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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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796 Reviews
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Reviews: 796
Hads: 4,534
Avg: 4.13
pDev: 23.24%
Wants: 264
Gots: 1,164 | FT: 44
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.20% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 796 | Hads: 4,534
Reviews by DonDirkA:
Photo of DonDirkA
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sierra Nevada finally has a (good) shelf stout. And there aren't many imperial stouts in 4 or 6 packs aside from Ten Fidy so thats cool too. Pours midnight black with a thick brown head and nice lacing. Nose is strong roasted coffee, smokey malts, char and just a hint of raw cacao. Pretty basic imperial stout but it smells fantastic. The taste is surprisingly bitter. Bitterness, chocolate, roasted coffee, charred notes, smoked malts and some definite booze in there. The smokiness and bitterness are a bit strong but I think some age will mellow that out and the roasty flavors and coffee will come forward a bit. Still an awesome stout. Full body, heavy mouthfeel and light carbonation (typical stout style). Go Sierra Nevada!

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More User Reviews:
Photo of Redneckwine
4.39/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle into tulip

Appearance - Pitch black and not a ray of light makes it through the abyss. One finger dark beige head sticks around as a wispy cap and leaves nice lazing.

Smell - Roasty, earthy malts, mild spicy licorice, touch of bittersweet cocoa, a whiff of alcohol is definitely pulling through

Taste - Dark roasted malts kick it off with ample vinous fruitiness and charred grain, an estery, spicy alcoholic note complements the malts and warms the throat, bittersweet cocoa, anise/licorice notes, and a bit of grassy/earthy hops round it all out. Starts fairly sweet but finishes fairly dry with a restrained bitterness and last flavor that coats the mouth. Flavor really pops as it warms and opens up.

Feel - This is pretty much a monster beer: full bodied and creamy smooth, yet doesn't feel too heavy (like you're drinking an entire meal), and I like that. Carbonation is gentle yet prevalent, carrying the big body along nicely.

Overall - Awesome stout. It has some very interesting fruity and notes that you don't see in a lot of other imperial stouts, and is really dangerously drinkable. It just doesn't feel all that heavy and "chewy", like drinking your dinner, which, while some may disapprove of, I enjoy.

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Photo of tectactoe
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
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 Jjski
4.5/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Opened a 2013 this evening.
RIS perfection in the non-barreled category. deep, rich chocolate malts. Smoky hints, velvet mouth feel. Black as my leather pants.

Last week, after horseshoes, The Czar said to me: "F@ck all that happy horse crap, hops, flavors, chiles, etc.... Get me a Narwhal"

It was a beautiful moment with the Czar. I'm all tingly thinking about it.

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Photo of BoljaBoy52
4.86/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

This beer is outstanding. Period.

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Photo of StinkyFishBoys
4.56/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer deserves more credit than it gets, but that's not uncommon for this brewery. I had a 2012 bottle last night and it was a true delight. I'm not a violent man but I would fin fight my dad for another.

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Photo of RexBanner
4.7/5  rDev +13.8%

Pours a deep dark brown, almost black. No light penetrated through this dark concoction. 1/2 finger head that dissipated fairly quick. Velvety smooth appearance.

Its aroma was of bready yeast, dark roast grains, alcoholic esters, bitter dark chocolate. Faint banana smell was also present.

The taste was of robust roasted grains and dark bitter 80% cacao. Very faint taste of hops was noticeable before everything was washed away by the alcoholic burn that permeated the mouth. Smooth mouth feel. Not as heavy as one might imagine for an imperial stout. As it reached room temperature it began to develop the flavor profile of a strong dark Belgian ale. Even the aftertaste was more akin to a SDB as oppose to a stout.

Overall, I would recommend this beer to others. It's definitely a sipper. I missed that characteristic smokey aftertaste common to stouts as well as the creamy, chewy mouth feel, but all in all, this is a superb beer worth trying.

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Photo of chinchill
4.24/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12 oz 2012 bottle.

Unlike most people, I've had the barrel aged version of this prior to trying the regular version which I've cellared for a good while. Well, I'm happy to find that this regular RIS is exceptional if not quite as tasty as the barrel aged version. It certainly looks great: opaque black with a durable light brown head and lovely lacing. The high ABV is evident in the nose but otherwise fairly well hidden. Plenty of dark roasted grain flavor with minimal char and very light smoke -- just right IMO. Excellent bitter-sweet balance and mix. Some licorice. Pleasing and lasting aftertaste.

Feel: Full but not thick body. Near medium, soft carbonation.

O: Excellent and delicious. I haven't tried a fresh sample yet but I'd bet waiting until this is about 2 years old is a wise move. (High rating confirmed in June 2015 with a now older bottle0.

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Photo of BrownAleBollocks
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a deep black with a two finger fluffy mocha color head. Aroma is dark roasted malt and alcohol. Taste is dark roasted malts, booze, some smokiness throughout, and licorice, with a somewhat hoppy finish that compliments the other aspects. Mouthfeel is medium, a bit thin for an imperial stout. Overall a very good IS and one I'm happy I tried. Another feather in the cap of SN.

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Photo of KarmicSkrambl8
4.76/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

neck and neck with Old Rasputin

viscosity heavy in feel...love the chocolate as it rolls across...smoother than Ol Raspy...and, on some days....better

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Photo of beerthulhu
4.06/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

- 2014. pkgd. 11.06.14. consumed 04.01.15.

A: Pitch jet black exit from the bottle with a tan rawhide colored, creamy topping. Moderate retention.

S: Nose of scotchy licorice, burnt chocolate, earthy bitterness, moderate awareness. No alcohol with a touch of dry vanilla bean.

T: Flavor was deep roasted chocolate malt with an earthy bitterness. Dry vanilla bean, roasty espresso notes, flashes of burnt toffee sweetness with licorice. Smooth scotchy alcohol, hints of banana bread yeastiness underneath, creamer with smoky pine hops.

M: Full bodied, creamy, earthy bitterness, burnt warmth, dry alcohol fade.

O: Drinks like a B.A. stout, burnt roasted flavor, soothing scotchy pine alcohol. Nice flavor.

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Photo of drunkenmess
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Poured a dark charcoal black.
Dark tan frothy head.
Spider web lacing, lasting as well.
Smell of sweetness and strong booze.
Taste is superb, hints of vanilla. Sugar. Burnt malts/toast.
Strong alcohol after taste.
Very nicely done.
Especially for a year old :)
Nailed it!

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Photo of Lard_City
4.71/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Molasses and chocolate. Alcohol seems a little more forward in this than in the BA Narwhal. Sweet and mildly bitter. Good to drink anytime but great in the winter.

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Photo of fscottkey
4.06/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: [4.00] Pours a jet black. Aggressive pour forms a 1/4 finger tan head. The head recedes quickly leaving only wisps of foam on the surface. The bottle lists the ABV (10.2%) and the born on date (8/13/14). The born on date is white print on the black label (+1 guys!)

S: [3.00] On the nose I get mostly dark fruits. There are hints of the 10% alcohol too.

T: [4.50] I am hit with nicely charred malts. The taste is mellow all the way across. There is no hint of any alcohol. The front is smooth and sweet and it finishes with the bitter chocolate taste. The dark fruits from the nose are also there.

M: [4.50] I was struck by how smooth the first sip was. Mice creamy body with light carbonation.

O: [4.25] This beer has a lot going on in the taste. Coffee, chocolate, malty sweetness - some bitterness. It is a great melding of flavors. The nose wasn't that pronounced - which surprised me. However, the taste and the smooth body made up for it.

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Photo of superspak
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle into snifter, bottled on 10/5/2012. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1 finger dense dark tan head with great retention, that reduces to a small thin cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass. Aromas of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, dark bread, licorice, leather, tobacco, light pine, light smoke/char, and roasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roast/bready malt and light-moderate earthy hop notes; with good strength. Taste of huge dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, dark bread, licorice, leather, char, tobacco, herbal, light pine, light smoke, and roasted earthiness. Good amount of roast/char and herbal hop bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, dark bread, char, leather, tobacco, light smoke, and roasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible balance and complexity of dark/roasted/bready malt and earthy hop flavors; with a great roasted bitterness/sweetness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and fairly full bodied; with a very creamy and lightly sticky/chalky mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a slight warming present after the finish. Overall this is an awesome Russian imperial stout. All around great balance, robustness, and complexity of dark/roasted/bready malt and earthy hop flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the ABV. A highly enjoyable offering.

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Photo of DuffmanCanNeverDie
5/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

One of the finest imperial stouts money can buy...

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Photo of LT2
4.07/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

I think you either love or hate this beer. Personally, I think it is good and the bottle art is great. If you like Sierra Nevada and stouts, dive in.

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Photo of Mike_Aguirre
5/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Amazing beer, bottle aged for two years it was sublime. Perfect score. Aging did wonders for the alcoholic perception of this beer, it was perfectly balanced and smooth.

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Photo of hopflyer
3.88/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 7/31/14
Pours deep black with light tan head. Has almost an orange tint.

Nothing prominent in the nose. Maybe some faint chocolate and coffee. A little alcohol detected.

Taste is some bitterness mixed with semi sweet chocolate. A little bit of roasted coffee and maybe a touch of some burnt wood. A bit of hop bitterness on the finish.

Feel initially is a bit thin. Carb is low to medium. Maybe a little stickiness but it doesn't feel all that viscous.

Its a good stout but nothing over the top. Flavors are there but don't pop or hit very hard and the aroma was nearly non-existent compared to what you'd expect in a big RIS.

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Photo of seedyone
4.59/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From bottle at home. 2014 on bottle. Now this is what I call a stout. Look, smell, taste & feel are all very rich & full. This stuff makes no apologies, it just stands up straight & says "take it or leave it." I thought I caught the slightest hint of licorice/anise under my nose but it dissipated like a wisp, then came back again in the finish.

Alcohol taste but little of the burn. The chocolateness is of the bittersweet kind.

Every taste keeps saying to me "no kidding around". A real swashbuckler & I'm really enjoying it.

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Photo of BoldRulerVT
4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the 12 oz bottle into a snifter.
Pours squid ink black with a small smidgen of deep dark caramel head.
Smells a bit light, but certainly elements of roasted malt and coffee.
Taste is glorious. Deep roast, deep coffee bitterness.
A nice mouthfeel not too thin which I appreciated since there was no barrel aging.
Overall, this beer is delicious. Now on to BA Narwhal!!!

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Photo of genesisgrunge
4.24/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

A: Beautiful black. No light shines through. No head (although I worry it may have been my specific bottle).
S: Chocolate and molasses with a strong roasted (but not coffee) scent. It has a wood scent to cap it off. Must be those bourbon barrels used to age it.
T: Dark chocolate and earthy with an alcohol hit that comes with a 10.20 abv, but it's still smooth.
M: I imagine the mouthfeel must be much better than I experienced since the head was very thin to nonexistent on my pour. Yet it is still smooth and velvety. Reminds me of a Rasputin, but slightly more harsh due to the more pronounced alcohol taste.
O: Excellent beer. I will need to try this again with a proper pour from a good tap or bottle. This beer is a truly dark monster of complexity and challenge, but in all good ways. For those who like Rasputin for its sweeter malts, this is not the beer for you, but if you like Rasputin Imperial for everything else, then Narwhal is a must have.

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Photo of JerzDevl2000
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Picked this up a few weeks back at Joe Canal's in Parsippany having never had this before. I love Sierra Nevada's offerings and was hoping that this would measure up to them. Thankfully, this did not taste like a dark version of their more notable Pale Ales and IPA's and considering the strength that this had, this was surprisingly easy to enjoy while being full and potent like a Russian Stout should be!

The pour to this was a dark raisin with just a hint of light seeping in around the edges, with a moderate tan head that was punctuated with bubbles coming up from the liquid. It gave this a lively appearance and the head settled into a few rings of lacing that went around the top third or so of my pint glass. The baker's chocolate was in the nose big time, along with some currant, dark fruit, and booze and all of these were present in the taste as well. Quite sweet, this had a cloying taste to it and the coffee same out more in the aftertaste once the Belgian-like notes and chocolate went down. Not a lot of hops here, the bubbles could be felt but not seen as the mouthfeel was pretty smooth with just a hint of lactose that softly came through as this warmed up.

This was strong but didn't really feel it but I noticed the warming coming over me once I made my way through this beer. Not overly spicy or boozy, this was a welcome departure from Sierra Nevada's other offerings while keeping up their level of quality that they've come to be known for. Those looking for a thinner Coffee Stout with hints of vanilla or a Russian Imperial Stout along the lines of the Old Rasputin will find that this straddled the line between the two, but quite nicely as I am looking forward to giving this another go! Certainly worthy of the Sierra Nevada moniker.

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Photo of PReust
3.66/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

FEEL THE POWER!! Imperial stouts usually tend to taste more like spirits than stout, this one = a happy medium. This was really far out, 10 and one half percent or so, it'll get you drunk.....and after having the four pack, you'll probably say to yourself, "two of those.....WAS QUITE ENOUGH", followed by a galaxy of stars. Amen.

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Photo of PatrickBeebe
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

2012 vintage into a snifter

still big huge roasted malts after 3 years in the cellar. the alcohol has definately cooled down drastically. hardly noticeable. not as choclatly as a fresh narwhal, but roastier and even more effervescent. some earthy flavors come through as well. body seems a bit light though.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 796 ratings.