Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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BA SCORE
92
outstanding

766 Reviews
THE BROS
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no score

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Reviews: 766
Hads: 4,454
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 8.96%
Wants: 255
Gots: 1,126 | FT: 45
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: 766 | Hads: 4,454
Photo of HarrySTruman
3.59/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle severed near room temprature.

Black like the depths of the ocean (just like the name implies). Brown bubbles create a finger high head.

Smells like coffee beer. A good smell, but not very bold or broad. Roasted or brewed coffee.

Tastes are slightly more bold, roasted malts, chocholate and coffee. I felt like I was tasting a small amount of licorice or licroice flavored gum. Breathing out, or the after taste was more like a bitter baking chocolate.

Mouthfeel was thick and creamy. Easy to drink, but still a nice warmer for a winters night. Cosy up next to the fire with one of these.

Great beer, good price for the ABV, easy to drink, easy to find. No complaints about this one. Not as big and bold as some other RIS, but still a high quality drink. (765 characters)

Photo of ESPNman
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served in a The Glenrothes scotch snifter.

A - Pours a deep inky black, producing two fingers of thick mocha head. The head dissipates somewhat quickly, but leaves behind solid lacing. This looks like a thick and chewy Imperial Stout.

S - Lots of coffee and deeply roasted malt. Surprisingly little alcohol on the nose, although there is a hint of brandied fruit present. A bit of oak, leather, and chocolate round out the nose.

T - Much like the nose, but with more malt and chocolate. Not a lot of coffee present in the mouthfeel. It starts out extremely roasty, hits some of the chocolate with a hint of hop in the middle, and then finishes very sweet with a hint of alcohol. This one should age very nicely.

M - Thick, syrupy, chewy, and everything I look for in the style. This one really coats the mouth, and lingers for a while once you've swallowed. It's one of the sweeter stouts I've had recently, and leaves a sticky sugar finish on the palate.

O - This is another solid entry into SN's line of higher-alcohol 4-pack brews. It's a big Imperial Stout that's pretty similar to the 30th Anniversary Stout (I believe it was Ken & Fritz's). Chewy, high-alcohol, sweet, big, sticky... all of those characteristics that make a good Imperial Stout. (1,256 characters)

Photo of StoutHunter
4.01/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

I picked up a four pack of Sierra Nevada's Narwhal Imperial Stout a couple weeks ago for $10.99 at The Lager Mill. Russian Imperial Stouts are one of my favorite styles and Sierra Nevada is one solid brewery so I couldn't pass up the chance to give this beer a try, so lets see how it goes. This is the first time this beer has been bottled, 2012 vintage. Poured from a shorter brown 12oz bottle into a snifter.

A- I like the name and the artwork for this beer, it's nicely done and it's pretty unique much like the animal it's named after. It poured a nice and dark motor oil black color that didn't let any light come through and it had two and a half fingers worth of fluffy light mocha colored head that died down to a thin ring that stayed till the end and left some nice and sticky patches of lacing. This is a very good looking beer with a nice dark color and more head then usual for this style, there's not a damn thing wrong with it.

S- The aroma starts off with loads of dark roasted malts that have a higher amount of sweetness to them and imparted some roasted, charred, chocolate, molasses, cocoa powder, coffee, black licorice, and a slight bit of tobacco towards the end. I don't pick up any hops in the aroma but I do get a sweet boozy aroma. The aroma is nice and it's very true to style, the booze shows up a little too much, but it doesn't hurt this beer that much.

T- The taste seems to be pretty damn similar to the aroma and it starts off the same with lots of roasted malts that have a higher amount of medium sweetness and impart some highly roasted flavors along with some chocolate, coffee, and a slight tobacco and black licorice flavor. After that comes a sweet molasses flavor followed by a good amount of dark fruits that add some complexity to the flavor. On the finish I get some warming alcohol that makes the flavor a little boozy and the aftertaste is full of sweet roasted and charred malts. This beer tastes good and is very true to style, it has nice complexity, but the boozyness hurts it a little.

M- Not that smooth, somewhat creamy, a little sticky, very rich, full bodied, and it had a pretty good amount of medium carbonation. The mouthfeel was ok, but it would be nice if this was a little smoother.

Overall I thought this was a good beer and a good example of the style, it had just about all the aspects that I look for in the style with some good complexity, but it didn't seem to be as balanced as some of the better RIS's. This beer had ok drinkability, it's a sipper and the flavors did a good job at holding my attention, but I think one would be enough for me, it might start to be to boozy after that. What I liked the most about this beer was it's complexity and it's appearance, they were both pretty good. What I liked the least about this beer was the mouthfeel and the drinkability, it was a little rough around the edges and it would be nice if this beer was smoothed out a little. I would buy this beer again, it's pretty solid and affordable for the style, I might keep a couple bottles for the cellar to see how they change overtime and I would get a four pack if it's released again. All in all I thought this was a pretty solid Russian Imperial Stout, but it lacked the balance and refinement that some of the better ones have, it's good but It can't hang with the world class RIS's like Founders RIS or Bell's Expedition Stout. Sierra Nevada makes some solid beers and this one's no exception, they seem to be one of the most constant breweries and I respect that. 2013 Edit, I had a year old bottle recently and it smoothed a little with some great chocolate flavors, ages well so far. (3,658 characters)

Photo of notchucknorris
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a thick black with a thin mocha head. Shows the thickness when swirled in the glass, leaving big trails of lace.

S: Roasted malt, burnt toast, anise, dark chocolate, molasses, mexican chocolate and some charred malt. Pretty complex.

T: A big charred malt hit right off the bat. Molasses, burnt coffee grounds, baking chocolate and charred grain. Maybe a hint of smoke and earthy hop resin on the finish. A really great RIS. Mouthfeel is big and chewy without giving away the ABV. Solid stuff. (505 characters)

Photo of Jimmys
3.83/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2012 bottle into SAVOR tulip.

A: pretty dark body, just a shade under black. head is coffee hued and forthy. residual head is average as is the lacing.

S: chocolate, tobacco, and coffee. the sugary sweetness has a roundness to it.

T: some black licorice is in there. a little bit of vanilla. finish is a blend of coco and coffee. lingering sweetness is pretty close to a dry chocolate.

M: the carbonation is a bit lively. more-so than i expected. full bodied.

D: a good stout for sure, unfortunately for myself i expected a little more. maybe an additional dimension of flavor that i couldnt find. however i do appreciate the lack of alcohol heat on such a recent, high abv stout. good, definitely worth grabbing for a solid stout experience. (751 characters)

Photo of fank2788
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2012 bottle served in a pint glass
Inky opaque black in the glass with a one finger dark khaki head of fine bubbles and good lacing. The smell is quite roasty with black patent and chocolate and brown malts coming through. A bit of smokey character, dark fruits and alcohol are all in the aroma as well. The taste is also dominated by roasted character it is actually quite overpowering at first as acrid bitter notes from the dark roasted malts bounce around. Also in there is dark chocolate, black coffee, molasses and a touch of alcohol. All of this is balanced by a dash of hops which are only in there as an attempt to balance the strong malts. Mouthfeel is pretty good as this beer is thick and chewy with low to moderate carbonation and excellent body. The finish is quite dry with puckering burnt malt bitterness and a touch of alcoholic spice. Overall this is a great beer and very surprising coming from sierra nevada a brewery that tends to specialize in hop bombs rather than malt focused beers like this. It appears as though I can now look forward to two great SN winter releases every year. (1,105 characters)

Photo of tubeboy
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle in a tulip pint.

A dark pour with 1.5 fingers of mocha head.

Smells of highly toasted grains, dark coffee and a hint of booze.

I taste a sweetness to the head that balances the super strong roasted grains. I like the start of this beer better than the end but the end aint bad. This is not for the faint of heart. Wow it seems that one of these should do the job or I have an empty stomach.

I like the contrast of a super creamy head being washed away by a velvet finish. This beer has great mouthfeel.

I must say this was quite a surprise and I'll be buying this again. (601 characters)

Photo of stumac
3.55/5  rDev -14%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours up black. Great lacing. Dark tan/light brown lacing. Whatevs. Smell booze, shattered dreams, my upper lip, toasted malts. Taste toffee, coffee, and bears. Oh my! Slightly boozy. Thick burnt malts. Big ol body. Smooth carbo. A tastey treat. I dig it (254 characters)

Photo of BradtheGreat7
4.32/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Review taken from notes - late October (2012)

12 oz brown SN style stubby bottle poured into an imperial stout pint glass(tulip pint). Label is great like usual from the folks at SN featuring a massive whale unicorn? Idk but
I like it. Mythic creature for a mythic brew? Awesome Look.

A - pours a jet black with the edges painted dark brown if held to the light. Pretty opaque color. Mocha brown head is pretty dark as well. I actually had a pretty massive head with this stout. Settles nicely to a thick ring of lace leaving some solid stick throughout the glass.

S - a mellow aroma at first, but massive Cocoa and dark chocolate with some roasted Malts rise up the depths of this black ocean of liquid. Hints of Dark fruit with some medium coffee expresso whiffs. A semi smokey character throughout the nose with the faintest alcohol whiff settle softly in the back.

T - rich and roasted dark malts with Bitter dark chocolate and expresso flavors. Hints of the darkest of fruit and thick molasses balance the bitterness. Pure cocoa In a dry finish. This is a class flavor for an RIS. Well done.

M - thick and luscious mouthfeel. Nice and sturdy in size. Smooth and creamy while doing an excellent job at coating the mouth. This is a stout man's mouthfeel. Smooth, thick and like velvet going down. Very drinkable considering the 10.2% it packs.

O - at last! We get a great imperial stout from SN. Sure they have the beer camp stuff, but with a brewery that does about everything right.. Including making a solid stout and porter that's easily to locate. this is massive and thick winter stout and lets hope it's a new tradition at SN. Like all good big stouts it's capable of Having the pop topped from day one or can sit in your cellar for as long as you'd like. This RIS has the quality, complexity, and depth to rival anything in it's category. An instant classic for me and one of the best I've had. It may not be better than some, but it's great enough to be in the conversation. Sierra Nevada is world class. (2,023 characters)

Photo of raynmoon
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Finally getting to taste this one.

It looks awesome. Pours very viscous-like. Very dark, darkest head you could probably get from a beer. Maybe just a touch more lacing and this one would be perfect.

Smells like a Russian Imperial Stout. It's hard to describe. It has that super burnt, roasted malt character along with the strong hop presence on the nose. Maybe a touch of dark chocolate.

Taste is more of the same. Bitterness coming straight from the roasted barley and chocolate malt. Upon the right breathe, the aftertaste is like a nice chocolate bar; very pleasant. Reminds me of old rasputin, but less intense with the carbonation and hops. No actually taste or detection of alcohol really. This beer is unbelievable in the aspect of silkiness and hiding the alcohol. They must have gone for a much much higher OG

Very smooth on the body. Low carbonation.

Overall, very good. There isn't a unique character about this one that makes it jump out like some of the classics in the country, but it has that perfect RIS taste, while masking a large amount of alcohol, and competing with others at a very affordable price. Well done. (1,142 characters)

Photo of HuskyinPDX
3.9/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle opened on 11.6.12.

A - Pours a dark brown with a medium brown foamy head that lingers around for a bit.

S - Very roasty and bitter. Some chocolate and coffee.

T - Bitter coffee, but smooth chocolate. Better as it warms.

D - Heavier body and good carbonation.

O - Sold stout, but I was a bit let down till I let it warm a bit more. Very solid, especially for the price. (386 characters)

Photo of russpowell
3.97/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours jet-black with 4 fingers of caramel colored head. Good lacing & average head retention

S: Roastyness & cocoa, some boozeyness, faint figgyness

T: Follows the nose, dark fruit as well, some charred grain & some booze rake across your tongue up front. Some coffee as this warms, a bit of carob & booze, plus some faint raisin, then a smattering of charred grain & roastyness, plus woody & herbal hops. Finishes dry, fruitty, with carob, roasty grains & the specter of ainise

MF: Fairly chewy with light carbonation, fairly warming. Carbonation perks up as this warms

A nice take on the style, I need to do a side by side with old Raspy, I don't this quite beats that , but kudos to Sierra Nevada for spreading its wings. Would buy again to be sure, a little less boozeyness would help the cause. Will age great I'm sure (828 characters)

Photo of TheMultiYeast
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours nearly opaque black with half a finger of head

Big immediate roasted character in nose, bittersweet malted chocolate, dark coffee, smoke, some booze..woody, earthy.

Some malty sweetness then smoky roasted goodness, bitterness, coffee again, lighter chocolate notes than aroma, nice bitterness to balance malt complexities..very nice..smoky bitter aftertaste.

Feel is everything I want from an imperial stout..thick, chewy, delicious.

Dope release! (457 characters)

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

2012 12 oz. bottle that pours a deep, black body with a two-finger dark tan head. The head settles into a nice cap and leaves streaky lacing on the glass.

The aroma is typical of a RIS, but a bit on the light side. Some roasted malt, a bit of chocolate, some dark fruit. Nice, but not complex.

The flavor steps it up a notch. Very nice blend of flavors: roasted malt, dark fruit - especially raisin, chocoalte, light coffee, and licorice. Excellent flavor balance.

Very smooth mouthfeel, medium to thick in texture. Nearly no notice of the alcohol. This is a top-notch RIS. Highly recommend. (594 characters)

Photo of BARFLYB
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle into a Sierra Nevada tulip style glass.

Narwhal poured out thick, a stout is a stout, this one has a very dark black color and a sturdy inch of dense dark tan bubbles like chocolate milk. It fades away into a small cap up top leaving minor splotches on the glass. Smell is pretty balls deep, scents include bakers chocolate, earthy hop tones, licorice, roasted malt, smores, and some minor dark fruit. It smells great. Taste is superb, just a big RIS, no bells or whistles. With so many RIS out there they kind of run in circles with one another. Narwhal does the same. Taste includes most of the scents up above, but the two characteristics that stand out to me in this specific RIS is licorice and dark fruit. Body is full and carbonation keeps the beer going after some warming, while this indeed does warm up to me. A one and done beer in a sitting with the body and alcohol. This is another RIS that I will be keeping in touch with during the cold months and possibly building a vertical down the line, which seems like the right thing to do. (1,060 characters)

Photo of jsprain1
4.07/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours deep dark black. Head is one finger thick, lasts pretty well, I suppose. Good lacing, however.
S- Very nice smell. Coffee, espresso, dark chocolate, and a good bit of dark caramel. Hits all the notes a good RIS should.
T- A bit too much sweet caramel and not enough roasted flavors. Caramel is prevalent throughout. Coffee and chocolate are there, just not as strong as I would like.
M- A bit light, but nice smooth carbonation.
O- A decent to good imperial stout. I always like SN offerings and even if this isn't one of the top examples. (548 characters)

Photo of Nugganooch
4.09/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle w/ a nonic style sampler glass

A: SN Narwhal pours black with a thin coffee brown edge. Semi-thick and oily but not sludgy at all. A few fingers of mocha tan head succumb to the large air pockets rather quickly leaving behind just a collar that dots the glass with cling.

S: Smells of dark malted grains with a lightly roasted coffee redolence. I am getting waves of earthy pine and bakers chocolate. There is a hint of smoky char rounding out the nose. Aromas come together not unlike chocolate cake in the glass which is really quite nice.

T: Super dark roast malt flavors rich with a dark chocolate sweetness. Spent coffee accompanies an ample piney bitterness that peaks towards mid palate. I am getting lots of earthy charcoal throughout and some toasted herbs at the finish. Light alcohol warmth. Smooth, tasty, and delicious. A really well rounded Impy from the Chico boys.

M: Moderate to heavier in body with a nice even carbonation. Provides a smooth creamy texture with a slight crisp hoppy bite on it. Finish is sleek and wet.

D: Some crazy dark roast character here with impeccable balance as to be expected from Sierra. Generously hopped at that. Narwhal wont size up to most whales,bro but this an instant classic if there ever was one. Smooth and very approachable for the style.

As if I needed another reason to love this brewery SN delivers anyway. (1,384 characters)

Photo of TempeBeerMan
4.43/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a nonic pint.

A - Pours an inky black, with a creamy, dark brown, two-finger head. Decent retention. Moderate lacing.

S - Lots of burnt stuff going on here....grains, some burnt wood, ash. No sweetness to speak of.

T - Taste follows the nose, and SMOOTHLY at that. Charred grains, bakers chocolate, burnt coffee, blackstrap molasses, and a little bit of smoke. A little dried prune sweetness in the mid-palate, but just a hint. No astringent or metallic notes; just rich, bittery goodness. ABV crazy hidden, and really only detectable as the taste settles on the back of the tongue between sips.

M - Out of this world. Creamy, medium-bodied, and on the low end of "medium carbonated". Dry finish. Very drinkable.

O - If you like your stouts in the "burnt and bitter" style, it's hard to find better. It might not be the most complex stout I have had, but it's perfectly presented. A stunner. (926 characters)

Photo of freystout17
4.87/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Outstanding ! This is up there with my other 3 favorites: Rasputin RIS,, Bell's Expedition, and Ten Fidy. You are not going to find any better imperial stout than this for the money. Very reasonably priced here in Ohio @ about 11 bucks/4. Very rich, thick mouthfeel, about a two finger head, and very pronounced burnt chocolate and coffee notes. (345 characters)

Photo of SanFranJake
5/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On draft in a tulip at SNBC.
Pours a deep dark black with 1/8" golden head which fades slowly.
Aromas of roasted coffee and chocolate which get deeper as the stout warms and the glass level lowers.
Super smooth and easy, almost chewy mouthfeel and a chocolatey aftertaste which lingers nice and long.
A step outside of Sierra's norm but a damn good beer all around!
I loved it in the bottle and have been picking the four-packs up as I see them. Great now...only time will tell for later. (492 characters)

Photo of Jwale73
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I've been looking forward to trying this beer since I first heard about it. 12oz. bottle served in a tulip. Pours an inky black with a fizzy and effervescing two inch, mocha-colored head that sizzles and pops as it gradually collapses into a sudsy slick with a thin, bubbly band around the edges. Nose expresses dark, roasted malts, chocolate and brewers licorice - there's also a slight artificial sweetener character that reveals itself towards the back. Taste follows nose; however, there's also some smokiness in the flavor profile as well as molasses. Mouthfeel is medium-light (but closer to medium), with slightly oily texture, as well as a mild, even carbonation. Overall, a very solid RIS from a very solid brewery. Alcohol is extremely well-hidden, and balance is great. The only detracting qualities for me are the slight, artificial sweetener presence in the nose and in the flavor. Also, while the carbonation is not overly assertive, I would like to see it dissipate a little more. All and all, this beer is well worth your time if you enjoy the style. (1,066 characters)

Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.05/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Thin rings of lace line the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, unsweetened cocoa, alcohol, and slight coffee aromas. Taste is much the same with a medium roasty bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and full bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with some solid aromas and flavors but I think the mouthfeel is the best part of the drinking experience with this one. (556 characters)

Photo of ksimons
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A-black with no highlights visible with a fingers worth of tan head

S-Roasted malt, molasses, coffee, mild dark fruit, and some bitter hops

T-taste matches the aroma but is a little heavier on the hops. Still lots of roasted malts, coffee, light burnt flavor, and alcohol warming

M-full body, light to medium carbonation, a dry burnt flavor is left on the tongue

Overall I really like this beer, great combination of flavors, and even though the alcohol is noticeable it is not overbearing (493 characters)

Photo of divineaudio
4.01/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz into my deschutes snifter.

a - pours deep, dark brown, almost black. formed a finger of dense, dark brown head upon pouring that eventually calmed to a thin film, leaving behind a thick sheet of lacing bordered by small spots. a damn fine looking beer.

s - roasted malt, charcoal notes, faint dark chocolate, faint alcohol astringency.

t - notes of dark chocolate, char, and faint tobacco supported by roasted malt goodness. faint, earthy hop character, but just enough for balance. has an alcoholic bitterness that fades into a dark chocolate bittersweetness and lingers for a bit.

m - full bodied, adequate carbonation, medium co2 profile. faint alcohol warming.

o - pretty damn enjoyable, but a little hot and rough around the edges. quite drinkable for 10%, but certainly could use some time to mature. gonna pick up some more of this and sit on them for a while. definitely a welcome addition to the imperial stout category. (942 characters)

Photo of GilGarp
4.05/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle served at cellar temp into a pint glass.

Narwhal is basically black in color and starts with a good inch of off white head. It settles somewhat quickly but leaves a little lacing behind.

Aroma is roasty and robust with some hop character.

Flavor is surprisingly strong with big bitterness from both hops and malts. There's a little sweetness but it's really dominated by dark roasted malts and big hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel is full bodied and a little bit overly carbonated.

Overall a good imperial stout but it doesn't have the silky mouthfeel of my other favorites like Yeti and TenFidy. (607 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 766 ratings.