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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
92
outstanding

772 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 772
Hads: 4,467
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 8.96%
Wants: 257
Gots: 1,134 | FT: 45
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: 772 | Hads: 4,467
Photo of ISmith87
4.49/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle.

A - Beer is a dark dark brown/black with a half finger of dark tan head at first that disappears pretty quickly to leave a nice thin film of dark tan bubbles.

S - Smells like milk chocolate/caramel. Some creamy vanilla hints in there too. Coffee/Espresso.

T - Big chocolate and coffee at first. Nice roasted flavor to it throughout. Leaves a roasted/almost smoky after taste.

M - Medium-heavy beer. Alcohol pretty much completely hidden @ 10.2%. Roasted/smoky aftertaste.

O - Great beer. Definitely up there with Stone Imperial Russian Stout. Not as good as Stone Espresso Russian Imperial Stout or Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. For the price (8-9 dollars a four pack) this could be a great winter beer if I still lived back in Michigan, but I'll drink it in the Arizona heat too. I'll have to try Old Rasputin again to compare, but for the price from what I remember this could very well be a permanent replacement for it. (954 characters)

Photo of DenverHopHead
4.49/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.
Appearance - black as motor oil; creamy, tan head; ring upon ring of lacing!
Smell - cocoa and dark chocolate; hint of espresso.
Taste - complex flavors! Starts off creamy, but a surprise rush of hops mixed with a hint of alcohol, follows with malts and coffee flavors.
Feel - a very complex RIS! I was taken back by the very noticeable hop presence, it almost comes off as a hardcore Black IPA! More medium body, not too heavy and very drinkable at 10.2% ABV!
Overall - terrific offering from Sierra Nevada! To me this is a cross between an RIS and a Black IPA! The price point gives this one the nod over many other stouts! I'm anxious to try this alongside a few of my favorite Black IPA's, like Wookey Jack, Sublimely, and Mountain Standard. (785 characters)

Photo of fauxpunker
4.48/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours black with quickly dissipating dark tan/brown head. Appears heavy but not thick or syrupy.
S: All malt here. Chocolate most prominent with a touch of vanilla. Nothing over powering but definitely enjoyable.
T: The chocolate taste is there as well as some vanilla. Really nice roastiness and bitterness in there, not acrid or over powering at all. Slight taste of alcohol on the finish, but not really biting. Very nice balance.
M: Nice and full. Not as thick or chewy as I was expecting. Low carbonation and clean.
O: Truly enjoyed drinking this.Great to sit back and sip. And for the price, a really nice buy. Would definitely get this again. (654 characters)

Photo of SHerninko
4.48/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Rare here on the East Coast, but have one via a trade. Enjoyed while watching the new era of Eagles football. :-)
This is a world class brew. Sierra Nevada does not disappoint and are very consistent. This one is dark, smooth, creamy. Hints of chocolate and some coffee. This regular stout is one of the best non-flavored and non-barrel aged that I've had.
This one is legit. Malt and stout heads should seek it out. Nothing but praise. (438 characters)

Photo of Sark
4.48/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Appearance- pouring this was like watching a dark cream liquor, it looks as though you might be able to put this stuff on pancakes! Beautiful dark beige velvet head and black as night

Smell- immediate chocolate coffee assault on the nose, toasty with hints of toffee

Taste- As if I took a bite of dark roasted chocolate with all of the complex sweetness and toasted caramel. The alcohol warmth keeps things nice on the finish

Mouthfeel- full-bodied and on the verge of chewy

Overall- A damn fine imperial stout. I'd buy one of these for the same price as the 4 pack. (570 characters)

Photo of Danno48
4.48/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Have to say I was exited to see this baby on the shelf at my local retailer.

Pours a jet black with a very dark brown head. Absolutely can not see through this beer and the head is crazy dark.

Smells consist of obviously dark roast coffee, cocoa, and a hint of sourdough bread.

Tastes very sweet for just an instant then the cocoa and bitterness hit you hard along with the alcohol. Finishes with bitter chocolate notes. Not too sweet.

If compared to the Old Rasputin stout this one is a little thicker in feel and clings slightly more.

All over this beer is killer and I hope she is around for years to come...and you feel the ABV about 50 seconds into the drinking. B*tchin Russian Stout. (695 characters)

Photo of TheBigLebrewski
4.48/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- The ol' 1/4" dark brown head on a blackout brew. Yup.

S- Pretty clean. Not too roasted at all, and not much else happening. Smells good though.

T- There are so many great imperial stouts out there. And this is one of them. It's very simple - maybe even more clean than you'd like. But there's just nothing to complain about. A gentle molasses is really the only lingering flavor; otherwise neat, trim, and proper - an imperial stout.

M- Again, pretty damn standard, but in the enjoyable respect. Admittedly thin, thus the lowest point score for this one.

O- Shit, pretty cheap and easy to get. If your in the midwest, grab some Blackout Stout by Great Lakes to stay local; If you're more west, this is a must-have in the fridge for the winter months. I'm not writing grandma about it, but I'm sharing it with my friends. Indeed, it surpassed my expectations; SN usually has the good macro option when you can't get a micro. This one is better, relatively, than their usual offerings. So easy to drink... I guess I'd have to say a kinda laid-back imperial, but an awesome stout none-the-less. And most importantly, a great beer, regardless of the words on the label. (1,175 characters)

Photo of bluejacket74
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle, bottled on October 12, 2012. Served in a snifter, the beer pours black with a half inch tan head that sticked around for a bit. There's also a good amount of lacing. The brew smells like roasted malt, anise, bittersweet chocolate, coffee, and a little bit of piney hops. I think the taste is just like the aroma. There's a bit of sweetness, but also a lot of bitter roasty goodness. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's creamy and slick with a good amount of carbonation. The alcohol is well hidden, you wouldn't think it's 10.2% ABV when drinking it. I think this is a pretty good imperial stout, at $9.99 a 4-pack I know I'll be buying this again. (665 characters)

Photo of mountdew1
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter. Color was a very dark completely opaque brown, with a nice light brown 1 finger head. Didn't last long, but had a bit of side cling. Aroma was slightly sweet a bit of lactose, with some smokey grain as well. Flavor was smokey, but not overly so. A tad of dark mocha flavor finished up in the mouth. Felt great in the mouth. Coated nicely, just a bit of carbonation. A tad to much acid in the back of the tongue was the only downside. Overall, a great stout. Well balanced, nice and thick. (511 characters)

Photo of dngilb
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is what I taste:
Coffee, chocolate, leather, vanilla, citrus, white pepper, golden kiwi skin, bergamot, zinc lozenge.

Mouthfeel: it's at the height of my viscosity tolerance level. It's not very carbonated, but it tingles the tongue nicely. It's more drinkable than many of the other Imperial Stouts. Some imp stouts I have a hard time drinking 12oz... I can finish this one, which is a plus in my book. (411 characters)

Photo of Lare453
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz into a dfh glass

A. Black with a thick cocoa head that dissipates fast. No lacing.m

S heavy dark malt, coffee, cocoa, bitter dark chocolate

T surprisingly light sweet beginning, bitter chocolate and roasted coffee overwhelm the middle and end. The aftertaste is slightly boozi with a nice milk chocolate.

M a little thick, rich, smooth, fantastic.

O wonderful. A nice big one from Sierra Nevada. Very impressive. (422 characters)

Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.

Pours a deep black colour, with a fine, slightly inconsistent pale brown head. Carbonation is fine, but the body itself looks surprisingly light and fluid. Some patchy carbonation. Looks fine except for the body—this is the beer you can really make thick, oily and chewy, and it seems this hasn't happened here.

Nose is wonderful. Big sweet nutty characters with deep chocolate hints and a lilt of buttered popcorn. Slight hint of liquorice on the back, perhaps more like liquorice ice cream. It's all really quite sweet and fragrant, and very pleasant.

Taste is also very good: here the sweetness is tamed somewhat (perhaps due to the slightly lighter body), and the liquorice comes through a little bit more. This leaves the roasted characters to make a bit more of an entrance, with some mild coffee and toasted grain overtones. Perhaps I was unfair on the lightness in the body: it's perhaps a purposeful (and rather clever) stroke to enliven the palate and keep the sweet richness from overpowering everything.

The feel is very smooth, even despite the lightness, and matches very nicely with the rest of the beer.

Yep. Pretty exceptional stuff here, although the mastery and skill of Sierra Nevada should have stopped surprising me years ago. This beer gives the impression that it was designed exactly this way—it perhaps doesn't take the risks that could make it superlative, but you understand that this beer from the moment of its conception was going to be very good indeed. (1,544 characters)

Photo of mochaguy
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled: 10/11/12 (from the case box)

Specs: 12oz bottle, 10.2%, 60IBU

Glassware: Founders CBS Snifter

Appearance: Very dark brown but not as dark as some other stouts. Short cinnamon colored head.

Smell: Notes of dark fruit, coffee and chocolate.

Taste: Robust espresso flavor with chocolate and dark fruit notes with a long medium strength espresso finish. Not too bitter but not mild either. Sweetness seemed right to me, not too dry but not too sweet either.

Mouthfeel: Mild carbonation seemed spot on. Substantial full body. Could have been a little richer and more oily.

Overall: Very impressed with this imperial stout. Not as rich and creamy as some of the top imperial stouts but still very enjoyable. Might have rated this a 5 overall if the color was black versus very dark brown and if the texture was more creamy and oily. One of the most well balanced and enjoyable imperial stouts that I've tried. Highly recommended. (940 characters)

Photo of leobageo
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Glass: Footed Pilsener

Appearance: Black, opaque with a solid tan head, rising to about 1cm, which takes about a 1min to dissipate. Followed by a fair lacing.

Smell: Definitely dark fruits, cocoa nibs, and light barely roasted coffee notes. Hops of the western US type.

Taste: Again the dark fruits, and cocoa nibs. However, the coffee and malts are more roasted on the taste. The bitterness comes from this, rather than the hops, as one would expect from a stout.

Mouthfeel: Similar to a slightly-watered syrup, but still creamy. Not as creamy as Stone's. No diacetyl. Slight carbonation.

Overall: Pretty decent value. Came in a four-pack, meaning you can share. Great for the season of stouts. If you like roasted malty notes, then this is good. I happen to be in that category. (788 characters)

Photo of mschind
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Poured like thick espresso with a thin caramel colored head that dissipated quickly. Dark and oily looking, very inviting.

S-Toasty sweet malt with some french roast coffee notes

T-Dark chocolate, coffee and caramel malt. Surprisingly sweet, almost like a milk stout. Despite the sweetness, it was not at all cloying and finished with a nice balance.

M-Smooth, full and perfectly carbonated. There is some alcohol heat which served as a reminder that this is a beer to respect.

O-Glad I picked up a four pack instead of just a single. Now I can compare it to the Old Rasputin which is another favorite RIS. (612 characters)

Photo of StaveHooks
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
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! (866 characters)

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.46/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout
12 oz. brown glass bottle, "072414C120:16"

Appearance: Typical black/dark tan. Excellent head retention. Very good lacing.
Aroma: Golden caramel, light toffee, licorice, subtle fruit (black cherry), some piney/grassiness, chocolate, cold black coffee.
Flavor: As the aroma suggests, with additional espresso that's rich and creamy; and a subtle touch of orange-like citrus. It's a little spicy (hops? alcohol? both?), and a light touch of pine helps to balance it alongside a median bitterness. As you progress the black cherry note seems to step forward a bit. Dry, gently roasty and chocolatey lingering finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a very fine-bubbled moderate carbonation that at first gently bristles and then softens to become smoother.
Overall: Quite unique in its fruity component; and toned-down a bit in its chocolate and roast as compared to many examples of the style. It has finesse! Balanced, rounded, and satisfying. Without question, one of the best Imperial Stouts out there. (1,041 characters)

Photo of Ricelikesbeer
4.46/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

I was pleasantly surprised at how great this one is, and it currently has a great price to boot!- $10 bucks or so for a burly, awesome RIS!

A: Jet black with a tan head, some light lacing. Decent head retention. Looks like a slightly foamy cup of coffee.

S: Some roast and chocolate up front. Cappacino, chocolate milkshake aromas come out. Sugary maltiness is there too. Not much hop aromas whatsoever.

T: Tons of smooth chocolate, some light roast, and caramel sweetness. Extremely smoothe and beguiles the 10% or so. Not nearly as roasty as some of the powerhouses out there like Yeti or Ten Fidy, but I would say it is even more approachable and smoothe. Tons of chocolate kind of like Old Rasputin.

M: thick, smooth body, but not overly so. Reminds me of a chocolate milkshake. Lightly carbonated.

O: All around an excellent example of RIS. Nothing is lacking. It is bold and very flavorful, but you dont' have to struggle through a glass. Very complex with lots of varying flavors and aromas to ponder. I'd love to age a few to see wha they're like in a few years. (1,075 characters)

Photo of mpedara429
4.46/5  rDev +8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: Poured out black in color with two fingers of light brown/caramel colored head. Pretty good retention and thick lacing.

S: Roasted malt, coffee, and a hint booze.

T: Similar to the nose with some chocolate flavor in there as well. It has a nice bitterness to it.

M: Thick and creamy with medium carbonation.

O: I was big fan of this one. Pricewise, it beats everything else in that range and can really compete with some of the higher end imperial stouts. (462 characters)

Photo of boilermakerbrew
4.46/5  rDev +8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours black as night with a rather large, chocolately brown head. Head retention and lacing is pretty awesome. Head is amazingly frothy and persistent. Lots of rising carbonation.

S- Lots of deep, dark chocolately roasts. Next come the coffee flavors. Coffee is pretty dominant right after the chocolate hits. Bitterness at the end suggests some hop profile, but most bitterness is from the dark chocolate.

T- Big chocolates right off the bat, just like the scent. Chocolate is very dark and pretty bitter. Coffee is not as strong in the taste as in the scent, but still present. Slightly warming alcohol heat is also present with a dull bitterness in the flavor. Slightest bit of hop bitterness intermingles with the chocolate and coffee bitterness at the end. Flavor finishes very clean with only a little lingering bite.

M- Thick and creamy and a little slick on the palate. Only slight alcohol heat as previously mentioned. Lower levels of carbonation add to the thick and creamy effect. Easily sessionable because of the thickness and its tendency to lend itself to sipping.

Overall, another stellar beer from SN. I haven't had the regular stout, but I imagine they built off of it for this one, and it makes me excited to try some. (1,244 characters)

Photo of jondeelee
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
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. (2,440 characters)

Photo of tdm168
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - pitch black with a short, dense, brown, foamy head

S - roasted malt, anise, chocolate, alcohol, caramel

T - roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, faint anise, licorice, some faint bitterness

M - full bodied, smooth, warm, well carbonated

This is a solid, delicious stout with a great flavor profile. I feel like I could drink a lot of this even at 10%. It has a great malt character and the hops are noticeable but balancing. This is just an all around good beer. (466 characters)

Photo of Proteus93
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Damn, this is a dark beer, and the nice brown head gives credence to that. I got distracted, left the room for a good ten minutes or more, and when I returned, it was still laced around the top. I would say that's pretty close to perfect... no lacing.

S + T: The nice, standard imperial stout profile in both the nose and flavor-wise: roasted malts, coffee, some cocoa notes, a nice hop presence. Some anise comes out in the flavor as it warms. It's not brewed with any added ingredients, but the balance is excellent--'complexity in simplicity.'

M + D: The body is on the heavier side of medium, but just a hair shy of that chewiness that I would have liked. Granted, this is purely subjective, so to anyone who reads the review: please treat it as such. The overall experience is excellent, and I am very pleased to have finally picked up a bottle of this beer. The fact that it's named what it is acts as an added bonus! (929 characters)

Photo of riversider76
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poura a dark brown with a nice tan head. Excellent retention, and laceing. Aroma is of dark chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts. Body is thick and creamy, with a bit of carbonation. Taste is of dark semi sweet chocolate, and roasted coffee. This is an excellent version of this style. A must try. (297 characters)

Photo of MoorBeerPlz
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a snifter glass…

On the pour, viscous black liquid that built a 2 finger head of creamy tan foam, dissipating into nice sticky foam and lacing on the sides of the glass and a little foam cap on the top.

Putting my nose to the glass, the aromatics were fairly light; a little coffee and roasted grains. After a good swirl, the chocolate, some fruity notes and a little hop presence is detected. I didn’t detect the alcohol right away but as this beer warms up, it’s one more thing to add to the list. So far so good.

On the taste, my first thoughts are “rich and thick” as I start tasting the roasted grains, coffee and chocolate coming through. As you work it around, the fruitiness, malt and the booze join in followed by a bitterness that does not detract from the overall character or balance. Damn good.

Seemed medium to medium +in body with a smooth as velvet feel. Well balanced group of flavors and a nice, bitter and boozy finish with a little alcohol warmth. Nicely carbonated as well. Sticky feeling that is not dry in any way.

Overall a pretty fine example of the style and a great effort by Sierra Nevada. While not a session beer, I would guess it pairs well with some foods and certainly is a great way to wind down a busy or stressful day. I will definitely be buying more of this and look forward to putting some aside to see how the tastes develop over time.
Cheers! (1,432 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 772 ratings.