Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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

766 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 766
Hads: 4,454
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 8.96%
Wants: 255
Gots: 1,126 | 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: 766 | Hads: 4,454
Photo of AmitC
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

So now i am reviewing Narwhal, another SN product and an excellent one as usual.

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter. While pouring it is thick, dark brown. In the glass, it is dark as hell. Pure black. Head is dark tan colored not usual shining stuff in some of the other RISs that i have had. One finger thick. Not enough standing Disappears into a thing blanket and then a ring. Not enough lacing.

Aroma: Not much happening here. Dark roasted malts, somewhat burnt up. Sweet heavily malt forward nose. Very mild aroma for a RIS. Some hops that are very faint. 10.2 is very well hidden, no presence whatsoever.

Taste: Magic lies here. Charring malts enter but do not send an overtly burnt up taste. Use of coffee is apparent. Some dark chocolate. A very good amount of after taste bitterness, that is a mix of some bitter hops and roasted malts. Alcohol is hidden to a very good extent. Only when you have consumed enough does the effects start to show. This one is very delicious RIS. Strong yet with good drinkability. Finish is bitter dry. No sweetness in the taste at all.

Mouth feel: Thick bodied yet surprisingly smooth and creamy. Low to moderate on carbonation. Somewhat astringent in its taste of charred malts, smokiness and hopping.

Very enjoyable RIS. Keeps you wanting for more. Strong and powerful. To be enjoyed slowly. Let it warm a bit and let it sit. Let it linger in your mouth for as long as it can. (1,437 characters)

Photo of BeerWizard
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%

First of all, the bottle imagery is badass. I mean a narwhal is like my second favorite kind of whale, OMG! Seriously though, narwhals are badasses, and so is this beer. Pours completely opaque black - like a very deep, briny ocean, this beer does not let light through. Has a small, short lived, dark brown head. Clocks in at a 10.2, and the aroma doesn't hide it. Definitely detectable alcohol in the nose, with a deeper nuttiness and malt, choco-caramel, and other dark, sweet things. Taste reflects all that, and is almost bridging into a liquor-filled chocolate cordial. Really nice and I'd for sure get this again. (620 characters)

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. (875 characters)

Photo of craftbeersweden
4.24/5  rDev +2.7%
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! (405 characters)

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. (960 characters)

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

On tap at The Pint in West Lafayette, IN. Ordered it because why not, what the hell.

Smells fairly tame, even as it warms. Big nodes of roasted barley combined with some light wisps of espresso and alcohol fire.

Tastes quite good, much stronger than its relatively tame ABV led me to anticipate. Very nice balance between sweet and roasty nodes, coming across both lively vinous and bitterly dark. Back end is a wee bit thin which blots out some of the complexities.

Nothing to write home about, really; just a nice, aggressive double stout. (545 characters)

Photo of KYGunner
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Narwhal pours with a deep, black beautiful body that was topped with a dense, creamy froth.

Gorgeous scents of cocoa, light coffee, marshmallow creamy sweetness and hints of malty Graham cracker all waft gently to the nose.

The flavor really showcases the strong malt base with a steep charred grain profile. The char brings out the coffee and cocoa qualities. These malts also bring out a strong Graham cracker dryness. It is better served warmer as the booziness comes out in the cold.

The feel is moderately thick upon first sip but swallows with a touch of abrasive carbonation. There's an easy warmth from the strong alcohol character but it is tempered as it warms.

Narwhal proves itself as a quality stout with a begging for barrel aging. (749 characters)

Photo of smakawhat
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a snifter glass.

Out of the bottle pours dark brown, then hits with some very dark black walnut, almost midnight. Forms a solid cocoa and coffee like head, with lots of pinhead bubbles. Settles slowly, and manages to always keep a nice collar while drinking and a decent puck. Lots of leg coating and spotted catty lacing on the glass.

Nose is a little subtle. Simple roasted malts, but a nice waffer and ovaltine chocolate sense. Whoppers candy and malt. Mild char action, but mostly kind of closed. There is this sense this is sort of airy and light. Otherwise solid, not getting any coffee sense.

Palate hits with anything but. First notes of hop lime and grapefruit in the front palate, moves to a thick but waffer like dark bitter chocolate while consuming. Large surprising body melding with notes of char and more cocoa powder. Not particularly finding coffee on this but it's a superb feel, large since it seems unexpected from the bouquet.

Overall a great balance between hop action and roasted malt, a very controlled and fun beer, with not a boozy taste either for 10, a real fantastic stout very enjoyable. (1,150 characters)

Photo of SometimesIfart
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours pitch black with a one finger dark mocha head that sticks around. Left spotty lacing.

S - Deep roasted malts, dark fruits, slight alcohol.

T - Deep roasted malt up front, alcohol in the middle, and very very dark, I guess you could almost say roasted like a smore chocolate finish. It's almost like it melts in your mouth.

M - Thick oily body with very lightly stinging carbonation.

O - Overall, I'm completely convinced that Sierra Nevada can do no wrong. In my opinion, this stout had a one of a kind flavor. I don't know how they managed to make the flavor seem as though it melts in your mouth. I'd definitely have again and I wouldn't mind aging one. (669 characters)

Photo of JackieTH
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Review is from written notes. Dark aggressively black-brown pour with mocha foam. Smells loaded with semi-sweet chocolate, crispy toast, lightly burnt coffee. Very nice. Taste follows with thick dense toast and biscuit, char, heavily roasted coffee, baker's chocolate, dark dried cherries. Medium heavy body, creamy mouthfeel. Enjoyable and a nice RIS from Sierra Nevada. (371 characters)

Photo of Suds
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Utterly black, the ale is thick and intense. It has a thin, light-brown head, with an intense smell and a heavy alcohol punch. The smell is of licorice, wood, fleeting smoke, and booze-soaked raisins. The taste is very dry...and very bitter. The bitterness begins in the foretaste, combined with an immediate intense warming. Lots of alcohol. Roasty flavors...bitterness and some woody resin-like characteristics. Full in body...luxurious and heavy. This is one powerful brew, in almost every sense of the word. (511 characters)

Photo of kagent777
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer was purchased begrudgingly from the Utah system on December 15th, even though this bottle has been bottled since Oct 12, 2012 according to the date code. I poured it into a CCB snifter after about thirty minutes of being out of the fridge

Appearance: Black with some legs as I swirl it around the snifter. Not much of a head, but that is not expected. Appears to be well carbonated.

Smell: Unsweet chocolate, coffee, roast and charcoal. A bit of boozyness also.

Taste: All of the flavors carry over from the smell, I also pick up on some dried dark fruit (figs, raisins, and dates) and licorice. I cannot tell if the bittering on the finish is from the hops or the roast. It all works really well together.

Mouthfeel: The carbonation is a little strong for my taste, while the body is smooth and rich. The finish is very long and bittering from the level of roast.

Overall: I like this beer quite well, but I am not sure it is worth more than double the price of Old Rasputin. I need to taste them side by side to be able to do a better comparison. Utah really screwed the pooch on pricing on these (4/bottle retail). I am glad to have had one, but unless Utah lowers the price, I cannot purchase any more. I imagine this would age really nicely, too. (1,266 characters)

Photo of DIM
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

a: Black with a large, foamy, off-white head.

s: Rich dark chocolate with some molasses. Hints of red wine and espresso.

t: A bit on the sweeter side and it works. Lots of dark chocolate backed by vinous fruits and molasses a nice lingering ashy char.

m: Full bodied and chewy.

o: Absolutely a top notch stout, and a relatively inexpensive one at that. Sign me up for a case next year. (397 characters)

Photo of secondtooth
4.22/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a pitch black, with tons of tan suds and exquisite lace.

Nose is charred wood, dark bittersweet chocolate, and roasty coffee. I can sense the strength and richness already.

Taste is indeed rich, but oh-so-smooth. More of the roasty, charred chocolate, with some fruit near the finish. The 10.2% ABV is well-hidden here, and this is an exceptionally smooth and satisfying imperial stout. Outstanding. (407 characters)

Photo of Bierguy5
4.22/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle, 10.2% abv. Pitch black in color, with a good looking tan head. Head retention is pretty nice. A thin collar eventually remains, along with a few spots of lace.

Roasted malts are big up front. Dark roast coffee, near espresso roast. Bitter dark chocolate in the mix as well. Maybe a bit of earthy hop aroma.

Bittersweet dark chocolate comes to mind at first. Roasted malt, but with a rounded feel instead of sharp. Cocoa powder is the next flavor. A bit sweeter and more caramel in the middle. Some coffee flavors as well.

Medium body, with soft carbonation and a bit of a creamy feel. A bit of warmth, but not very much for the strength of this beer. I love the roasted, bittersweet feel of this beer. Very well done. (734 characters)

Photo of NoLeafClover44
4.22/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a DFH signature glass. Bottled October 6 and put on the shelf two days ago at my local store.

A - Pours black with a dense finger of wood brown head. Sticky tiered lacing.

S - Toasted malts dominate along with almond, vanilla, cedar, and some mellow pine hops. Sweet and roasty with balancing earthiness.

T - Starts with an iced mocha coffee sweetness. Some burnt pine follows along with vanilla notes. The finish is more bitter than anticipated with earthy tree sap hops. Warming alcohol comes in late and becomes less noticeable with each sip. Sweetens as it warms and caramel, vanilla, and marshmallow step up to the char.

M - Definitely has enough body for the big flavors. Smooth carbonation. The alcohol isn't in your face, but isn't forgotten.

O - I have been waiting for this to land in my area for a few weeks. Balanced flavor that improves as it warms. The more drink it, the more I like it. A very good RIS that is right up there with Old Raspy in the RIS 12oz. 4pk under $10 category. Sierra Nevada rarely disappoints. Hopefully this becomes a shelf staple so I can grab it whenever I choose. (1,138 characters)

Photo of mattcrill
4.22/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

<< Review #700 >>

Aroma: Coffee, dry cocoa, and roasty malt characteristics up front. No fruity esters that tend to be more common in English versions. I get a bit of pleasant graininess that reminds me of oatmeal and maris otter malt.

Appearance: Inky black pour with a large tan batter-like head.

Flavor: Follows the aroma but there is more of a dark fruity flavor that reminds me of fig and raisins to match the coffee and cocoa character. Slight earthy bitterness that helps offset some of the malty character and just a touch of chocolate sweetness. Finish is pleasant and dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation. Slight dark grain roasted astringency which is pleasant and appropriate for the style. No alcohol heat which is surprising given the ABV.

Overall impression: Immensely drinkable given the style and size of this beer. A perfect 700th review. One of my favorite styles and one of my favorite breweries so this was appropriate. I hope they make more of this. (1,006 characters)

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. (1,386 characters)

Photo of biboergosum
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle, a nice snag from doktorzee on his recent jaunt through Vegas. Cheers, man!

This beer pours a solid black, with noticeable cola-tinted basal highlights, and three fingers of puffy, tightly foamy, and fairly creamy light brown head, which leaves some awesome craggy sea cliff lace around the glass as it slowly and evenly recedes.

It smells of well-toasted, almost meaty caramel malt, wet rye bread, powdered cocoa, stale ashes, dark-roast coffee beans, a hint of black licorice, earthy, leafy hops, and a subtly burbling alcohol astringency. The taste is semi-sweet chocolate, a consequentially reduced caramel malt, some persistent dark bready notes, edgy and earthy anise, gritty wet ash, well-roasted day-old coffee, the kind with too much nut flavourings added to it, and surprisingly (really?) bitter leafy, earthy, and dry citrus hops. A wee twinge of metallic alcohol sort of turtles as things barely warm.

The carbonation is pretty low-key, but hardly absent, a subtle bubbly edginess wafting about, the body a solid medium weight, dead smooth, and agreeably creamy, in a sort of milk-chocolate sense. It finishes well off-dry, the cocoa, caramel, roast, and hops forming one swell collection of lingering party goers.

A pleasurable and enjoyable RIS, the initially apparent unchecked sweetness duly run off at the pass in the typical Sierra Nevada way - mo' hops! It all seems to work - full-bodied, tasty and with the north of 10 points of booze doing its best shark impression by keeping its head under the surface (fin-free!*), I can just sit back and appreciate this hefty, well-made brew.

* This is a pun that only (especially new) dads will appreciate, so Imma just gonna keep it to myself for now. (1,730 characters)

Photo of Pinknuggets
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottle into a Lawson's Sniffer

A:dark brown almost the color of black coffee with a very thin mocha head totally opaque throughout most of it

S: a deep aroma of roasted coffee beans and a hint of malt, very chocolatey and smooth right up my ally

T: yum the taste follows the nose lots of dark chocolate at first that then fades into a coffee flavor that quickly mixes with the bitterness of the malt. The finish is roasted coffee and bitterness 4.5

M:thin for an IS smooth and easy to drink and it definitely will warm you up on a cold night. Very low carbonation doesn't blow me away.

O: I really like this one balanced taste and true to the style the abv is well hidden. Above average imperial stout and good for being readily available but not my favorite (766 characters)

Photo of thegodfather1076
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Presentation: Label overall look is phenomenal from the front,to the graphics. Front label has a bit of brewery info. Back label gives an awesome back story on the beer as well a short description of the beer, ABV info, and web info. Neck label states 2012 and the name of the beer.

Appearance: I allowed this to warm 10min before pouring from its 12oz bottle into a 16oz snifter. Narwhal pours out a deep dark brown almost black with a 2 finger reddish brown head of a medium density. Head retention was a bit of a disappointment last 1min 46sec before fading to an even thin foam film and a thin ring. Very nice lacing left behind! 4/5

Smell/Aroma: Smell has a licorice or herbal bite along with hints of dark fruit and a slight charred smokey woodiness. Hints of dark chocolate, roast coffee, and a molasses sweetness. Slight hints of alcohol can be detected. Very Complex!

Flavor/Taste: Taste starts with an herbal maybe licorice flavor that fades to a slight vanilla and dark fruit flavor. Middle is dominated by a charred woody dark chocolate and roast coffee taste. Finishes dry with a charred coffee malt flavor. A slight alcohol bite can be detected. Complex and intense!!!

MouthFeel/Drinkability: Full bodied and thick with a smooth mildly creamy mouthfeel. As drinkable as a 10% Russian Imperial Stout can be.

Overall/Comments: This is a very fine representation of the style that is robust and very complex. Does a good job masking the alcohol. May pick up a few of these to put away. Classified as a Russian Imperial Stout @ 10.2 ABV. Consumed 2/26/13. (1,573 characters)

Photo of BlackBelt5112203
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
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. (879 characters)

Photo of SerialTicker
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I'm surprised that this beer "only" scores a 92... what in the. Poured into a shaker pint.

Appearance: Pitch black. Tan head. Poured nicely. A bit of lacing, but not much.

Smell: Chocolate. Some smoke. A lot of roast. Not much in terms of dark fruits.

Taste/feel: Well, that's some damn good stuff. Chocolate and roastiness, as you'd expect. Some smoke. Dark fruits in there a little bit (mostly as it warms), but not too much. Alcohol is hidden well as far as flavor goes, but there's a definite warmth there. A bit more "harsh" than some other RIS's, I suppose. The feel isn't quite as full bodied as some others I've had, which is a slight knock, but still excellent. Drinks a bit too easily.

Fantastic beer. Not much else to say about that. Underrated, in my opinion. Stands up well to some other, perhaps more popular, RIS's. (834 characters)

Photo of BWED
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12 oz. bottle poured into a tulip.

A- Black. Dark brown head. Lingers at a quarter inch. Great lacing.

S- Big bittersweet roast. Chocolate and coffee. Alcoholic sting in the nose.

T- Relatively sweet. Chocolate is up there, but there is still a mild earthy hop bitterness. I was expecting that from SN.

M- Nice and thick. Bitterness comes out with a bit of astringency, but the sweetness is the the main component.

O- Really great. I was expecting a fair contribution of hops, but the sweetness, dark chocolate character was a good surprise. And stronger than one would think. (584 characters)

Photo of dtivp
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
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. (629 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 766 ratings.