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

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Reviews: 886 | Ratings: 4,916
Photo of MadCat
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours black with a good dark brown head, leaves good lacing

Smell: Nice roasted malts, coffee, and a little dark chocolate

Taste: Starts off with that great stout taste of roasted malts. Next you get some coffee and dark chocolate. Then a little bit of hop bitterness

Mouthfeel: Full body, medium carbonation

Overall: Fantastic brew. Will have to pick up this every year and age some.

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Photo of Act25
4.53/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of BastardKing24
4.19/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a beer i seek out time and time again cause its just do wonderful

Pours almost jet black with a small tan head. Lacing is left with some strong legs on it.

Smell is sort of subdued but still great. Coffee, espresso, cocoa, roasted barley.

Taste is fantastic with chocolate, coffee, sort of smokey, vanilla, caramel, bitter hops, some alcohol heat, just great. Improves with warming.

Mouthfeel is superb , slick and oily, medium to full carb, sweetness is well balanced with the flavors.

Over all I suggest people that love imperial stouts try this, its lovely.

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Photo of BillRoth
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Have had the 2012 fresh and the now just opened the 2013 @ I year after cellaring.
In both cases found a rich well crafted RIS with very good appearances and excellent carbonation and mouth feel. It drinks perfectly despite the 10+% ABV. On the merits of its brewing it is a top notch RIS and holds it's own against many of the very best RIS available.
What separates it is a distinct rich coffee/espresso like coffee quality that doesn't so much dominate as it is the singular flavor in the midst of a blend of anise/licorice, roasted grains, dark molasses flavors. Like Alesmith Speedway it just has a personal flavor of its own. Seems to be a combination of the brewer's art and the coffee chosen in the blend.
Just a great coffee RIS. Flavor profile is different of course, but I would buy this the way I look forward to Founder's IS, Bell's Expedition Stout and the much more common but still extraordinary Oskar Blues Ten Fidy.

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

12 oz. bottle poured into a Founders snifter.

Appearance: Near black with a thick 1-inch medium brown head. Decent lacing.

Smell:Cocoa powder, roasted barley, coffee, caramel malt, hints of dark fruit. Alcohol isn't really apparent. Very well done, although fairly straightforward as far as imperial stouts go.

Taste: Big roasted malt flavor up front, Coffee and dark chocolate come through again. Molasses, caramel malt, and more roasted malt on the fninsh. Definietely more alcohol heat in the flavor than in the aroma, but not in a bad way. Finish is pretty bitter with the heavy roasted malt and bittering hops.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and rich with medium-to-low carbonation.

Overall: Very solid imperial stout. I'd put this in the same class as Old Rasputin.

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Photo of mdhobbs
2.99/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Just about everything I try from Sierra Nevada has the same ale taste and this Imperial Stout was no different. The stout pour nice and dark with a head that reminds me of chocolate but the pour seemed a little thin. The aroma is ale and the taste had the same bite to it. Maybe too much carbonation as well. I started the the beer being served cold and as it warmed, the taste seemed to improve a little but not to the extent that I try again.

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Photo of KYGunner
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Narwhal pours with a deep, black beautiful body that was topped with a dense, creamy froth.

Gorgeous scents of cocoa, light coffee, marshmallow creamy sweetness and hints of malty Graham cracker all waft gently to the nose.

The flavor really showcases the strong malt base with a steep charred grain profile. The char brings out the coffee and cocoa qualities. These malts also bring out a strong Graham cracker dryness. It is better served warmer as the booziness comes out in the cold.

The feel is moderately thick upon first sip but swallows with a touch of abrasive carbonation. There's an easy warmth from the strong alcohol character but it is tempered as it warms.

Narwhal proves itself as a quality stout with a begging for barrel aging.

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Photo of smanders
3.75/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured into a 1 pint Ball (wide mouth) jar.

A - coffee black with 1 finger of dark caramel colored.

S - bittersweet chocolate, roasted malts and hints of coffee.

T - roasted everything = cocoa nibs, coffee, malt. Just a touch of sweetness. High ABV% is discernible.

M - almost light for a RIS. Very smooth.

O - I'm not usually a fan of the style, but being out of SN, I thought I'd try it. This one may just entice me to sample more RIS. Thanks Sierra Nevada!

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Photo of minterro
3.72/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bought from Little's wine and liquor

A&S: Pours about a finger of milk chocolate colored head, which dies very quickly to nothing more than a small ring. Solid black colored beer that poured. Sweet dark fruits present complemented by some black coffee. alcohol is pretty hot when it warms.

T&M: Dark roasty coffee is pretty much all I'm getting in the taste. Even as it warms, not much as far a chocolate or other classic imperial stout characteristics. Surprisingly pleasant bitter finish. Not super creamy, but smooth.

Overall: About what I expected, nothing special, but nothing bad. Won't buy again, just really wanted to check it off my list.

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Photo of bareju
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Bottle purchased in Ireland, left out of fridge for 15 minutes and poured into a pint glass.

A: Dark chocolate brown, almost black with a finger light brown head that recedes quickly and leaves a ring.

S: Very strong smell of chocolate and roasted malts, and a bit of alcoholic warmth just hidden under the surface - very nice. One of the best smelling beers I've ever had. The sheer strength of the smell is impressive.

T: Sweet chocolate followed by a bit of warm alcohol accompanied by a slight taste of cherry or fruity phenols. Warm alcohol lingers, slight bite in the mouth from the phenols, and finishes with dark roasted coffee and bitter hops. I really like the taste other than the phenols I'm picking up, the bite is a bit unpleasant. Phenols were replaced by spiciness as the beer warmed. Bitter coffee and hop taste lingers pleasantly long after the beer is gone. Tastes melded together cohesively as the beer continued to warm. Fruity taste ruins the taste for me a bit; reminds me of cherry cough syrup.

M: Full-bodied, creamy, low carb. Very easy drinking for a beer this big. Matches the sweetness of the chocolate and coffee notes excellently.

O: This is a very good beer, but the fruity part of the taste really threw me off. I'll have to pick up another bottle and see if I got unlucky or there's just something that I don't like. Everything but that one flavor is fantastic. Definitely didn't live up to its hype for me as far as taste goes, but still an enjoyable, if a bit disappointing, beer.

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Photo of Catracho5
4.46/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle poured into a Belgian tulip glass. This is the 2013 edition.

Appearance: Pours pitch black with a tan head. No light penetrates the beer, less than a finger head after a semi aggressive pour, tiny bubbles in the head, some lacing, looks great in the glass.

Smell: Chocolate, roasted malts, not a heavy aroma.

Taste: Chocolate roasted malts on the front, I can taste the alcohol after drinking, The alcohol is not as strong as when I first tried it around October. The beer is about 5 months old. The alcohol has significantly subsided.

Mouthfeel: Very thick, oily coat on the palate, I can feel the carbonation, tiny bubbles, moved around in my mouth.

Overall: One of my favorites imperial stouts from one of my favorite breweries. This is at least, an outstanding beer, if not world class. A lot easier to drink after cellaring it for 5 months, still have some bottles I will open at the end of 2014, or maybe in between. Cheers!

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Photo of TastyAdventure
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - 2 1/2 finger frothy dark tan head. Jet black


T - sweet but robust roastyness. Immediately followed by chocolate, then spicy ness, bitterness from hops, not astringent coffe flavor. 10% abv well hidden. As it warms, surprisingly more spicy. This time from alcohol I believe. Chocolate still present but it takes a back seat to all the spicy ness.

M- creamy

Overall, really spicy for a stout. Of course SN loves to overuse hops. And they didn't make an exception just bc they made a stout. Too much for my taste, but with the tasty chocolate upfront, still makes for a good spicy "holiday stout"

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Photo of clayrock81
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured a blackish body with almost brown head that is one-finger high and leaves a little ring as it goes down. First thing that hits my nose is coffee, then a bunch of roasted (I won't say toasted or smoked) malts and some bitter chocolate (or dark). The body is heavy, and while I would not list heavy/stoutish beers as some of my faves, I really like this one b/c while heavy it still passes easy (slightly chewey as well). I get mostly a roasted, coffeeish malt experience but the addition, and then due to addition great balance, of some dark chocolate makes this a dry and sweet experience and thanks to the easy passing this beer is by no means a chore to continually sip on. This is a great stout that even not-stout fans should try.

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Photo of CHickman
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%

2013 Bottle: Pours pitch black color with a thick creamy 2 finger tan head that was full of bubbles and faded very slowly, leaving very good spotty lacing and a layer on top.

Smells of oats, vanilla, cocoa powder, molasses, burnt grains, coffee, floral hops, licorice and a lot of smoky charred notes, like the malt went on fire and was then added to the mash. Nose has some sweet fruity notes, but it’s all things burnt overall with the burnt coffee or espresso leading the fade with chocolate and caramel accents that is nice to take in.

Flavor comes out with burnt malt leading the way and then turns in a mix of roasted sweetness with the cocoa powder, molasses, vanilla, coffee grinds, caramel, dry leafy floral hops, grapefruit, burnt wood, oats, licorice, smoky charred grains and anything else that seems like it was over a campfire; the chocolate notes come on stronger as it warms, with dark chocolate, vanilla, espresso and a sweetness that resembles the taste of a marshmallow that fell into the campfire coals, which is a really nice surprise. The alcohol is masterfully hidden, and the hops add mild spices and a citrus hop twang that add bitterness and a tiny bit of balance. Any fan of rich, roasted grains will love this brew and it’s complexities, which approaches the line for too bitter and too acrid but does not cross over into the land of negative flavor.

Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, this feels on the slick side even with the viscosity and has about average carbonation for such a bold beer. It’s bitter, it’s smoky, but it’s damn tasty and a really good RIS that went down easier than it should have. I really liked this beer when I bought this 4 pack last December and feel it got better with age. A high recommendation.

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Photo of PorterLambic
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Arrives as black as molasses with a creamy, slowly fading, dark tan head. Phenomenal lace, great retention. Zero light penetration.
Smell is toasted malt, dark chocolate, coffee, cardboard, smoke. Well balanced.
Taste is heavily roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate, coffee, whiskey, light smoke, a wee whiff of hops, a note of grapes? . Great balance, very complex. The various flavors swirl around one another is a delicious dance.
Full bodied, chewy, and barely carbonated. Drying finish, smooth, but with a cloying aspect that is annoying. No warming to speak of strangely.

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Photo of chugalug06
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Kick ass three-finger foamy tan head. Brew is medium viscosity and burnt black color. Decent lacing, not great, but still nice.

Light, creamy, milk chocolate, coca, stiff.

Wet flavors for a RIS. Earthy mild dryness. Well put together and exposed. Great creamy milk chocolate flavors. Light and highly drinkable. Carbonation is medium and way smooth. Sweetness is tamed and even; well balanced. Bitterness is also balanced and well done.

Another fantastic brew from SN. Complex and very well put together. Highly recommended.

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Photo of MilkMan126
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

SN states that this beer is the most intense stout it's ever brewed.

In a low lit room, no light shines through the nearly black liquid. Small creamy head with nice lacing.

I smell roasted grains, dark chocolate, and fresh hops.

The taste follows the nose with added flavors of dark roast coffee, nutty, booze, and extra signature Sierra Nevada hops. Hops have a more dominant role in this beer than most RIS I've had. The order of which I taste these flavors changes as I drink on. The dark roast malt flavors and the hops battle back and forth. The tasty rich malt gets richer as it warms but the hops hold on strong. To me the hops are what truly makes this beer intense.

Nice bite from the carbonation and booze. Full with decent coating. Hops really linger on. Reminds me of the aftertaste that dark chocolate leaves.

Very good overall. Full of flavor. Though, over the top in some areas of the flavor profile which confuses the RIS style.

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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 Earpe
4.81/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Tell you what...I saw this stout at my local Total Wine, which was out of my Bourbon Barrel Stout and Founders Breakfast Stout. I picked up a four pack, noticing it was much cheaper than the previous mentioned, i figured it would be a watered down version of the RIS style that i like.

Man, I was wrong, personally for me Sierra Nevada hit this sucker out of the park....loved the stuff so much, i went back and bought a couple cases. this stout is excellent as a cap for a chilly fall/winter night.

It pours black, smell is what to expect from the RIS (love that smell), I don't care for lacing and head in a beer (has very little), in fact that gets in my way. Very smooth body, easy drink-ability, with some dark charring and a hint of coffee flavor, You will get a hit of alcohol here.. Love it cold, love it at room temp.

at 10+ ABV whats not to love, this stout has it all for me.

Well done Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of LampertLand
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Sierra Nevada 'Narwhal' @ 10.2% , served from a 4pack of 341 ml bottles purchased for $14.50

A-pour is black from bottle to glass with some ruby red peeking thru the glass edge as a small tan head quicly dissapates leaving a streaky lace along the pint

S-smell is boozey , roasted coffee

T-crisp & clean 'RIS' , some smokeyness on the swallow

MF-low/mild carbonation , full bodied

Ov-ok/good beer , ok 'RIS' , the smokeyness dominates this brew

prost LampertLand

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Photo of TTAmod
4.36/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

311 13 bottle code on my 12 oz. stubby bottle. Makes this brewed sometime in early November. This beer just started being distributed in my area, so it's as fresh as it comes. Poured into pint glass.

A: Pours pitch black...even when held up to the light, nothing comes through. Thick brown head forms after an aggressive pour. It slowly creeps down to about one finger and stays there, leaving lots of lacing behind.

S: Nice, roasty smell. Lots of coffee, charred malts, ash, and a bit of hops. There's maybe a touch of dark chocolate.

T: Tame roasted malt up front. Bit of black molasses, coffee, leather, and ash. All of a sudden, a rush of familiar SN hops make their presence known. A bit of pine and a bit more roast malt. Ends slightly nutty and roasty. Never gets very bitter at all.

M: Smooth. Medium body. Pretty low carbonation, but enough to give it a good amount of depth. Zero alcohol burn. Goes down quite easy for 10.2%.

O: Definitely one of the best RIS's I've ever had. I like the nice hop presence that many other RIS seem to be lacking. It's cheap ($8 for a 4 pack), available, and really damn good. Will probably be a future mainstay in the fridge.

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Photo of Dan_Meyers
4.68/5  rDev +13%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Bottle served in a pint glass

-Very dark, inky body, with a thin caramel colored head
-4.75 based on how an imperial stout should look like
-Not a perfect five because I like to see a little more head

-Mild smell. Hints of dark chocolate and roasted coffee are present
-4.75 based on other imperial stouts. This is what I imagine when I think of Imperial Stouts. No surprise scents
-Not a perfect five because I like a little more of a pungent aroma. Imperial stouts aren't supposed to be the most aromatic beer genre, but a little more roasted coffee and dark chocolate smell would have made this a perfect five

-The roasted malt is the predominant taste when first sipping this beer. A strong "alcoholic" aftertaste soon follows
-4.50 based on the genre of beer. Imperial stouts are known for their black coffee/chocolaty taste and typically have a higher alcohol content than most other types of beer.
-Not a perfect five because I prefer a more pronounced malty taste in my Imperial Stouts. Also, the higher alcohol content can be easily tasted. There is a slight "bite" when you sip this. A little more malt and a little less alcoholic taste would have made this is five.

-The mouthfeel of this beer is very nice. It has the thicker characteristic that you expect from this kind of beer, but not too thick. The "alcoholic" taste that was mentioned in the taste category isn't a factor with the mouthfeel of this beer. When first tasting this, I expected a lingering alcoholic taste, like with most liquors and some higher ABV beers, but the "bite" only lasted a second. The lingering taste that seemed to stick around was the malty, roasted taste that I expected

-To me an Imperial Stout should have a strong roasted malt/black coffee/dark chocolate taste with a slight to no alcohol taste. The best of this genre have found a way to maximize the roasted taste and minimized the “bite” that comes with a higher ABV. Narwhal Imperial Stout has all the proper characteristics of the best Imperial Stout that I have ever tasted. The only downside is that the malty taste that I desire is slightly understated while the alcoholic taste is slightly overstated with this beer
-I gave this beer a 4.75 because, on the whole, it is a truly great beer. From the amazing dark color to the smell of roasted coffee to the malty taste to the very pleasant mouthfeel. This beer is one of my favorites
-I didn’t give this beer a perfect five because, as stated in the first section of my overall comments, the only thing keeping this beer back from perfection is the need for a slightly more pronounced malty taste and a little less of the alcoholic “bite.” Everything else was delightful.

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Photo of eschultz
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 Narwhal 12oz Bottle into a snifter glass:

Appearance -
Light brown head which lasted a few seconds
Dark rich black color with light carbonation

Smell -
Chocolate with a hint of coffee and vanilla

Taste & Mouth -
Sweet front with a bit of cocoa and banana
A lingering backend of dark roast coffee

Overall -
Very nice imperial stout with well balanced flavors, great appearance and mouth feel

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Photo of Tilley4
4.58/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Great beer that I can't believe I haven't reviewed...

This beer hits all the marks for a great brew... relatively easy to find, amazing aroma and taste, and consistent every time...

One of my go to stouts, this beer is loaded with chocolate and roasted malts and has a nice kick of hops on the finish... I think the scores would be higher on this brew if it were released one day a year or had the hype surrounding it like others...

Terrific example of the style...

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Photo of RickS95
4.81/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Beers don't look any better than this. The pour resembles used oil. Next time you're getting your oil changed, ask the guy for a look...that's what this looks like. Thick and coal black pour. The head is dark mocha and a thing of beauty. It starts off about a finger thick, then it starts to cascade and it's a stunner to watch. Eventually it's a couple fingers thick, frothy, with good retention. Squigly lines of lace throughout.

The smell means business. Cocoa up front before a splash of booze takes over. All the while, licorice is making an attempt at some attention.

As good as it comes. Chocolate and expresso dazzle the taste buds all the way down. The alcohol builds momentum but doesn't interfere til near the swallow. It tastes like there might be some lactose hiding in there somewhere. It's exceptional.

Sweet and creamy up front. Heat from the alcohol begins mid sip and lasts with a lingering warmth. Bitterness doesn't start til near the finale. Full bodied and rich. With a kick of carbonation just before the sip says adios.

The only reason I didn't give it 5s across the board is because the smell, while good, wasn't as aggressive as it should have been. This is as good a beer as I've had in a good, long time.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,916 ratings.
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