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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

796 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 796
Hads: 4,534
Avg: 4.13
pDev: 23.24%
Wants: 263
Gots: 1,164 | 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: 796 | Hads: 4,534
Photo of dc87
3.93/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A - Not as attractive as other imperial stouts I've seen. As expected, a tar like dark brown-black body. Dirty white-brown head which disappears disappointingly quickly.

S - Predominantly fruity chocolate sweetness. A little coffee, and roasted malts and smokiness.

T - Complex and wonderfully balanced. Sweet dark fruits, berries, raisins and chocolate. Finishes with some perfectly complementary bitterness and charred. Delicious and drinkable.

M - Medium-full bodied. Some pleasantly nippy carbonation too.

O - A very tasty, well balanced and enjoyable imperial stout. Would definitely drink again.

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Photo of seand
3.68/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours an opaque black with a fair amount of tan head. Most of it dissipates except for a little surface film and a ring around the edge of the glass, which is enough to leave a few bubbles of lacing.

S: Bitter sweet coffee and malt.

T: Bitter sweet malt, and a bit boozy. Aftertaste is coffee-like and a little astringent.

M: Full body, medium carbonation.

Overall, a pretty good beer, but definitely on the less sweet side of imperial stouts. It's still quite drinkable if that's what you like.

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Photo of whatthehull
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Narwhal Imperial Stout

A - DEEP, DARK, muddy black, one finger very tan/almost brown head and some sugar legs

S - Nutty, huge vanilla, molasses, COCA, beast of roasted toasted grains, sexy smooth, deep chocolate dipped ripe berries, OAK, Charred OAK, BOOZE, sexy sweet molasses, bourbon vanilla, cinnamon, beautiful earthy hops and wow

T - DUDE, WTF, such a huge robust beast of a stout. Much love SN. Love my RIS and High octane and sugary stouts, but this is on another spectrum. Booze note kicks ass, The deer dark ripe berries are all dipped in sugarless coca, the roastedess and toastedess grains, deepest of darkest chocolates, molasses, bourbon vanilla, oak, nutty, charred anything and AWESOMENESS

M - Full bodied, overwhelmingly awesome robustness, medium plus acidity, well balanced, awesome complexity and the best robust imperial stoutness I have had in YEARS!

D/O - Robust is the name of this stouts game. DAMN. Not DAMN I need something less robust. Just DAMN, they did the robust and less sweet/boozey style WELL! Stoked on this beast for sure. Refreshing isnt a word used in this description, but tasty is!

Final Thoughts - $12 bucks IS high for a 4 pack but at a 10.2% and the taste, why the heck not?!!??!

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Photo of M_C_Hampton
4.33/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass, almost black with a nice dark tan head that lingers leaving good lacing, clear

S: coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, dark roasted grain

T: coffee, bitter coco, espresso, tobacco, dark roasted malty grains

M: heavy, oily, low carbonation, alcohol noticeable

O: great imperial stout, rich flavors

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Photo of JGlitz87
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black and nearly opaque. Slight tan head.

S: Roasted malts. Little bit of chocolate

T: Lots of flavor. Roasted malts, chocolate, caramel, little bit of bourbon barrel taste. Slightly boozy.

F: Thick body and no carbonation. Very smooth. Hides it alcohol content well.

O: Very good beer. Not the best RIS I have ever had, but certainly good. Looking forward to see how it ages.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.11/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle - $2.99 at Total Wine & More in Kennesaw, Georgia.

2013 Vintage.

Appearance: Slips out a black, viscous-looking body, though with only a very, very small, tan head.

Smell: An aroma choked with rich maltiness -- molasses, chilled espresso, chocolate, along with full notes of licorice sticks, plump raisins. Minor spiciness, slim smokiness.

Taste: Boldly roasty, espresso-laden, and heaping with melted, fine dark chocolate and thick molasses. Restrained sweetness, as it's tempered by the sharpness of the roasted malts, hops, and warming alcohol. Black licorice. Dark fruits. A little additional fruitiness attributed to the hops, slightly resiny. Reasonably dry on the smooth finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium carbonation.

Overall: Big and beefy yet relatively balanced -- I liked it.

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Photo of AdamF625
4.38/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

A- pours jet black with a thick khaki head that fades quickly.
S- black malt, roasted barley, cacao
T- a lot of roast and black malt flavor, expresso, bitter chocolate, earthy hops
M- medium body and carbonation
O- well balanced between the dark malts and hops. The alcohol is hidden well but this beer sure keeps you warm.

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Photo of taylor714914
3.84/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Another solid beer from Sierra Nevada.

Pours a chocolatey black with a tan cap of foam.

Smells of roasted malts, chocolate, and a bit of smoke.

Tastes of roasted malts, chocolate, a hint of blackberry, and some lingering residual malt sweetness.

Mouthfeel is slightly thin, but still decent.

Overall a good offering from Sierra Nevada.

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3.4/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

It pours a jet black color with a nice head that retains decent.stouts are hard to rate in appearance To me they are black and not much else.

The smell is good,you get coffee in the front then the alcohol just ruins it in the back end,maybe a little coco back there too.

The taste is not bad just the booze overpowers it,after a few drinks that's pretty much all you taste.

The mouthfeel is a little thin IMO.

Overall this is not a great imperial stout,too much booze taste.if Sierra Nevada can hide the abv better it would improve this one drastically

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Photo of Beersnake1
3.77/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Pours black with a finger of light brown head. Head disappeared quickly - probably 20 seconds.

Smell: Not overwhelming. Toasted malts with some hints of dark fruit. Even a bit sweet. A bit smoky and a hint of caramel.

Taste: The taste follows the smell nicely. Fairly mellow, with a taste of toasted malts, caramel, and a bit of coffee. Not as burly as some other imperial stouts, but a nice smooth flavor. The alcohol content doesn't come through.

Overall: Nice beer from Sierra Nevada. Pleasantly smooth, but not extremely distinct from others in its class.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
3.84/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A 2013 bottle that arrived to Albuquerque in the last month. Poured from the 12-ounce bottle into a snifter.

The beer pours engine oil black and creates a delicious looking, off-brown head. Healthy lacing is present.

The aroma is boozy, smelling like a brandy with some fruity, cherry qualities. A sweetness is present, as is sweet malt. Some chocolate pops up too.

Taste-wise, there is a whole lot going on here: breadiness, caramel and chocolate and a potent blast of booze. Coffee hints drift in and out and linger with the dry aftertaste.

The booze really takes the beer over at this point, giving significant burn and a dry ending and taking away from the beers other flavors.

I will be aging a 4-pack of these and will be revisiting them later on in the winter and down the line and suspect they will improve significantly as the beer settles. Right now, the beer is still to potent to truly enjoy.

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Photo of MikeWard
3.68/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. 2013 batch.

Poured a thick oily black. No light comes through the body. Head was about a finger, tan colored. The head dissipated quckly to a full covering, before completely disappearing about halfway through the drink. No lacing to speak of.

Wasn't getting too much from the nose, pretty subtle, some alcohol, coffee, a little toasted malt.

Taste was also very subtle, with the above flavors coming through, but no strength to any of them. None of them lingered on the tongue very long.

Mouth was around medium, a little dry at the end.

I've only had this beer once before, last fall. Remember enjoying it a lot more then than now. This seemed a bit uninspired. Nothing offensive about it, just a bit bland really. A bit disappointing. Does go down easy for a 10.2abv.

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Photo of haschauer
3.62/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Very dark, pitch black body. Light caramel head.

S - Chocolate, toffee, coffee. Good smelling beer.

T - Chocolate and coffee up front. Some prevalent alcohol flavor. This is my third bottle from the 2013 varietal and the alcohol is already dying down but still there.

M - Good mouthfeel. Not too heavy, good level of carbonation.

O - I wanted to let this age a little more but I suppose I got a little excited with the weather cooling down so much at night these days. I will definitely let the last bottle I have lay down for a some months. Good stout but not as great as I was expecting.

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Photo of JRed
3.56/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Dark black in body with creamy tan head that floats on top for the duration of the drink. Aroma of roast, dark chocolate, dirt, and cocoa powdered mint leaves. Flavors aren't as aggressive as I thought they'd be: fluffy chocolate mousse, roasted malt leads to dirt, some tobacco towards the end. Milky body with light carbonation. A smooth stout that masks the big booze well behind layers of cocoa and crushed autumn leaves. Dangerously easy to keep picking up over and over again.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.58/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ok, this review is for the 2013 batch as I forgot to review the 2012 which I actually thought was better. Dark black, brown healthy head. Aroma is alcohol, roast malt, not bad at all. Flavor is alcohol, dark malts, fruit, mild notes of chocolate. Overall pretty good but a little astringent for my liking,

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Photo of Furlinator
3.56/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours near black with very little head and decent lacing.

Smell is alcohol and cocoa up front. A faint scent of raisins and plums with a bready
finish on the back end.

Taste is bitter coffee up front. Faint nut flavor and some dark fruit bring up the rear.

Medium bodied for a stout. Slightly creamy with medium carbonation.

As stated in previous reviews, the alcohol presence is obvious and certainly detracts from this stout's potential. A bit of a disappointment.

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Photo of mjpolzin
3.77/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Split a 4 pack with my brother in law. Always excited to try a new imperial stout. This one was somewhat of a disappointment though.

The pour into the glass was very dark but not as thick as some of the better imperial stouts. As was mentioned in many of the reviews on this site, the smell was of alcohol with some roasted malts in the background. The taste was very similar to the smell and unfortunately the alcohol taste masked what could be a very good imperial stout with some chocolate, dark fruit and malts hiding behind the alcohol burn.

I have another bottle of this. Perhaps with some age on it, the alcohol taste will die down a bit leaving behind a much better beer.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.13/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle into a pint glass. Really looking forward to this one.

A: Pours a very dark red color. It's so, so close to being pitch black, but not quite. The head is a two finger khaki shade. Retention is decent if not spectacular, and a nice layer of lacing is left behind.

S: This pops with chocolate, coffee, roasted malts, some leafy hops...and a LOT of alcohol. This smells really boozy even for 10.2%, and it's not a particularly refined alcohol presence. Even worse, it seems to detract from the rest of the brew. But of course, given the chance to warm up, all its alcohol calms down - slightly.

T: There's no two ways around it - this mutha is harsh. Roasted malts open this one up, sandwiching a cream-laden coffee middle with its boozy, fruity finish. Some hoppiness appears in the aftertaste. I would have hoped that the alcohol would at least create some nuance and depth, alas no; it's not dead simple, but it should be more complex considering. Giving it the chance to warm/open up doesn't improve it much either. Maybe it makes it *slightly* less harsh.

M: It's creamy and lush feeling, like an imperial stout should be. I'm also kind of glad it isn't particularly dry finishing, because all it would really do is expose the alcohol even further. Carbonation isn't really a factor.

O: This could be my biggest letdown of 2013. It had many things going for it to be topnotch - SN's reputation, well received on BA, inexpensive - but in the end was nearly ruined by the generic harshness. My other bottles are going in the cellar; there's a very good RIS underneath this all, and aging it may be exactly what the doctor ordered.

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Photo of martyl1000
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Black. Oily. Chewy brown head but the lacing slides off the glass too readily, via some obvious alcohol solvency.

Boozy aroma, w/ coffee, barely detectable chocolate. Nice, but fairly one-dimensional.

Booze first on the tongue. Then tart stone fruit, cherry, prune, or is it fig. Cocoa's next, along with burnt toast. Then more booze, which is an issue.

Thick, oily, despite the significant carbonation.

Very much like Old Rasputin, which isn't my favorite RIS. I like them sweeter than this. The simplistic aroma is the weak spot, here. But at this price point, I'll drink this regularly. Wish there were more chocolate and/or vanilla involved.

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Photo of scar
2.93/5  rDev -29.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

What I was looking forward to was a larger version of their stout that was made with Black Malt/ no Rbarley and was bottle conditioned. Unfortunately their stout and this imperial stout are no longer bottle conditioned and they have changed the recipes.

I was confused by this beer, I really didn't know what it was trying to accomplish other than strength and drink ability. Sadly, there are many big stouts far better than this one and I expected more from the great American institution.

Because of my disappointment pls refer to my numerical ratings rather than a written breakdown of this beer. I will leave you with this thought. Sierra Nevada has gotten larger and as a result only bottle conditions the pale ale and a few seasonals. However, this conditioning in the bottle is what made their products really pop and highlighted the craftsmanship and quality. Simply put, this company's beers cease to be interesting since they have stopped bottle conditioning.

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Photo of zac16125
3.57/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into a tulip
vintage 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of BucannonXC5
3.85/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Type: 12-oz. bottle
Glass: ½ pint glass
From: VONS in Big Bear City, Calif.
Price: $9.99 for a 4-pack w/ VONS membership card
Purchased: Sept. 13, 2013
Consumed: Sept. 13, 2013
Misc.: 2013 batch

Poured a pitch black color with 1-to-2 fingers of almost still tan head, that dissipated rather quickly. Even a bit purple in the color there. Some sporadic spots of lacing, but well below average. Minimal retention on the top on the way down.

Smelled a deep liquor up front, like an Irish whiskey or something similar. Also molasses, dark cocoa, maple syrup, toffee, caramel and rum. Could smell the strong alcohol for sure.

Tasted dark cocoa, cocoa, chocolate milk, molasses, toffee, caramel, Irish Whiskey and rum. So basically like the smell, but smoother. Alcohol was well hidden, unlike the smell.

Medium-to-full body. Creamy-to-sticky texture. Soft carbonation. Long, smooth finish.

I was slightly disappointed in the Narwhal. Whether you consider it a Russian Imperial Stout (Beer Advocate), an Imperial Stout (Sierra Nevada and Rate Beer), neither lived up to what I was expecting.

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Photo of Jadjunk
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

"Inspired by the mysterious creature that dwells in the deepest Arctic seas, Narwhal Imperial Stout is midnight black and bold-with notes of baker's cocoa and dark roasted coffee. This massive imperial stout is incredibly complex and explores the darkest depths of malt flavor." Brewed in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout. Available as an annual imperial release in 4 packs, first released in 2012. Price ranges from $8.99-$9.99 per 4 pack.

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle to my Sierra Nevada snifter. Served north of 54º Fahrenheit.

(Appearance) Pours a roasty cocoa brown head of a creamy medium-thick consistency over a near black body, no light getting through. Lacing is light and streaked, retention is slightly above average. A pretty solid appearance, comes off as a bit lighter than other Russian Imperial Stouts based off of the head color, consistency and retention. 4.25

(Smell) Aromas of medium roasted caramel, mildly sweetened cocoa morsels, toffee bits and a mellow lactose sweetness for a moderate viscosity and residual sweetness. A mild earthy hop lends a subtle bitterness. A touch of licorice character is notable, reminiscent of an export stout, only the body and aroma of this stout alludes to something a bit denser in composition. Very clean and accessible for a Russian Imperial Stout, some might argue it to be overly pedestrian. The balance is very nice, there's a great deal of roasted malt and cocoa character to build a flavorful body for this beer. Potency is mild/medium for the style, somewhat muted in it's delivery. 4.25

(Taste) Medium roasted malts up front, with a modest lactose, grain and cocoa thickness and a faint pinch of black malt for a mild char. Hop presence is mild with mellow herbal and earthy notes. Beer finishes dry with unsweetened cocoa powder and a touch of licorice. Flavor stays moderately accessible amongst Russian Imperial Stouts, but has it's enjoyable unique qualities that finds it best within the boundaries of the style. A notch of alcohol heat on the finish is the most unsettling caveat of the drinking experience. Overall, Narwhal has enjoyable flavor and is highly drinkable for an Imperial Stout. 4

(Mouthfeel) Texture is mildly thick with an oily slickness, a touch of thin syrup. Carbonation aides for a modest creamy mouthfeel. Bitterness is moderate, a good balance for a moderate Russian Imperial Stout body, a spicy grain and perkiness counters the rest of the residual sweetness. Body is just shy of medium for a Russian Imperial Stout, and medium/heavy overall. Alcohol presence is medium with some subtle heat that isn't overly distracting, but certainly difficult to avoid, especially with the tameness of the malt body. 4.25

(Overall) The beer is solid, very well made but isn't what I'd consider "Russian Imperial" grade in depth of flavor nor body either. It's a highly drinkable, clean drinking imperial stout with just the right notes in check to warrant another glass when this one is through. As long as you're not in the market for a world class big-bodied Russian Imperial Stout, you won't be disappointed with this beer. It's a pleasing entry in Sierra Nevada's annual catalog, and I recommend grabbing a 4 pack when it comes back around. 4

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s
Narwhal Imperial Stout

Vertical Reviews:

October 2012 (11 months aged): Head pours a shade darker, still slightly creamy with moderate retention and body coloration stands the same. Aroma is becoming rounded with an enhanced roast character up front, chocolate and toffee seem isolated and enhanced by a mellow fruity tartness that sets in. Most hop bitterness has faded. Flavors have cleaned with time, a much better balance and smoothing of roasted flavors, much of the alcohol heat has tamed as well. This beer has become ridiculously drinkable and is perceivably much lighter than the fresh batch in both flavor and texture, although it still maintains some thickness and depth, comes off as more of an American Imperial Stout grade for it's perceived balance. Residual hop bitterness and the peppery licorice essence are easily detectable at this stage, both welcome compliments to the mellowed roast and chocolate. This beer may not have the body to hold up past a second year, but it's worth a try under the right cellaring conditions.

Recommended Vertical: Fresh to 1 year (Both vintages worthy; age 1 bottle, drink 3)

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Photo of Suds
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Utterly black, the ale is thick and intense. It has a thin, light-brown head, with an intense smell and a heavy alcohol punch. The smell is of licorice, wood, fleeting smoke, and booze-soaked raisins. The taste is very dry...and very bitter. The bitterness begins in the foretaste, combined with an immediate intense warming. Lots of alcohol. Roasty flavors...bitterness and some woody resin-like characteristics. Full in body...luxurious and heavy. This is one powerful brew, in almost every sense of the word.

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

A: what a deep black color. when held up to the light it makes it look almost like a black marble because of its depth. There was also a decent size head of about a cm, which I like for my stouts

S: A blend of a sweet Carmely taste followed by a strong scent of roast coffee or espresso. It is hard to smell the hops but they are just lightly present with a piney scent.

T: first i taste a well rounded flavor of deep roasted malts and coffee. The intensity of the nose is then followed by a softer carmel and toffee notes concluded by a slight piney hop aroma. I was quite impressed how good it tasted out of a bottle, since stouts usually have a distinct alcoholic after taste when not off tap. This beer only had a slight alcoholic afterwards, which is amazing for the fact that it is 10.2 %

M: I love the way this beer goes down the throat. I can see that some people might find it a little carbonated for a stout, but i like the carbonation becuase it helps move along the taste from the bitter beginnings to that of a soft tone, by which time the carbonation is gone and all that is left is the sweet carmel and toffee flavor

O: I love imperial Stouts and the narwhal is probably one of my favorite. might even be better than old rasputin, but as all intelligent beer drinkers know they only way to tell how good a stout really is, is by having it on tap. Until that time i'm surprised how well it tastes out of the bottle. Definitely will have to buy it again if i can find it

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 796 ratings.