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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

820 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 820
Hads: 4,652
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,229 | 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: 820 | Hads: 4,652
Photo of Bouleboubier
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%

(2014 version, packaged 07/24/14 - poured into a balloon)

A: just about jet black... dark tan foam, with some staying power, perhaps due to high-hopping

S: huge cappucchino roastiness with hints of black chocolate and a whisper of medicinal booze... piney hops out the ass... very bold aromas and quite inviting

T: cascading layers of intense roasted flavors roll and fold over the palate, while the back end bitterness and booze slowly fans out into and through the back part of the throat, stopping there and burning like a bonfire against a concrete wall, while falling quite short of traveling down the throat with any malt viscosity or hop resins - this is all on the first sip... subsequent sampling reveal more biting bitterness, dark chocolate, and a subtle spiciness, likely derived from a blend of (mostly) fusels and a healthy dose of the Magnum (sorry, Challenger's colorful personality gets swallowed up and wasted here)... not what you'd call 'sweet' this is

M: medium-bodied but built rugged and sturdy... everything drops off midway down the palate... soft, whiskey-like parching effect, but its heat stings... supremely bone-dry

O: roast, coffee, malt, hops, booze - that's the name of this game... it'd be nice to see how this develops over time, but I'm diggin' it for what it's got right now... I can't figure out why, but this tastes like a SN product - must be something in the water

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

Consumed 12/24/12

Appearance: Jet black, with some deep, dark brown clarity around the edges - pours with a nicely sized, light brown head - fades to a little island of a cap and a nice ring - leaves some nice spots and streaks - looks both beastly and highly approachable at the same time

Smell: Super roasted and burnt - dry, highly roasted grains - very burnt, not not into char territory - appropriately, it reminds me of both Sierra Nevada Porter (the roast) and Stout (the burnt) - dark and baker's chocolate, with some cocoa - hints of dark coffee - citrusy hops for balance, with some grapefruit zest - a touch of leather and booze in the background - some sweetness and dark fruits as it warms

Taste: Hyper roasty and burnt nicely balanced by a chocolatey, malty sweetness - roasty, dark coffee - burnt bread, moderately charred - dark chocolate and cocoa, with a minimal amount of sweetness - light, malty sweetness with a touch of molasses - some dark fruits as well - some grapefruit - black licorice - moderate burnt bitterness, and just a touch of alcohol

Mouthfeel: On the light side of full-bodied - smooth, creamy, a bit slick and oily - dry aftertaste - a lovely sipper

Overall: Delicious mythical beast juice

Wow. Sierra Nevada is consistently great, and this actually exceeded my expectations. This is genuinely better than some pricey, hard-to-get Russian imperials. And the scary thing is that this will only get better with age. It tastes like... potential. I want to swim with the Narwhals and learn their secrets.

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Photo of stephens101
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A dark tan head fades quickly from two fingers with minimal residual lacing. Insert cliche of choice for the color black here. Nutty, chocolaty and vinegary to the nose. Closer inspection reveals a nice fusion of dark grapes and cocoa. Tastes silky smooth with milk chocolate notes that are quickly countered by a semi-rough woodiness. Black coffee, subtle hops and burnt sugar provide a fine follow up to the preceding notes. Fusel alcohol heat plays a big part in this burly one; demanding respect, but remaining fairly welcoming despite its 10 plus percent. Narwhal is simple one more notch in Sierra Nevada's belt of excellence and consistency. Few breweries do it better.

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Photo of gillagorilla
3.61/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a Burley Oak snifter.

A: Pours a thick 3 finger head with nice lacing. Quite dark, but I wouldn't say pitch black.

S: Roasted malts. There is a bit of sweetness in there once you swirl it real nice.

T: Lots of roasty flavors with a bunch of malt in there for good measure. Not too sweet. Eh.

M: Quite carbonated. Prickly. Much smoother once it warms up.

O: Not a big fan of the mouthfeel on this one. I don't know what to say about this one. It's not really appealing to me. Not a big fan of the flavors here. Nothing compared to the BA version. Good.

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Photo of brother_kenneth
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Deeply black and fairly thick, with a nice amount of tan colored head. This dissipates rather quickly, although a minimal amount remains through the end.

S- Right up front are big notes of dark roasted malt, coffee, and dark chocolate. There is even a bit of caramel or toffee in the nose, along with the barely noticeable alcohol.

T- Wow, super roasty! This is not a sweet imperial stout by any means. Main thing here is bitter, dark chocolate (really, really dark) and plenty of roasted, burnt malt character. There is also a hint of booze on the back end. Medium body, creamy, and just barely carbonated -- excellent mouth feel.

O- This is an impressive effort from one of my favorite "go-to" breweries. It is a huge imperial stout that I suspect would even do well in the cellar. I won't be able to find out though, because I drank all of mine!

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Photo of jbertsch
2.97/5  rDev -28.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

6 months old.

Poured into a snifter.

Appearance is jet black. Head was fizzy and off-white, almost tan. Head unfortunately fizzled away fast.

Aroma gives off a mixed sense of char, bonfire, salty brine, booze, and some general roastiness.

Its flavor is not big on chocolate or coffee as one might look for. It's a bit nondescript. Some earthiness and a little wood is noticeable. Salty brine again is noticeable. Some alcohol soaked bittersweet chocolate makes a quick appearance on the finish. The flavor is a little syrupy.

Mouthfeel is oily and slick... it's a little detracting from the overall enjoyment.

Overall, I wouldn't buy this again. It's exemplary of the mediocre rut SN's beers can sometimes fall into. They're capable of better in my eyes. In my needs for an imperial stout, there's no need for me to return to this one. However, it's not terrible and what will save it are the leagues of SN fans.

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Photo of richj1970
4.19/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 32 oz growler into snifter,

A: Pours dark black with one to two finger mocha colored head that settles quickly and little to no lacing.

S: Milk chocolate, baked bread, and light coffee notes.

T: Semi-sweet chocolate morsels, and roasted coffee beans.

M: Full bodied and creamy texture. Very easy drinking.

O: This is a wonderful stout. Nice creamy mouthfeel, and chocolate notes. I could crush this all day, and looking forward to trying the barrel aged version.

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Photo of rajendra82
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown pour evolved into a near pitch black opaque liquid in the glass, with ruby highlights. The head was quite small in size, but it left some awesome khaki lace. The aroma of the beer showed off the roasted malts, with the smells of coffee, toffee, and chocolate. The taste was an extension of the smell, but with amped up intensity. The coffee taste was thick in this beer, with a bitter, astringent finish. If I let the sip linger in my mouth, some powder cocoa notes crept in. I usually dislike "Imperial" stouts that have runny, weak mouthfeel. Luckily this was not one of those namby pamby beers. The body was as thick as they come. Sierra Nevada has delivered another awesome product to the mass market.

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Photo of MattSweatshirt
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a black body with a finger of brown mocha head.
Coffee and chocolate notes. The sweetness and the bitter coffee roastiness mixes so well with the chocolate making milk and darker bakers chocolate aromas. Some earthy hop and a kiss of booze.
Lots of sweet and bitter chocolate in here as well as coffee. Even with as hoppy as it is it doesn't get too bitter. Like in the nose a little alcohol is here but it doesn't hamper easy drink ability this stout has.
The body and mouthfeel is great on this. Subtle carbonation. It is pretty creamy like an oatmeal stout.
This is a pretty darn good stout. I was hoping it was going to be good enough to compliment that awesome label and it did. No extreme to it to separate it from the pack, but it goes on the list of super solid imperial stouts.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%

A: perfect black beer with a dense mocha fluff; lengths of lace left behind

S: rich dark malt aromas full of cocoa and espresso suggestions; sweeter hints of molasses

T: bittersweet chocolates and espresso with cane sugar; flashes of vanilla; lighter tones suggestive of anise and oak

M: creamy smooth and soft; slips across the palate with the barest brush; a full-bodied beer that's light-as-a feather?

O: an epic Russian Imperial - runs a little sweeter and less bitter than say, an Old Rasputin; had a slimmer, less sticky character than say, Stone's IRS; an elegant entry in the style. Don't pass it up.

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Photo of Proteus93
4.45/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Damn, this is a dark beer, and the nice brown head gives credence to that. I got distracted, left the room for a good ten minutes or more, and when I returned, it was still laced around the top. I would say that's pretty close to perfect... no lacing.

S + T: The nice, standard imperial stout profile in both the nose and flavor-wise: roasted malts, coffee, some cocoa notes, a nice hop presence. Some anise comes out in the flavor as it warms. It's not brewed with any added ingredients, but the balance is excellent--'complexity in simplicity.'

M + D: The body is on the heavier side of medium, but just a hair shy of that chewiness that I would have liked. Granted, this is purely subjective, so to anyone who reads the review: please treat it as such. The overall experience is excellent, and I am very pleased to have finally picked up a bottle of this beer. The fact that it's named what it is acts as an added bonus!

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Photo of falloutsnow
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From: Binny's, Champaign, IL
Date: None on bottle, released late fall 2012
Glass: New Belgium globe glass

Pours a 2cm tall head of tan foam, with above average retention for the 10.2% ABV (lasts about 2-5 minutes). Head fades to a thin film atop the beer, leaving moderate lacing, though not extreme. Body is a very dark brown to black, opaque, with carbonation not visible.

Aroma of smooth, sweetish roasted malt, a bit of vanilla, a hint of old coffee, and mild smoke. Altogether, not very inspiring, somewhat boring.

Opens with sweet, roasty malts with a bit of vanilla and marshmallow, smooth in flavor. The mid-palate finds roasted malt, burnt toast, smoke, and ethanol, which renders the flavor slightly sharp. Back of the palate notices continued roasted malt, marshmallow, vanilla, ethanol, slight bitterness from hops, and sharpness from the ethanol. Aftertaste is of roasted malt, burnt marshmallow, and mild lingering bitterness. While for a 10.2% ABV beer, the ethanol isn't as prominent as it could be,

The beer is heavy to medium heavy in body, with carbonation of medium-low intensity, leading to a slightly foamy, creamy, and smooth mouthfeel. Only minor ethanol is felt in the nostrils and back of throat. Closes fairly dry, with modest stickiness across the palate.

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Photo of tkdchampxi
4.43/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottom Line: Great, syrupy stout that reminds me a lot of coca cola and beer, but in a good way. Not as good as your Founders Breakfast Stout, but still very enjoyable, and worth the ticket price.

Appearance: Dark, with a very small head, when poured down the side of the tulip glass.

Smell: Cold, refreshing, a little piney, a little bit like a cola.

Taste: Coffee flavor typical of a stout, but subdued. Sweeter than a typical stout, that really reminds me of coca cola.

Mouthfeel: medium low on carbonation, but with a silky, syrupy texture. Maybe it could use a bit more carbonation?

Overall: Finally got to have my first Narwhal, and I'm happy to say that it lived up to its reputation of being a great stout, worth the $10/4pk price.

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Photo of ONUMello
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 edition poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass
A: Pitch black color with a one-finger mocha colored head
S: Rich with coffee, cocoa, roasted malt and hops rounding it out
T: Also very rich with flavors that perfectly match the nose
M: Wow. Full-bodied, incredibly smooth but with a bit of a bite from the hops
O: This is a very well-made RIS that's incredibly enjoyable to drink

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Photo of kawilliams81
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a 8 oz snifter.

A- pours jet black with a 1 finger beige head. Some blotches of lacing remain.

S- dark chocolate, coffee, roast and an herbal tone (not mint).

T- bitter coffee, dark chocolate, again herbal something, and bitter pine.

M- medium body and carbonation. Slick, chalky and slightly dry.

O- this is a hoppy RIS for sure. Almost reminds me more of a imperial black ale, but where do you draw the line? Still a very good and enjoyable beer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of BarryMFBurton
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Now here is a beer I have been anxiously awaiting since I heard it existed – finally, Sierra Nevada’s imperial stout has been released. Let’s taste the liquid hype…

Brewed a little over a month before the date of this tasting (October 5, 2012 by the code on the bottle).

A: Phenomenally thick, pouring like viscous black motor oil from the bottle. Dark brown bubbles form a ring around the top of the body, settling there for the duration as the only inkling of head. Ropy lacing strings all the way around.

S: Chocolate-covered pretzel and toffee encase this moderately-pungent nose in sweets, augmented by a spattering of burnt sugar, cappuccino, and marshmallow tones. It brightens up with a tinge of raspberry, hazelnut, and cherry cordial, as well as that classic, piney, Sierra Nevada hoppiness. But with all that, it still has a yeasty note overall, bready and earthen in every whiff – not a sugar bomb like Choklat or Dark Lord. In this nose, balance is always present.

T: One taste and it’s instant Sierra Nevada, immediately spreading those taut, piney bitters to the corners of the palate. It’s one of the brewery traits that got me into craft, so I know it and love it, but this time it definitely fits – the wave of blackened malt fits perfectly into the resinous hops. Char, oak chips, toasted bread, and peanut brittle make up the thick middle of the palate, but not without a smooth cocoa and nougat character throughout. On the ends, it’s woody and round, filling out with whiskey and molasses flavors. Finishes hot and bitter, cementing it as the most powerful Sierra Nevada beer I’ve had.

M: Goes down smooth and fiery, prickling up with resin astringency. Each sip doesn’t exactly pull the lips back with intensity, but certainly you notice its power.

O: A cheap, kick-ass RIS. This is a step from the norm for Sierra Nevada – it’s definitely the thickest and most slow-drinking beer from these guys – but it works at every turn. If this were more than limited release, I’d buy it all the time; over Old Rasputin, Storm King, and even Plead the Fifth. Put this in a barrel and this would stand up to the best of them.

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

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

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

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

Terrific example of the style...

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Photo of bnes09
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ink black and completely opaque. Shallow tan head with descent retention and blotches of lacing.

Aroma of coffee, chocolate, peet and nuts.

Dense biscuity malt backbone. Aggressive roasted coffee, smooth dark chocolate, smoked meats and roasted almonds. Prune sweetness. Assertive herbal, earthy hop character. Very well balanced.

Full bodied with a rich texture. Solid carbonation for the strength.

Great imperial stout.

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Photo of starrdogg
3.8/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer pours black with a fluffy brown head. Smell is quite nice, a mostly chocolate and cocoa with hints of roast. Flavor doesn't come together as well as I'd hoped after the nice nose. It's got a lot of flavor with a lot more roast than I had expected. It starts out smooth and chocolatey, but halfway through it punches you with a bitter roastiness that overwhelms the flavor. Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied with nice carbonation. This is a nice stout, but the balance could be better, and the overwhelming roastiness in the finish is a bit much. It leaves a not-so-great flavor lingering on the palate as well.

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Photo of jjanega08
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Edition
Bottle Stamped
2279207 : 47

A= Pours a deep black color with a nice half finger of dep brown head on it that holds great retention and lacing on the side of the glass.

S= Smells of liqorice and dark roasted malt. Tons of liqorice. A little hoppy aroma comes through as well.

T= The taste is a nice mix of imperial stout styles. It starts as a nice liqorice taste before being swallowed by a nice bitterness. Dark chocolate and a bit of a hop bittereness. Nice roast and coffee character.

M= Nice mouthfeel

O= This is a solid imperial stout. Not the most amazing thing in the world but worth trying and

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Photo of mikeg67
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle. Pours black with a thin, short-lived, creamy, light brown head and nice lacing. Aroma is of bready, toasted malt, espresso, dark fruit and citrusy hops. Body is full and creamy. Taste is burnt toast, brown sugar, cappuccino, chocolate dark fruit and a lot of citrusy hops. Finish is long and very bitter. This brew should improve with age.

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Photo of Jimmys
3.83/5  rDev -7.5%
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.

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Photo of larryi86
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a tulip

A- Black with a three finger mocha head.

S- Roasted coffee, dark chocolate, some earthy hops.

T- Dark chocolate, roasted coffee, some caramel malts, earthy hops in the finish, some dark fruits, some milk chocolate.

M- Smooth, full body, a good amount of carbonation.

O- A great imperial stout. I enjoyed the 30th anniversary stout more, but I am very happy see Sierra Nevada brewing an imperial stout.

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Photo of BB1313
3.61/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a snifter. Pours black with some brown hues, mocha head which fades quickly and leaves decent lacing and retention. There's lots of char and smoke up front. Lots of chocolate malts as well. There's also a touch of roasted coffee beans and vanilla beans. The flavors are aggressively bitter. The hop presence isn't shy. Very roasty. The coffee really comes through in the flavors. Blast of anise. No sweetness. There's subtle heat going on with this one, slightly boozy. Mouthfeel has active carbonation, slightly syrupy, but on the lighter side of full-bodied. The alcohol is noticeable. Rough around the edges, but it works with the cold weather.

I've enjoyed my time with Narwhal. I have one more I'm going to age. I think time will do this stout very well.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 820 ratings.