Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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BA SCORE
92
outstanding

766 Reviews
THE BROS
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no score

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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 stephenjmoore
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours pitch black with an enormous thick mocha colored head.

S- Roasted malt, chocolate malt, cocoa powder, bitter dark chocolate.

T- Very malty with roasty flavors coming through the most with chocolate malt. The middle to end has notes of bitter dark chocolate that lingers as an aftertaste. There is a noticeable hop bitterness in there as well, along with a slight coffee flavor.

M- Full bodied, heavy, but drinkable, medium carbonation, smooth and frothy.

O- I am actually surprised with how different this beer tastes than other RISs. Very complex combination of flavors that border on cluttered, but make it a unique offering. (640 characters)

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

750th Review. Sunday night beer fun with Sierra Nevada Narwhal. 12oz stubby bottle-dated November 2, 2012. Poured into a wide-mouthed snifter.

Pours black with some end-of-the-bottle sizzurp. The crema-colored head amounted to about a third of an inch and dissipated, eventually, to a wall-clinging ring. Decent legging. Looks good.

Black roastiness with embers of dark fruits and booze burning out in the nose. Big whiffs gather fragrances of black licorice, raisin paste, spicy alcohol, overkilned barley, cocoa, saltiness, charcoal, and a blown kiss of smoke. Lots of appealing earthy aromas throughout. A touch of floral hops make their way into the olfactory summary.

Very spicy burst at the beginning; a combination of gruff malt bitterness, roasty char, Challenger hops, and a rye presence. Cocoa solids, espresso, extreme roastiness, dark-skinned fruit, light licorice, baked earth, and bitter oats. A transient and subtle fruit flavor of peach is barely noticeable in the middle before drying out again and carrying out with char and strength in the finish. Almost contains a very mild chili heat.

Medium-thick. I like the boisterous spicy feel of the alcohol and hops. Carbonation is lower-medium and creates even more of a tickle.

An excellent beer for a windy cold night such as this. The weather's getting worse, the night's getting better. (1,358 characters)

Photo of lordofthewiens
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I found a lonely four pack of this when I went to Gary's to pick up 2013 Bigfoot, and brought it home with me. Glad I did.

In a snifter this beer was black, really black, with just a rim of tan head.

Strong roasted malt aroma. Coffee. Charcoal.

The taste was mostly strong coffee, even a little bit on the burned side. There was a little bit of chocolate.

A dry, burned feeling in the mouth. Astringent.

Nice beer. (419 characters)

Photo of Roguer
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Solid, perfectly black brew, 1/2 finger light tan head, quickly fading. Thin but nice lacing.

Slightly boozy aroma, with a hint of grain, grapes, and cocoa.

Very nice bite to this stout: chocolate in abundance, some grapes, dry grain, and a very noticeable alcohol flavor. Sweet, but not quite overly so. Just a hint of burnt grain in the background.

Slight sting on the tongue, then it settles in with a wonderfully thick feel. Nice clinginess; almost powdery cocoa feel. The alcohol is definitely present, but it's in no way bad.

You know how reviews are always saying, "This beer hides a 10% ABV very well,"? Yeah, not so much here. That doesn't make it bad: it's thick, balanced, strong, and flavorful. It's got a very nice sweetness to it, but a nice bite to back it up. Excellent brew.

2013 vintage. (810 characters)

Photo of WoodBrew
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Love this stout....Nice job Sierra Nevada! The beer pours opaque with off white head with slight lace. The scent has slight roast and espresso. The taste is has a slight maple syrup, dark chocolate and coffee flare. The mouthfeel is full in body with smooth carbonation. Overall this is great! (298 characters)

Photo of Immortale25
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a Ninkasi Brewing pint glass. No readable freshness date.

A- Pours a densely opaque black color with a 1/4 inch light brown head that doesn't retain long before it becomes a thin ring around the edge of the glass and some light, wispy surface foam. Average lacing.

S- Dark chocolate and some roasty char aroma. Also a hint of vanilla and some molasses.

T- Packs a punch of dark roasted malt and plenty of hop bitterness. Alcohol is very subdued though and there are more notes of dark chocolate, molasses and black licorice. Aftertaste is bitter and heavy with more roast.

M- Creamy and chewy with medium-low carbonation and the most robust of bodies. So thick and dark, I feel like it's gonna stain my teeth and make me instantly gain five pounds.

O- What a bold offering from SN. It's sure to please stout lovers everywhere. I guess they figured, why mess around with dainty versions of the style? Go for the jugular! I'm glad they did. Great price tag for a 4-pack of high ABV beer, too. (1,008 characters)

Photo of davey101
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage, bottled October 12, 2012. 12 oz bottle into a DFH signature glass.

A - Pours a dark black body with two finger mocha/red head. Settles into some thin edging. Solid amount of lacing and retention but nothing too impressive.

S - Roasted malt, coffee beans, cocoa powder and anise. Incredibly balanced. Just a great aroma.

T - Roasted malts lead into that signature SN grapefruit and pine hop profile. Finishes with bitter coffee beans and smooth milk chocolate. Just a touch of anise.

M - Smooth and creamy with nice carbonation. Alcohol is hardly noticeable and the beer really opens up as it warms.

O - This beer gets everything right, even as a fresh beer. Plus its SN so its at an amazing price and distribution. It seems less hoppy and intense than the the 30th Anny stout, but I really like this beer a lot. (830 characters)

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

On tap at Rustico's in VA. Pours jet black with a nice and dense tan head. Nose of sweet charcoal, coffee and chocolate. Flavors of a mocha forward stout with a fair bit of roast, dark nuts, and chocolate. Nice finish of bitter roasted coffee and hop bitterness which helps give it some length. This is a nice and complex stout from Sierra Nevada. A six pack of this is very reasonably priced as well. Welcome, Narwhal. (419 characters)

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. (1,527 characters)

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

A cellar temperature bottle poured into a small snifter.

It is a black beer with a small brown foam head. Lots of foam and film left behind when I swirl my glass.

It is has a big roasted malt aroma with some hints of chocolate. There is a s lightly boozy quality to the nose, but it isn't off-putting.

This is a very roasty beer! Lots of roasted, nearly burnt malts. A good amount of alcohol in the finish helps this beer feel very warm. There are some cocoa flavors that can be tasted once you get past the roasted malts.

As I said above, the beer is very warming. It has a small but sticky film that retains a small amount of sweetness. and a touch of burnt malts. The body is thick and carbonation is low.

This is a great winter Imperial stout. It's strong and warming and not too sweet. the roasted flavors make me want to drink this in front of an open fire. I'll get more of this beer. (896 characters)

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

A - Pours pitch black and the head quickly dies down to leave a very thin lacing ring and a heavy cascade of bubbles when the snifter is swirled.

S - Roasted cocoa nibs, bittersweet chocolate, light charcoal & coffee beans, dark fruit is subdued and buried.

T - Dark roasted chocolate, dark fruit, coffee/expresso, charred oak, and chocolate bitterness that lingers on the palate.

M - Velvety smooth, soft carbonation, thick body and texture.

O - Sierra Nevada is coming on strong with some excellent big beers, this is yet another one worth seeking out for the stout lovers. (579 characters)

Photo of bareju
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Bottle purchased in Ireland, left out of fridge for 15 minutes and poured into a pint glass.

A: Dark chocolate brown, almost black with a finger light brown head that recedes quickly and leaves a ring.

S: Very strong smell of chocolate and roasted malts, and a bit of alcoholic warmth just hidden under the surface - very nice. One of the best smelling beers I've ever had. The sheer strength of the smell is impressive.

T: Sweet chocolate followed by a bit of warm alcohol accompanied by a slight taste of cherry or fruity phenols. Warm alcohol lingers, slight bite in the mouth from the phenols, and finishes with dark roasted coffee and bitter hops. I really like the taste other than the phenols I'm picking up, the bite is a bit unpleasant. Phenols were replaced by spiciness as the beer warmed. Bitter coffee and hop taste lingers pleasantly long after the beer is gone. Tastes melded together cohesively as the beer continued to warm. Fruity taste ruins the taste for me a bit; reminds me of cherry cough syrup.

M: Full-bodied, creamy, low carb. Very easy drinking for a beer this big. Matches the sweetness of the chocolate and coffee notes excellently.

O: This is a very good beer, but the fruity part of the taste really threw me off. I'll have to pick up another bottle and see if I got unlucky or there's just something that I don't like. Everything but that one flavor is fantastic. Definitely didn't live up to its hype for me as far as taste goes, but still an enjoyable, if a bit disappointing, beer. (1,521 characters)

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

Pitchblack with a thick, creamy brown head. Excellent lacing. The aroma contains noticable alcohol and some esters, but is predominantly roasted coffee, chocolate, and dark fruit. A spicy/herbal hop character is detectable as well. The taste starts with a big bitterness and then sweet, roasted malt, very similar profile to the aroma. There is also a noticable alcohol taste that cleans out your mouth and allows the roasted flavors to linger. Slightly smoky on the tail end. The mouthfeel is full, but somewhat drying, carbonation and alcohol really cut the sweetness. It is briefly there but then suddenly your mouth starts to pucker and then the clean roasted notes are left.

Overall, this is a tasty brew. This is one of my favorite styles and Sierra Nevada does it justice. I would get this again, no hesitation. (820 characters)

Photo of Dools9
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle poured into a Founders Snifter.

A: Black, black, straight up black. Two fingers of light brown head recede to a modest half finger and leaves big legs and lacing. Looks like a beast.

S: Upfront getting a big, bittersweet bakers chocolate component, sweet brownie batter, heavy roasted barley malt, some light espresso and caramel nuttiness.

T: Huge surge of smoky, mocha, cocoa nib, black bittersweet chocolate, black coffee, slightest citrusy/earthy hop presence, finishes dry and leaves a nice roasty aftertase. Not getting any booze on the taste whatsoever. Maybe a bit in the belly.

M: Medium to full, silky smooth, probably the best attribute of this beer, soft, velvety, and lush.

O: Very impressed, this was very enjoyable. It's basically everything I look for in a rock solid RIS and its super affordable. Glad I bought a 4 pack and will age a few to see how they develop if I can sit on them that long, we'll see. Well done SN. (953 characters)

Photo of jtd1969
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Black n tannish head, Nice head retention and lacing typical Imperial Stout like

S - Chocolate, dark malts, some roast, little coffee

T - Roasty malts that finish with a delightful dark coffee taste. Chocolate tones through out

M - Heavy Medium body with medium carbonation. Nice hop finish, only a tad boozy after the after taste

O - A really good beer! SN has a winner here. I recommend any stout drinker to grab a 4 pack and try it out!. (448 characters)

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

Had this on 2012-11-17 in Columbia, PA

A - Opaque black with a brown 1-finger head and mild lacing.

S - Floral, brown bread, chocolate. Moderate level of aroma but very inviting.

T - Dark roasted malt, soy sauce/umami, significant char, smidge of dark chocolate, not too sweet, alcohol, pepper. Kind of brash. Finishes roasty and spicy. Good stuff.

M - Medium-heavy body and light-medium carbonation. Somewhat creamy yet dries pretty well.

O - Very enjoyable. Big flavors. Had this side-by-side with a 9-month old Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout and the Narwhal holds up quite well in comparison considering it doesn't have the bourbon influence. The KBS is smoother with more coffee, has a heavier mouthfeel and isn't as brash as the Narwhal - in other words, the KBS is better. I'm going to age some of the Narwhal to see if the brashness mellows out.

Note: Had an aged one from 2012 on 2013-10-19 and the brashness has mellowed significantly. I like it better with a year on it. Had a 2013 vintage on 2014-11-15 and am finding it's equally delicious this time after aging a year. (1,092 characters)

Photo of BierJager89
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: Black with a short brown head.

S: A touch of coffee and roasted malt in a weak nose.

T: Dark chocolate up front, a touch of floral hop character, roasted malt follows, then coffee in the finish with a touch of citrous and floral hop character at the very end.

M: Full bodied and smooth. Great.

O: One of my favorites from Sierra Nevada. Definitely recommended. (367 characters)

Photo of mfavoino
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12 oz bottle on 19 Jan 13 at The Beer Stein in Eugene, OR.

A: Nearly pitch black with a finger or so of espresso head that settled to the rim of the glass. Very nice looking.

S: Strong burnt roasted malts, bitter chocolate, and a subtle coffee aroma.

T: Chocolate and a touch of alcohol heat hit my palate right away, then the dark roasted flavor came through. Some coffee bitterness, more chocolate, and dark fruits as it finishes. Left a strong roasted character lingering.

M: Full-bodied and thick, lower carbonation, and a touch hot with the booze.

O: Very good offering from SN in the RIS category. (627 characters)

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

A- Deeply black and fairly thick, with a nice amount of tan colored head. This dissipates rather quickly, although a minimal amount remains through the end.

S- Right up front are big notes of dark roasted malt, coffee, and dark chocolate. There is even a bit of caramel or toffee in the nose, along with the barely noticeable alcohol.

T- Wow, super roasty! This is not a sweet imperial stout by any means. Main thing here is bitter, dark chocolate (really, really dark) and plenty of roasted, burnt malt character. There is also a hint of booze on the back end. Medium body, creamy, and just barely carbonated -- excellent mouth feel.

O- This is an impressive effort from one of my favorite "go-to" breweries. It is a huge imperial stout that I suspect would even do well in the cellar. I won't be able to find out though, because I drank all of mine! (855 characters)

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

From a 12 oz bottle into a snifter.

A-The brew is pretty much black in color and opaque. Maybe a bright light would get through, but you would have to work at it. The head is one (fat) finger of dark brown foam that fades slowly.

S-I smelled light whiffs of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, toasty malts, and a little bit of toffee. Not heavy or cloying. Lighter and more floral than most RIS beers.

T-Taste is similar to the smell, i.e., some chocolate (although the chocolate taste is not as bitter and cocoa forward as the smell), a little bit of roasted malts, toffee, and a surprising amount of floral flavors, too. Only mild, roasted bitterness at the end, and very little alcohol on the front or back end.

M-The feel is lighter than most RIS beers I have had. There is a little wave of carbonation that quickly fades on the palate. The carbonation may turn off some serious stout fans, but I thought it worked.

O-I would call this a highly drinkable RIS. This brew certainly isn't some barrel-aged, bourbon-wannabe monster, but it hit a sweet spot for me. The flavors are well integrated and reasonably complex and, when combined with the lighter mouthfeel, I could definitely see myself drinking this again on a chilly winter evening. (1,246 characters)

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

Presentation: It was poured from a brown 12 oz bottle into a tulip glass. The label lists the abv at 10.2% and the year it was brewed. (2013) There is a short description of the beer as well.

Appearance: It has a very dark black body which is completely opaque. From the slow pour I got a tall tan colored head that settles down fairly quick but makes tons of cool lacing on the glass.

Smell: The aroma has a mild character with some modest sweet and roasted maltiness.

Taste / Palate: The mild aroma gives way to a big bold full bodied malty sweetness on the tongue. There are notes of caramel, toffee, molasses, and raisins. It’s 10.2% abv is noticeable but mellow and adds to its overall character. The palate feels smooth with light carbonation in this big heavy offering from Sierra Nevada. It finishes slowly with just a touch of earthy hops. (855 characters)

Photo of richj1970
4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 32 oz growler into snifter,

A: Pours dark black with one to two finger mocha colored head that settles quickly and little to no lacing.

S: Milk chocolate, baked bread, and light coffee notes.

T: Semi-sweet chocolate morsels, and roasted coffee beans.

M: Full bodied and creamy texture. Very easy drinking.

O: This is a wonderful stout. Nice creamy mouthfeel, and chocolate notes. I could crush this all day, and looking forward to trying the barrel aged version. (487 characters)

Photo of Deerslayer210
4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Jet black oil with a dark tan head. The smell is of a plain stout, but hides all the flavor to come. The taste is a rich cocoa coffee. Mouth feel is of light weight oil that hides the high octane it carries. This is an outstanding stout that could be called a coffee stout. Sierra Nevada has one that I will never turn down. Try this one and you will be pleased. once again thanks to the mind! (393 characters)

Photo of MartzMimic
4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark, dark black with a bubbly dark brown head that leaves quickly. Aroma of coffee, malt and plum. Big dark chocolate and coffee taste, along with touches of malt and alcohol. Mouth is thick, but incredibly smooth. This is a very nice stout. (250 characters)

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

Has a jet black appearance with a finger length dark mocha head that dissipates slowly and leaves a thick lacing. Smells of lots of bittersweet chocolate, good amount of coffee, nice roasted element to it, some oak, molasses, maybe some dark fruit as it warms. Taste starts with the bittersweet chocolate and molasses. Then in the middle, a huge dose of roastiness comes through from the roasted barley, along with more molasses. Then the finish is more of the roasted flavors, almost like a smokiness, along with lots of bittersweet chocolate, more molasses, some coffee or expresso, a tiny bit of hop presence, get some fig as well. Definite alcohol presence on the finish as well, but does not detract from the other flavors. Pretty full body with a sticky and creamy mouthfeel. Decent amount of carbonation that livens up the body of the beer. This will age nicely. Nothing too flashy, but a solid imperial stout at an affordable price. (940 characters)

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