glass. This is the 2013 edition.

Appearance: Pours pitch black with a tan head. No light penetrates the beer, less than a finger head after a semi aggressive pour, tiny bubbles in the head, some lacing, looks great in the glass.

Smell: Chocolate, roasted malts, not a heavy aroma.

Taste: Chocolate roasted malts on the front, I can taste the alcohol after drinking, The alcohol is not as strong as when I first tried it around October. The beer is about 5 months old. The alcohol has significantly subsided.

Mouthfeel: Very thick, oily coat on the palate, I can feel the carbonation, tiny bubbles, moved around in my mouth.

Overall: One of my favorites imperial stouts from one of my favorite breweries. This is at least, an outstanding beer, if not world class. A lot easier to drink after cellaring it for 5 months, still have some bottles I will open at the end of 2014, or maybe in between. Cheers!

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

A - 2 1/2 finger frothy dark tan head. Jet black


T - sweet but robust roastyness. Immediately followed by chocolate, then spicy ness, bitterness from hops, not astringent coffe flavor. 10% abv well hidden. As it warms, surprisingly more spicy. This time from alcohol I believe. Chocolate still present but it takes a back seat to all the spicy ness.

M- creamy

Overall, really spicy for a stout. Of course SN loves to overuse hops. And they didn't make an exception just bc they made a stout. Too much for my taste, but with the tasty chocolate upfront, still makes for a good spicy "holiday stout"

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Photo of clayrock81
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured a blackish body with almost brown head that is one-finger high and leaves a little ring as it goes down. First thing that hits my nose is coffee, then a bunch of roasted (I won't say toasted or smoked) malts and some bitter chocolate (or dark). The body is heavy, and while I would not list heavy/stoutish beers as some of my faves, I really like this one b/c while heavy it still passes easy (slightly chewey as well). I get mostly a roasted, coffeeish malt experience but the addition, and then due to addition great balance, of some dark chocolate makes this a dry and sweet experience and thanks to the easy passing this beer is by no means a chore to continually sip on. This is a great stout that even not-stout fans should try.

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Photo of CHickman
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%

2013 Bottle: Pours pitch black color with a thick creamy 2 finger tan head that was full of bubbles and faded very slowly, leaving very good spotty lacing and a layer on top.

Smells of oats, vanilla, cocoa powder, molasses, burnt grains, coffee, floral hops, licorice and a lot of smoky charred notes, like the malt went on fire and was then added to the mash. Nose has some sweet fruity notes, but it’s all things burnt overall with the burnt coffee or espresso leading the fade with chocolate and caramel accents that is nice to take in.

Flavor comes out with burnt malt leading the way and then turns in a mix of roasted sweetness with the cocoa powder, molasses, vanilla, coffee grinds, caramel, dry leafy floral hops, grapefruit, burnt wood, oats, licorice, smoky charred grains and anything else that seems like it was over a campfire; the chocolate notes come on stronger as it warms, with dark chocolate, vanilla, espresso and a sweetness that resembles the taste of a marshmallow that fell into the campfire coals, which is a really nice surprise. The alcohol is masterfully hidden, and the hops add mild spices and a citrus hop twang that add bitterness and a tiny bit of balance. Any fan of rich, roasted grains will love this brew and it’s complexities, which approaches the line for too bitter and too acrid but does not cross over into the land of negative flavor.

Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, this feels on the slick side even with the viscosity and has about average carbonation for such a bold beer. It’s bitter, it’s smoky, but it’s damn tasty and a really good RIS that went down easier than it should have. I really liked this beer when I bought this 4 pack last December and feel it got better with age. A high recommendation.

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Photo of PorterLambic
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Arrives as black as molasses with a creamy, slowly fading, dark tan head. Phenomenal lace, great retention. Zero light penetration.
Smell is toasted malt, dark chocolate, coffee, cardboard, smoke. Well balanced.
Taste is heavily roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate, coffee, whiskey, light smoke, a wee whiff of hops, a note of grapes? . Great balance, very complex. The various flavors swirl around one another is a delicious dance.
Full bodied, chewy, and barely carbonated. Drying finish, smooth, but with a cloying aspect that is annoying. No warming to speak of strangely.

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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 MilkMan126
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

SN states that this beer is the most intense stout it's ever brewed.

In a low lit room, no light shines through the nearly black liquid. Small creamy head with nice lacing.

I smell roasted grains, dark chocolate, and fresh hops.

The taste follows the nose with added flavors of dark roast coffee, nutty, booze, and extra signature Sierra Nevada hops. Hops have a more dominant role in this beer than most RIS I've had. The order of which I taste these flavors changes as I drink on. The dark roast malt flavors and the hops battle back and forth. The tasty rich malt gets richer as it warms but the hops hold on strong. To me the hops are what truly makes this beer intense.

Nice bite from the carbonation and booze. Full with decent coating. Hops really linger on. Reminds me of the aftertaste that dark chocolate leaves.

Very good overall. Full of flavor. Though, over the top in some areas of the flavor profile which confuses the RIS style.

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Photo of South2NW
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle to snifter.

A: very dark brown, closer to black. Very thin brown head with minimal lace.

S: Roasty. Coffee, malts, and a touch of chocolate.

T: roasty malts right away, followed by some dark coffee/chocolate flavors. Brief hop finish.

M: thick, creamy. Little carbonation. Not much alcohol burn. Very easy drinker.

O: SN did a great job with this. It's a very nice, balanced imperial. Great value at $10/4pk. Makes a great sipper on cold evenings. Paired well with thanksgiving desserts.

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

Tell you what...I saw this stout at my local Total Wine, which was out of my Bourbon Barrel Stout and Founders Breakfast Stout. I picked up a four pack, noticing it was much cheaper than the previous mentioned, i figured it would be a watered down version of the RIS style that i like.

Man, I was wrong, personally for me Sierra Nevada hit this sucker out of the park....loved the stuff so much, i went back and bought a couple cases. this stout is excellent as a cap for a chilly fall/winter night.

It pours black, smell is what to expect from the RIS (love that smell), I don't care for lacing and head in a beer (has very little), in fact that gets in my way. Very smooth body, easy drink-ability, with some dark charring and a hint of coffee flavor, You will get a hit of alcohol here.. Love it cold, love it at room temp.

at 10+ ABV whats not to love, this stout has it all for me.

Well done Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of LampertLand
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

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

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

S-smell is boozey , roasted coffee

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

MF-low/mild carbonation , full bodied

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

prost LampertLand

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Photo of TTAmod
4.36/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

311 13 bottle code on my 12 oz. stubby bottle. Makes this brewed sometime in early November. This beer just started being distributed in my area, so it's as fresh as it comes. Poured into pint glass.

A: Pours pitch black...even when held up to the light, nothing comes through. Thick brown head forms after an aggressive pour. It slowly creeps down to about one finger and stays there, leaving lots of lacing behind.

S: Nice, roasty smell. Lots of coffee, charred malts, ash, and a bit of hops. There's maybe a touch of dark chocolate.

T: Tame roasted malt up front. Bit of black molasses, coffee, leather, and ash. All of a sudden, a rush of familiar SN hops make their presence known. A bit of pine and a bit more roast malt. Ends slightly nutty and roasty. Never gets very bitter at all.

M: Smooth. Medium body. Pretty low carbonation, but enough to give it a good amount of depth. Zero alcohol burn. Goes down quite easy for 10.2%.

O: Definitely one of the best RIS's I've ever had. I like the nice hop presence that many other RIS seem to be lacking. It's cheap ($8 for a 4 pack), available, and really damn good. Will probably be a future mainstay in the fridge.

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Photo of Dan_Meyers
4.68/5  rDev +13%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Bottle served in a pint glass

-Very dark, inky body, with a thin caramel colored head
-4.75 based on how an imperial stout should look like
-Not a perfect five because I like to see a little more head

-Mild smell. Hints of dark chocolate and roasted coffee are present
-4.75 based on other imperial stouts. This is what I imagine when I think of Imperial Stouts. No surprise scents
-Not a perfect five because I like a little more of a pungent aroma. Imperial stouts aren't supposed to be the most aromatic beer genre, but a little more roasted coffee and dark chocolate smell would have made this a perfect five

-The roasted malt is the predominant taste when first sipping this beer. A strong "alcoholic" aftertaste soon follows
-4.50 based on the genre of beer. Imperial stouts are known for their black coffee/chocolaty taste and typically have a higher alcohol content than most other types of beer.
-Not a perfect five because I prefer a more pronounced malty taste in my Imperial Stouts. Also, the higher alcohol content can be easily tasted. There is a slight "bite" when you sip this. A little more malt and a little less alcoholic taste would have made this is five.

-The mouthfeel of this beer is very nice. It has the thicker characteristic that you expect from this kind of beer, but not too thick. The "alcoholic" taste that was mentioned in the taste category isn't a factor with the mouthfeel of this beer. When first tasting this, I expected a lingering alcoholic taste, like with most liquors and some higher ABV beers, but the "bite" only lasted a second. The lingering taste that seemed to stick around was the malty, roasted taste that I expected

-To me an Imperial Stout should have a strong roasted malt/black coffee/dark chocolate taste with a slight to no alcohol taste. The best of this genre have found a way to maximize the roasted taste and minimized the “bite” that comes with a higher ABV. Narwhal Imperial Stout has all the proper characteristics of the best Imperial Stout that I have ever tasted. The only downside is that the malty taste that I desire is slightly understated while the alcoholic taste is slightly overstated with this beer
-I gave this beer a 4.75 because, on the whole, it is a truly great beer. From the amazing dark color to the smell of roasted coffee to the malty taste to the very pleasant mouthfeel. This beer is one of my favorites
-I didn’t give this beer a perfect five because, as stated in the first section of my overall comments, the only thing keeping this beer back from perfection is the need for a slightly more pronounced malty taste and a little less of the alcoholic “bite.” Everything else was delightful.

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Photo of eschultz
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 Narwhal 12oz Bottle into a snifter glass:

Appearance -
Light brown head which lasted a few seconds
Dark rich black color with light carbonation

Smell -
Chocolate with a hint of coffee and vanilla

Taste & Mouth -
Sweet front with a bit of cocoa and banana
A lingering backend of dark roast coffee

Overall -
Very nice imperial stout with well balanced flavors, great appearance and mouth feel

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Photo of Tilley4
4.58/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Great beer that I can't believe I haven't reviewed...

This beer hits all the marks for a great brew... relatively easy to find, amazing aroma and taste, and consistent every time...

One of my go to stouts, this beer is loaded with chocolate and roasted malts and has a nice kick of hops on the finish... I think the scores would be higher on this brew if it were released one day a year or had the hype surrounding it like others...

Terrific example of the style...

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Photo of RickS95
4.81/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Beers don't look any better than this. The pour resembles used oil. Next time you're getting your oil changed, ask the guy for a look...that's what this looks like. Thick and coal black pour. The head is dark mocha and a thing of beauty. It starts off about a finger thick, then it starts to cascade and it's a stunner to watch. Eventually it's a couple fingers thick, frothy, with good retention. Squigly lines of lace throughout.

The smell means business. Cocoa up front before a splash of booze takes over. All the while, licorice is making an attempt at some attention.

As good as it comes. Chocolate and expresso dazzle the taste buds all the way down. The alcohol builds momentum but doesn't interfere til near the swallow. It tastes like there might be some lactose hiding in there somewhere. It's exceptional.

Sweet and creamy up front. Heat from the alcohol begins mid sip and lasts with a lingering warmth. Bitterness doesn't start til near the finale. Full bodied and rich. With a kick of carbonation just before the sip says adios.

The only reason I didn't give it 5s across the board is because the smell, while good, wasn't as aggressive as it should have been. This is as good a beer as I've had in a good, long time.

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Photo of fourstringer
3.41/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Samuel Smith pint glass. Moderately aggressive hand. Stamp on the bottle reads: 3221220:57. Labeled as 2013.

A: Pours a dark ruby, but is opaque blackness in the glass. 1/2 finger caramel head. Fair retention. Minimal lacing. Impressive body, but head is lacking.

S: Roasted malt. Coffee. Faint dark fruit. Alcohol. A bit subdued overall.

T: Tangy, roasted malt semi-sweetness into a mostly dry, chocolatey finish. Dark roast coffee. Black licorice. Definite alcohol presence. There is a medicinal element that develops and detracts.

M: Moderate to full bodied with a moderate carbonation. No complaints here.

O: Not terrible, but this struck me as a bit harsh and unrefined. Pretty boozy. Kinda reminded me of Nyquil. The green kind. Color me disappointed.


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Photo of spinrsx
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12oz Bottle from Total Wine Tampa FL for $3

Appearance - Dark brown colour with a large size frothy light brown head. I can't make out the amount of carbonation showing and there is some good lacing. The head lasted for around 5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, chocolate, vanilla, coffee

Taste & Mouth - There is a below average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, chocolate, and vanilla. There is also quite a bit of a charred coffee type flavour and a light hoppiness.

Overall - Wow, a great mix of smooth flavours with a lingering bitter finish. A really satisfying beer that is a great sipper. Once again Sierra Nevada impresses.

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Photo of MoorBeerPlz
4.45/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a snifter glass…

On the pour, viscous black liquid that built a 2 finger head of creamy tan foam, dissipating into nice sticky foam and lacing on the sides of the glass and a little foam cap on the top.

Putting my nose to the glass, the aromatics were fairly light; a little coffee and roasted grains. After a good swirl, the chocolate, some fruity notes and a little hop presence is detected. I didn’t detect the alcohol right away but as this beer warms up, it’s one more thing to add to the list. So far so good.

On the taste, my first thoughts are “rich and thick” as I start tasting the roasted grains, coffee and chocolate coming through. As you work it around, the fruitiness, malt and the booze join in followed by a bitterness that does not detract from the overall character or balance. Damn good.

Seemed medium to medium +in body with a smooth as velvet feel. Well balanced group of flavors and a nice, bitter and boozy finish with a little alcohol warmth. Nicely carbonated as well. Sticky feeling that is not dry in any way.

Overall a pretty fine example of the style and a great effort by Sierra Nevada. While not a session beer, I would guess it pairs well with some foods and certainly is a great way to wind down a busy or stressful day. I will definitely be buying more of this and look forward to putting some aside to see how the tastes develop over time.

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Photo of brentk56
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Arrives with an impressive khaki head perched atop the inky black liquid; sheets of lacing are left behind

Smell: Surprisingly fruity, with plum and cherry aromatics; roast and chocolate underneath

Taste: Though the roast and chocolate flavors jut out, the plum and cherry elements really build through the middle along with some licorice; after the swallow, both the fruit and licorice elements dominate the finish; alcohol is detectable as well

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation; some warmth in the gullet

Overall: There are a lot of really nice elements in this beer; I would prefer more chocolate and a fuller mouthfeel but those are minor issues

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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 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 mudbug
4.44/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A vigorous pour into the SM pint glass results in a pitch black body of liquid topped by a thin tan head of foam, thick lacing coats the side as the first sips lower the level. yep it looks like a stout.
Aroma is bitter chocolate. roasted barley and toast with a slight astringent alcohol.
Taste follows the aroma, bitter chocolate. burnt toast, molasses a slight sour tinge. a tad dry on the end. overall very pleasant without a noticeable aftertaste
Not an overpowering Stout on the sweet side, slightly dry and bitter, more like an Irish Dry Stout on steroids
A very nice Stout that is easy to put a pint down.

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Photo of Roguer
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Solid, perfectly black brew, 1/2 finger light tan head, quickly fading. Thin but nice lacing.

Slightly boozy aroma, with a hint of grain, grapes, and cocoa.

Very nice bite to this stout: chocolate in abundance, some grapes, dry grain, and a very noticeable alcohol flavor. Sweet, but not quite overly so. Just a hint of burnt grain in the background.

Slight sting on the tongue, then it settles in with a wonderfully thick feel. Nice clinginess; almost powdery cocoa feel. The alcohol is definitely present, but it's in no way bad.

You know how reviews are always saying, "This beer hides a 10% ABV very well,"? Yeah, not so much here. That doesn't make it bad: it's thick, balanced, strong, and flavorful. It's got a very nice sweetness to it, but a nice bite to back it up. Excellent brew.

2013 vintage.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 826 ratings.