Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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929 Reviews
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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
sierranevada.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:
929
Ratings:
5,033
Avg:
4.15
pDev:
9.64%
 
 
Wants:
331
Gots:
1,447
For Trade:
40
User Reviews
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Reviews: 929 | Ratings: 5,033
Photo of mntlover
4.4/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours a black with no light getting through this one, with a big light chocolate foamy head from an aggressive pour. Head falls very slowly with gobs of lacing down my glass.

Aroma is nice bakers chocolate, light coffee and good dose of dark fruits floating on a roasted malt base. Nice sweet nose on this one nothing over powering just blended goodness.

Taste is roasted malts, nice chocolate up front dark fruits and roast in the middle. Finish is lingering chocolate and coffee mingled together with some hops. Good Stout blends well together nothing really dominates just IRS goodness.

Mouthfeel is full nice and smooth approaching chewy. Nice fell for this beer.

Overall another good brew from SN. Found it very enjoyable and easy drinking for a big beer.

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

Presentation: It was poured from a brown 12 oz bottle into a tulip glass. The label lists the abv at 10.2% and the year it was brewed. (2013) There is a short description of the beer as well.

Appearance: It has a very dark black body which is completely opaque. From the slow pour I got a tall tan colored head that settles down fairly quick but makes tons of cool lacing on the glass.

Smell: The aroma has a mild character with some modest sweet and roasted maltiness.

Taste / Palate: The mild aroma gives way to a big bold full bodied malty sweetness on the tongue. There are notes of caramel, toffee, molasses, and raisins. It’s 10.2% abv is noticeable but mellow and adds to its overall character. The palate feels smooth with light carbonation in this big heavy offering from Sierra Nevada. It finishes slowly with just a touch of earthy hops.

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Photo of Jadjunk
4.1/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

"Inspired by the mysterious creature that dwells in the deepest Arctic seas, Narwhal Imperial Stout is midnight black and bold-with notes of baker's cocoa and dark roasted coffee. This massive imperial stout is incredibly complex and explores the darkest depths of malt flavor." Brewed in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout. Available as an annual imperial release in 4 packs, first released in 2012. Price ranges from $8.99-$9.99 per 4 pack.

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle to my Sierra Nevada snifter. Served north of 54º Fahrenheit.

(Appearance) Pours a roasty cocoa brown head of a creamy medium-thick consistency over a near black body, no light getting through. Lacing is light and streaked, retention is slightly above average. A pretty solid appearance, comes off as a bit lighter than other Russian Imperial Stouts based off of the head color, consistency and retention. 4.25

(Smell) Aromas of medium roasted caramel, mildly sweetened cocoa morsels, toffee bits and a mellow lactose sweetness for a moderate viscosity and residual sweetness. A mild earthy hop lends a subtle bitterness. A touch of licorice character is notable, reminiscent of an export stout, only the body and aroma of this stout alludes to something a bit denser in composition. Very clean and accessible for a Russian Imperial Stout, some might argue it to be overly pedestrian. The balance is very nice, there's a great deal of roasted malt and cocoa character to build a flavorful body for this beer. Potency is mild/medium for the style, somewhat muted in it's delivery. 4.25

(Taste) Medium roasted malts up front, with a modest lactose, grain and cocoa thickness and a faint pinch of black malt for a mild char. Hop presence is mild with mellow herbal and earthy notes. Beer finishes dry with unsweetened cocoa powder and a touch of licorice. Flavor stays moderately accessible amongst Russian Imperial Stouts, but has it's enjoyable unique qualities that finds it best within the boundaries of the style. A notch of alcohol heat on the finish is the most unsettling caveat of the drinking experience. Overall, Narwhal has enjoyable flavor and is highly drinkable for an Imperial Stout. 4

(Mouthfeel) Texture is mildly thick with an oily slickness, a touch of thin syrup. Carbonation aides for a modest creamy mouthfeel. Bitterness is moderate, a good balance for a moderate Russian Imperial Stout body, a spicy grain and perkiness counters the rest of the residual sweetness. Body is just shy of medium for a Russian Imperial Stout, and medium/heavy overall. Alcohol presence is medium with some subtle heat that isn't overly distracting, but certainly difficult to avoid, especially with the tameness of the malt body. 4.25

(Overall) The beer is solid, very well made but isn't what I'd consider "Russian Imperial" grade in depth of flavor nor body either. It's a highly drinkable, clean drinking imperial stout with just the right notes in check to warrant another glass when this one is through. As long as you're not in the market for a world class big-bodied Russian Imperial Stout, you won't be disappointed with this beer. It's a pleasing entry in Sierra Nevada's annual catalog, and I recommend grabbing a 4 pack when it comes back around. 4

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s
Narwhal Imperial Stout
4.09/5.00

Vertical Reviews:

October 2012 (11 months aged): Head pours a shade darker, still slightly creamy with moderate retention and body coloration stands the same. Aroma is becoming rounded with an enhanced roast character up front, chocolate and toffee seem isolated and enhanced by a mellow fruity tartness that sets in. Most hop bitterness has faded. Flavors have cleaned with time, a much better balance and smoothing of roasted flavors, much of the alcohol heat has tamed as well. This beer has become ridiculously drinkable and is perceivably much lighter than the fresh batch in both flavor and texture, although it still maintains some thickness and depth, comes off as more of an American Imperial Stout grade for it's perceived balance. Residual hop bitterness and the peppery licorice essence are easily detectable at this stage, both welcome compliments to the mellowed roast and chocolate. This beer may not have the body to hold up past a second year, but it's worth a try under the right cellaring conditions.

Recommended Vertical: Fresh to 1 year (Both vintages worthy; age 1 bottle, drink 3)

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Photo of Mdog
3.47/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pitch black with a huge head. Looks great.

Smell: Not much. Mild chocolate shows up eventually.

Taste: Dark chocolate builds in intensity through the glass. Dark fruits hang in the background. Gives a mild dark chocolate bitterness throughout.

Overall: Started out looking like a dream, but didn't deliver excellence in the aroma or taste. Some might be my personal preference in that I like imperial stouts to be a little sweeter than this, but it still didn't give a particularly memorable experience. Kind of middle of the road, not too sweet, not too hoppy.

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Photo of budgood1
3.5/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.5

pours out an opaque onyx black colour. large, thick and frothy light brown coloured head that has a great deal of creamy staying power. about perfect. the nose on this big stout is a bit non-descript...some cocoa and nougat with some NW hopping. taste profile is a straight up combination of creamy sweetened dark chocolate and yeast infused dark roasted malts. none too complex in the malt/yeast interaction, so no real layers of flavours... just char, java and a hint of sour. this imperial stout has a beefy hop attribute to it, enough that the pine and pith flavours are able to fight their way through the dark cauldron and murky depths of black malt madness. a nice, healthy back end bitterness is also obviously detectable...and it all lingers for a blistering finish. the body on this stout is beefy and sturdy, no detractions there. mouthfeel is silky smooth, almost too smooth for an imperial stout of this magnitude. and that leads into the drinkability factor, which is way to easy for an imperial stout, making it dangerously delectable.

overall, i was a bit underwhelmed in the grand scheme of things when sampling this. perhaps a bit of age would benefit this? or maybe i'm just let down with the overall nose and flavour profile. the interaction between malt and yeast leaves me wanting despite the bitter hop blast, which i was expecting. an egnigma...nonetheless, it's a tasty treat that has potential in the cellar.

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Photo of mvanaskie13
4.42/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a chalice, color is solid black, head is light tan - this is great looking stout.

Smell is big roast, chocolate, espresso, coffee grains, dry and sweet balanced in each sniff.

Taste is similar to that smell strong roast, espresso flavors, lots of chocolate undertones and coffee grain dryness. very solid bitterness to balance its strength, very hard to believe abv.

Mouthfeel is a little drying, probably the amount of bitterness to balance its strength, but not a hinderance to the flavors.

Overall, very great tasting brew - sierra nevada does a great job in the bigger beer categories, loved this one to follow holiday sweets.

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Photo of bmwats
3.83/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a standard pint.

A: Black. Pours about a finger and a half, foamy, brown head. Disintegrates slowly. Eventually settles to a thick blanket with a foamy buildup around the sides of the glass. Sporadic lacing.

S: Earthy malt tone, dark chocolate, with a little black licorice.

T: Unsweetened dark chocolate, lots of licorice, pecan shells.

M: Thick, hearty, and syrupy. Slight bitterness lingers throughout.

D: Sip and enjoy.

Atmosphere is solid. Dark, intimidating appearance, nice head, and fair lacing. Nose is basic and characteristic dark chocolate and licorice. Tastes like is smells.... bitter chocolate and licorice. Overall, this is a pretty good quaff.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
4.3/5  rDev +3.6%

(2014 version, packaged 07/24/14 - poured into a balloon)

A: just about jet black... dark tan foam, with some staying power, perhaps due to high-hopping

S: huge cappucchino roastiness with hints of black chocolate and a whisper of medicinal booze... piney hops out the ass... very bold aromas and quite inviting

T: cascading layers of intense roasted flavors roll and fold over the palate, while the back end bitterness and booze slowly fans out into and through the back part of the throat, stopping there and burning like a bonfire against a concrete wall, while falling quite short of traveling down the throat with any malt viscosity or hop resins - this is all on the first sip... subsequent sampling reveal more biting bitterness, dark chocolate, and a subtle spiciness, likely derived from a blend of (mostly) fusels and a healthy dose of the Magnum (sorry, Challenger's colorful personality gets swallowed up and wasted here)... not what you'd call 'sweet' this is

M: medium-bodied but built rugged and sturdy... everything drops off midway down the palate... soft, whiskey-like parching effect, but its heat stings... supremely bone-dry

O: roast, coffee, malt, hops, booze - that's the name of this game... it'd be nice to see how this develops over time, but I'm diggin' it for what it's got right now... I can't figure out why, but this tastes like a SN product - must be something in the water

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Photo of bum732
3.04/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

S: Dry, roasty cocoa and coffee. Slight vanilla.

L: Thick, viscous and black. Tan head that dissipates quickly.

T: Very dry, roasty stout. Coffee and dry cocoa like flavors dominate. Slight coffee sweetness with slight dark fruits. Finishes quite dry with residual cocoa sweetness.

M: Medium full mouthfeel, medium low carbonation. Alcohol fairly well hidden.

A very dry, roasty RIS. Reminds me a lot of Old Rasputin. A nice change to a lot of sweet RIS's, but i feel like its a little one noted. Should be interesting what a little age does to this beer.

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Photo of jbertsch
2.97/5  rDev -28.4%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

6 months old.

Poured into a snifter.

Appearance is jet black. Head was fizzy and off-white, almost tan. Head unfortunately fizzled away fast.

Aroma gives off a mixed sense of char, bonfire, salty brine, booze, and some general roastiness.

Its flavor is not big on chocolate or coffee as one might look for. It's a bit nondescript. Some earthiness and a little wood is noticeable. Salty brine again is noticeable. Some alcohol soaked bittersweet chocolate makes a quick appearance on the finish. The flavor is a little syrupy.

Mouthfeel is oily and slick... it's a little detracting from the overall enjoyment.

Overall, I wouldn't buy this again. It's exemplary of the mediocre rut SN's beers can sometimes fall into. They're capable of better in my eyes. In my needs for an imperial stout, there's no need for me to return to this one. However, it's not terrible and what will save it are the leagues of SN fans.

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Photo of larryarms847
4.16/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours pitch black and sticky, but looks a bit thin with a thin layer of light khaki foam.

Dark chocolate, vanilla, espresso, and earthy hops.

Huge roasty character, vanilla, espresso beans, and chocolate.

Heavy-bodied, light carbonation, sticky, leans thinner than I was hoping.

Overall, while outstanding in flavor and aroma, the mouthfeel was a bit thin for my taste.

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Photo of Phelps
4.15/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tap into a goblet at Whole Foods Chandler. Was told this was based on the 30th anniversary stout I love so much.

Syrupy dark brown edging on black. About a finger of silky khaki head.

Beautiful nose. In this order: burnt toast, dark chocolate, oats, licorice.

Very smooth blend of roasted coffee bean, bitter dark chocolate, oats, licorice and smoke in the flavor. Alcohol emerges as it warms and is hard to avoid.

Syrupy. Thick, creamy medium body. Light, tickly carbonation. More than a little alcohol warmth.

Super duper. Very drinkable for its size and strength.

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Photo of delta490
4.02/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is an impenetrable black with a thin creamy light tan head with good retention. It leaves small, tight, slick lacing that slide down the glass for the most part. The aroma is bitter chocolate, roasted malts, and a little earthiness. The taste is much the same although the roasted malts dominate in the taste where the chocolate was more prominent in the aroma. The body is lighter, slick, and mostly smooth with both a little alcohol and carbonation tingle.

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Photo of heygeebee
4.29/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Briefly, looks on the money for an RIS, and rich and smooth on nose and taste. Velvety, mellow, luscious. Roasts, coffee, and dark choc to the fore, and less hoppy than we might expect from SN. Dry finish and less alcohol burn than you would think.

Overall, really solid and to style.

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Photo of mikeg67
4.4/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle. Pours black with a thin, short-lived, creamy, light brown head and nice lacing. Aroma is of bready, toasted malt, espresso, dark fruit and citrusy hops. Body is full and creamy. Taste is burnt toast, brown sugar, cappuccino, chocolate dark fruit and a lot of citrusy hops. Finish is long and very bitter. This brew should improve with age.

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Photo of utopiajane
3.76/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours completely black with a frothy mocha colored head that left rings and patches of sticky lace. Nose is bold espresso coffee, unsweetened chocolate , a hint of prune, licorice and a bit of alcohol. The alcohol smells solvent and detracts from the nose. There is blackened malt character on the nose with a hint of smoke. The drink is syrupy. First thing you notice is that the body of the beer is thin and has a slick mouthfeel. The alcohol is prominent on the palate. The malt is black and roasted to perfection. Dry, bitter and not burnt. The coffee and the chocolate are smooth but neither of those is sweet. I kept waiting for caramel or molasses and it did sweeten on the nose as it warmed so that made the alcohol seem less bitter. I also lost the fruits I observed on the nose and this one could have used some raisin or some dried dark fruits. That kept the taste very bitter also. Finished dry and with some alcohol dryness too.

Thanks jzeilinger for the chance to try this beer. =)

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Photo of tkdchampxi
4.43/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottom Line: Great, syrupy stout that reminds me a lot of coca cola and beer, but in a good way. Not as good as your Founders Breakfast Stout, but still very enjoyable, and worth the ticket price.

Appearance: Dark, with a very small head, when poured down the side of the tulip glass.

Smell: Cold, refreshing, a little piney, a little bit like a cola.

Taste: Coffee flavor typical of a stout, but subdued. Sweeter than a typical stout, that really reminds me of coca cola.

Mouthfeel: medium low on carbonation, but with a silky, syrupy texture. Maybe it could use a bit more carbonation?

Overall: Finally got to have my first Narwhal, and I'm happy to say that it lived up to its reputation of being a great stout, worth the $10/4pk price.

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Photo of brewcrew76
3.9/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Black with ruby highlights and little if any tan foam.

S - Burnt malt, alcohol, dark fruit, chocolate milk and light alcohol.

T - Bittersweet chocolate, burnt malt, coffee grounds, some herbal hop bitterness, some hot alcohol, molasses, light vanilla and dark fruits as it warms.

M - Full body, appears lightly carbonated until it hits the mouth and then a touch tingly on the way down. Warming.

D - Strong on the burnt bold flavors but still complex. Nicely done.

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Photo of draheim
4.17/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz into a tulip. Pours a jet black w/ a 1-finger tan head.

Aroma is bitter, roasty: coffee, chocolate, dark fruit. All that's missing is the bourbon.

Taste follows nose. Rich bitter chocolate, deep roasted malt, coffee.

Mouthfeel is just right. Medium-bodied, balanced; crosses the palate effortlessly. Nice bitter finish.

Overall a rock-solid imperial stout. Well done Sierra Nevada. Once again a no-nonsense, straightforward, excellent beer.

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Photo of grittybrews
4.25/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured an opaque black with a finger of mocha head. Aroma of roasty cocoa, licorice, and coffee.

Moderate carbonation and full, creamy, slightly chalky mouthfeel. Caramel and roasty chocolate up front with espresso and licorice. Quite a bit of hop bitterness and boozy warmth on the finish, with fruity esters that emerge as the beer warms.

Solid stout with sharp, big flavors.

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Photo of WillCarrera
4.15/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle, bottled on October 25, 2012, poured into a tulip glass.

A- Pours pitch black, very thick looking, produces a couple fingers of mocha head that recede to a collar, leaves spotty lacing.

S- Lots of roasted grain, coffee, dark chocolate, booze is just barely noticeable.

T- Big roasted flavors, lots of coffee, dark chocolate and maybe a bit of spice, cocoa, and just a little bit of molasses. The booze is pretty spot on and lends some fruity warmth. The flavor has a very nice balance of roasted and sweet flavors, although it inclines a bit towards roasted and hoppy bitter flavors.

M- Full-bodied, has a smooth, rich feel, alcohol warmth is perceptible but isn't hot.

O- A really tasty RIS, very drinkable and a great addition to Sierra Nevada's seasonal beers, good stuff.

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Photo of Tilley4
4.58/5  rDev +10.4%
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 rajendra82
4.4/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown pour evolved into a near pitch black opaque liquid in the glass, with ruby highlights. The head was quite small in size, but it left some awesome khaki lace. The aroma of the beer showed off the roasted malts, with the smells of coffee, toffee, and chocolate. The taste was an extension of the smell, but with amped up intensity. The coffee taste was thick in this beer, with a bitter, astringent finish. If I let the sip linger in my mouth, some powder cocoa notes crept in. I usually dislike "Imperial" stouts that have runny, weak mouthfeel. Luckily this was not one of those namby pamby beers. The body was as thick as they come. Sierra Nevada has delivered another awesome product to the mass market.

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

12 oz poured into a snifter.

A - Black as the deep sea with a healthy cappuccino head that has plenty of staying power. The head forms a micro bubbled ceiling with a creamy uniform collar.

S - Deeply roasted malts, dark chocolate, underlying mint leaf, cold espresso, hard root beer candy. Smoke and perfumy alcohol come out as it warms.

T - Creamy and dense chocolate malts, espresso, toasted cocoa, cooked pine sap, bitterness seems to come from the coaco and the pine hops. Smokiness comes out as it warms. The finish is bitter, roasty, and very satisfying.

M - Creamy, silky, full bodied, low carbonation.

Sierra Nevada brings it Like a Boss. This is fresh and bursting with raw but perfect flavors for a fresh Impy. I would drink this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! For the price point, It's a no-brainer. I will be buying ALOT of this. Thanks again Ken!

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

Poured from 12oz bottle to CBS snifter on 11/03/12.

Appearance- Jet black with an iced coffee colored mocha head. Medium head on pour leads to persistent half inch ring. Excellent lacing..

Smell- Roasted malts, coffee, bitter chocolate. A bit smokier than I anticipated, not as much chocolate.

Taste- Flavor takes a back seat to mouthfeel. Sticky sweetness leads to a lingering piney bitterness. Individual flavors aren't very easy to pick out. It's mainly some sweetness, then roasted notes, followed by bitterness. Insert your favorite placeholder flavor (vanilla to smoke to hops).

Mouthfeel- Thick, viscous, coating, and slightly chewy. Carbonation levels prevent the beer from being as creamy as I like my stouts to be.

Overall- Considering this doesn't taste up my alley, I can at least appreciate the well-made aspects of it. The sweetness and bitterness balance well in the taste, although I think both are a little heavy. Alcohol is not very noticeable for a 10% plus beer. My score turned out very odd for this one.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.15 out of 5 based on 5,033 ratings.
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