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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
92
outstanding
876 Reviews
THE BROS
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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BEER INFO

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

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:
876
Ratings:
4,878
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
9.66%
 
 
Wants:
307
Gots:
1,376
For Trade:
46
User Reviews
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Reviews: 876 | Ratings: 4,878
Photo of MikeWard
3.68/5  rDev -11.1%
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 South2NW
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle to snifter.

A: very dark brown, closer to black. Very thin brown head with minimal lace.

S: Roasty. Coffee, malts, and a touch of chocolate.

T: roasty malts right away, followed by some dark coffee/chocolate flavors. Brief hop finish.

M: thick, creamy. Little carbonation. Not much alcohol burn. Very easy drinker.

O: SN did a great job with this. It's a very nice, balanced imperial. Great value at $10/4pk. Makes a great sipper on cold evenings. Paired well with thanksgiving desserts.

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Photo of ExaltedNecrosis
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into snifter.

A - Pitch black with one finger of creamy dark mocha / chocolate head. Leaves a good amount of lacing on the glass.

S - A somewhat subdued aroma of roasted coffee and chocolate.

T - Roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and a slight hint of vanilla. There is a also a bit of booziness, though not very pronounced for a 10.2%

M - Super smooth and creamy. Thick bodied and somewhat syrupy with low carbonation; this goes down easy.

O - A fantastic stout from SN with the standard roasted coffee and chocolate flavors, with a velvety smooth mouthfeel. Nice bit of alcohol warmth as well despite it being quite drinkable.

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

<< Review #700 >>

Aroma: Coffee, dry cocoa, and roasty malt characteristics up front. No fruity esters that tend to be more common in English versions. I get a bit of pleasant graininess that reminds me of oatmeal and maris otter malt.

Appearance: Inky black pour with a large tan batter-like head.

Flavor: Follows the aroma but there is more of a dark fruity flavor that reminds me of fig and raisins to match the coffee and cocoa character. Slight earthy bitterness that helps offset some of the malty character and just a touch of chocolate sweetness. Finish is pleasant and dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation. Slight dark grain roasted astringency which is pleasant and appropriate for the style. No alcohol heat which is surprising given the ABV.

Overall impression: Immensely drinkable given the style and size of this beer. A perfect 700th review. One of my favorite styles and one of my favorite breweries so this was appropriate. I hope they make more of this.

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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 brewskis
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Has a jet black appearance with a finger length dark mocha head that dissipates slowly and leaves a thick lacing. Smells of lots of bittersweet chocolate, good amount of coffee, nice roasted element to it, some oak, molasses, maybe some dark fruit as it warms. Taste starts with the bittersweet chocolate and molasses. Then in the middle, a huge dose of roastiness comes through from the roasted barley, along with more molasses. Then the finish is more of the roasted flavors, almost like a smokiness, along with lots of bittersweet chocolate, more molasses, some coffee or expresso, a tiny bit of hop presence, get some fig as well. Definite alcohol presence on the finish as well, but does not detract from the other flavors. Pretty full body with a sticky and creamy mouthfeel. Decent amount of carbonation that livens up the body of the beer. This will age nicely. Nothing too flashy, but a solid imperial stout at an affordable price.

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Photo of deebo
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 version that has been sitting in my fridge since November. Poured into a snifter this brew comes out of the bottle looking like motor oil topped with a dark tan thick head 1 finger wide with good lacing. Aromas of chocolate and roasted malt. Fairly simple but delicious. Taste is also chocolately with some nice roasted slightly bitter malt. A rather thick yet smooth mouthfeel. Really clean for a 10%+ beer. This is a fantastic RIS. Favorite beer from Sierra Nevada

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

SN Imperial Stout? Yes please. 12oz bottle split three ways into snifters...

A: A very dark opaque pour yields a very dark brown head with great lacing.

S: Tons of bitter roasted coffee on the nose, and an ever-present leafy hop bitterness (hey, this is SN)...bakers chocolate and deep dark roasted malt. RIS to a 'T'.

T: Follows the nose perfectly, roasty and bitter with copious amounts of coffee notes, dark chocolate notes, hints of darker fruit and licorice, dark roasted malt, almost burnt to the point of being a touch smoky? Light lingering herbal hop notes as well.

MF: Creamy with pretty good carbonation...a touch viscous with a bit of an alcohol burn (hey, at 10.2% its really buried, which is nice).

O: Impressed. Toss this thing in some harsh rye whiskey barrels and I'd say you have an all-time great RIS. As it stands its a great drinker now, and the alcohol is well-hidden.

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Photo of daledeee
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Some more of this showed up. Got a 4 pack for a reasonable price.

Pours black with a medium brown head and great lacing.

Smell is charcoal, malt.

Wow, this one hits you in the face. This is the bitterest stout I have had. Loads of malt bitterness. Charcoal, oak, chocolate and sweetness as well.

The mouth feel is very creamy and I don't notice too much alcohol warmth. Overall this is a great example and unique as well.

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Photo of BeerManDan
4.6/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured a thick black brew, with a little dark tan foam and no lace.

The smell of deep roasted malts and dark roasted sweet coffee, with a hint of alcoholic chocolate, filled the nose with a pleasant alcoholic aroma.

The flavor was of a slightly bitter coffee and roasted malts taste, with a hint of dark chocolate on the finish. This Russian Imperial Stout has a long pleasant aftertaste. Not overly bitter and the high alcohol and flavors have a very pleasant taste.

I'm back for a case next time out to BEVMO.

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Photo of Shaw
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black, black, black with a short tan head. Looked like oil going into my glass.

Aroma of chocolate, coffee and alcohol.

Big roasted flavors mix with a bit of alcohol. Chocolate and molasses come to mind.

Great body, but then what imperial stout is thin and watery?

A good imperial stout. World class? No, but worth trying.

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Photo of dacrza1
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

DATE TASTED: January 8, 2016... GLASSWARE: Mad Elf tulip... OCCASION... enjoying another Friday night of Shark Tank... APPEARANCE: midnight black body that is as dark as its label... brown, creamy head rings well and holds steady despite the 10+% ABV strength ... AROMA: mocha, cappuccino, peat, sugary sweets, and chocolate... roasted malts mix with some woody scents and leafy accents... PALATE: smooth, smoky and full-bodied... the weight is palpable but incredibly light on the tongue... the aftertaste is slightly alcoholic, but also malty and weighty... TASTE: chocolate and peat are rapt in holy Arctic wedlock here, with coffee, toasted malts and some hidden citric elements make for a beer worth sipping... big, bold and flavorful.... OVERALL: another Sierra Nevada winner? Indeed...the strength and life of this imperial stout challenges other 12 oz. and some cork and cagers too....maltier than the usual imperial, and a dessert in itself...

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

2012 bottling. Poured from a bottle into a Brooklyn Brewery snifter. There's a ton of carbonation here. I get a massive head about 3-4 fingers thick without even pouring it very harshly. Nice lacing as the head dies down. It's hard to nose this beer with all that foam, but I do get some nice roasted notes, espresso, and a touch of dark fruit.

The beer has a full body, creamy feel, and a very traditional RIS flavor profile. Big bready malt notes up front that quickly get bitter as roasty, burnt toast and fruit flavors join in. Lots of bitter coffee and chocolate in this one and very little sweetness, save for the front of the palate. The finish is quite long and satisfying and leaves a lingering roasty flavor.

Overall, I expected this beer to be average and I was pleasantly surprised. It is a well-constructed RIS, though just a little bitter for my taste.

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Photo of rodlavers
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Served in a pint glass, Narwhal pours about as black as you can get, with a thick and foamy mocha head, and lots of lacing.

Roasted malt and coffee aromas are dominant, but there is some chocolate in there as well.

Really roasted malt is the winner here, very prominent and present, with roasted coffee beans in there as well, just not too strong, which is a good thing, leaving out some bitterness. Taste is really nice.

Feel is the best part, super smooth and easy to drink, with amazing roast aftertaste.

Overall I am glad I finally had a chance to do a proper review; last time, I gave it a 4/5, but that was based on a 2-3oz pour after hours of drinking IPA's and other stouts, which was an injustice. Narwhal is a good and hearty stout. Cheers.

A few add-on comments. Slightly altering my review based on a my current view of Narwhal, which I justify by my evolving pallet -- no beer ever tastes EXACTLY the same each time

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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 DenverHopHead
4.49/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.
Appearance - black as motor oil; creamy, tan head; ring upon ring of lacing!
Smell - cocoa and dark chocolate; hint of espresso.
Taste - complex flavors! Starts off creamy, but a surprise rush of hops mixed with a hint of alcohol, follows with malts and coffee flavors.
Feel - a very complex RIS! I was taken back by the very noticeable hop presence, it almost comes off as a hardcore Black IPA! More medium body, not too heavy and very drinkable at 10.2% ABV!
Overall - terrific offering from Sierra Nevada! To me this is a cross between an RIS and a Black IPA! The price point gives this one the nod over many other stouts! I'm anxious to try this alongside a few of my favorite Black IPA's, like Wookey Jack, Sublimely, and Mountain Standard.

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Photo of TwelveOunces
4.41/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter

A- Pours syrupy and as black as night. Almost no head to speak of but the head was a deep brown color. Impressive alcohol lacing.

S- A boatload of roasted malts, a slight dark chocolate. A big hop bitterness. A touch of alcohol.

T- A big crisp bitterness up front. Followed up by an absolutely massive amount of roasted flavors. Really lingers on the tongue to the point of being smokey. The beer definitely has a big chocolate flavor and feel which mellows it out and adds a whole new level of complexity. This is a hoppy stout, there are strong underlying notes of citrus and a lot of pine. Very dry and roasted aftertaste.

M- Big and thick, definitely a sipping beer. Almost no alcohol presence, it is hidden extremely well. Dry aftertaste. Really sticky.

O- This is an incredible imperial stout. One of the best non-barrel/aged stouts I have had in a good while. It is also priced incredibly well and is available everywhere. Definitely get some and make sure to keep some aside for the years to come.

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Photo of SometimesIfart
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours pitch black with a one finger dark mocha head that sticks around. Left spotty lacing.

S - Deep roasted malts, dark fruits, slight alcohol.

T - Deep roasted malt up front, alcohol in the middle, and very very dark, I guess you could almost say roasted like a smore chocolate finish. It's almost like it melts in your mouth.

M - Thick oily body with very lightly stinging carbonation.

O - Overall, I'm completely convinced that Sierra Nevada can do no wrong. In my opinion, this stout had a one of a kind flavor. I don't know how they managed to make the flavor seem as though it melts in your mouth. I'd definitely have again and I wouldn't mind aging one.

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Photo of alpinebryant
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours pitch black with a full two finger fluffy mocha head.

S: Aroma of sweet malt, a light hint of smoke

T: Sweet with licorice up front and a nice bit of smoke in the back. Extremely smooth with a very dry finish. Very well attenuated and rounded out with minimal hop presence. The licorice flavors is very strong in here, more so than most imperial stouts.

M: Medium body with a mild carbonation level.

O: This is a well rounded stout, one that doesn't disappoint and lives up to the standards that Sierra Nevada have for great beer. Without wowing typically, this beer has stepped it up a notch from some of the other recent releases that SN has. I am sure I will have this again in the future, well done.

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Photo of Pahn
4.02/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle into Captain Lawrence tulip.

Appearance: Long lasting frothy tan head. Several large lacing streaks. Black.

Smell: Cascade hops with an undercurrent of roasted malt. Straightforward, good. P.S. Apologies if the beer doesn't actually have Cascades in it. [edit: checking online shows me that Challenger hops were used, which--upon reading their characteristics--is a testament to Sierra Nevada's skill at using hops. They indeed do smell and taste like a citrusy version of Willamette / Northern Brewer. Great stuff]

Taste: Cocoa and roasted malt up front, underlying fruitiness in back, roasted malt bitterness in the finish (oily hop aftertaste). Flavor takes a long time to play itself out, which along with the almost-velvety mouthfeel makes every sip a delight. Solidly above average.

High ABV very well hidden--drinks so smooth that halfway through the glass you really feel a punch from the 10+% ABV. Great Winter beer, and while it doesn't wrench out as much flavor from all that alcohol as some other, superior beers (say, Hoppin Frog's BORIS), it does its job.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied. Creamy. Not as silken as Fritz and Ken's, but closer to that godly stout-feel than, say, Old Rasputin, which is humdrum in comparison. Moderate carbonation. Nice mild dryness at the end.

Overall: Great value. Well done feel, and a ton of flavor. For me, it comes off as a bit of a journeyman beer: straightforward cascade hops and roasted malt in the nose and most of the flavor, with some really exceptional mouthfeel and subtle estery flavor here and there.

Like Hoptimum and Bigfoot, a seasonal that should make value-minded beer drinkers very happy.

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Photo of RoamingGnome
4.26/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tasting Notes from 11/2/12. Poured from 12oz bottle into CBS snifter. This was served at cellar temperature.

A) Pitch black as expected. Nice thick 2 finger mocha head, which settled to a dusting relatively quickly. Decent lacing+ some legs.

S) I found the aroma pleasant, but not as pronounced as I expected. Dark roast, light coffee, malt sweetness that came off like brown sugar+ vanilla, kind of like a cookie dough. There was a whiff of booze.

T) Wonderful... Heavy roast+ some coffee flavor. Plenty of chocolate, and pleasing sweetness. Then some nice earthy hops for a little bitterness. The alcohol gives a little warmth, but is well hidden.

M) Rich, quite supple... This has a full body, with light carbonation. Feels rather thick, but goes down nice and smooth. Good aftertaste...

O) Excellent RIS right here. I enjoy a little extra hops in the flavor, and kind of expected that from SN. I love their regular stout. This one is a fantastic sipper for the cold months ahead. Glad to recommend this beer...

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Photo of cvm4
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle

A - Appearance is stunning. Rich, black body with a tan mocha head that leaves behind a highway of lacing.

S - Roasted malts, dry bakers chocolate and vanilla.

T - Bitter dark chocolate, roasted malts and a touch of molasses to start off. Bitterness all the way through with coffee on the finish along with a lingering smokeyness.

M - Medium body that is somewhat more carbonated than other RIS I've had. Doesn't feel "thick," but somewhat creamy/chewy and airy all at the same time.

O - Well done SN, well done. Continually impressed with how this beer comes alive as it warms.

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Photo of Dave1999
3.8/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours pitch black with a small tan colored head.

The smell is dark malts, alcohol, coffee and chocolate.

The taste is sweet and malty with a fair bit of alcohol.

The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy but just a little lighter bodied than I'd like for the style.

I really enjoyed this and it is available at a decent price. I don't think I'd pick this over ten fidy or stone RIS though .

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

SN, you are incredible. You know that I'd for sure drink something called a "narwhal imperial stout." Poured out of a 12oz bottle into a snifter.

The color is expected - a impenetrable, dark slick that smoothly pours out into the glass and produces a surprisingly huge head that carries its way all the way to the top of the glass. My God are the alcohol leggings large on this one. They're literally climbing to the top in long strings of carbonation! This is extremely thick and filling in appearance. Nothing could slice through this, and the generous carbonation definitely shines here - no matter how long I let this sit, it never lost its head completely. Simply a stunning take on the RIS style. It definitely made my stomach slightly retreat in fear looking at it.

The smell is predictably boozy, but there's a lot more going on for it than that. There are big bold, baker's chocolate aromas, combined with deep coffee grounds (resembling French roasted beans), and a combination of dark fruits and grassy zest. A best way to describe it is a combo of coffee, cocoa, buckwheat, dark cherries, and tamarind. All coated with insanely strong alcohol. Definitely good, but that alcohol kinda makes me a bit dizzy after whiffing at it long enough.

The flavor is a bit different though - just like Mission Dark Seas, this is an example of a West Coast RIS where the alcohol is not as present in the flavor than in the aroma. That is NOT to say that it isn't - this is a 20.8 proof beer after all - but it only shows up way at the finish. Instead, there are strong, dark malty flavors that get to the palate, combined with more coffee that chocolate, and topped with a unique yet vicious hop zest. This is definitely not for the faint of heart. I had to go really slow with this thing. The alcohol finish was ridiculous as it warmed up, but thankfully none of the flavors were thrown off. The mouthfeel as pretty much as perfect as its appearance. Lots of surprising carbonation, but also a near syrupy, bready thickness that never let itself go.

Of these latest "extreme" offerings from SN, this is one that I preferred a hundred times over Hoptimum. There's an incredible amount of balance going on here, which is saying something as this one of the most intense takes on this style I've had since Old Rasputin. However, it is quite easy to finish, but it requires patience. That alcohol will get to your head if you're not careful, and it's dry enough to be taken slowly but never gets astringent so that it will left alone. Even though I definitely won't be having this every day, it's truly fantastic one from SN!

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 876 ratings.
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