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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

For Trade:
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Reviews: 888 | Ratings: 4,926
Photo of BigCheese
4.52/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle. About 2.5 months old. Served a bit below room temp.

A: Pours straight black, a thin but thick light brown head forms and sticks around for a few minutes. No real laving.

S: MMM. Dark Coco, espresso, raisins, maybe some vanilla. Pretty aromatic out of the bottle, enticing.

T: Not as viscous as I would have thought. A mix of dark coco nibs and espesso, some vanilla oak and maybe even coconut. Some caramel maltiness linges on palate. There seems to be some substantial hops trying to fight through, cascade perhaps, something with a very slight hint of pine. Primarily chocolate, with some cherries and honey too. A little bit of heat, but not much.

M: Super thick mouthfeel. Real chewy, very heavy, very creamy. One of the richest bodied beers I've ever had. Low carbonation.

O: A really smooth velvety brew, definitely well executed, I'd love to see how this ages. A great sipper to have on a cold winter night. Probably the best value RIS I've had to date. I will have to buy this again to drink and cellar. Try it if you can, a real winner from SN.

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Photo of Wishdiak
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours jet black and opaque, with minimal reddish-brown head and minimal lacing.
S: Malty with chocolate and coffee scents.
T: Chocolate and coffee dominate. Not boozy. Slightly bitter finish.
M: Good full body, low carbonation.
O: A solid RIS, but not great.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.92/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout has a thick, creamy, tan head, lots of thick lacing left on the glass, and a very dark brown appearance. The aroma is of dark-roasted malt, and the taste is of black bread, chocolate, coffee, licorice, toffee, charcoal, bitterness, and black cherries. The mouthfeel is thick and velvety, and Narwhal Imperial Stout finishes semi-dry, heavy, warming, and smooth. Overall, this is an outstanding beer, and I recommend it in the strongest way!


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Photo of starrdogg
3.8/5  rDev -8.2%
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 lazjuarez
3.98/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Well, a gold medal winner at this years GABF, I couldn't wait for this to go down. Here goes....

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a goblet

A: Pours almost black in color with a frothy khaki colored finger worth of head. Head recedes rather slowly leaving behind small traces of lace, no light coming through whatsoever, carbonation is faintly visible under the head. A very nice looking RIS, so far so good.

S: Nose is of big chocolate notes, cocoa, black licorice, and a small touch of alcohol. At the end of the nose I'm getting more bitter chocolate, even some ash. Great nose, I wasn't expecting so much complexity.

T: Wow...nose translates to taste! Big bitter chocolate notes, cocoa, even the licorice. Middle of the tongue I'm getting the smokiness with the some alcohol. I'm impressed, I was not expecting this at all.

M: Medium bodied; even though the tongue and cheeks are coated with an amazing coat of malty goodness, the alcohol definitely cuts through and cleans the palate. I'm definitely getting a warming effect from this brew, but at 10.2% ABV, I wouldn't expect anything less. Overall an amazing brew with complex notes of bitter chocolate, black licorice, and some ash. The alcohol was a bit hot, but needed to clean the palate. I recommend this beer and can easily be paired with a good maduro. Cheers!

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Photo of jlindros
3.98/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a darker caramel mocha colored creamy almost 1 finger head that fades slowly with nice lacing, over pretty much pitch black beer, and decent legs to go with the lacing.

Nose has plenty of dark malts, black malt, some roast, hint of charred almost acrid roast, a little espresso from the roast not from actual coffee, light fluffy nougat but no chocolate. a bit of earthy hops, some caramel and booze round off the nose.

Taste starts with burnt char, really charred roasted malts, and black malts that seem like they will get acrid but don't, at first. Dark malts is the key, tons of roasted malts that start to get a little soy sauce like as acrid flavors do start to come through, so much black malt and roast, with a bit of espresso from the roasted malts again. A bit of caramel and nougat again, as well as the complete lack of chocolate. Also some light earthy hops add to the bitterness that comes initially from the roasted malts. Some warming booze in the middle. Finish brings a decent amount of bitterness, some earthy spicy hops really come through on the finish, as well as bitterness from the char, a semi sticky sweetness, little syrupy, and some booze warmth on the back end, as well as plenty more black malts and roast.

Mouth is fuller bodied, slightly creamy but a bit syrupy, some booze warmth, fluffy nice carb.

Overall mixed, it has some good points, the hops come in nicely, the fluffiness, booze is hidden fairly well, and it will surely age well. However, too much roast and black malt flavors for now, a bit acrid, little soy sauce, etc. However, I think this will be a great beer in 2-3 years so I'll probably bunker a few down in the cellar.

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

Pours a pitch black color with a 1-finger caramel-colored head that dissipates into a nice crown around the top of the glass. Leaves little splotches of lacing.

The aroma starts off with tons of dark chocolate and mild coffee, followed by some prunes and raisins. The back end is slightly boozy with a bit of leather.

The taste brings some dark malts, chocolate, and coffee beans. There's also a good amount of vanilla and freshly baked biscuits. Finishes slightly charred and smokey.

The feel is full bodied with low carbonation. A bit sticky with some alcohol warmth.

Overall, a great stout that brings a ton of flavors and aromas. It's a bit hot for the first few months but after that it smooths out and becomes very heavy, but drinkable.

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Photo of chickenflea
4.07/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Thick black pour with small tan head, aroma brings notes of nice cocoa powder, coffee, roast, alcohol and maraschino cherry. Taste is very sweet with prune juice overtones. Very soon the coffee and dark chocolate tastes kick in followed by some alcohol burn and some floral bitterness. The taste is very promising but rough. I have two bottles left from the four-pack and these are definitely going to be stored for a couple years. The palate is perfect with medium carbonation and chewy texture. Full body. Overall it is good, but as I mentioned, it should get smoother with some age. I very nice beer in light of the price. Once again, SN gets props for staying true to their micro-brew heritage.

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Photo of mdfb79
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 12/30/12 notes. Big thanks to BigSexy410 for giving me a bottle of this; don't think it has hit NYC yet and I've been wanting to try it. 12 oz. bottle poured into a pint glass.

a - Pours a pitch black color with one finger of dark tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Head lasts for a few minutes...looks fantastic.

s - Smells of roasted malts, bitter chocolate, vanilla, sweet chocolate, and some coffee. Nice nose, like it quite a bit. Nice nose amount of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts.

t - Tastes bitter chocolate, roasted malts, bitter coffee, espresso, vanilla, cream, toasted malts, burnt malts, some lightly sweet chocolate. Taste has more bitter chocolate and is lightly bitter overall.

m - Medium to full body more on the full side, and moderate carbonation. Body is pretty thick. No real heat to it.

o - Overall a really nice RIS; I love that it comes in 12 oz. bottles and would definitely buy a 4 pack of this if I saw it on the shelf. Loads of roasted notes and some bitter chocolate dominating the taste, it's quite nice and something I'd like to have again.

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Photo of vkv822
3.84/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

12oz : tulip

Black, with a thick, foamy brown head. Minimal lacing.

Cocoa predominantly, some dark fruit and roast in the finish.

Medium body, bubbly, average carbonation.

A well crafted RIS. While it has a very enjoyable flavor profile, I can't help but feel there is nothing particularly memorable overall in the big picture of Imperial Stous.

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Photo of mdwalsh
3.98/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Among the darkest beers I've ever poured, even the head has a black hue to it, making it almost gray.

The aroma is rich, full of dark fruit, roasted grain, but almost a meaty roast, not a coffee roast.

The taste, however doesn't seem as full. There is a little astringency that comes through, though that may be the chill, it needs to warm up. Still though, not amazing. Just a slightly better than average RIS here.

Mouthfeel is also fairly thin, but has appropriate carbonation.

Overall, not really something I will seek out, but not something I will pass up if offered either. I have just never been blown away by SN stouts.

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

(Served in a tulip glass)

A- This beer pours an inky jet black body with a dark coco tan head of cream that last as a thick foam and sticks to the glass with each sip. There is a few random bubbles that can be spotted in that abyss.

S- The inky but mellow deep charcoal aroma blends with black roasted malt and some brewer’s licorice note blend in the finish. It is a full aroma even during the pour.

T- The green wood taste gives way to a much larger black roasted malt flavor that is full and creamy. There is a slightly dry finish with a nice balance of black malt bitterness and perhaps some minty woody hops bitterness as part of that. The rich mellow but deep dark malt flavors linger in the dry finish along with the softer bitterness. As the beer opens up there are some dark graham malt flavors and brewer’s licorice flavors that come through aswell.

M- The medium-full mouthfeel has a nice creamy texture and an alcohol warmth that compliments the big beer.

O- This beer has a big complex rich flavor but it is very well blended. The alcohol offers a nice support to the big flavors and texture. It taste great now and I can’t think of a reason it would need any age. Delicious.

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Photo of Thickfreakness
2.72/5  rDev -34.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A- An onyx black pour with a fluffy and thick deep tan head that floats near three fingers. An absolute ton of sticky lacing grabs the sides of my Bruery tulip and NEVER lets go. Decently oily legs drip and ooze down the rim.

S- Nicely charred malt, bitter German chocolate, grapefruit peel, mango, slight touches of vanilla and pine. More Black IPA than RIS in the traditional sense.

T- WOW! Lots of char and citrus bite down on the tongue. RIS/Cascadian IPA? Reminds me of Storm King or Wookey Jack. Not my favorite type of RIS. Too much citrus, no dark fruit, cocoa, coffee, vanilla or other flavors/aromas that I normally associate in a RIS. The char and citrus just kind of strip your palate.

M- Dry, burnt malt, and too much citrus for what they call a Russian Imperial Stout! RIS' should envelope you in dark fruit, cocoa and coffee IMHO, not this! I'm getting tired of breweries labeling Cascadian/Black IPA's as RIS' just to sell beer!

O- This isn't bad mind you... it's just not what I consider the style to be, and I am a stickler for rating on style. If they said this was a black ipa, it'd be at least a 4! I'd put this up against Wookey Jack, Black Watch IPA, Hop Noir or some other really good Black IPA's. A world class, or even good RIS it isn't. Sorry SN, you usually wow me. Redefine it, and I'll re-review it!

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Photo of cosmicevan
4.07/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

thanks to devi0us for hooking up this beer which surprisingly has never showed up in NY (i believe there is some sort of lawsuit over the name???). enjoyed from my sierra nevada snifter.

a - pours a velvety black with a great shine and about 1/2 inch of head that touched the tip of the glass. the head slowly fizzled away leaving some nice lacing in the small amount of glass real estate left behind by the 12ozes of brew. really attractive.

s - good subtle roast with great coffee scent. some nice bakers chocolate. just lots of greatness and great balance. really really nice, my mouth begins to water.

t - the roast comes through big with lots of chocolate bitterness and a surprising hop like wallop with the bitter finish.

m - finish is surprisingly bitter, nice carbonation...a bit of a porter like char.

o - overall, went into this with no expectations other than that it is a beer from sierra nevada. not surprised that they were able to tackle a big batch RIS with class, flavor and quality. not the greatest RIS, but certainly one that i would pick up if it manages to show up in NY.

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Photo of jrenihan
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer is black with a small tan head. Head fades quickly, leaving a bit of lace.

Aroma contains vanilla. roasted malt and coffee. Nice although nothing out of the ordinary for the style.

Lots of coffee and roasted malt in the taste. Some vanilla as well. Nice and full but standard.

Full bodied, moderate carbonation. Thick.

Overall, good and enjoyable but nothing surprising.

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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 jucifer1818
4.61/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: poured this one into a thin flute wine glass, and even in its thin glass, this beer will not let any light penetrate its darkness

like the dark and mysterious see of its namesake, this beer is a perfect example of clear total darkness, easily ranking a 40/40 on the beer color scale

apart from its color it has a medium, maybe one finger head, that lasts far longer than one would expect for a beer of this alcohol level
This is exactly what I'm looking for in a stout, and I was going to just give this one a 4.5 on first glance, but I cant see any reason to take off that last bit
I have to give its appearance a perfect score

Smell: The smell is quite subtle to say the last. I am surprised by this, and don't know how to really rate it
on one hand, a beer this extreme, would be VERY hard to make it have such a subtle smell, but on the other hand, I was expecting (and really wanted) something really intense that I could enjoy more
I get very light milk chocolate, light fruits, alcohol boozyness (but very slight boozyness), and a little bit of pear
Its not bad, quite good, but to me feels too reserved for what it is

Taste: mhhmmmm, this is really really good. This beer tastes like liquified black chocolate. This is almost nothing else to say, with some light fruity flavors to counter its intense roasted chocoaltyness, with an intense dark chocolate bitterness mixed in with strong hoppy bitterness in the after taste

a beer that is very strong and malty, but keeps it from being cloying wit ha perfect hopping that keeps the malt first, and works well with its dark chocolaty bitterness
I can think of noting Id want to change on this beer

Mouthfeel: Slick, sweet, and very syrupy. It pours like Hersey syrup, yet is much easier to drink
drinkabilty and a heavy imperial stout are not often paired up, but the beer manages to pull it off, and has a delightfully moouthfeel

Overall: I'm giving this one a 4.5/5
Its a near perfect beer on all accounts, and a excellent offering from Siera nevada. I can easily see this beer turning into a PERFECT, 5/5 beer, after a good 8-12 months of ageing. Ill be drinking one more bottle for new years, and saving the last two for conditioning, quite possibly for next year to see how its changed over time
Highly, Highly recommend this beer


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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.07/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

best russian imperial stout ive had in as long as i can remember. on tap at j. ryans in syracuse, ny. poured into a pint glass jet black, inky and thick, with very little head at all. the nose is moderately sweet like a milk stout, with all the familiar roasty coffee and unsweetened chocolate malt flavors i am used to in a big heavy stout. somehow the alcohol is also absurdly well hidden from the smell and taste, would never have put this at over 10%. coffee is the first flavor note, but its bitter and short lived. sweeter malt and chocolate flavors come in next, followed by a mellow carolina fres tobacco vibe that sets the whole thing off. maybe not the most complex stout ive ever tasted, but certainly one of the most elegantly put together big stouts out there right now. maybe just shy on the carbonation, but the feel remains light despite that and despite the full body because of a light silky texture to the liquid that just makes this way way way to drinkable for me. what can i say? another hit from sierra nevada.

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Photo of buschbeer
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

12 FL. OZ. bottle
Served in a snifter

A - This beer is pitch black. It is topped with a couple inches of mocha head. The is some lacing down the sides of the glass.

S - The aroma consists of anise, dark chocolate, a little alcohol, and some dark fruit.

T - Anise seems to be the main driver in the taste. I pick up a little dark chocolate and black coffee. It has a slightly bitter finish with alcohol in the aftertaste.

M - This beer is about as thick as there is.

O - I love the mouthfeel of this beer. The anise flavor isn't my favorite, but it isn't overpowering. It seemed to have a pronounced hop presence on tap which is not present in this bottle.

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Photo of jsulko
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle poured into a snifter glass

Pours a very dark black with a chocolate head that disappears rather quickly.

Dark malty smell with a hint of coffee.

Taste is malty with dark chocolate and hints of licorice. Alcohol slightly present on the finish but not in a bad way.

A very drinkable RIS. Disappointed that this is seasonal as I would love to have it as an option year round.

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Photo of barczar
3.97/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque deep brown with just a hint of garnet highlights and a solid half inch milk chocolate head that slowly dissipates, leaving sheets of lacing.

Dark cherries, plums, raisins, chocolate, and roast malt begin the aroma. Toasted nuts, licorice, and tar add complexity.

Flavor reveals deep roasted malt, dark fruit, and a long, coffee bitter finish. Chocolate is slightly muted, in favor of tart cherries.

Body is thick, viscous, and chewy, with low carbonation. There's astringency at the finish, preceding alcohol warmth.

Probably the thickest beer I've ever consumed. Dark fruit tartness was a bit overpowering. Fairly boozy, as well. Good roast malt character. I'll probably like this better with some age on it.

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Photo of mactrail
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

More nearly black than a lot of beers claimed to be black. An unexceptional head but the sudsy mouthfeel is very pleasant.

Sweet in a rich and forgiving way with a distinct smack of licorice. The hops slowly come on the dominate the aftertaste, but it's never overly bitter. Becomes more tart after some sipping and has some pie cherry-like flavors. Grainy but refined, reminds me of really heavy black German bread with some yeasty intrigue. More licorice in the nose. Hints of bitter chocolate and dark nutty roasted flavors. Smooth and creamy without being unctuous.

The first time I tried this I thought it was exceptional. Certainly one of my top favorites in the RIS style. The neck label says "2012" so I hope it will be an annual delight. From the 12 oz four-pack bought at Ibis Market in San Diego.

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Photo of brewtus
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into snifter

Drank on 11/22/12

A- pours black with a dark tan head
S- a bit metallic, roasts, malty, a bit of chocolate
T- starts with a nice bitterness, hints of dark fruit and chocolate. There's a nice dark chocolate dry finish. I get a little smokiness. The alcohol is well hidden
M- for the abv, it's quite drinkable but has a bit less thickness than your bigger RISs, certainly has great texture
O- I usually like most Sierra Nevada beers, but I'm not usually overly impressed by most of the ones the brew. This one was really great. It was a lot thicker than I figured it would be and had a smoothness throughout. It's an easy drinking stout and I'm glad I grabbed a bottle.

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Photo of puboflyons
4.53/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From the 12 fl. oz. bottle, 2012 batch with a stamp of 2279210:52. Sampled on December 29, 2012.

The pour is very dark brown to black but under the light there is this kind of maroon tint. The moderate tan head is silky and soft and settles down after a few moments. There is a lot of lacing on the glass.

The aroma is of dark malts with coffee esters and a vague hop bitterness hanging around in the background.

The body is bold and smooth.

The taste begins with dark malts and yeast with a resounding bitterness balancing it off at the end. The bitterness lingers and burns slightly but the alcohol is well-integrated. This is a highly recommended stout.

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.47/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.

Pours a deep black colour, with a fine, slightly inconsistent pale brown head. Carbonation is fine, but the body itself looks surprisingly light and fluid. Some patchy carbonation. Looks fine except for the body—this is the beer you can really make thick, oily and chewy, and it seems this hasn't happened here.

Nose is wonderful. Big sweet nutty characters with deep chocolate hints and a lilt of buttered popcorn. Slight hint of liquorice on the back, perhaps more like liquorice ice cream. It's all really quite sweet and fragrant, and very pleasant.

Taste is also very good: here the sweetness is tamed somewhat (perhaps due to the slightly lighter body), and the liquorice comes through a little bit more. This leaves the roasted characters to make a bit more of an entrance, with some mild coffee and toasted grain overtones. Perhaps I was unfair on the lightness in the body: it's perhaps a purposeful (and rather clever) stroke to enliven the palate and keep the sweet richness from overpowering everything.

The feel is very smooth, even despite the lightness, and matches very nicely with the rest of the beer.

Yep. Pretty exceptional stuff here, although the mastery and skill of Sierra Nevada should have stopped surprising me years ago. This beer gives the impression that it was designed exactly this way—it perhaps doesn't take the risks that could make it superlative, but you understand that this beer from the moment of its conception was going to be very good indeed.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,926 ratings.
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