Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine and select auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

820 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 820
Hads: 4,652
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,229 | FT: 43
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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 820 | Hads: 4,652
Photo of CIBoy10
4.92/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Look - Poured from 12 oz bottle into an oversized wine glass. Blacker than the blackest black. Totally opaque. Thin traces of carbonation, but hardly any head. Nice lacing.

Smell - Coffee, chocolate, malt, cherries, faint yeast/booze, Irish car bomb (mixed together), yogurt raisins? (but seriously). Pretty complex. I wish this was a cologne.

Taste - Great coffee, cherries, dark chocolate (think chocolate covered cherry), maduro cigar. Roasted malt up front, chocolate really comes on in the middle, you can barely feel the booze on the finish with contains more bitterness, coffee, and maduro. Finish only lingers pleasantly, doesn't annoy. Wow. Gets more malty and bitter as it warms up.

Feel - Certainly doesn't feel dry or thin, and I'm glad (don't like really dry, thin, over-carbonated stouts). LIke swallowing creamy silk. Booze is not overpowering at all. You don't feel the 10.2% whatsoever.

Overall - It is sweeter (not too much) than other stouts but I actually like that. This is a big boy though and it is thick and rich. One of the best RIPs I have ever had. Fantastic beer that exceeded my expectations. And at 10.2%, worst case scenario is you feel great afterwards. In other words, try one.

 1,215 characters

Photo of CWO
4.91/5  rDev +18.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

this was the first imperial stout I have sampled and so far no other surpasses in terms of taste, aroma, and feel. I'm sure there are plenty of challengers out there but hat's off to Sierra Nevada for introducing this excellent stout.

 234 characters

Photo of Bernerdawg
4.9/5  rDev +18.4%

On draft at Red Light Red Light in Orlando.
Color is black, with 1/2 inch of tan head.
Aromas of espresso, roasted malt, baker's chocolate, dates, whiff of burnt caramel
Taste is sweeter than expected, but not pushy: malts and alcohol up front followed by strong cocoa and coffee, hoppy finish
Not much carbonation. Milky smooth. For me, texture and body are spot-on for the style
Very impressed by this beer. A sipper that can go down quickly if not careful. The sweetness obscures the alcohol a bit and adds a wonderful note to the malts without getting in the way of other flavors. Highly recommend.

 605 characters

Photo of Newbeergeek1
4.88/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

OMG!!! My mouth waters just thinking about this beer. Hard to find and when I do I stock up. I am aging some and look forward to a few of those in time. So, if you see this beer and you like RIStouts drink it, But buy it first.

 231 characters

Photo of SamJory
4.88/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a pitch black with a thick, dark tan head.

Aromas of sweet roasted malt and coffee.

Big roasted malt upfront with a hit of dark roasted coffee and dark cocoa. Restrained hop bitterness, letting the roasted malt give most of the bitterness.

Really full mouthfill and a long lasting finish. Incredible richness yet I could keep drinking this all evening (although probably not as it is 10.2%!)

Absolutely outstanding

 424 characters

Photo of freystout17
4.87/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Outstanding ! This is up there with my other 3 favorites: Rasputin RIS,, Bell's Expedition, and Ten Fidy. You are not going to find any better imperial stout than this for the money. Very reasonably priced here in Ohio @ about 11 bucks/4. Very rich, thick mouthfeel, about a two finger head, and very pronounced burnt chocolate and coffee notes.

 345 characters

Photo of CJRx
4.86/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

First word in my mind is Velvet.
Dark, smooth, chocolatey. To me, a hint of dark red fruit - maybe plum also.
Incredibly drinkable for pushing 13%.
Drank the first half very cold and let the other half warm. Strong on the malts in the smell. Lightly carbonated, but almost...refreshing.
Very, very good & highly recommend. A high standard for stouts.

 353 characters

Photo of tvl89
4.85/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is an amazing imperial stout from sierra nevada. It is a very complex brew. This is actually my first imperial stout , and I'm in love with it. The color is amazing: pitch black, very dark. The smell is awesome, chocolate and coffee are the most predominant ingredients I can smell. The taste is amazing with a delicious chocolate after taste. It is not as strong as I was expecting. I highly recommend it!

 411 characters

Photo of JamesBondGA
4.85/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured pitch black in color, tan head. Zero lacing on glass. Smell is of malt, chocolate, espresso. Taste is very velvety, with the espresso coming thru.Overall this is excellent. One of my top 10 favorites.

 207 characters

Photo of Ipaupaweallpa
4.85/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

So I have been seeking this out for a while, did try the SN Porter and the SN coffee stout. Never had the regular stout, never see it around although I'm sure it is similar to coffee stout. saw this last night and got very excited . Much anticipation. Tried to not get my hopes too high as stouts always have that "filling" Maltiness to me and I drink iPas mostly. Wow. This beer is incredible. Very smooth. DEFINATLY not able to detect the 10.2% abv until it leaves your mouth with a chocolatey Bite. Not nearly as carbonated and "airy" as the Porter and stout. Perfection. Like a silky chocolate smoothness. Not sure if I could have more than one because of the sweetness. But, still, after the first sip I was already wondering how I'm gonna secure another 4 pack.

 768 characters

Photo of vette2006c5r
4.84/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Narwhal pours a black color with a small tan lacing head. There is a boozy aroma with hints of licorice. The taste is very bold, lots of coffee, chocolate, and some black licorice flavors, with a big boozy end. Very bold flavors great body. Overall a fantastic big bold stout.

 276 characters

Photo of mashedpotatoes
4.83/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A supremely righteous Russian Imperial Stout. Chewy, STRONG, and delicious. Tons of coffee and chocolate right up front. Complex, multi-blend of 6 different malts. The only con would be the strength of the alcohol coming through but that is forgivable given the greatness of this brew. You will be hard-pressed to find a better example of this beer. Enjoy and cheers!

 367 characters

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.

 1,237 characters

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.

 915 characters

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

Aroma absolutely screams "DRINK ME!" Smoky, oily, with strong notes of roast malt, quality coffee, chocolate and molasses, it demands that you take more than a mere taste. It pours an oily black sable that could hide in the folds of Darth Vader’s cape, with a firm and fine-bubbled tan head that hangs around for a while. Smoky flavor has firm tones of top-shelf malt and chocolate - you’d think they had tossed Hershey bars into the mash tun. Subtle notes and hints of quality coffee, molasses and caramel sneak through. Sweetness is not too strong - this ain’t no dessert beer. Firm, smooth, somewhat oily texture has a good amount of fizz and leaves a smoky, chocolaty, lip-smacking finish. Nar this whal when you can! :D

 730 characters

Photo of paladinjoe
4.8/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

First off, I'm not a huge fan of Stouts, with that said, I AM a huge fan of IMPERIAL Stouts, and this son of a gun fits that bill, without a huge bill (price) which again is something Sierra Nevada offers with this one! Most of the time, Imperial Stouts are expensive as hell, where as this one, is barely more expensive then their regular beers.

To the beer itself, very smooth, coffee, chocolate, some licorice, and a definite alcohol presence in this one, it literally warms your innards, no joke! This beer leaves you feeling very smooth, and very relaxed at the end of the evening, a perfect beer at the end of a cold/cool night in fall, winter, or early spring.. or whenever!! Very sellarable as well, this thing can last for many years if you want to sellar it.

 769 characters

Photo of gkatsoris
4.8/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: Pitch black; period. A huge, thick, foamy head that lasted for a few minutes!!! Lots of bubbles, minimal lace. Gorgeous.

S: As soon as I cracked the bottle I could smell this. Dark chocolate!!! Caramel. Cocao. Slight butterscotch and vanilla. A hint of expresso.

T: Delicious. Creamy dark chocolate up front, and an enjoyable bitterness on the very end. As big as this beer is, one could drink these all night. There is a longer linger on cocao and dark chocolate in the nose.

M: Rich and creamy. Very full bodied. Almost borders foamy, but in a maltshop good way.

O: I could very well see this beconing the 'next' beer of 2013. I remember when I could get KBS off the shelf at my beer store, and now...uh no. Narwal has the potential to become the next 'highly sought after/impossible to get' delicious brew.

thanks Charity (Towamencin Bev)!!!

 853 characters

Photo of KarmicSkrambl8
4.76/5  rDev +15%
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

 151 characters

Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Had on tap at the Bryant Lake Bowl. L: Pours brilliant deep brown under a 1/2” very soft tan foam collar that grips the side of the glass. S: Coffee, dark dried fruit, roast, alcohol. T: Espresso, alcohol, dark dried fruit, suggestion of chocolate with a light caramel sweetness in the middle. The finish is long and dry with espresso overtones. F: Very creamy O: Beer stands out for creaminess and texture.

 409 characters

Photo of zhewitt98
4.75/5  rDev +14.7%

This beer is very similar to Old Rasputin however the ABV gives it a slight edge that once you finish the beer, you're left feeling some warmth in your body.

 157 characters

Photo of humuloner22
4.75/5  rDev +14.7%

Considering this is relatively easy to get and the price is reasonable I will have to say this is one of the better RIS's I have had. I like to consider everything in my numbering. Sometimes it does not only include the taste of the beer. Everything is subjective.

Appearance: Dark as night, nice lacing once head settles, which is fairly quick. Caramel lacing and head in that regard.

Aroma: Chocolate, malts, some coffee and vanilla, nice balance of aroma's.

Taste: Very pleasant, pretty close to what they describe on the bottle. I got a lot of vanilla out of this one and caramel, but the chocolate dominates more than anything else. What I did like about this one is it is not overly licorice in flavor profile. That has killed a lot of well regarded stouts for me over the years. This one is damn good and I have a BA version of this waiting on me, I just have to wait until the right moment for that one.

Overall: Where I live its easy to find, I purchased this one from a local grocery store chain for $10. It is well worth that considering everything, and that is why I have become a SN fan. Anyway, the store also had Snow pack, Celebration, and all the other 12 packs on sale for $12.99, so I may be heading back there to stock up!

 1,248 characters

Photo of N3rdM3t4l
4.75/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Brown 12oz bottle into frosty pint glass.

A: PITCH BLACK, with half a finger of bubbely mocha head. No light gets through on this one. It looks delicious!

S: Dark and roasted, A bit sweet with dark fruit notes. I get prune. Smells a little astringent from dark malt and a bit of ethanol smell comes through. GOD DAMN does this smell dark and rich.

T: Looking forward to this! yumm. Defiantly and RIS, opens with rich dark malt and a big hit of dark fruit. Again with the prune I got on the nose. Sweet up front that fades slowly into a bittersweet chocolate wave that then fades into hop bitterness. Alcohol comes in at the last and gives a bit of warming. This is good stuff!

M: Rich and chewy, not oily like i expected. It just doesn't let up, this is a full bodied beer to the max. SO GOOD!

O: Well I love it! It is very much an RIS and Sierra Nevada doesn't disappoint. I don't regret this bottle of beer by any means.

 928 characters

Photo of blackcompg
4.75/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This rating is on a bottle of Narwhal from 2012...

Appearance - Pours a solid finger of cinnamon colored foam, body is a completely opaque dark burnt sienna to black, and the lacing coats the entire glass, and just barely starts to break during the last few sips - gorgeous.

Smell - Rich dark chocolate, dark ripe fruits, molasses, roasted dark coffee, warm pumpernickel bread, touch of sweet black licorice and a whiff of black cherry.

Taste - Begins with a wonderful balance of dark chocolate, lightly sweetened rich french roast coffee, dark fruits and licorice, followed almost immediately by slightly astringent cherry and plumskin, then lightly burnt pumpernickel crusts with just a touch of pepperiness, with a ribbon of molasses throughout. Delicious and bold, with some very complimentary heat a little behind all of these flavors.

Mouthfeel - Smooth and rich, silky and creamy, mouthcoating in a very good way. Carb is on the lower side and provides just enough of a smooth foaming light scrub to allow some astringency and bittering roast to finish off the quaff. Latent carb provides a few tingly edges late after each sip.

Overall - Just a delicious and very satisfying RIS, a sipper for sure. Take your time with this one to fully enjoy the complex flavors here, and the wonderful transition from mouthcoating and creamy to lightly astringent and bitter, then repeat... This is a fairly easy RIS to get your hands on - do yourself a favor and get about 2 years on a few of them, well worth the wait. My favorite by far is FIS, and after 2 years this comes Really close, just a tad lighter, but not light by any means. An excellent RIS, highly recommend.

 1,672 characters

Photo of datalager
4.73/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I know I've reviewed this before, yet another review that was lost somewhere in the BA changeover some time ago. But I'll do it again for kicks and giggles. Here's the abridged stuff you need to know. It's an imperial stout. It has all the characteristics of an imperial stout. Noteworthy here is the well hidden ABV. Awesome beer. Get some.

 341 characters

Photo of chicksdiggit
4.72/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2014 vintage, aged in a cold basement away from light for a little under a year.
L: Dark thick brown with a finger and a half of dark mocha colored head. Plenty of carbonation slowly rises around the edge of the glass. Thick retention and thin but sticky lacing.

S: Rich fig and raisin up front. Dark cocoa and anise notes behind it.

T: Fig, chocolate malt, dates, sweet dark chocolate. Black coffee, espresso. A lot going on, not muddled, and I love it.

F: Rich luxurious French silk mouthfeel and boozy. A touch creamy. Absolutely awesome and easy to drink.

O: I like this fresh as well, but the sweet malt base really seems to shine through more so than I remembered, and the complexity on this is amazing. Love it.

 727 characters

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 820 ratings.