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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

821 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 821
Hads: 4,657
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,235 | 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: 821 | Hads: 4,657
Photo of warrenout330
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a unibrue snifter

A- pours a black as night color... big thick khaki colored head...fades to a bubbly ring around the glass... leaving smears of lace to the glass

S- whiffs of bitter sweet chocolate, slight burnt charred ... roasted coffee grains, a smeel that reminds me of a slight perique tobacco

T- slighty like the smell... big bold flavors of bakers chocolate, bitter coffee, slight bitter burnt tobacco leaf... huge hop bitterness

M- smooth and creamy... oily body due to the minimal carbonation... big hop bitterness that leads for dry bitter finish, cleans up nicely

O- I've been waiting for this to be delivered into my store ... and only 3 cases made into our county ... this doesn't disappoint... maybe my new favorite RIS, well done sierra

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

Appearance - dark as hell. Smell - very dark. Taste - dark chocolate and coffee. About all I get, but delicious and balanced. Overall - had on tap. Can't drink a lot but would get again.

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Photo of AmitC
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
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.

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Photo of BeerWizard
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%

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.

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Photo of chinchill
4.24/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12 oz 2012 bottle.

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

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

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

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Photo of yesterdayfaraway
4.24/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Black with one finger of off white head. Smells sweet cola-like. Taste is very unusual for the style, a definite cola sweetness. Dark juicy fruit flavored, with a lot of carbonation. I like the juiciness, and no trace of alcohol.

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Photo of do_ob
4.24/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle into a New Belgium snifter. Very dark brown on the pour and settles pitch black in the glass. About 1/2 a finger of light brown foam initially, but bubbled down to a thick lacing pretty fast. Big, and assertive on the nose. One of those you can smell from a couple feet away. Dark chocolate, roasted malt, expresso, and tons of dark fruit - something I don't remember picking up on with last year's batch. Overall, the aroma is roasty and sweet with a small amount of alcohol. The taste is pretty well on-par with the aroma. Just an insane amount of roasted malt, bitter chocolate, coffee, and a small touch of booze on the back end. Velvety smooth feel. Still an awesome beer.

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Photo of craftbeersweden
4.24/5  rDev +2.4%
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!

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Photo of genesisgrunge
4.24/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

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

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Photo of mynie
4.24/5  rDev +2.4%
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.

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Photo of alarmclock314
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle, dated 9/10/15. Pours black with a smaller sized tan head, good lacing. Smells of roasted malt and sweet licorice. The taste follows almost exactly with roasted malt, licorice, and some cocoa. Moderate sweetness and less malt than with other RIS's. Above average body and medium carbonation. Overall, it's a well done RIS, but could use flavors other than licorice.

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Photo of KYGunner
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

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Photo of smakawhat
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

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Photo of SometimesIfart
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

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Photo of JackieTH
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

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Photo of Suds
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

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Photo of kagent777
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

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Photo of DIM
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

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Photo of dandandan79
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

this was a great surprise, a excellent stout, great taste, strong and great aftertaste, chocolate taste.
picked it up last minute and and glad i did. will get again.

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Photo of secondtooth
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

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Photo of Bierguy5
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

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Photo of NoLeafClover44
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

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Photo of mattcrill
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

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Photo of tectactoe
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an inky black color, thick as can be - honestly, one of the thickest looking beers I've ever seen. Tan head, decent retention. Aroma hits with a handful of roasted malts, as expected; the bottom comes up with some bittersweet chocolates and deep, warming alcohol notes in the background. A light leathery and mild tobacco aroma as it warms, too. The taste comes through with a canvas of roasted malts upon which a painting of mild charring, smoke, deep cocoa, light black licorice, faint dark fruit sweetness, and bitterness almost resembling espresso is displayed. The sweetness comes in hardest in the form of licorice, but is met diligently with a bitterness that is present from nearly start to finish; slightly ashy and mildly floral and spicy - I'm assuming this bitterness is from the hop character, although some of it tastes like that old bitter espresso bean flavor, too. Burnt, smoked wood in the aftertaste with some ashy and leafy bitter notes. Slightly sweet, but bitterness rules the aftertaste when all is said and done. Silky as hell, super creamy and thick.

I was shocked at how delicious this was, but at the same time, I should have expected it. Sierra Nevada puts out a damn good product, no matter what it is, and Narwhal is no exception. For this price, this is a steal. Great flavors, huge body, amazing mouthfeel - if you like RISs, give this one a shot.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
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.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 821 ratings.