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 Gambrinus1184
4.35/5  rDev +4.8%
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 woemad
4.09/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle from a 4-pk purchased at J.B.’s in Spokane for $10.99. It was literally the last they had of it, which was fitting, as I somehow missed this when it was released. The name reminds of an utterly absurd moment in the movie Elf.

Super viscous-looking when poured into a funky Sam Adams glass. From the looks of it, I could run my car off of it. Modest tan head that dropped fairly quickly into a sudsy ring, but never quite disappeared. Spotty and streaky lace.

Fairly standard aroma for the style. I get brown sugar, coffee, and chocolate. The high abv percentage is not noticeable in the smell.

A little more bitter tasting than the nose indicated, but that helps balance things nicely. In addition to the qualities I noted above, there’s also a prune-like dark fruit flavor, and a little bit of smoke. Quite dry at the swallow. Again, there’s no sign of the high alcohol content.

Fairly full-bodied, with a sticky mouthfeel.

A very tasty addition to the Imperial Stout ranks. Not quite as complex as some, but still very good. Dangerously drinkable at 10.2% alcohol - not a session beer! Glad to see SN do this style of beer.

"Goodbye Mr. Narwhal."

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Photo of sweemzander
3.91/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz. bottle poured into a snifter.

(A)- Pours a fairly thick pitch black color. Produced a nice cap of tan froth. Good retention and lacing left behind.

(S)- A nicely deep roasted profile. Plenty of dry baked bread and raisin characters.

(T)- Similar to the smell: A good roasted malt profile. Some dry baked bread and raisin with a little bit of cocoa and bitter citrus from the hops.

(M)- A good mellow carbonation level and balance. I like the play of roasted bitterness, rich raisin, and subtle hoppy citrus at the end.

(O)- This is one solid stout. Personally, I do prefer my stouts less in the hop level, but this one has enough deep and rich flavors to mask and balance that out, and that is how the style can traditionally be. Definitely would be curious to see what some time will do to this one.

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Photo of cvm4
4.17/5  rDev +0.5%
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 tut2528
4.41/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

thanks to Jaap for sending this one!
2012 Release

A: pours black as night, with high viscosity and it creates about 1/2 fingers worth of a rich mocha colored head formation. minimal lacing. alcohol legs are also apparent (was to be expected at 10.2%)

S: nice rich sweet body comprised of milk chocolate, figs, and a touch of vanilla with a big roasted malt backbone. biter dark chocolate is also detectable along with a fair amount of coffee grounds.

T: big roasted malts bitter dark chcolate are the main players here. but there is also a nice balance of dark fruits, sweet milk chocolate, and a slight smokiness. No alcohol is detected.

M: full bodied brew. thick viscosity coats the palate with a nice cocoa and coffee notes. there is some alcohol heat, but it honestly fits extremely nice here.

O: just a big, bold brew that has a terrific balance. and is a perfect fireside beer. One of the best offereings that I have had from Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of DrDemento456
4.07/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Finally found a bottle at Carnivores in Verona. Mixed and matched it for $2.50

A - I love the full inch of deep mocha head it almost always guarantee's a thick viscous pour. Color is as black as night and the head has both excellent lacing and stays around for a while.

S - A nice blend of citrus hops, charcoal, coffee roasts, bakers chocolate, and some alcohol. Seems very balanced and ABV smells well hidden.

T - Quite bitter and ashy as expected for such a high ABV stout. Those who do not like a sweet stout this is the beer for you the bitterness really clings to the palate. Under this I do get some espresso and coffee grounds and just a mild twang of bakers chocolate. I find it amazing I couldn't smell how much hops/roast is packed into this. Not bad.

M - Medium to thick in body, somewhat creamy and chewy. Man this is an imperial stout.

Overall its not as bad as say fresh Old Rasputin but it's still very strong with the ashy roast and hop aspect. If I was able to find older bottles of this or age them myself for a year this beer would be quite exceptional. Glad I don't love it since I passed on a second bottle.

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Photo of liamt07
4.25/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle form Siciliano's, 12oz into a tulip - 2012 vintage.

Impenetrable black with a deep brown head. Creamy retention and a whole load of lace. Nose of dark chocolate, coffee, molasses, carmel, dark fruit liqueur notes. Light anise and a bit of alcohol. Relatively sweet, but spot on for what I enjoy in imperial stouts. Taste has heavy dark roasted character, dark chocolate, light tar, charcoal with some back end sweetness to prevent everything from getting away. Full feel, some alcohol warmth. Medium low carbonation. This do es well as is and could be great with some time.

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Photo of GetMeAnIPA
4.33/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a 12 oz bottle into my dogfish signature glass.

A - midnight black. 1/2 inch of brown small buubled head that fades quickly, but appears again with a few swirls of the glass. No bubbles that I could see, but the beer is so black if there where I couldn't even see them.

S - licorice, coffee, roasted malts with a some sweetness and alcohol that pierces the nose.

T - I get an array of flavors. Roasted malts, coffee, slight coco. A little sweetness comes through in the middle with some bitterness on the back end. The bitterness fades 1/4 through the beer as the coffee and roasted malts take over.

M - very little carbonation. A little syrupy and viscous. I get a slight tingling on the tongue.

O - very solid. I like how there isn't too coffee or coco flavor and its balanced nicely between not being too sweet or bitter. The abv is well hidden. I get a perfect amount of warming but no alcohol burn. Sierra Nevada says this will
Age for years and I plan on aging a few. Interested how it will change.

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Photo of dngilb
4.47/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is what I taste:
Coffee, chocolate, leather, vanilla, citrus, white pepper, golden kiwi skin, bergamot, zinc lozenge.

Mouthfeel: it's at the height of my viscosity tolerance level. It's not very carbonated, but it tingles the tongue nicely. It's more drinkable than many of the other Imperial Stouts. Some imp stouts I have a hard time drinking 12oz... I can finish this one, which is a plus in my book.

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Photo of mattbk
3.94/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black, thick, lighter head than I would have imagined.
S: Light roast, some hoppy pineyness. Would have liked more roast, would have liked a bit more sweetness.
T: Mmm, more sweetness here. A good amount of black barley here, definitely a good sized bite, a nice caramel middle, alcohol at the end, but not hot or overpowering. Not a lot of dark fruit here either. Mostly slight roast, sweetness, and a bit of alcohol. I appreciate the way they hid the alcohol in this 10%+ beer.
M: Medium-full, not very very full. The alcohol might be thinning it out a bit. Definitely not super drinkable, but not very heavy either.
O: A good RIS, not the best I've ever had, but solid. I would recommend it.

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

A: Deep black. The head is very modest and the lacing is fairly light. It is possible that I served it just a little bit too cold.

S: The smell is fantastic. A little bit subtle, but overall a nice balance between roasted malt and coffee, along with a pleasant hint of alcohol (just enough to know you are drinking an RIS without being overwhelming).

T: It tastes very much like it smells: delicious! In addition to a roasty coffee taste, I'm also getting a touch of caramel, especially as the beer begins to warm a bit. There is a noticeably bitter aftertaste.

M: Very creamy.

O: I've always loved SNPA so I may be a bit biased towards SN products in general, but this is an excellent beer. While I have yet to taste some of the harder-to-find stouts talked about on BA, I imagine that this beer measures up quite well, especially given its availability.

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Photo of Onenote81
4.36/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Grabbed a 4-pack of this when it first came out. Saved the final bottle for a review. 12oz bottle poured into a snifter.

Pours a jet black. No light penetrates this one. Small tan head. Nose is rich with booze, chocolate, roasted coffee, grape, vanilla. Hints of woodsy aromas on the finish.

Body is decadent and full. Rich velvety feel with a touch of carbonation on the back end. A nice malty backbone, with vanilla, chocolate syrup, a little booze, black licorice, dark fruits.

This one was rich and tasty. The alcohol snuck up on me at the tail end, but this one was one I enjoyed through and through. I hope to see this around often, as I would like to have stock of this one at all times.

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Photo of Moose90
4.44/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 11/3/12 @ 7:35AM!
Tasted 1/14/12
12oz bottle into tulip glass

A – Pours a near opaque jet black with a thin medium-dark brown head. Leaves adequate lacing. Looks good for a RIS.

S – Coffee dark roasted, bitter dark chocolate, and a ton of black licorice on this one. A little bit of fresh cream and milkiness to it. No alcohol comes through here.

T – Pretty subdued for a RIS. No charcoal briquettes in this one. Good mild dark chocolate and coffee notes. The licorice and cream come through again but they are on the back burner of this complex brew.

M – Good carbonation, not an overwhelming amount of it, it helps bring a nice dryness and compliments the big dark malt profile.

O – A great RIS, not burnt and tarnished like some others. Not sweet but has nice licorice and chocolate notes. A solid offering, just wish it wasn't so darn hard to find on shelves.

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Photo of sevenarts
4.13/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Very dark black, dense and totally opaque. Tan head with some lacing.

S: Coffee, sweet chocolate, alcohol, a liitle boozey.

T/M: Rich coffee and chocolate up front, roasted malts, followed by boozey, warming alcohol on the back end. Thick and full bodied with a bit of a bite going down.

O: A very good imperial stout, dense and heavy and intense, and its ABV is really felt.

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Photo of jifigz
4.44/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottle poured into a pint glass

The appearance of this tenebrous brew is jet black with a nice creamy lighlty creamed coffee colored head. The head lingers for an average amount of time. No sunlight passed through this beer or changed its color when held up to the window. The aroma of this brew is rich and creamy chocolate, booze with hints of spicy hops, rich caramel and toffee and burnt toast. The flavor of this beer is hefty. It starts off rich and creamy with hints of a chocolate malt milkshake. The ending is riding a nice bitter note that lingers resides in the mouth for quite a while. The middle is rather complex. It transforms from rich and boozy chocolate to almost a bitter liquor like flavor that resounds with toasted malts. The end has a stale cigarette flavor in the mouth along with the bitterness. The MF is creamy yet slick, it is heavy enough to support such huge alcohol and flavor, yet certainly not too thick and is actually rather medium bodied.

A fantastic Imperial stout. Sierra Nevada pretty much always does it right.

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Photo of tobelerone
4.05/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very nice imperial from Sierra Nevada, well worth the wait. A quality effort that’s affordable and easily accessible to boot. Pours deep black with a smallish cream colored head; decent retention and a bit of patchy lace. Not the best looking example of the style but that’s nitpicking I suppose. Aroma of roasted, nearly charred malt, espresso, black licorice, baker’s chocolate. The flavor mirrors the nose closely; the roastiness is the prevalent note here, again black licorice or anise is present, but integrates well and isn’t overbearing; booze is well-hidden, sweetness is average for the style, some piney hops tidy things up in a fairly subtle way underneath. Far from cloying; in fact I would have enjoyed a bit more caramel, brown sugar and chocolate here. But it’s a well-meshed flavor, not too big, hits all the right notes while taking a bit of a middle of the road approach. Very drinkable and very appealing.

The body is moderately full and carbonation is medium; the feel has just a touch of creamy smoothness. Again, it’s not particularly massive, but it drinks like a charm. Overall a real winner. Not going to make anyone forget the heavy hitters but you could do a lot worse than grab a four pack of this for your stout fix.

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Photo of horshack7
4.59/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: It's down right black as the night sky. The head is light brown and is about one finger thick.

Aroma: Vanilla bean, light alcohol notes, charred wood, subtle yeasty bits. Traces of dark fruits, citrus and black licorice.

Taste: Dark roasted hops and chocolate malts, milk and dark chocolate notes. Espresso, vanilla bean, charred wood. Quite the silky smooth mouthfeel.

Notes: Rather a hefty beer very good for a cold night. Cheers.

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Photo of wvsabbath
3.86/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Serving type -Bottle

Appearance - Black as oil with a thick, foamy, 1 inch head. Lots of stick lacing. Look s nice.

Smell - Roasted malts, sweet brown sugars, molassess, dark fruits like plum and rasin. Coffee/chocolate aroma. Not overly strong aroma.

Taste - First sip this drinks more like a american stout then a ris. Plenty of chocolate, roasted malts, and coffee. Has a nice backbone of honey/molassess/brown sugar to add some sweetness. Nice mix of hops and fruits also adds flavor. Slight alcohol warmth at the finish.

Mouthfeel - Malts hit the tounge with roasty notes, chocolate and coffee come in after. Palate gets more malts, along with sugars, some hops and fruits. Finish is a little dry and malty.

Overall - Nice beer, but drinks closer to a american stout then a ris. Really smooth, and the alcohol is masked really well. Honestly, i expect big flavor and plenty of alcohol with ris's and this is really tame compaired to something like a yeti or a founders ris. Still good but id pass this off for the others mentioned. Worth a drink though.

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Photo of MetalHopHead6
4.12/5  rDev -0.7%
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 dgilks
3.96/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Inky, light absorbing black with a creamy, tan head. Nice head retention and good lacing.

An interesting aroma. Not intensely roasty. Rather there is plenty of anise and sweet malt. Some earthiness. Very much herbal.

More big, sweet malt there. The anise comes through in spades along with a touch of cocoa. A little chalky. It lacks a bit of brightness with it sitting back on the palate and the anise dominates.

Medium-full body with moderately-high carbonation. Quite dry.

A really interesting beer. I do like the cocoa flavour there and the earthiness is interesting. The anise is overbearing but the whole is good and it isn't an alcohol bomb.

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Photo of muchloveforhops3
3.98/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into tulip glass

p- poured at beer fridge temp (39 degrees F); standard black w/ a 1f tan head; quick recession to small cap; 4/5

n- soft-med; I pick up some sweet licorice, plums, molasses, and chocolate; should get bolder as it warms; 3.5/5; hasn't gotten as bold as I would have liked, but definitely more chocolaty

t- primarily smooth, sweet choc malt and coffee, supplemented by dark choc and dark fruits in the finish; residual coffee sweetness/bitterness in aftertaste; a touch of metallic bitterness is detected here and there in the finish; alcohol is well-hidden; good flavor; nice balance between sweet and bitter; 4/5

mf- outstanding; full-bodied and creamy; soft-medium carb; coating fin; essentially everything that a good imperial stout's mouthfeel should have, imo; best attribute of this beer; 5/5

o- seems easy to drink (the taste continues to beg successive sips), although the full body of the beer would catch up with me after awhile I think, thus cutting down the drinkability; SN has done it again- another great beer! would definitely have again; 4/5

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Photo of ponbon63
4.32/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: It pours jet black with a minimal head and basically no lacing. Excactly what you'd expect.

S: When RIS is done correctly it will always have an amazing smell. I was only slightly disappointed in the smell, but not because it was bad, because I am more of a fan of intense smelling RIS. as the smell of this beer is not as abrasive as some RIS's can be this may be a good beer for first-time drinkers of RIS. You can smell the coffee and dark chocolate and a hint of alcohol if you take a good whiff.

T: It's not nearly as intense as some I've tasted, however it has the signatures of a RIS. Coffee, bitter chocolate. The alcohol smell does not translate to tasting alcohol in the beer, which is good. Not overpowering by any means if you know what to expect.

M: Fairly carbonated for a RIS. Of course thicker than your average beer.

O: This is one of those beers that I love because of the style and the classic flavors that it brings. However, it's not as memorable as certain other versions of this variety. It's imperfect, but it is definitely a great addition.

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Photo of Jerone
4.49/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Very dark, viscous used motor oil, milk chocolate colored finger and a half head that fades but still leaves a bit of foam, leaves some lacing behind.

S - Yum, dark chocolate, coffee, and dark roasted malt with a touch of alcohol in a good way.

T - Bam, lots of flavor and what I love about stouts. Dark chocolate and some coffee flavor with slight hints of dark fruits as it gets closer to room temp (65). Has some sweetness but not too much, very lovely stout.

M - Great mouthfeel, low carbonation, heavy body, slightly viscous.

O - Great beer overall and highly recommended. SN keeps on making high quality beers and this one actually has little to no hop flavor :D

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Photo of Joshpu
4.34/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a duvel.

A: Black, used motor oil. About a finger of tan head, which dissipates quickly. Spotty lacing with alcohol legs.

S: Roasty smell. Coffee, dark chocolate, malt, some dark fruit.

T: Little bit of hop or chocolate/coffee bitterness, not overwhelming, it tastes great. Alot of coffee, malt, dark chocolate, sweet aftertaste.

M: Medium to full bodied, fairly creamy tasting. Fair amount of carbonation.

O: Outstanding beer, for a 10% beer it is very well executed. This beer is addictive, makes me wanting to come back for more.

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Photo of arizcards
4.19/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Initial Review 1-12-13.
Picked up a 4 pack from Total Wine in mid November for $8.99. Bottled on day 279 (Oct 6).

Beer poured black as night with a very nice head upon initial pour-4.0.

Nose is not as good as hoped, hints of roasted malts, coffee, and cocoa-3.75.

Taste is definitely there, cocoa and coffee with the malt backbone with an ample dry hop that keeps the sweetness at bay-4.25.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and smooth-4.0.

Overall this is a nice tasty beer. It is impressive that SNBC can continue to brew these large brews on the scale they do yet keep a very high quality-4.0.

Re-review 2012 version 9-12-15.

Bumping the score up to 4.25, 4, 4.25, 4.25, 4.25.
This brew has aged very nicely. Definitely smoother than when fresh. I need to pick up a 4 pack this season and try one each year. Cheers!

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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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