Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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93
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927 Reviews
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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
sierra-nevada.com

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

BEER STATS
Reviews:
927
Ratings:
5,031
Avg:
4.15
pDev:
9.64%
 
 
Wants:
331
Gots:
1,445
For Trade:
40
User Reviews
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Reviews: 927 | Ratings: 5,031
Photo of THSdrummer
4.16/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Narwhal pours pitch black with a thin fizzy caramel-colored head rising and falling rapidly. The pour was aggressive, turning the glass straight up after pouring about 1/3 of the bottle, yet the head yield was extremely low. Lacing forms in a dot here and there, but nothing extravagant. Aroma is delightful. It's dark, with notes of roasted, biscuit, and bread malts, caramel, and toffee all adding to a sugary, but flavorful aroma. Flavor profile is dark and rich as well. Notes of roasted, toasted, and biscuit malts give the beer a resounding darkness, with caramel, and toffee giving the beer some sugary complexity. Mouth feel is smooth, with some creaminess. Thickness overall is medium, with some particulate and graininess bolstering the feel. Overall, a great example of a imperial stout. Well rounded, with the only category really lacking being the look. It was a poor start to an otherwise exemplary imperial stout.

Served in a 12oz snifter.

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Photo of jondeelee
4.45/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Narwhal opens to a thick, black aroma bursting with ash, coffee, tobacco, and black malt, but these supported by an equally thick layer of heavy cream and caramel. Anise and black pepper dance in the background, adding spicy notes, joined by black breads, yeasty wheat dough, and toast crust. A reveille of dark fruit esters – fig, date, prune, black cherry – joins with blackstrap molasses and cocoa to add a layer of deep sugars, and the hops bring grapefruit rind, pine, pink grapefruit, and light hints of dandelion stem to form a bitter, citrusy buzz that nicely complements the sugars. Though the beer is not barrel aged, there’s a charcoal-and-vanilla bourbon-like undertone as well, adding delicious alcoholic liquor aromas to the mix. On the whole, the aroma is fantastic, being rich, fruity, black, hoppy, ashy, and bourbon-y, offering pretty much everything one could wish for in an Imperial Stout; the only way to improve this would be to actually bourbon barrel-age it.

On the tongue, the beer starts off black, and then gets even blacker, with massive waves of ash, coffee grounds, semi-burnt cocoa, black malt, and tobacco rushing across the tastebuds. Though these dark layers never let up, they are met after a time by a good layer of vanilla-soaked heavy cream, and a nice fruity layer of figs, dates, and prunes. Burnt pecans, toast crust, and heavy black breads add further earthiness, deepening the complexity. In subsequent sips the bourbon-like vanilla-and-charcoal notes gain more ground, adding alcoholic goodness to the mix. Hops are less present here than they were in the nose, but do add pine resin and grapefruit rind, creating some bitterness. The aftertaste is a continuation of the ashy notes, with sugars hanging on for all they’re worth, and at least the ash lingers on the tongue for a very long time. Mouthfeel is medium, and carbonation is medium.

Overall, this is a fantastic Imperial Stout, though it should be noted that it’s not for the faint of heart. This is mostly due to the tobacco ash and black malt notes, since at times they were so powerful that I felt like I had a mouthful of cigar smoke – especially in the aftertaste. But for fans of the style, there’s really not much else one could want in this beer, except perhaps some barrel aging. I did find the mouthfeel more watery than I would have expected, but almost everything else in here is excellent. Well worth trying.

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Photo of JGlitz87
4.08/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black and nearly opaque. Slight tan head.

S: Roasted malts. Little bit of chocolate

T: Lots of flavor. Roasted malts, chocolate, caramel, little bit of bourbon barrel taste. Slightly boozy.

F: Thick body and no carbonation. Very smooth. Hides it alcohol content well.

O: Very good beer. Not the best RIS I have ever had, but certainly good. Looking forward to see how it ages.

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Photo of Beric
4.13/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Serving: Bottle into snifter
Served: 27 February 2014

Appearance: Pitch black, with literally no light penetrating this brew. The dark brown head quickly disappears and leaves just a ring of bubbles around the edges. Looks impressive and daunting.

Smell: Roasted malts, black, dark-roast coffee, and unsweetened cocoa.

Taste: Wow, is this one complex. An initial burst of hop bitterness is followed by a strong assertion of roasted malts, dark roast coffee, espresso, and cocoa flavors. Finishes very dry.

Mouthfeel: Think and smooth, just as one would expect.

Overall: A great beer, and I was surprised to taste as much bittering hop as I did. When I burped, you could definitely re-taste the hoppiness (gross, I know). While hops aren't the dominant profile here, they are certainly assertive in their bittering qualities. But we wouldn't expect anything less from Sierra Nevada, would we? A great brew, and one I recommend. Definitely a sipper, and definitely a once-in-a-while beer, not something I could stomach any time any day.

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Photo of BurgeoningBrewhead
4.27/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours like engine oil into a snifter; jet black with a thin brown head that fades into a loose topping of foam after a few seconds.
Smells of dark roasted metallic malt; coffee and chocolate, both dark and sweet. Simple but foreboding smell, unassuming but unapologetic.
Taste is very big, and much more complex than the smell suggests. Dark coffee and chocolate blends with sweet chocolate and dark fruit, as well as a thick booziness that warms as you drink.
Mouthfeel is thick and smooth, awesome.
Overall, this is a solid RIS. Definitely one of the more extreme examples, but a great one for those who love huge stouts.

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Photo of CTbrew32
4/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- 2013 bottle cap. Pitch black with a slightly mocha head. One finger head poured with no angle.

Aroma- Big notes of sweet milk chocolate and some dark fruit and roasted aromas as well.

Taste- Not far off from the nose with big roast malts at the front followed by milk chocolate and slight bit of dark fruit. A little hoppy and dry as well.

Feel- As noted before this is a little dry, but pleasant and very drinkable. A slight warming is noticeable at the back end.

Overall- Great imperial stout with nice roasted malts and sweet chocolate balancing each other out. Only downfall to me is the roast/coffee malts linger at the end which I could do without. Definitely worth picking up again. (90/100)

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Photo of mjpolzin
3.77/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Split a 4 pack with my brother in law. Always excited to try a new imperial stout. This one was somewhat of a disappointment though.

The pour into the glass was very dark but not as thick as some of the better imperial stouts. As was mentioned in many of the reviews on this site, the smell was of alcohol with some roasted malts in the background. The taste was very similar to the smell and unfortunately the alcohol taste masked what could be a very good imperial stout with some chocolate, dark fruit and malts hiding behind the alcohol burn.

I have another bottle of this. Perhaps with some age on it, the alcohol taste will die down a bit leaving behind a much better beer.

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Photo of mabermud
4.15/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A - Pitch brown. Beige, reluctant head that develops into a light halo.
S - Sweet lactose. Dark chocolate + sweet coffee.
T - Smooth, sweet coffee and milk chocolate.
F - It goes well with everything else.
O - Very nice. I will have it again.

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Photo of Samp01
4.25/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle from mike67. Pours a deep slightly viscous black with a small brown head. Aroma and Taste of dark roasted caramel malt, some mild liquorice notes, dark fruit with some notes of dark cacao and mild espresso flavors with a dark toasted malt bitterness on the end for balance. A full bodied, creamy body on the palate with moderate carbonation and sticky mouth feel. A good full flavored brew, rich and creamy. Overall this is very good, delicious and flavorful brew.

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Photo of keithmurray
3.95/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance - dark brown color body with mocha colored head

Smell - roasted coffee, roasted malts, dark chocolate, black licorice,
Tobacco, smoke

Taste - dark chocolate, molasses, coffee, smoke, citrus from the hops,

Mouthfeel - medium bodied, medium carbonation, slight sweetness from the Chocolate upfront, hops and citrus in the back end along with a smoky feel. I'm finding the flavors to be a bit unbalanced on this beer.

Overall - slightly disappointing beverage as I feel like this beer borders on Black IPA territory. Flavors are a bit unbalanced versus other examples of the style. Perhaps age would help this one out.

Price Point - $1.99/12 ounce single

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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 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 Jeffreysan
4.93/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

12 oz bottle, poured into a goblet.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, completely opaque, pitch-black color with practically no head what-so-ever, except for an extremely thin halo of foam that gripped the sides of the glass.

Aroma: Strong, rich, earthy aromas of roasted malt, freshly baked dark bread, dark chocolate, dark molasses, licorice, vanilla and some boozy alcohol.

Taste: Wow! Extremely strong flavors of roasted malt, dark chocolate, dark molasses, coffee, licorice, brown sugar and some nicely balanced hops.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and pretty smooth, as there is very little carbonation. With an ABV of 10.2%, there is quite a bit of alcohol on the palate, imparting a pleasant warmth in the mouth while being drunk.

Overall: This is another excellent stout! Massive flavors of roasted malt, coffee, dark chocolate, dark molasses, coffee, licorice, brown sugar and some nicely balanced hops, awesomely blended together in a chewy, smooth quaff. Fantastic!

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Photo of atr2605
3.53/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A-poured black with a tan head with nice lacing
S-roasted coffee, licorice, unsweetened cocoa
T-lots of roasted coffee flavors mixed with licorice and finishes with unsweetened chocolate
M-full bodied and low carbonation
O-Not a bad brew, honestly not my favorite for the style, booze is pretty apparent. Interesting to try

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Photo of Premo88
4.36/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle poured into "stout glass" (tulip)
Oct. 17, 2013 born-on date

L: motor oil black that percolates like nothing I've seen short of a nitro -- the beer looks like it's not going to form a head, then from almost nowhere, the layer just under the surface starts to spin and cycle and pop and explode into a full inch of the thickest head of tan foam, and it sticks in classic Sierra Nevada fashion. wow! the brew might actually be 100% clear -- the very bottom appears so and shows dark, dark red -- but good luck passing light through this thing. black black with just a hint of dark brown around the edges and a constant tan collar ringing the surface.

S: huge everything -- BOOZE, chocolate, coffee, wine/grapes ... fully-roasted barley ... maybe a bit of oak -- and this thing is still almost ice cold. you can't mistake it for a pale ale, that's for sure. the boozy smell here is mostly like vodka, almost even gin more than whiskey, but it's not off-putting or medicinal.

T: oh, my ... similar notes as in the nose but in a different order: the alcohol doesn't show up until the afterburn, whereas the booziness seems to hit first on the nose. big dark malt extravaganza -- chocolate, coffee again with some definite oak-wood thrown in. very interesting and both classic and different; the notes seem to hit just a bit different tune from other big stouts I've tried, especially with the oak and the fact that so far nothing here tastes burnt. starting to detect a massive hop presence ... yes ... there's a bitter hop bite trying to chew threw all of this malt. and it's having some luck. wow! hard for me to tell what these hops taste like other than bitter, but they are really balancing out the quaff.

F: full. enough carbonation to make it drinkable, but silky and full.

O: it's a lot, and it's good. everything you could ask for from a Russian Imperial Stout, ABV included. i'm not the biggest fan of high ABV brews, but this brew is so full of the sweeter dark malts I love that it's perfect for sipping.

and I can tell aging it is going to be fun. in fact, I'll be off to the store soon to get at least another four-pack for *next* winter.

aging this brew is going to be fun.

three months of aging in the bottle has just barely tamed this beast. it's still relatively boozy, but it doesn't seem to be as big a bother as other boozy stouts.

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Photo of samtrillo
4.29/5  rDev +3.4%

Black with no head and minimal lacing.

The nose is of cocoa and coffee and sweet malt.

The taste is much more pronounced. It reminds me of a dark chocolate covered coffee bean! A toasted essence to the malt. The back end of the taste profile brings to mind dark fruits, bittersweet craisin.

The mouthfeel is smooth and a little warm. Low carbonation. Very easy drinking for such a big beer in taste and ABV. Overall an excellent Russian Imperial.

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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 Libeertarian
4.66/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

September 15th, 2015 review of the 2015:

Black as night, except nearly copper where it can be "thinned". Very thick, but fine dark tan head of decent retention. Dissipates quickly at first, but leaves an impervious film and a little lace. Roast aroma the strongest. Alcohol smell present, but surprisingly weak by comparison. Develops more into coffee or cocoa as head slowly dissipates. Coffee-like up front, increasing in acidity, followed by lasting sweetness (booze, molasses quality) soon blended with a smokey tartness as it settles in mouth. Black pepper in the finish and retro-olfaction, first noticed only after halfway gone, due to alcohol saturation of the palate, although it could still be from whatever hops were used. Only gets stronger from there, almost becoming floral or soapy. A winning combination of flavor sensations. Full-bodied, viscous, mildly astringent, teeth-sticking, medium level of fine sudsy carbonation. Faint warming throughout mouth and throat.

March 14th, 2017 review of the 2015:

Reviewing this almost exactly one and a half years later than the first time in my new snifter, which instead of a taper, has a flange.

Opaque black or dark brown, with very uniform, layered, and heavy head of rich orange-brown, excellent retention, sticky but minimal lace. Smells like fresh-mixed cement. Remember that one episode of Doug where they were selling chocolate bars that had cement in them? Yeah, it’s like that. Also, just a hint of spicy broth from either alcohol or booze, if not both. Rich roasty, meaty palate at first and throughout but makes some room for dark chocolate, spirits, and cloying dark fruit. Anise or licorice and other spices, and more overt soil around the finish. Full-bodied, viscous, extremely hot, fairly astringent, with mostly velvety, abundant, and heavy suds. Slightly better when more fresh, by my reckoning, but still keeps very well.

New score for year and a half old "2015": 5, 3.75, 4.75, 4.75, with an overall of 4.5 instead of 4.75

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Photo of JamesMN
4/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: In a long list of the most opaque black beers out there. Two finger light brown head that leaves nice lacing.

Aroma: Coffee, molasses, cream, chocolate syrup.

Taste: Heavy on the bitter black coffee flavor. Dark chocolate as well but not as prominent. Not quite as roasty as I was expecting but still quite robust. Very bitter probably more due to the malt bill than the hops utilized because there is no discernible hop presence. Still, a nice change of pace from the usual RIS (although I probably wouldn't classify it as such). Dry finish and lingering black coffee bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a good level of carbonation and pretty easy to drink but more of a sipper.

Final Thoughts: Not my favorite but a very good Imperial Stout, especially if you like coffee flavor in your stouts. Would I drink it again? Yep, got a few in the cellar to see how it does with some age on it.

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Photo of puck1225
4.4/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a bottle into a tall snifter. Dark brown, almost black . Th in brown head but nice curtain lacing. Dark chocolate taste with coffee and toasted almonds, with a noticeable hop taste. One of my favorite stouts! I look forward to it each year.

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Photo of mlockman
3.5/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I am disappointed that neither my rating nor review for this brew were saved online. As such, I recall retrospectively that despite its high rating I was not impressed by this beer. While hop-flavor was present it was subdued given the hop-forward flavor profile of many of Sierra Nevada's other beers. Malt flavors were certainly present, but I found them to be one-note and and far from complex. This is a very good basic Russian Imperial Stout, but the flavor was not nuanced, and thus it was no more than that to me: basic. Perhaps with some barrel-aging or cellaring it takes on other characteristics?

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Photo of Lawl3ss
3.76/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Chilled 12 oz. stubby into a shaker pint glass. 2013 vintage.

Look- Pours deep ruby brown, quite opaque. Finger and a half of dense toffee-colored head that refuses to settle. Decent lacing.

Smell- Dark roast, milk chocolate, blackcurrant. A little booze in the background. Nice.

Taste- Bold albeit standard profile. A bit of molasses and raisin stand out, dominated by bittersweet chocolate, charred biscuit, and medium roast coffee. A little boozy, not really surprising considering the 10%+ ABV. Not too sweet. Finishes with a moderately assertive herbal bittering, roast lingers.

Mouthfeel- Medium-full body, some astringency from the booze keeps it from being creamy. Slick feel, carbonation crisp. Not too heavy, but, well.... I was expecting something a bit more substantial.

Overall- Accessible. SN's not going too crazy with this, and that's probably a good thing. Still definitely worthwhile, and very reasonably priced for the category. Sic this on your friends when they talk about Guinness being "oh so dark"- they'll be pleasantly surprised rather than sickened.

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Photo of NWer
4.15/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I was really looking forward to this beer. I always anticipate what Sierra Nevada is doing lately to keep engaged with producing great beer in spite of their growth.
Pours dark brown into a tulip.
Minimal head. Carbonation is there, it just doesn't produce much foam.
Burnt dark chocolate nose & taste. A little edgy that should smooth out over time.
Mouthfeel, burnt edginess lingers. Not to the point of distraction however. Very enjoyable with a great price point for the style.

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Photo of jpro
3.98/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz single picked up from Total Wine. Poured into tulip...

A: Pours with an ink-like blackness; two-finger mocha head leaves a ring of retention and few short-lived strands of lace; looks pretty bold.

S: Deep, dark, roasted malt; dark chocolate; coffee notes; sweet.

T: Bitter, charred malt; dark chocolate / chocolate syrup; chicory on end; pretty big oily hop finish.

M: Medium-full mouthfeel; high carbonation with some zing; not quite as full or as slick I'd like in an imperial stout.

O: A very nice Russian imperial stout from Sierra Nevada; is this a new seasonal? a one off? Interesting as its kind of out of nowhere. Big and bold and somewhat reminiscent of Old Rasputin - that's what it initially reminded me of, at least. A good beer, even with the slightly off mouthfeel. I'd have another - maybe on a cold winter night!

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Photo of craftbeersweden
4.24/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pitch black, clear liquid with a beigebrown, fluffy, two finger high head that leaves a lot of lacing on the glass.

Nose: Red fruit, coffe, roasted malt, chocolate and spice.
Taste: A really great, hoppy, taste! Newly brewed coffee, chocolate, roasted malt, brown sugar and pine.
Medium body with just a little carbonation. Almoust no taste of alcohol, and it's 10.2 % ABV!

Great work Sierra Nevada!

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.15 out of 5 based on 5,031 ratings.
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