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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

793 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 793
Hads: 4,527
Avg: 4.13
pDev: 23.24%
Wants: 263
Gots: 1,165 | FT: 44
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.20% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 793 | Hads: 4,527
Photo of jdhowe
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz bottle of 2013 vintage from Davis Beer Shoppe enjoyed on 1 September 2013. Reviewed from notes.

A: Pours an opaque black with 1 finger of mocha-colored head. Very little bits of light show brown through the edges of the glass. Minimal lacing is left down the glass.

S: Strong malts up front with roastiness and smoke predominating. Alcohol and some dark fruit are also evident and follow the stronger malt and smoke character.

T/M: Smooth and smoky up front with dark fruits following. Cacao mid-sip leads into roasted coffee bitterness on the finish. The mouthfeel is thick but not oily with plenty of carbonation.

O: The smokiness is a little strong, but otherwise I really enjoyed this beer. I'm a bit dismayed that I forgot to pick up a 4-pack before I left; the price point is pretty good.

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Photo of LI_PO12
3.91/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bottle Into Tulip

Appearance- Jet Black, 1 finger tan head

Aroma- Coffee, big roasted malt, some chocolate, some dark fruit, Slight piney hops, but mostly malt forward. slight alcohol, nice

Flavor- Roasted malt, coffee, less chocolate than the nose, dark fruit, creamy, alcohol shows up as it warms but for 10.2 its well hidden.

Mouthfeel- Full bodied, creamy, lower carbonation, some astringency at the end which take this down a bit. Alcohol warmth

Overall- First time I've seen it, and its tasty. Not the best RIS but a very good one that would make an excellent entry to the style as it hits all the right points, but could be more complex. I could see myself grabbing some more, maybe even to age for a while.

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Photo of bens0n
3.86/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2013 batch

This beer pours an opaque dark brown, almost black but not quite. Not too much head or lacing going on.

Smell wise, I pick up on a little bit of booziness, not very rich at all like you would expect.

Flavor wise, its got a good amount of booziness with a slight bit of toasted/burnt coffee, not too much of an aftertaste or anything that stands out other than the ABV. Its not very well masked, the aftertaste is not really something that makes me want to drink more or savor it.

Its got a nice, low level of carbonation, pretty slick and oily, not too thick or creamy though.

Overall, a decent imperial stout, nothing special though.

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Photo of 57md
3/5  rDev -27.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Appearance is a dark brown to black with a finger of head that quickly dissipated. The nose has distinctly cidery notes. The taste of straight-up alcohol overwhelms everything else in the flavor profile. The finish is astringent.

This is an offering that is way out of balance and a big disappointment considering I generally have a profound affection for SN beers.

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Photo of ccrida
3.33/5  rDev -19.4%
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 Franziskaner
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Dark black like crude oil. Even the minimal layer of head is tinged black. The nose is very appealing dark roasted barley. This is not to be taken lightly. Mouthfeel is silky and thick. Dark roasted barley, treacle, and molasses. This might be better in February rather than the middle of August. This is a real treat for imperial stout lovers like myself. A must try!

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Photo of cooler4life
3.82/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Update after 1 year on the bottle.

A: An ever so thin head of mocha quickly recedes to a large bubble in the center. Absolutely no lacing or retention. Makes me sad.

S: No updates. Slightly muted.

T: Up front you get some dark fruits and caramel. Flavor transitions to loads of dark chocolate, nuances of roasted coffee beans and almond milk. This beer continues to be much more heavy on the backend flavors.

M: Silky as ever. Not a hint of the ABV.

O: I thought the flavor was more intense the first year, but this one has aged wonderfully. Overall the flavors become more tightly integrated and mouthfeel silky smooth.

2012 Edition

All hands on deck!! We have a 'boozy'!

A: Poured half finger mocha colored head that settled to a thin rim of foam around the edges of the glass. Color is midnight black. Carbonation is very fine and no floaties can be seen through the murky darkness. 10 minutes after the pour, I wanted to see lacing, but it has evaded me.

S: Roasted malt, toasted almonds, espresso, bakers chocolate. Really fantastic.

T: The flavor is more pronounced on the backend is it courses through the plate. Begins with some clove and vanilla. Transitions to flavors of molasses, plums, and milk chocolate with some roast and smoky ash. I find it quite amazing that I can't detect the ABV at all. Well done.

M: This stout is feels wet and slick much like the foamy sea during a storm. Velvety smooth, almost too smooth for the style however. Carbonation is very fine and beer is slightly sticky.

O: Solid RIS from Sierra Nevada. This brewery just keeps delivering the goods!

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Photo of MarioM
4.09/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into Delirium tremens snifter.

A: Dark tan creamy head with medium lacing when swirled. Head mostly dissipated to a thin film in about a minute or two. Dark but clear and medium carbonation.

S: Dark brown sugar, dark roasted malt, chocolate and some dark fruits like raisins and figs as well.

T: Wow, I had to double check the abv because this is so smooth... Very drinkable. Light roastyness, not as sweet as the aroma, fruitiness is not very present as well. Good dark roasted character with some well balanced dark chocolate bitterness that lingers with just a tad bit of alcohol presence at the end. Great beer with just enough sweetness to balance it out but not a syrupy mess at all. Does not feel like its as big as it is.

M: Medium bodied and drinkable. Slight roasty sweetness at the beginning with a nice bitterness in the middle and finishes with a great alcohol dark chocolate mix.

O: Can't believe its a 10.2 % beer, first sip seemed like I was drinking a nice smooth roasty chocolaty oatmeal stout. Will be buying this again, especially for its price. Definitely a hard choice between this and Old Raspy... Need to do a side by side but highly recommend this beer. Prime example of why Sierra Nevada is as great as they are.

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Photo of SHerninko
4.48/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Rare here on the East Coast, but have one via a trade. Enjoyed while watching the new era of Eagles football. :-)
This is a world class brew. Sierra Nevada does not disappoint and are very consistent. This one is dark, smooth, creamy. Hints of chocolate and some coffee. This regular stout is one of the best non-flavored and non-barrel aged that I've had.
This one is legit. Malt and stout heads should seek it out. Nothing but praise.

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Photo of ISmith87
4.49/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle.

A - Beer is a dark dark brown/black with a half finger of dark tan head at first that disappears pretty quickly to leave a nice thin film of dark tan bubbles.

S - Smells like milk chocolate/caramel. Some creamy vanilla hints in there too. Coffee/Espresso.

T - Big chocolate and coffee at first. Nice roasted flavor to it throughout. Leaves a roasted/almost smoky after taste.

M - Medium-heavy beer. Alcohol pretty much completely hidden @ 10.2%. Roasted/smoky aftertaste.

O - Great beer. Definitely up there with Stone Imperial Russian Stout. Not as good as Stone Espresso Russian Imperial Stout or Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. For the price (8-9 dollars a four pack) this could be a great winter beer if I still lived back in Michigan, but I'll drink it in the Arizona heat too. I'll have to try Old Rasputin again to compare, but for the price from what I remember this could very well be a permanent replacement for it.

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Photo of pants678
3.97/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.75

That's as black as beer gets, I think. The head shrinks to lacing.

Milk chocolate smell more so than coffee.

Licorice, black malt or roasted barley. Baker's chocolate is liked on the website, I can believe that. Not detecting any additives or espresso notes. Not sweet, no fruity esters from the yeast, but quite a bit of hop. Damn near a black IPA.

Dense, dense, dense. Marshmallowy with a harsh bite on it. This'll sound like a swipe but it's a "managable" RIS. Kinda mean, little heavy. But I should've had this colder.

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Photo of CowsandBeer
3.8/5  rDev -8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottle picked up late last year. Poured into a snifter at cellar temp.

Look: A gentle pour gave off a dirty sand colored head of about one finger. Quickly dissipated and reduced to a thin ring with a film. Didn't expect much anyways given the high abv. Black body with some very faint reddish highlights. I can smell it as I pour. This is going to be big.

Smell: Nice nose. Burnt malt, big brown sugar, molasses, used coffee grounds, a bit of sweet plums and prunes. Some cardboard, little spicy alcohol, tar, and ashtray. The most dominant note here is definitely that thick, big brown sugar coming from the malts.

Taste: Bitter dark chocolate, more of that sweet brown sugar, burnt marshmallows, rice krispies treats, french press coffee, some alcohol bite and burnt toast.

Mouthfeel: Soft carbonation makes it an ideal sipper. Very chewy. Finishes dry.

Overall: Big stout with a really chewy body. Excellent night cap. One bottle would be fine for sharing with someone else. I can see how with more time, if the sweet malty notes keep coming out, this could turn into some almost port like material. Curious to try one again in six months and see how it's progressed.

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

Has a jet black appearance with a finger length dark mocha head that dissipates slowly and leaves a thick lacing. Smells of lots of bittersweet chocolate, good amount of coffee, nice roasted element to it, some oak, molasses, maybe some dark fruit as it warms. Taste starts with the bittersweet chocolate and molasses. Then in the middle, a huge dose of roastiness comes through from the roasted barley, along with more molasses. Then the finish is more of the roasted flavors, almost like a smokiness, along with lots of bittersweet chocolate, more molasses, some coffee or expresso, a tiny bit of hop presence, get some fig as well. Definite alcohol presence on the finish as well, but does not detract from the other flavors. Pretty full body with a sticky and creamy mouthfeel. Decent amount of carbonation that livens up the body of the beer. This will age nicely. Nothing too flashy, but a solid imperial stout at an affordable price.

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Photo of fitrock2112
4.58/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured Narwhal into a Belgian Tulip.

A - The liquid pours black as midnight with a finger of mocha head. Classic looking stout here.

S - At first sniff I'm getting dark chocolates, bitter coffee, luscious roasted malts. Again, classic Imperial Stout characteristics.

T - Bakers chocolate right off the bat, more coffee, some bitter malts and hops. Wow, this is a quality beer here. This beer does have some more bitter hop flavor than some Imperial Stouts, but this is very nice. A touch of licorice.

M - Smooth Imperial Stout, heavy mouthfeel with medium leaning towards low carbonation. Ahhh so nice.

O - Quality beer by Sierra Nevada. Highly Recommended! Cheers!

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Photo of PaleZombie
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a stout glass.

A - Deep brown almost black. Cloudy, very little head. When held to the light I could not see through it but there were some sediment chunks of junk floating on the side of the glass.(Im not a fan of sediment)

S - Somewhat mild sent. Deep roasted malts, some coffee, small amount of chocolate, a mild floral hop note.

T - The taste is what is the best on this one. Up front you get smacked with rich somewhat bitter chocolate, some coffee, with a strong coffee bitterness, maybe some raisins, and a little bit of hop finish. Very bold but pleasant.

M - Smooth, creamy, somewhat syrupy, little carbonation.

O - This is pretty good, the smell and sediment was the only downfall.

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Photo of Teleweizen2
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A - pours an ominous squid ink black. A pinky fingers worth of deep tan foam rises above the dark liquid and lingers.

S - nose is a bit muted but still very chocolatey with a slight touch of roast. Notes of cocoa powder and dark chocolate sauce. Light hints of grindy city roast coffee. Hints of cherries in the center.

T - doughy and chocolate flavors up front. Almost like a dark chocolate version of Nutella spread on italian bread. A hint of alcohol come through with a touch of coffee. Blackstrap molasses notes collide with earthy hops with hints of tree bark and pine. Finish is dry almost tannic and woody but with a note of dusty chocolate to smooth it out.

M - thick and rich. Full bodied with high carbonation.

O - great stout. Sierra Nevada just knows how to make exceptional beer.

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Photo of SebD
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: It has a beautiful jet black color to it. It has a nice thick dark tan head that stays around for ever and leaves lovely lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of sweet roasted malts, coffee, chocolate and dark fruit.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has a some sweet roasted malts, bitter coffee, dark chocolate, some dark fruit and an earthy hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: It has a low carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied with great flavors and aromas.

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Photo of PincheNorteno
3.23/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Picked up a single 12 oz bottle, poured into a pub glass. It was a bit underwhelming. How does this qualify as an imperial stout? My benchmarks for this class is Bells Expedition Stout, and Narwal seemed more like a porter.

The mouthfeel was far too light and the flavors were not intense enough for me.
Dark roasted malt flavor, medium body, notable clarity and overall thinness. Thin tan head, hints of soy sauce and mild bitterness. I tested this beer in a selection of a dozen stouts and it was near the bottom of my list.

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Photo of TreyIsWilson
4.13/5  rDev 0%
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 nmann08
4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Vintage

Pours a dark black, soft brown head, very still and calm appearance.

Huge malty nose, sweet, smells like licorice. Chocolate and coffee fight to come through, but are muted.

Tastes are dominated by dark fruits, sweet flavors. The roasted barley taste shows up and it finishes with bitterness.

Mouthfeel is good. Creamy and rich.

Overall this is good. Personally, I enjoyed it more fresh, but could also be better with more time on it as well.

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Photo of SmashPants
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle: solid dark brown 355mL stubby with a funky label. A good package.

Appearance: pours incredibly dark- almost an impenetrable black. A huge tan head pops up to over two-fingers before slowly settling to a thin, creamy cap. Looks good.

Aroma: roast coffee, dark cocoa chocolate, a touch of dark fruits and anise, and a wonderful smokiness

Taste: roast coffee, dark cocoa chocolate, a touch of dark fruits and anise, and a wonderful smokiness round out this beer.

Aftertaste: hangs around for quite a while, with a slight warming alcohol feeling at the back.

Mouth feel: very full-bodied with a creamy, silky texture. Though I can't see through the beer, I am sure it must have plenty of fine sediment to make it this smooth. Very drinkable.

Overall: if any United States-based brewery was going to produce an exceptional Russian Imperial Stout, I would have put my money on Sierra Nevada. The outcome is a rousing success - rich and complex in flavour, full in body and with a fantastic drinkability. One of the best Russian Imps I have had to date.

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Photo of thegodfather1076
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Presentation: Label overall look is phenomenal from the front,to the graphics. Front label has a bit of brewery info. Back label gives an awesome back story on the beer as well a short description of the beer, ABV info, and web info. Neck label states 2012 and the name of the beer.

Appearance: I allowed this to warm 10min before pouring from its 12oz bottle into a 16oz snifter. Narwhal pours out a deep dark brown almost black with a 2 finger reddish brown head of a medium density. Head retention was a bit of a disappointment last 1min 46sec before fading to an even thin foam film and a thin ring. Very nice lacing left behind! 4/5

Smell/Aroma: Smell has a licorice or herbal bite along with hints of dark fruit and a slight charred smokey woodiness. Hints of dark chocolate, roast coffee, and a molasses sweetness. Slight hints of alcohol can be detected. Very Complex!

Flavor/Taste: Taste starts with an herbal maybe licorice flavor that fades to a slight vanilla and dark fruit flavor. Middle is dominated by a charred woody dark chocolate and roast coffee taste. Finishes dry with a charred coffee malt flavor. A slight alcohol bite can be detected. Complex and intense!!!

MouthFeel/Drinkability: Full bodied and thick with a smooth mildly creamy mouthfeel. As drinkable as a 10% Russian Imperial Stout can be.

Overall/Comments: This is a very fine representation of the style that is robust and very complex. Does a good job masking the alcohol. May pick up a few of these to put away. Classified as a Russian Imperial Stout @ 10.2 ABV. Consumed 2/26/13.

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Photo of MadScientist
4.5/5  rDev +9%
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 beeragent
4.36/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from a 2012 bottle. Poured into a glass.

A - Pours a deep brown with ruby highlights. Appears black as motor oil once in the glass. Thin mocha head with no lace.

S - Strong roasted malts, chocolate, and espresso.

T - Roasted malt and bitter chocolate coat the palate. A slight hop bitterness in the finish. The alcohol is very well hidden.

M - Heavy bodied, thick and very smooth. Low carbonation.

O - Just like most of what Sierra Nevada does, they have set a standard for the style. When I think of an RIS, this is exactly what I expect it to look, smell, and taste like. Just a perfect example of the style.

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Photo of ExaltedNecrosis
4.33/5  rDev +4.8%
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 793 ratings.