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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

For Trade:
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Reviews: 887 | Ratings: 4,918
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 dbl_delta
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle pkgd 11/25/14 into pint glass. Very dark; almost black. Chocolate-colored head that vanishes quickly. Taste is dark chocolate and coffee, with a little bite to finish. Mouthfeel is on the heavy side of medium. Nice alcohol glow, but certainly not objectionable. Decent RIS, but not anything extraordinary.

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Photo of Jadjunk
4.1/5  rDev -1%
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 Flounder57
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle was poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: This beer poured a one finger mocha head that reduced to a thin layer. It is a pitch black color with no clarity or bubbles seen coming up through the glass.

Smell: sweet chocolate, molasses, roasted coffee, a little warm alcohol, and dark fruits.

Taste: Chocolate, roasted coffee, tobacco, molasses, a little smoke, and dark fruits.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, warm alcohol, full bodied, medium carbonation, and delicious.

Overall: Pretty solid RIS by the boys from Stone. Might have to move up to their 22 RIS and the espresso version as well. This beer definitely got better as it warmed up too.

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Photo of damndirtyape
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle (2013 bottling - 3284205:07 date stamp) poured into a snifter.

Appearance: Totally black ale - no light even coming in at the edges. 1/4" dark tan head upon pouring died back to a thin skin across the top with lots of persistent strands, sheets, and islands of lacing noted.

Smell: Mild roasted grain, hints of alcohol, chocolate liquor. With a swirl there are some hops trying to get out but I still can't make them out in regards to their aroma. Maybe a mild citrus and pine. Not as rich as I thought I would be.

Taste: Bittersweet baker's chocolate, roasted malt, hints of coffee toward the end - approaching espresso coffee bitter finish, but with some pine notes as well. Hops in the finish complement all the chocolate and other sweetness up at the front.

Mouthfeel: Very thick and creamy up front with the carbonation coming out late in the swallow. Definitely some stickiness on the teeth after the swallow.

Overall / Drinkability: Definitely a sipping and savoring beer, but also appealing enough that I could drink it faster and not mind, but I would probably pay for it later. A good imperial stout, and was good with butter/sugar cookies - probably would be great with a steak.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours an obsidian, liquid black death of 0% transparency. Forms a head of 2 fingers, almond color, and lace stays stuck to the head while it recedes.

Aroma of melted chocolate, cocoa powder, licorice, roast malts, coffee, and finally, leather. A complex, although quiet, bouquet.

Tastes of bitter chocolate, coffee grounds, charred malts, molasses, and a little brown sugar. As it warms some fig comes out, too. A touch of ash. The profile overall is robust and roasted. Coffee bitterness is moderate, but not overwhelming. At least, not more than any other Russian Imperial Stout. It increases as the beer warms.

Feel comes alive right away in a Coca-Cola like carbonation, tapering off to a crisp nip, and then an alcohol dryness.

Overall Narwhal is a winning stout. A solid representation. I'd rate it just under Old Raspy, maybe about on par with FBS...perhaps even more enjoyable due to the muted coffee notes (FBS is very coffee-forward).

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Photo of SteveMcQueen36
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Narwhal is one of the thickest and gnarliest beers I have gotten through. It was well worth it but boy was it heavy. It looked beautiful like black coffee in my glass. It tasted bitter as all hell. Very nice.

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Photo of brewtechnik
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Narwhal finally made it to NH on Halloween! What better beer to be drinking while handing out candy :)

12oz bottle slightly chilled into snifter...

Looks amazing...very viscous and produced a great dark tan one finger head that quickly dissipated into just a tan ring after a minute. Super black...no light coming through this!

Slight licorice/fruit scent combined with smoke, char, roast, coffee and ethanol. Pretty inviting, actually. Hop presence is there as well, but not strong.

The first flavors that come through are the roasty/coffee and HOPS! This guy is pretty bitter, and has lots of hop flavor. In that respect it kind of reminds me of Storm King, but not quite that intense...better balance IMO, but still very hoppy. I personally find that the ethanol is well hidden...it doesn't seem to be a problem this fresh. There's some dark chocolate flavor that's very nice and melds well with the rest of the gang. Not much licorice in the taste, which I prefer. I hate anise and black licorice!

I mentioned viscous in the appearance, but doesn't feel very thick in the mouth feel. Don't get me wrong, its a big stout, but not bcbs thick...more like Founders Imp Stout. It's actually quit nice and lasting...slick almost. Hop/roast up front with a chocolate and slight ethanol finish. Carbonation is spot on.

I would say this is in the same ball park as Founders Imperial Stout, but has more hop presence...I'm really liking the level of roast in this beer with the chocolate finish. I'm buying this beer again and would recommend you do as well, but will certainly put some in the cellar for a year or so to lessen the hop bite.

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Photo of BlurryVisi0n
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Served in a snifter glass.

Appearance: Medium bodied that looks thin but still thick in a sense , tan head which rose to maybe a notch or two below a finger's length.

Smell: Wow, a beautiful mocha scent. You feel a chocolate aroma hitting you immediately. Strong but still subtle.

Taste: A nice complexity of cocoa and coffee, very deep and smooth.

Mouth: Stick as it gets and honestly putting the glass down is the worst part about this brew.

Overall: Awesome beer, would recommend to anyone who appreciates what quality truly is. Snifter glass preferred, salud!

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Photo of PorterLambic
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Arrives as black as molasses with a creamy, slowly fading, dark tan head. Phenomenal lace, great retention. Zero light penetration.
Smell is toasted malt, dark chocolate, coffee, cardboard, smoke. Well balanced.
Taste is heavily roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate, coffee, whiskey, light smoke, a wee whiff of hops, a note of grapes? . Great balance, very complex. The various flavors swirl around one another is a delicious dance.
Full bodied, chewy, and barely carbonated. Drying finish, smooth, but with a cloying aspect that is annoying. No warming to speak of strangely.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
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 tastybeer
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Deep dark black and big fluffy head. All sorts of stringy patches cover the glass once it recedes. Aroma initially brings creamy sweetness. Then digging deeper there's caramel, tobacco, coffee, toffee, and a touch of something like black raspberry. Pretty straight forward Russian imperial style. Taste is milky caramel, chocolatey, a bit smokey, and bitter only subtly through the finish. Mouthfeel is key. Very velvety smooth. Like hot cocoa in beer form and cool of course. The higher ABV is totally hidden as well. I haven't been in a stout-porter/dark beer mood for awhile however this beer might be changing that.

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

Sierra Nevada, RIS you say? Totally in. Served in a snifter.

A - Nice deep black hue with a big two+ finger khaki head. Leaves some nice lacing behind.

S - Nice aroma filled with sweet chocolate, roasted malts, light espresso and perhaps a touch of vanilla. Robust as I desire.

T - Dark chocolate hits the palette first, and it hits heavy. Bit of espresso behind adding some bitterness to the brew. It carries some earthy tones which I failed to detect on the nose. Roasted smoothness throughout.

M - Large medium body with fair carbonation. Chewy feel with a relatively dry finish.

O - I prefer a bit more sweetness and less bitterness for an RIS that chooses chocolate as its most prominent ingredient. That said, this is an enjoyable RIS I would not mind having again. Good job Sierra.

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Photo of JamieDuncan
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just slightly to much bitter threw it a little out of whack. But the bitter was probably a strong component to how well the ABV is hidden. Extremely tasty with loads of malty deliciousness, seems like a bit of coffee within the bitter finish. Very smooth and creamy, overall an outstanding beer that I would gladly have again.

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Photo of PicoPapa
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle. Pours a pitch black color with dark brown hues and a ring of brown head. Minimal lacing. Aromas of espresso, dark chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla, and maybe even a bit of bubble gum. The taste is dark bitter chocolate and espresso. Smokey, roasted malts as well. Some vanilla and an overall sweetness flavor. Hints of caramel. Dark chocolate and coffee finish. Full bodied. I really liked the 30th Anniversary RIS so I was glad to hear they were releasing another Russian Imperial Stout. Overall, solid beer worth seeking out.

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Photo of MetalHopHead6
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Sierra Nevada Narwhal is roasty, sweet, and bubbly.

It poured black with a short milk chocolate colored head; it left nothing on the glass. The aroma and flavor were very sweet up front, with a touch of licorice, followed by a lot of roasted coffee and a nice bitter dark chocolate finish. There was too much carbonation; however, the pleasant bitter chocolate taste remained on the tongue for a very long time, saving the feel.

Narwhal tastes very good and left a great aftertaste, which is the most important thing; however in every other category, it is average or a only bit above.

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Photo of AC-Mivsek
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Pours black as the night sea, khaki head quickly fades.
S- Black liquorice, dark chocolate, dark coffee
T- Follows the smell closely, includes some dark fruit, espresso, it's all quite complex and blended well
M- Heavy body, slick, coats the tongue
O- Sierra Nevada seems to never miss, they produce style staples and this is no different.

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Photo of Redrover
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottled poured into a pint glass, the beer is an opaque black with a clingy brown head.

The nose is of dark roasted malts, brown sugar and dark fruit.

It has nicely roasted malts. They add a slight char to the mix of dark fruit, a bit of molasses, a hint of coffee. This a big beer but is easily approachable. There is a hint of warming heat from the alcohol.

The mouth is silky with low carbonation.

Part of a long line of very solid beers from Sierra Nevada.

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

With incredible power and the balance of flavor to boot, Sierra Nevada continues to advance beyond the stalwart taste of their flagship prominence and into the sadistic darker, mysterious, and imperial realms.

Narwhal pours with a creamy viscous character and inky nearest black coloration that's imaginable. The stratification of foam pulls from the beer underneath and tops the beer with a whipped topping-like blanket of foam that retains in lumbered fashion and with intermittent pockets of lace.

Bold roasted notes rise from the snifter and floods the nose with the memories of espresso, cocoa, campfire smoke, dark fruit, and slightly scorched molasses. Complex alcohols give a tinge of spice and ethanol and foreshadows the power of the taste and textures to come.

Again, "powerful" becomes the operative descriptor in taste as the most supple of sips explode on the tongue with robust sweetness of molasses laden roast. Espresso, cocoa, heavy toast, and burnt embers converge at mid palate of sweetness and char. Shortly after, the sweetness breaks apart and allows for the fruity taste of black licorice, cherry, and currant.

Calling this stout "full bodied" seems to undersell it entirely. this is a massively creamy and heavy handed ale that envelops the mouth with heavy coats of malt, roast, and seeping alcohols. Its larger than life "charred" persona extends well beyond middle palate and only recedes as the roast-derived bitterness and heated alcohols supplant it. A lingering finish of roast and fruit extend well into the next luscious sip.

Narwal is a decedent ale that's sure to be a staple all winter long in the cabinet of all lovers of stout. With its taste that should be reserved for those special occasions, there's the price of the ale that makes it somewhat "everyday". It's simply a low-guilt, guilty pleasure.

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Photo of FFreak
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into tall tulip glass. Oily black with about 1/2 inch of brown head that slowly dissipates leaving nice lacing. A bit sweet and roasty in the smell with molasses, brown sugar and dark roast. Taste is somewhat different from the smell and hard to describe - dark brown sugar mixed with dark brown bread?? Mouth feel is delightful, probably the best aspect of the beer. Overall, I'd have to say I really like this one. Can't wait to try the barrel aged version.

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Photo of lighthabit
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving Type : Poured from a bottle into a pint glass. Poured a bit warmer than I probably should have.

Appearance: Black. Well, almost black, just a tiny touch of deep, creamy brown, but not a lick of light getting through here. Not much in the way of lacing, which bummed me a bit.

Mouthfeel: I'm new to imperials, but seems about right. A bit sticky, but pleasantly so. Leaves itself behind in a smooth manner, a bit thicker than the Black Butte or Obsidian that I would use for reference.

Smell & Taste: I keep thinking of black licorice, which is good, because I love licorice. I think I'm missing some of the chocolate/coffee thing because at the temp at which I poured it, the alcohol is making its presence known (a bit more than I'd care for). I'm looking forward to trying one from the fridge later in the week, maybe late at night with some swiss, to see if more flavors make themselves known.

Overall: I like this beer. I don't think it's a go-to for a lot of evenings, but something I'd like to keep on hand for that once-in-a-while change. Side note: one of my favorites is SN's Torpedo. This is worlds away from Torpedo, but enjoyable none-the-less.

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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 colts9016
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

This beer is almost a year old. A one finger head that is a creamy tan with good retention. The color of the beer is black as night. Some carbonation bubbles are visible on the side of the glass.

A nice coffee, roasted malt, biscuit, toffee, caramel, earthy, floral, and some dark chocolate.

A nice robust dark coffee note, with roasted malt, biscuit, caramel, earth, floral, milk chocolate.

A rich creamy mouthfeel, with some carbonation.

Overall this a very good beer I like my RIS with bit more punch. Yes it had really good flavors I just would have like them to be more pronounced.

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Photo of DonDirkA
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sierra Nevada finally has a (good) shelf stout. And there aren't many imperial stouts in 4 or 6 packs aside from Ten Fidy so thats cool too. Pours midnight black with a thick brown head and nice lacing. Nose is strong roasted coffee, smokey malts, char and just a hint of raw cacao. Pretty basic imperial stout but it smells fantastic. The taste is surprisingly bitter. Bitterness, chocolate, roasted coffee, charred notes, smoked malts and some definite booze in there. The smokiness and bitterness are a bit strong but I think some age will mellow that out and the roasty flavors and coffee will come forward a bit. Still an awesome stout. Full body, heavy mouthfeel and light carbonation (typical stout style). Go Sierra Nevada!

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a tumbler.

Didn't see getting a taste of this tonight, but I'm sure as hell not gonna argue. It pours a straight onyx topped by over a finger of golden brown foam. The nose comprises roasted malts, dark coffee, earthy greens, and dark chocolate. The taste brings in more of the same, with some heavy bitterness being balanced by the depth and relative sweetness of the roast and the chocolate. The body is a light heavy, with a light moderate carbonation and a fairly dry finish. Overall, a very nice, bold stout. It reminds me a lot of Ten Fidy, only drier, less creamy. Good times.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,918 ratings.
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