Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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924 Reviews
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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
sierra-nevada.com

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
924
Ratings:
5,022
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
9.66%
 
 
Wants:
332
Gots:
1,446
For Trade:
41
User Reviews
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Reviews: 924 | Ratings: 5,022
Photo of zimm421
4.01/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a jet black with a light brown head. The nose is sweet, slightly fruity and has good roast character. The taste starts out with chocolate and fruitiness, and is quickly followed by hoppiness. The finish is roasted malts and hop bitterness. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy. Personally, I think this is better with a bit of time on it to help round out the hops and bring the maltiness to the forefront.

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Photo of Bierguy5
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle, 10.2% abv. Pitch black in color, with a good looking tan head. Head retention is pretty nice. A thin collar eventually remains, along with a few spots of lace.

Roasted malts are big up front. Dark roast coffee, near espresso roast. Bitter dark chocolate in the mix as well. Maybe a bit of earthy hop aroma.

Bittersweet dark chocolate comes to mind at first. Roasted malt, but with a rounded feel instead of sharp. Cocoa powder is the next flavor. A bit sweeter and more caramel in the middle. Some coffee flavors as well.

Medium body, with soft carbonation and a bit of a creamy feel. A bit of warmth, but not very much for the strength of this beer. I love the roasted, bittersweet feel of this beer. Very well done.

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Photo of HamdenHector
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: very deep brown - virtually black; 1 finger relatively dark head that receded to a thin collar; OK lacing;

S: deeply roasted grain and bittersweet chocolate; a little boozy; a little smoky;

T: deeply roasted grain; a little nutty; a little smoky; finish has a little alcohol bite; a touch of bittersweet chocolate in the aftertaste;

M: full bodied - sticky; light to moderate carbonation; medium dry finish;

O: intense; a good way to an a session;

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

Deep dark chocolate color with a half inch if espresso colored head.

The smell is bakers chocolate, coffee liquor, and anise.

The flavors are robust. Dark roasted espresso and bitter chocolate with a light hoppy bite. The finish is licorice then a heavy char.

I'm not much for giving 5s, but I can't think of any flaws in the mouthfeel. It's super rich and creamy. The carbonation is spot on. The body is heavy yet fluffy.

I was pretty blown away by this stout and would put it up there with my favorite RISs that don't come from a barrel.

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Photo of inlimbo77
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

8oz taster pour
Mini pint glass
Two Stones Pub, Newark, DE

A: This pours out a completely dark black color. No light getting through. Thin layer of tan head that hangs around for a while. Some lacing bits. Getting some alcohol feet, but harder to see on this little pint glass.

S: Sweet and Dark chocolate on the nose. Some nice roasted malts and coffee. Very pleasant stout character.

T: Big roast character. Dark chocolate. Creamy flavors.

M: Full bodied. Nice and creamy/oily mouthfeel. Easy to drink.

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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 JoEBoBpr
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a tulip glass form a 12oz bottle.

Pours a pitch black slightly oily liquid. Some dark mahogany and caramel edges are present. There is a nice light tan 0.5 inch head that is formed. It recedes fairly quickly down to a thin film.

Aroma starts with roast and dark malts. Slightly smokey with some coffee notes. There is also some nice bitter chocolate in the nose. There are some slight grassy aroma in the nose as well that mix in with the roasted, dark and coffee notes. Pretty nice aroma.

Flavor starts off with dark chocolate notes. Some sweetness with nice dark cocoa bitterness. Then there is the roast that comes in. Coffee and espresso notes with some slight sweet milk chocolate notes present. There is definitely some nice grassy hop notes in the middle and the back end of this brew. Very well blended with the roast and stout notes. Quite the roasty brew with nice dark cocoa notes to finish it off. Mouthfeel is nice and slick. Creamy with good lively carbonation as well.

Pretty impressive brew by Sierra Nevada. Rich and creamy with some nice roasty coffee notes. Good RIS.

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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 Gambrinus1184
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Served on-tap at the Dive Bar in West Haven, Conn.

A: Pours jet black with a two-finger head of espresso-colored foam which retains nicely and leaves some chunky lacing around the glass.

S: Very nice, robust, dark and roasty malt aroma with hints of anisette, charred wood and bittersweet cocoa. Some subtle fruitiness and herbal hops rise from the brew as well.

T: Rich, sweet and well-rounded malt flavor, giving off the taste of dried tobacco leaves, roasted coffee and dark chocolate. There's a slight vanilla sweetness around mid-palate which cascades into a spicy, herbal hop resin that lasts until the bittersweet and smooth, roasty finish.

M: Full-bodied, very drinkable stout with a creamy malt mouthfeel and rounded bitterness to stave off cloying sweetness while offering a smooth, robust finish.

O: SN Narwahl RIS is a very complex and enjoyable, sweet, strong stout. It packs a ton of flavor into that 10.2% ABV while not slowing you down with too hot of a hop or alcohol burn. Perfect beer to serve as dessert or to accompany a raspberry chocolate torte. I'd love to try it again, or one of it's aged varietals.

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Photo of WoostaBia
4.49/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2014 Batch. Excellent beer. May taste better with age, has harsh edges that may get better with age. For a 10% beer the alcohol is well hidden. The hops and burnt malt flavors dominate.

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Photo of DenisKolkin
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Finally got to try this. 6 oz sampler on tap at the Griffon Gastropub in Niagara Falls, NY. Review from notes taken back in October.

Appearance - virtually black with long lasting dark tan foam on top.

Smell - molasses. Pure and simple. Toffee and maybe some brown sugar. Malty as all hell. Fantastic for my sniffer.

Taste - similar flavor profile. Lots of dark fruits. Aspect of creme brûlée. Bourbon soaked. A little hot an boozy.

Mouthfeel - slick, oily and while chewy, it's lighter in body than you'd think.

Overall - a damn fine stout that stacks up with the best. An absolute malt bomb.

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Photo of LampertLand
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Sierra Nevada 'Narwhal' @ 10.2% , served from a 4pack of 341 ml bottles purchased for $14.50

A-pour is black from bottle to glass with some ruby red peeking thru the glass edge as a small tan head quicly dissapates leaving a streaky lace along the pint

S-smell is boozey , roasted coffee

T-crisp & clean 'RIS' , some smokeyness on the swallow

MF-low/mild carbonation , full bodied

Ov-ok/good beer , ok 'RIS' , the smokeyness dominates this brew

prost LampertLand

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Photo of mntlover
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours a black with no light getting through this one, with a big light chocolate foamy head from an aggressive pour. Head falls very slowly with gobs of lacing down my glass.

Aroma is nice bakers chocolate, light coffee and good dose of dark fruits floating on a roasted malt base. Nice sweet nose on this one nothing over powering just blended goodness.

Taste is roasted malts, nice chocolate up front dark fruits and roast in the middle. Finish is lingering chocolate and coffee mingled together with some hops. Good Stout blends well together nothing really dominates just IRS goodness.

Mouthfeel is full nice and smooth approaching chewy. Nice fell for this beer.

Overall another good brew from SN. Found it very enjoyable and easy drinking for a big beer.

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Photo of budgood1
3.5/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.5

pours out an opaque onyx black colour. large, thick and frothy light brown coloured head that has a great deal of creamy staying power. about perfect. the nose on this big stout is a bit non-descript...some cocoa and nougat with some NW hopping. taste profile is a straight up combination of creamy sweetened dark chocolate and yeast infused dark roasted malts. none too complex in the malt/yeast interaction, so no real layers of flavours... just char, java and a hint of sour. this imperial stout has a beefy hop attribute to it, enough that the pine and pith flavours are able to fight their way through the dark cauldron and murky depths of black malt madness. a nice, healthy back end bitterness is also obviously detectable...and it all lingers for a blistering finish. the body on this stout is beefy and sturdy, no detractions there. mouthfeel is silky smooth, almost too smooth for an imperial stout of this magnitude. and that leads into the drinkability factor, which is way to easy for an imperial stout, making it dangerously delectable.

overall, i was a bit underwhelmed in the grand scheme of things when sampling this. perhaps a bit of age would benefit this? or maybe i'm just let down with the overall nose and flavour profile. the interaction between malt and yeast leaves me wanting despite the bitter hop blast, which i was expecting. an egnigma...nonetheless, it's a tasty treat that has potential in the cellar.

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Photo of bmwats
3.83/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a standard pint.

A: Black. Pours about a finger and a half, foamy, brown head. Disintegrates slowly. Eventually settles to a thick blanket with a foamy buildup around the sides of the glass. Sporadic lacing.

S: Earthy malt tone, dark chocolate, with a little black licorice.

T: Unsweetened dark chocolate, lots of licorice, pecan shells.

M: Thick, hearty, and syrupy. Slight bitterness lingers throughout.

D: Sip and enjoy.

Atmosphere is solid. Dark, intimidating appearance, nice head, and fair lacing. Nose is basic and characteristic dark chocolate and licorice. Tastes like is smells.... bitter chocolate and licorice. Overall, this is a pretty good quaff.

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

Presentation: It was poured from a brown 12 oz bottle into a tulip glass. The label lists the abv at 10.2% and the year it was brewed. (2013) There is a short description of the beer as well.

Appearance: It has a very dark black body which is completely opaque. From the slow pour I got a tall tan colored head that settles down fairly quick but makes tons of cool lacing on the glass.

Smell: The aroma has a mild character with some modest sweet and roasted maltiness.

Taste / Palate: The mild aroma gives way to a big bold full bodied malty sweetness on the tongue. There are notes of caramel, toffee, molasses, and raisins. It’s 10.2% abv is noticeable but mellow and adds to its overall character. The palate feels smooth with light carbonation in this big heavy offering from Sierra Nevada. It finishes slowly with just a touch of earthy hops.

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Photo of bum732
3.04/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

S: Dry, roasty cocoa and coffee. Slight vanilla.

L: Thick, viscous and black. Tan head that dissipates quickly.

T: Very dry, roasty stout. Coffee and dry cocoa like flavors dominate. Slight coffee sweetness with slight dark fruits. Finishes quite dry with residual cocoa sweetness.

M: Medium full mouthfeel, medium low carbonation. Alcohol fairly well hidden.

A very dry, roasty RIS. Reminds me a lot of Old Rasputin. A nice change to a lot of sweet RIS's, but i feel like its a little one noted. Should be interesting what a little age does to this beer.

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Photo of Spikester
4.52/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

First time for the big bold stout. According to the stamped date it is about six weeks from bottling. Quite fresh.
The look is great with three fingers of foamy brown head that stays about ten minutes. Lacing is clumps and splotches so far. Smell is mostly sweet molasses some chocolate and coffee.
The taste is sweet molasses coffee a bit of dark chocolate from the bitterness of the hops. There is a whiff of booze but mostly when exhaling.
Mouthfeel is full and well carbonated. Finish is mostly sweet but long term finish is lightly dry and bitter.
Overall a bit sweeter than I like but it is an Imperial Stout. You can reform a head with just a few swirls of the liquid in the glass.

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Photo of Mdog
3.47/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pitch black with a huge head. Looks great.

Smell: Not much. Mild chocolate shows up eventually.

Taste: Dark chocolate builds in intensity through the glass. Dark fruits hang in the background. Gives a mild dark chocolate bitterness throughout.

Overall: Started out looking like a dream, but didn't deliver excellence in the aroma or taste. Some might be my personal preference in that I like imperial stouts to be a little sweeter than this, but it still didn't give a particularly memorable experience. Kind of middle of the road, not too sweet, not too hoppy.

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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
4.09/5.00

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 Phelps
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tap into a goblet at Whole Foods Chandler. Was told this was based on the 30th anniversary stout I love so much.

Syrupy dark brown edging on black. About a finger of silky khaki head.

Beautiful nose. In this order: burnt toast, dark chocolate, oats, licorice.

Very smooth blend of roasted coffee bean, bitter dark chocolate, oats, licorice and smoke in the flavor. Alcohol emerges as it warms and is hard to avoid.

Syrupy. Thick, creamy medium body. Light, tickly carbonation. More than a little alcohol warmth.

Super duper. Very drinkable for its size and strength.

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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 heygeebee
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Briefly, looks on the money for an RIS, and rich and smooth on nose and taste. Velvety, mellow, luscious. Roasts, coffee, and dark choc to the fore, and less hoppy than we might expect from SN. Dry finish and less alcohol burn than you would think.

Overall, really solid and to style.

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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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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 5,022 ratings.
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