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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

824 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 824
Hads: 4,671
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,243 | FT: 43
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.20% ABV

Availability: Rotating

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

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 824 | Hads: 4,671
Photo of SmashPants
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
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 +1.7%
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 +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of beeragent
4.36/5  rDev +5.3%
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 +4.6%
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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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.68/5  rDev +13%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

The elusive Narwhal, this is 2012 brewed according to the coding system they use it's bottled on 2285210:23 that's 2012 285th day on the 2nd bottling line at 10:23 am. I couldn't pass this up even though they had fresh Hoptimum I sided with the Narwhal since I hadn't yet tried this imperial stout. Pours with a black velvet smooth texture, pitch black body fills up my Stone Imperial Russian Stout glass nicely. Big smooth creamy texture mocha tan head follows the body with fine speckled lacing, this beer has some legs as I swirl it around in the chalice. Aromatics are killer dark ripened vinous fruit notes with dark chocolate and roasted coffee, it's an excellent combination brewed in this glass. Even some brown sugar/molasses like malt character kicking in with subdued earthy hops well hidden by the roasted qualities of black patent malts. The perceived sweetness comes off as dark partially fermented cherries or plump juicy raisins or a combination of those two fruits, but there is a fruity sharp sherry character going on here. Flavor rides a wave of those dark malts but has a surprisingly sharp sweet slightly salty breathe of ocean quality, maybe a bit of soy sauce that I get from some imperial stouts...it's not overkill but a nice dose of something to offset the dark malts acrid roasted malt character. Definitely sweet cherry hidden in there with well blended alcohol, caramelized brown sugar, earthy herbal hops in the backend with some added bitterness bitter dark chocolate and hints of espresso bean reach the palate as well. Like I said initially this is a killer complex ale, full bodied even smooth carbonation it's a joy to have on the palate with each sip cleansing any lingering harshness away it's drinkability is downright dangerous one of the biggest easiest drinking imperial stouts I've ever come across.

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Photo of elNopalero
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

UPDATE: May, 2013

This pours a dark black brew with a cocoa colored foam topping. There’s an aroma of sautéed mushrooms which dominates. It’s earthy and mellow with a dialed back roast profile. I get mushrooms & soy sauce as I nose and sip. The flavor has a mellow roast with soy sauce & mushrooms dominating. It warms well and remains a smooth sipper. Six months out on this and I found it much more enjoyable than fresh.


I have slain the Narwhal!

This beast pours a pitch black with a thin layer of foam. Aromas of dark roast coffee, dark chocolate and a sharp espresso dominate. The flavor has a hop forward bitterness as well as the coffee and espresso characteristics. An earthy mushroom taste develops as it opens as well as some soy sauce characteristics. The body is sharp but somewhat off balance. I get a dark chocolate flavor and sharpness, when what I want is more velvety smoothness to ease such a rich brew along. While it holds up to warming it is still hot with a noticeable alcohol presence. It strikes me as having some rough edges that could be softened with a little more time to rest.

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Photo of CFHMagnet
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I bought a four pack about 3 months ago and have finally brought it up out of the basement. It poured over half a finger of mocha colored head over a deep brown/black body. Has a thin sheet of lacing to show off.

Smells of dark fruits, a tinge of dark chocolate and coffee and ends with mild alcohol.

Starts off slightly sweet with dark fruit, then plunges you into a dark chocolate bath. Coffee, more dark fruit and light alcohol finish her off.

This beer is very carbonated, must be what keeps it from bogging down. It is medium-heavy bodied. Leaves a light coating on the tongue.

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Photo of dbossman
4.09/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Black with a solid but fairly quickly dissipating head; beautiful lacing

S: Big roasty coffee beans; some dark fruits; hoppy bitter up front with a sweet chocolatey malt undertone; this is a big beautiful and delicious spelling beer

T: Deliciously bitter and roasty; quite a bit of booze but the coffee and chocolate come rushing in afterwards; I wish it had more sweet balance--quite bitter in the finish (though I imagine this will improve with some age)

F: Creamy and viscous

O: A nice, thick, boozy stout; I wish it had more balance though; like I said, this will get better with age

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Photo of JFresh21
3.61/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a Delirium Tremens snifter. Pours a nice dark color with 1 finger of tan head. The aroma of this beer is quite delicious. However, the flavors do not come together well and it is a bit boozy. Worth a try but don't expect much. I won't be buying this again.

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Photo of mountdew1
4.47/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter. Color was a very dark completely opaque brown, with a nice light brown 1 finger head. Didn't last long, but had a bit of side cling. Aroma was slightly sweet a bit of lactose, with some smokey grain as well. Flavor was smokey, but not overly so. A tad of dark mocha flavor finished up in the mouth. Felt great in the mouth. Coated nicely, just a bit of carbonation. A tad to much acid in the back of the tongue was the only downside. Overall, a great stout. Well balanced, nice and thick.

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Photo of JustinAniello
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours pitch black with a half a finger of head that dissipates to minimal cap and lacing.

S - Aromas of coffee, chocolate, and wood with a mild alcohol fumes.

T - Light bakers chocolate turning toward a heavy coffee that lingers with bitterness. Sweet maltiness that just barely shows through. Definite alcohol taste, not in a bad way, even numbs the tongue slightly.

M - Medium body and carbonation, slightly oily. Could be a little thicker.

O - Pretty good Imperial Stout, nice flavor profile and aroma. Could use a little more body and maybe a little of that woodiness from the scent in the taste. Would be willing to have again, and certainly gets you feeling good.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.78/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2012 release poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a deep dark black color, with a large dark brown head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains roasted malts, chocolate, coffee and a touch hops.

T: The taste starts out with a hearty roasted malt character that is quickly followed by a strong hops presence for the style. Then some sweet flavors of coffee and chocolate come in. There’s a decent balance, but the order in which the flavors appear is what makes this beer more distinctive from other stouts to me. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp and a little smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

O: Tasty, goes down ok, not too filling, strong kick, good representation of style, it’s a good beer but there are others in the style that I would choose first.

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Photo of nickapalooza86
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours black with a half finger of a dark cream head, looks like a Impy Stout to me!

Smell is bakers chocolate, roast, toffee, espresso

Taste is bitter bakers chocolate, roasted malts, coffee, a bit of booze, latte

Mouthfeel is full with low to medium carbonation, finishes a little hotter then I usually like.

A nice Impy stout here, would I grab it over Expidition, FIS or old raspy? Probably not, will I buy atleast a 4 pack every year when it comes out.... For sure!

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

P: Super black body with a glisten of mahogany at the bottom of the glass. A dollop of creamy espresso froth that dwindles to a bubbly crown. Retention is nice and leaves thick micro bubble lacing that sloshes around the edge. The melted Dutch chocolate ice cream like head never seems to leave.

S: Rich roasty malts, bakers chocolate, burnt molasses, dark coffee beans, sawdust, sweet whisky mash, smoked grain and salted cashews.

T/M: Sweet burnt molasses, milk and bitter chocolate, charred grains, dirty wood, spicy booze with earthy and pine resin hops in the background. Coffee, black pepper, and sweet figs round out the multitude of malty layers. Full creamy but oily body with spicy carbonation.

O: A mystical adventure for your mouth. Super complex and ever changing this brew delivers amazing results. This is a beer of myth and legend that lives up to its magical name. Cheers!

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Photo of Mojo
3.73/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 ounce bottle -> tulip glass

This beer poured up a deep obsidian black with a lucious black appearance, one to one and a half finger foamy head, and lots of spotty lacing left behind. Smell is coffee, roasted nuts, and a bit of alcohol. Taste is pretty much the same as the smell. There is a sweet maltiness that is pretty well balanced by the taste of coffee, roasted nuts, a smoky flavor, and alcohol. The finish is a little too hot for my taste. This is not bad as you'd expect from a Sierra Nevada product, but it is nowhere near as good as Ten Fidy or Ol' Raspy.

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Photo of Sludgeman
3.73/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottled on Sept 22, 2012. A 12 ox bottle poured into a chalice.

A - Black opaque with a one-finger reddish brown head, which quickly disipates.

S - Coffee, whiskey and molasses.

T - Dark coffee, roasted malt, alcohol - too much, whiskey, some slightly smokiness, good bintterness - not excessive.

MF - Starts smooth but finishes a bit hot with lots of alcohol.

O - Balanced. Half a beer would be good for me. The true test is a full pour. Do you like the beer as much at the end as you did at the beginning? This beer did not pass that test.

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Photo of wethorseblanket
3.98/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2012 12oz bottle.

A: Pours black with a thin 1/8th-inch mocha head which fades to the rim and thin cap leaving spotty lace.

N: Baker's chocolate, cacao truffles, roast with some coffee, damp wood, malt, vanilla and caramel.

T: Roasty dark semi-sweet chocolate nibs, malts, faint char and coffee.

M: Full body and light carbonation. Rich, creamy and thick. Some dryness and mildly bitter finish.

O: Flavor is dominated by dark chocolate. Smells much better than it tastes.

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Photo of screamking
3.66/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into snifter. 2012 edition.

Appearance-pours black with a small dark brown head. Lacing is surprisingly absent. 3.75

Aroma-lots of dark chocolate, roasted coffee, some hints of vanilla, plum and dark grapes. All of your typical RIS notes are present. 4

Taste-Bitter chocolate is right up front, then some of that bitter coffee sneaks in. Little bit of sweetness in the after taste but mainly just bitter. It's not bad, but for the style I think there are far greater options available. 3.5

Feel-nice feel, could be thicker. Carbonation is very noticeable as is the abv. 3.75

Overall-I must say this one disappoints me, run of the mill RIS. I don't think I would buy this again, unless there was a hell of a deal. I'm just looking for stronger notes and this isn't the beer for them. 3.5

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Photo of sjverla
3.98/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Nose: Lots of coffee. Alcohol. Burnt sugar. Dark chocolate and a slight hint of vanilla.

Appearance: Black with mahogany highlights at the where light barely seeps in. About .5" of head that rose and fell quickly.

Taste: Enormous. Bitter coffee and semisweet chocolate. Full, viscous and smooth feel is incredibly satisfying. The finish is hot - a tad too much actually. A little age might be a good thing.

Overall: Damn good. A little too boozy young, but some age might do this some good. Also, the cut on the roof of my mouth might be causing issues.

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

2012 bottle
Appearance: Motor oil. Dark, coffee head.
Smell: Hints that this drink is going to be strong, alcoholic, and have a note or two of coffee and chocolate.
Taste: Alcoholic. Strong. Light chocolate and coffee. Maybe some grape.
Mouthfeel: Motor oil.

This is a great example of the Russian Imperial. Watching it pour into the glass is both daunting and tremendously inviting. It really does look like thick, black syrup or motor oil. The smell provides the alcoholic warning that this is going to be a strong drink, yet it doesn't smell like cheap vodka/overly alcoholic. The taste is altogether strong and very powerful. It is chocolate, coffee, and maybe some grapes drowned in delightful and tactful alcohol. I will get this again and I'm aging my other bottle.

2013 bottle
The smell had much more chocolate. Same great brew.

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Photo of Brenden
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pouring motor oil-thick and a mean-looking black, Narwhal's got the look of a big imperial stout. A thick, tight brown head sits at one finger in height on this brew. It recedes after time, leaving a pretty heavy ring of lacing at the top with some legs to follow.
The aroma takes some time to pull out completely, but this beer's full of big, malty goodness with heavy notes of roast, lots of espresso, and unsweetened chocolate. As it warms, a gentle sting of alcohol comes out from underneath.
In the flavor, it's clear the brewers chose to go against the cloying sweetness of some other big stouts; in fact, this one nearly foregoes the sweetness altogether for a different profile entirely. The espresso and very-much-unsweetened baker's chocolate are the flavor highlights, but a touch of something like molasses along with a bit of charcoal make for a stronger, more bitter taste (in a good way). A bit of (very) dark fruits linger underneath if you know where to search.
The feel is thick, rich and robust. Somehow very heavy isn't too heavy for this beer, as it doesn't just sit on the palate or weigh it down. Instead, it moves very nicely, with a downright velvety creaminess on the tongue through every sip. There's a crisp nip that doesn't get too much in the way.

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

2012 version that has been sitting in my fridge since November. Poured into a snifter this brew comes out of the bottle looking like motor oil topped with a dark tan thick head 1 finger wide with good lacing. Aromas of chocolate and roasted malt. Fairly simple but delicious. Taste is also chocolately with some nice roasted slightly bitter malt. A rather thick yet smooth mouthfeel. Really clean for a 10%+ beer. This is a fantastic RIS. Favorite beer from Sierra Nevada

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3.79/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

$4.50 for the 12oz bottle, served in a tulip
Bottle code 2279213:35
Sampled 03MAR13

[A] A swift pour produces a slim head of medium-dark brown color, foamy and quick to diminish. A small ring of foam around the glass is all that is left 30 seconds after the pour. The body is completely black with no transparency at any point. Short, drooping strands of lace stick to 1/3rd of the glass. No lacing.

[S] The least impressive part of the beer. Semi-sweet chocolate, fudge and cocoa powder. Neutral yeast, maybe a few berry-like esters and evident alcohol. Nothing special.

[T] General chocolate and roast - neither are overpowering. Midpalate the bitterness comes forward in the form of fresh pine and rich soil. Deep chocolate notes return after the smooth bitterness fades. Long lasting flavor.

[M] Medium body with a silky smooth texture at first, but a semi coarse, long lasting effervescence later. The latter part is not exactly complimentary to the style in my opinion.

[O] For whatever reason, Narwhal performs a little better out of the bottle than it did on draft two months ago. It was really underwhelming at that point. Today, while a bit better, it still isn't as good as some regularly available high gravity stouts, like Yeti, for example.

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Photo of eric5bellies
3.21/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Drank from my Duvel tulip

A - Pours a deep dark ebony colour witha tow fingered coffee caloured head that reduces quickly to a lacing film.

S - Booze, coffee malts with vanilla and small chocolate.

T - Up front some nice molassis malt, followed by combined coffee and chocolate. The finish is rough and boozy and a long sicky finish.

M - Full and low carbonation. Not silky

O - An ok RIS but there are far better examples. Not sure why its "exceptional" Would rather the Sam Smiths or Courage over this one

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 824 ratings.