Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

BA SCORE
93
outstanding
925 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:
925
Ratings:
5,023
Avg:
4.15
pDev:
9.64%
 
 
Wants:
332
Gots:
1,446
For Trade:
41
User Reviews
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Reviews: 925 | Ratings: 5,023
Photo of secondtooth
4.22/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a pitch black, with tons of tan suds and exquisite lace.

Nose is charred wood, dark bittersweet chocolate, and roasty coffee. I can sense the strength and richness already.

Taste is indeed rich, but oh-so-smooth. More of the roasty, charred chocolate, with some fruit near the finish. The 10.2% ABV is well-hidden here, and this is an exceptionally smooth and satisfying imperial stout. Outstanding.

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Photo of Bierguy5
4.22/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

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

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

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

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

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Photo of NoLeafClover44
4.22/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a DFH signature glass. Bottled October 6 and put on the shelf two days ago at my local store.

A - Pours black with a dense finger of wood brown head. Sticky tiered lacing.

S - Toasted malts dominate along with almond, vanilla, cedar, and some mellow pine hops. Sweet and roasty with balancing earthiness.

T - Starts with an iced mocha coffee sweetness. Some burnt pine follows along with vanilla notes. The finish is more bitter than anticipated with earthy tree sap hops. Warming alcohol comes in late and becomes less noticeable with each sip. Sweetens as it warms and caramel, vanilla, and marshmallow step up to the char.

M - Definitely has enough body for the big flavors. Smooth carbonation. The alcohol isn't in your face, but isn't forgotten.

O - I have been waiting for this to land in my area for a few weeks. Balanced flavor that improves as it warms. The more drink it, the more I like it. A very good RIS that is right up there with Old Raspy in the RIS 12oz. 4pk under $10 category. Sierra Nevada rarely disappoints. Hopefully this becomes a shelf staple so I can grab it whenever I choose.

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Photo of mattcrill
4.22/5  rDev +1.7%
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 tectactoe
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an inky black color, thick as can be - honestly, one of the thickest looking beers I've ever seen. Tan head, decent retention. Aroma hits with a handful of roasted malts, as expected; the bottom comes up with some bittersweet chocolates and deep, warming alcohol notes in the background. A light leathery and mild tobacco aroma as it warms, too. The taste comes through with a canvas of roasted malts upon which a painting of mild charring, smoke, deep cocoa, light black licorice, faint dark fruit sweetness, and bitterness almost resembling espresso is displayed. The sweetness comes in hardest in the form of licorice, but is met diligently with a bitterness that is present from nearly start to finish; slightly ashy and mildly floral and spicy - I'm assuming this bitterness is from the hop character, although some of it tastes like that old bitter espresso bean flavor, too. Burnt, smoked wood in the aftertaste with some ashy and leafy bitter notes. Slightly sweet, but bitterness rules the aftertaste when all is said and done. Silky as hell, super creamy and thick.

I was shocked at how delicious this was, but at the same time, I should have expected it. Sierra Nevada puts out a damn good product, no matter what it is, and Narwhal is no exception. For this price, this is a steal. Great flavors, huge body, amazing mouthfeel - if you like RISs, give this one a shot.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle, a nice snag from doktorzee on his recent jaunt through Vegas. Cheers, man!

This beer pours a solid black, with noticeable cola-tinted basal highlights, and three fingers of puffy, tightly foamy, and fairly creamy light brown head, which leaves some awesome craggy sea cliff lace around the glass as it slowly and evenly recedes.

It smells of well-toasted, almost meaty caramel malt, wet rye bread, powdered cocoa, stale ashes, dark-roast coffee beans, a hint of black licorice, earthy, leafy hops, and a subtly burbling alcohol astringency. The taste is semi-sweet chocolate, a consequentially reduced caramel malt, some persistent dark bready notes, edgy and earthy anise, gritty wet ash, well-roasted day-old coffee, the kind with too much nut flavourings added to it, and surprisingly (really?) bitter leafy, earthy, and dry citrus hops. A wee twinge of metallic alcohol sort of turtles as things barely warm.

The carbonation is pretty low-key, but hardly absent, a subtle bubbly edginess wafting about, the body a solid medium weight, dead smooth, and agreeably creamy, in a sort of milk-chocolate sense. It finishes well off-dry, the cocoa, caramel, roast, and hops forming one swell collection of lingering party goers.

A pleasurable and enjoyable RIS, the initially apparent unchecked sweetness duly run off at the pass in the typical Sierra Nevada way - mo' hops! It all seems to work - full-bodied, tasty and with the north of 10 points of booze doing its best shark impression by keeping its head under the surface (fin-free!*), I can just sit back and appreciate this hefty, well-made brew.

* This is a pun that only (especially new) dads will appreciate, so Imma just gonna keep it to myself for now.

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Photo of ScaryEd
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
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 DenisKolkin
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of Pinknuggets
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottle into a Lawson's Sniffer

A:dark brown almost the color of black coffee with a very thin mocha head totally opaque throughout most of it

S: a deep aroma of roasted coffee beans and a hint of malt, very chocolatey and smooth right up my ally

T: yum the taste follows the nose lots of dark chocolate at first that then fades into a coffee flavor that quickly mixes with the bitterness of the malt. The finish is roasted coffee and bitterness 4.5

M:thin for an IS smooth and easy to drink and it definitely will warm you up on a cold night. Very low carbonation doesn't blow me away.

O: I really like this one balanced taste and true to the style the abv is well hidden. Above average imperial stout and good for being readily available but not my favorite

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Photo of thegodfather1076
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Presentation: Label overall look is phenomenal from the front,to the graphics. Front label has a bit of brewery info. Back label gives an awesome back story on the beer as well a short description of the beer, ABV info, and web info. Neck label states 2012 and the name of the beer.

Appearance: I allowed this to warm 10min before pouring from its 12oz bottle into a 16oz snifter. Narwhal pours out a deep dark brown almost black with a 2 finger reddish brown head of a medium density. Head retention was a bit of a disappointment last 1min 46sec before fading to an even thin foam film and a thin ring. Very nice lacing left behind! 4/5

Smell/Aroma: Smell has a licorice or herbal bite along with hints of dark fruit and a slight charred smokey woodiness. Hints of dark chocolate, roast coffee, and a molasses sweetness. Slight hints of alcohol can be detected. Very Complex!

Flavor/Taste: Taste starts with an herbal maybe licorice flavor that fades to a slight vanilla and dark fruit flavor. Middle is dominated by a charred woody dark chocolate and roast coffee taste. Finishes dry with a charred coffee malt flavor. A slight alcohol bite can be detected. Complex and intense!!!

MouthFeel/Drinkability: Full bodied and thick with a smooth mildly creamy mouthfeel. As drinkable as a 10% Russian Imperial Stout can be.

Overall/Comments: This is a very fine representation of the style that is robust and very complex. Does a good job masking the alcohol. May pick up a few of these to put away. Classified as a Russian Imperial Stout @ 10.2 ABV. Consumed 2/26/13.

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Photo of EMH73
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours black with a half inch tan head that left little lacing, Smells of roasted malts, coffee, chocolate and a hint of vanilla, Tastes of dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malts with some nuttiness, dark fruits, some caramel sweetness and vanilla. Medium to heavy bodied, creamy mouth feel, lightly carbonated, and a bit on the dry side.

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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 BlackBelt5112203
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter at cellar temperature.

L – Black color with a 3.5 frothy, rocky, tan head. Really nice retention and some good lacing.

S – Lots of dark fruits like plums and figs plus chocolate, vanilla, molasses, and some roasted coffee.

T – It starts off a little bit hot and then the sweet flavors of chocolate, molasses, dark fruits, and vanilla shine through. Big bitter roasted coffee shines through at the finish.

F – Full-bodied with good carbonation, a slick and velvety smooth mouthfeel, and a bitter finish. Bitter roasted coffee flavors linger nicely along with a mild throat-warming sensation from the alcohol.

O – This is a nice imperial stout. The dark fruit and chocolate sweetness is nicely balanced with the bitter roasted malt. It’s also ridiculously drinkable considering the high ABV. I’m glad I got to try this one out.

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Photo of SerialTicker
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I'm surprised that this beer "only" scores a 92... what in the. Poured into a shaker pint.

Appearance: Pitch black. Tan head. Poured nicely. A bit of lacing, but not much.

Smell: Chocolate. Some smoke. A lot of roast. Not much in terms of dark fruits.

Taste/feel: Well, that's some damn good stuff. Chocolate and roastiness, as you'd expect. Some smoke. Dark fruits in there a little bit (mostly as it warms), but not too much. Alcohol is hidden well as far as flavor goes, but there's a definite warmth there. A bit more "harsh" than some other RIS's, I suppose. The feel isn't quite as full bodied as some others I've had, which is a slight knock, but still excellent. Drinks a bit too easily.

Fantastic beer. Not much else to say about that. Underrated, in my opinion. Stands up well to some other, perhaps more popular, RIS's.

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Photo of BWED
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12 oz. bottle poured into a tulip.

A- Black. Dark brown head. Lingers at a quarter inch. Great lacing.

S- Big bittersweet roast. Chocolate and coffee. Alcoholic sting in the nose.

T- Relatively sweet. Chocolate is up there, but there is still a mild earthy hop bitterness. I was expecting that from SN.

M- Nice and thick. Bitterness comes out with a bit of astringency, but the sweetness is the the main component.

O- Really great. I was expecting a fair contribution of hops, but the sweetness, dark chocolate character was a good surprise. And stronger than one would think.

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Photo of RozzieBoy
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

L - Poured black with a dark tan head. Nice lacing throughout.
S - Chocolate with a not overpowering stout smell.
F - Thick feel to it with a semi-dry finish.
T - Roast coffee and dark chocolate.
O - Really good beer. Just a nice balance between the smell and taste.

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Photo of dtivp
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a very dark brown, near black with a one finger dark tan head that fades quickly into a thin ring with very little lacing.

Aroma of dark roasted malt, dark coffee and chocolate.

Taste of dark roasted malt, nuts, dark roasted coffee with a slight sweet balance of chocolate and molasses.

Moth Feel was medium leaning full body with very little carbonation, creamy and the alcohol is very well masked, there is very little boozy warmth for a 10.2 % ABV beer.

Overall this is a very nice RIS, well balanced with a slight sweetness off setting some of the dark bitterness. This is a nice sipping beer on a relaxing evening.

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Photo of stephenjmoore
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours pitch black with an enormous thick mocha colored head.

S- Roasted malt, chocolate malt, cocoa powder, bitter dark chocolate.

T- Very malty with roasty flavors coming through the most with chocolate malt. The middle to end has notes of bitter dark chocolate that lingers as an aftertaste. There is a noticeable hop bitterness in there as well, along with a slight coffee flavor.

M- Full bodied, heavy, but drinkable, medium carbonation, smooth and frothy.

O- I am actually surprised with how different this beer tastes than other RISs. Very complex combination of flavors that border on cluttered, but make it a unique offering.

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Photo of thecheapies
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

750th Review. Sunday night beer fun with Sierra Nevada Narwhal. 12oz stubby bottle-dated November 2, 2012. Poured into a wide-mouthed snifter.

Pours black with some end-of-the-bottle sizzurp. The crema-colored head amounted to about a third of an inch and dissipated, eventually, to a wall-clinging ring. Decent legging. Looks good.

Black roastiness with embers of dark fruits and booze burning out in the nose. Big whiffs gather fragrances of black licorice, raisin paste, spicy alcohol, overkilned barley, cocoa, saltiness, charcoal, and a blown kiss of smoke. Lots of appealing earthy aromas throughout. A touch of floral hops make their way into the olfactory summary.

Very spicy burst at the beginning; a combination of gruff malt bitterness, roasty char, Challenger hops, and a rye presence. Cocoa solids, espresso, extreme roastiness, dark-skinned fruit, light licorice, baked earth, and bitter oats. A transient and subtle fruit flavor of peach is barely noticeable in the middle before drying out again and carrying out with char and strength in the finish. Almost contains a very mild chili heat.

Medium-thick. I like the boisterous spicy feel of the alcohol and hops. Carbonation is lower-medium and creates even more of a tickle.

An excellent beer for a windy cold night such as this. The weather's getting worse, the night's getting better.

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Photo of Sound_Explorer
4.21/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I based these on 2015 version while having a 3yr vertical of 13, 14, & 15. It warms up to be rather smooth and a classic RIS. Happy to see a non-bba RIS for once. Based on the 13, could benefit from aging but still tasty this early. Definitely let it warm up of course.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
4.2/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I found a lonely four pack of this when I went to Gary's to pick up 2013 Bigfoot, and brought it home with me. Glad I did.

In a snifter this beer was black, really black, with just a rim of tan head.

Strong roasted malt aroma. Coffee. Charcoal.

The taste was mostly strong coffee, even a little bit on the burned side. There was a little bit of chocolate.

A dry, burned feeling in the mouth. Astringent.

Nice beer.

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Photo of geodonnokepyo
4.2/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

pours black with a creamy tan head that lingers around for a while. decent lacing.
aroma is not very pronounced but i can pick up dark chocolate and coffee.
Taste is like dark chocolate with a little roasted coffee.
The hop bitterness is the perfect amount to tickle the taste buds.
not extremely viscous like some beers of this style get.smooth and a tiny bit chalky at the end. the mouthfeel is really good.
overall this is a very nice imperial stout

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Photo of Roguer
4.2/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Solid, perfectly black brew, 1/2 finger light tan head, quickly fading. Thin but nice lacing.

Slightly boozy aroma, with a hint of grain, grapes, and cocoa.

Very nice bite to this stout: chocolate in abundance, some grapes, dry grain, and a very noticeable alcohol flavor. Sweet, but not quite overly so. Just a hint of burnt grain in the background. Very strong bitterness, and noticeable hoppiness.

Slight sting on the tongue, then it settles in with a wonderfully thick feel. Nice clinginess; almost powdery cocoa feel. The alcohol is definitely present, but it's in no way bad.

You know how reviews are always saying, "This beer hides a 10% ABV very well,"? Yeah, not so much here. That doesn't make it bad: it's thick, balanced, strong, and flavorful. It's got a very nice sweetness to it, but a nice bite to back it up. Excellent brew.

Aging note: with a year or more on it, Narwhal develops from an Old Rasputin-style big roasty bitter imperial stout to a smoother, more chocolatey Ten-Fidy kind of stout. It's a great beer aged or fresh, but it is a slightly different animal each way.

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Photo of WoodBrew
4.2/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Love this stout....Nice job Sierra Nevada! The beer pours opaque with off white head with slight lace. The scent has slight roast and espresso. The taste is has a slight maple syrup, dark chocolate and coffee flare. The mouthfeel is full in body with smooth carbonation. Overall this is great!

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Photo of Immortale25
4.2/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a Ninkasi Brewing pint glass. No readable freshness date.

A- Pours a densely opaque black color with a 1/4 inch light brown head that doesn't retain long before it becomes a thin ring around the edge of the glass and some light, wispy surface foam. Average lacing.

S- Dark chocolate and some roasty char aroma. Also a hint of vanilla and some molasses.

T- Packs a punch of dark roasted malt and plenty of hop bitterness. Alcohol is very subdued though and there are more notes of dark chocolate, molasses and black licorice. Aftertaste is bitter and heavy with more roast.

M- Creamy and chewy with medium-low carbonation and the most robust of bodies. So thick and dark, I feel like it's gonna stain my teeth and make me instantly gain five pounds.

O- What a bold offering from SN. It's sure to please stout lovers everywhere. I guess they figured, why mess around with dainty versions of the style? Go for the jugular! I'm glad they did. Great price tag for a 4-pack of high ABV beer, too.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.15 out of 5 based on 5,023 ratings.
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