Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

BA SCORE
93
outstanding
927 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:
927
Ratings:
5,031
Avg:
4.15
pDev:
9.64%
 
 
Wants:
331
Gots:
1,445
For Trade:
40
User Reviews
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Reviews: 927 | Ratings: 5,031
Photo of MattSweatshirt
4.05/5  rDev -2.4%
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 leaddog
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2016 edition at 10.2%.

Appearance - Pours a chocolate brown/black with two fingers of bubbly mocha head.

Smell - Roasted malts, cocoa, coffee bean, earthy and leafy hops, hint of vanilla bean.

Taste - Flavourful roasted notes from the malts, coffee bean and cocoa flavours, along with a touch of the hops. Slightest bit of alcohol, but quite low.

Mouthfeel - Medium-to-full bodied with low-to-moderate carbonation. Warmth from the alcohol. Very smooth.

Overall - Sierra Nevada delivers a very flavourful imperial stout with easy drinkability (so dangerous!). The roasted malt profile is well executed, along with the coffee bean and cocoa flavours. Could easily make it into my winter rotation.

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Photo of ocelot2500
4.3/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a jet black color with a tight, light brown head that leaves little bits of lacing.

Smells of deep roasted notes with some dark fruits.

Tastes of the full roasted notes with a touch of bitterness on the backend. Leads off with coffee and semi-sweet chocolate. A bit of roasted bitterness comes through in the middle. Licorice also comes through near the end and is complemented by some dark fruit notes. Finishes with a slight molasses note.

Mouthfeel is full with a creamy amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is a very good stout that is definitely worth checking out.

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Photo of Act25
4.53/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Massive. Up there with all the best. Right now my favorite, and you could not know which 2x stout is best until you taste test.

Appearance: Pours an energetic black, with a tan head they mounds and then lasts and leaves rills and contours as it falls, leaving also behind spidery rings of lace. Best looking.

Smell: Dark pit fruit soaked in coffee and liquore, skewered on top of charcoal fire.

Taste: Follows the smell, so that the roast and plum/cherry flavors emerge after a chocolate coating. Much complexity and ancient church like flavors, incense, old wool, old wood, wet wool. Lovely bitterness paints the tongue keeping it an unsugared coffee like experience, along with some licorice and alcohol - but like an ancient after dinner drink. Chartreuse like.

Mouthfeel: Warm, full, bitter, great bitter roasty finish, leaves you in a kissy place. Warming.

Overall: My current favorite 2x stout. A must try. Accessible. Sierra scores.

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Photo of gillagorilla
3.61/5  rDev -13%
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 Jimmys
3.83/5  rDev -7.7%
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 brother_kenneth
4.2/5  rDev +1.2%
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 scotorum
3.94/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 on the label, if I'm reading the code correctly it was bottled November 4th 2012.

Poured from the 12 oz. bottle into a Samuel Adams nonick.

a: Pitch black, finger thick tan head receded quickly to even surface foam and some clingy lacing.

s: Overripe fruit, alcohol.

t: Heavy dark malt with quite a bit of hop bite, smoky finish. Significant alcohol throat burn.

m: Medium to heavy. Quite smooth with plenty enough carbonation tingle on the tongue.

o: A flavorful imperial stout with a lot of not entirely pleasant punch. Perhaps the year of aging did not serve it as well as could be hoped. Tough to do more than sip, although few imperial stouts aren't.

UPDATE 2/4/14: Had another from the same fourpack and it was very smooth with more dark chocolate and less smoky taste, Some chocolate also in the aroma. The more I do these comparisons bottle to bottle of the same aged beer, the more I am convinced that it is difficult to predict how some will react to aging, and in fact they may react differently from one bottle to another. Doesn't seem to make much sense, and perhaps it's my own senses that are varying, but I find quite a difference sometimes among bottles in the same pack. (Lagunitas Brown Shugga and Brooklyn's now discontinued Monster come most immediately to mind). In any case I'm raising my ratings based on this second bottle. a: from 4-4.25; s from 3.5-4; mouthfeel from 4-4.25. And overall from 3.75-4.

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Photo of zac16125
3.57/5  rDev -14%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into a tulip
vintage 2013

A: Pours an opaque jet black with 1.5 fingers width of light mocha colored head. Decent retention, and leaves a good amount of lacing.

S: Tons of roasted malt, stale black coffee, bakers chocolate, an almost bourbon-ish booziness, some herbaceous notes.

T: Heavy on the roasted malt flavors, which are accompanied by floral hop notes and a hoppy bitterness. Wasnt expecting that. I also get anise, stale coffee, and an almost sour dark fruit character.

M/D: Full bodied, carbonation non the heavier side for the style, ABV very well masked. Drinkability is average.

O: I dont love this one, kind of a weird flavor profile. I expect it to get much better with age and will revisit this in a few months.

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Photo of Bosoxfan20
3.77/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A- 12 oz bottle pours pitch black. Caramel head of 1.5 fingers. Quickly dissipates . Decent lacing, but not up to par with what i usually see from Sierra Nevada.

S- Wow. What a fantastic highlight of this beer. Supreme notes of chocolate and coffee. Powerful.

T- Coffee flavor is the most prevalent with a touch of coco and caramel. I would have loved it if the flavor would have followed the nose much closer. I felt like some of the chocolate notes were lost in the overpowering phenolic flavors of the alcohol. A touch of hops. Warm, dry finish.

M- Full bodied, good carbonation. A little dry, but still fairly smooth. Alcohol quite present.

O- Maybe the best smelling beer i have ever had. I really had high hopes for it based on the aroma. Unfortunately, the beer took a step back in the flavor. Maybe my expectations were that this would be on the same level with other imperial stouts as Old Rasputin from North Coast, but it is a step or two below that in my opinion. I can expect some alcohol presence with an abv of 10%, but it was a little too boozy for my taste. None the less, still a good beer, but just a little underachieving in my mind.

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Photo of Proteus93
4.45/5  rDev +7.2%
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 ClavisAurea
4/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Fresh 2016 bottle served cold in a tulip glass.

Appearance: black, black, black, no light escaping, creamy tan head, poured out very creamy

Nose: coffee, chocolate, very muted nose while cold

Taste: alcohol, dark coffee, slightly acrid, not as smooth as I would have thought. Kinda harsh

Overall: pretty typical RIS here. I'm looking forward to doing a 3 year vertical in the next few weeks.

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Photo of RickS95
4.81/5  rDev +15.9%
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.

 1,237 characters

Photo of falloutsnow
3.88/5  rDev -6.5%
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 neenerzig
4.34/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into one of my snifters, this beer pours a an extremely dark brown, almost black color that lets in no light whatsoever. has a dark tan head that is about 1/4 inch thick when first poured that, despite the fact that I gave this beer a very rough pour, settled very quickly to a medium sized ring lining the inside of the glass along with swirls of foam on the surface of the beer. Okay lacing, but not that good. Aromas of caramel malt, hints of chocolate and vanilla, coffee, some hints of dark fruit that are all rounded out with a bourbon smell. pretty sure this edition of this beer was not aged in bourbon barrels, but it sure smells like it. Weird. The flavors match the aromas almost verbatim, caramel malt, chocolate and vanilla sweetness upfront, followed by some roasted coffee bitterness notes, hints of plum and raisin, rounded out with a touch of bourbon. Oh yeah a hint of alcohol too. The flavors mesh very well together as the beer sits and warms up a bit too. Has a slightly crisp, but mainly smooth, creamy, medium bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. This one really coats the palate. Easy to drink in the way an excellently crafted beer should be.

Eric

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Photo of Wer34truh
4.32/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A rather small head which dissipates quickly. Large dark body with minimal activity. Looks like the depths of the ocean.

As far as the smell goes, it's mostly chocolate, with some coffee on the side. A subtle booze scent is also emanating from this. Otherwise a rather subtle smell.

Quite complex flavor. With coffee beans, chocolate,cola and a smokey sort of taste towards the end. Also noted some licorice. The taste is phenomenal, with a rather hefty body as well.

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Photo of starrdogg
3.8/5  rDev -8.4%
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 BeerDawgs
4.29/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - Pitch black, with little head or lace. No other way to describe it!

S - Chocolate, hops, cocoa, sweet, dark grains

T - Wow..an amazing DStout. Sweet, but not too much, just right. Hidden ABV

M - Full bodied, well balanced.

O - One of the better stouts I have had. Well done Sierra Nevada!

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Photo of jp32
4.76/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Look: Black as the darkest night. Thick, foamy, brown colored head sits atop of the beer. Very nice.

Smell: Rich, roasted, dark malts. Sweet. Some chocolate. Tobacco. Black licorice.

Taste: One of the better tasting russian imperial stouts I've had in recent memory (and most are usually quite tasty). A big roasted backbone is flanked with flavors of caramel, brown sugar, coffee, chocolate, cola, and black licorice.

For a stout this heavy bodied, it sure is as smooth as can be. It's an impressive beer. This will likely become my go-to stout, providing I'm able to get more of it while it's in season.

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Photo of kawilliams81
3.88/5  rDev -6.5%
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 Nugganooch
4.09/5  rDev -1.4%
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.

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Photo of colts9016
4.12/5  rDev -0.7%
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 jjanega08
4/5  rDev -3.6%
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 MikeWard
3.68/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. 2013 batch.

Poured a thick oily black. No light comes through the body. Head was about a finger, tan colored. The head dissipated quckly to a full covering, before completely disappearing about halfway through the drink. No lacing to speak of.

Wasn't getting too much from the nose, pretty subtle, some alcohol, coffee, a little toasted malt.

Taste was also very subtle, with the above flavors coming through, but no strength to any of them. None of them lingered on the tongue very long.

Mouth was around medium, a little dry at the end.

I've only had this beer once before, last fall. Remember enjoying it a lot more then than now. This seemed a bit uninspired. Nothing offensive about it, just a bit bland really. A bit disappointing. Does go down easy for a 10.2abv.

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Photo of Hoptometrist
3.43/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Served from the bottle into a globed glass

A- Poured a vicious vlack with a small dark mocha colored head that dissipated quickly. Some minimal splashy lace was left.

S- Big licorice, toasted coconut, and big whiskey notes. Very strong aroma with lots of booze on it

T- Follows the aroma very closely. Huge licorice notes, big whiskey notes, some toasted coconut, notes and some roastiness. Kind of an odd sour twang on the finish. Incredibly bitter stout, by far the most bitter stout I have ever had.

M Pretty thick mouthfeel, very creamy and smooth, almost velvety, big warming from the alcohol, and some alcohol burn

O- Great mouthfeel, but not one of my favorite imperial stouts. Pretty boozy and the sour finish is odd.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.15 out of 5 based on 5,031 ratings.
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