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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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796 Reviews
no score

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Reviews: 796
Hads: 4,536
Avg: 4.13
pDev: 23.24%
Wants: 264
Gots: 1,164 | 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
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Reviews: 796 | Hads: 4,536
Photo of LiquidAmber
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Maudite snifter. Pours pitch black with a thin medium brown head with good retention and slippery lacing. Mild aroma of toasted malt, chocolate and a hint of coffee and anise. Flavor is much more intense, very toasty and slightly charred malt, bitter chocolate, licorice and burnt coffee, especially in the finish. Nice medium to heavy, creamy body. Flavor tends more towards the charred spectrum, but the the other flavors support it. Not quite a smoked beer, but leaning in that direction. Wow, this one will be on my regular list, delicious

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Photo of drunkenmess
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Poured a dark charcoal black.
Dark tan frothy head.
Spider web lacing, lasting as well.
Smell of sweetness and strong booze.
Taste is superb, hints of vanilla. Sugar. Burnt malts/toast.
Strong alcohol after taste.
Very nicely done.
Especially for a year old :)
Nailed it!

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Photo of JebBeerFish
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very well constructed and balanced RIS, with the coffee, chocolate and roast flavors playing equal parts. The coffee does emerge as slightly predominant as it warms. For the price point, a high quality product for a very reasonable price.

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Photo of Brad007
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Darker than a moonless night with a nice brown head into my glass. Don't you ever get the feeling that the color of a beer isn't that interesting in the first place?

Cocoa, cream and roasted coffee notes dominate the nose. Dead-accurate. I'm excited to go further.

Dark and foreboding with all the fury of a New England winter. Coffee, cocoa and booziness abound. The latter is subdued, which is a big relief.

Mouthfeel is predictable with more of the roasted coffee than anything else. Much easier to digest when the alcohol stays in the background.

I believe this is a very good example from Sierra Nevada. I wonder if they'll do a yearly release like Bigfoot? They could certainly bump up the ABV, age it in oak, etc. As long as the base beer is done right, anything is possible.

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Photo of Dope
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pitch black pour with a thick, dense medium brown head. Fades very slowly, leaving a nice pattern of lacing behind. Good head retention to boot.

S: Nice roasted malt character. Creamy chocolate, roasted coffee bean and just a touch of char. Emphasis on the creamy, it smells like a borderline milk stout. Touch of smoke in there to boot. Oddly enough, I get almost a pretzel-like aroma sometimes (kinda toasty). Doesn't detract, probably just mistaking something else for it.

T: Thick, creamy roasted malt. Up front it is sweet molasses and vanilla with a bunch of char and smoke. Turns a little more bitter with some roasted coffee bean in the middle and some dark chocolate. Get a little more of that toasty pretzel too, heh. Finishes with lots of anise and some fading bitter, bitter dark chocolate that lingers between sips. Touch of grain alcohol in the finish - just a little bit hot, this one.

M: Thick, full, rich and creamy. Excellent mouthfeel.

O: A really nice RIS. Very thick and full, I loved that part. Excellent complexity, has some of pretty much every roasted malt characteristic that I've had in any stout. Balance is decent though it's a little too smoky and maybe a little too much anise but it's also very fresh (and a little hot, as noted). Overall, quite excellent. Looking forward to storing some away.

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Photo of BEERMILER12
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a pitch black color with 2 fingers worth of brown head

S: Get some nice baker's chocolate, dark roasted malts, hints of coffee and alcohol

T: Follows the nose. Starts off with some bitter-sweet dark chocolate and coffee along with the dark roasted malts. Alcohol pokes its head out slightly, but very well hidden for the most part. Hops kick in towards the end and add some more bitterness

M: Full bodied with moderate carbonation. Very smooth and creamy

O: This one is right up there with Stone IRS and Old Raspy as far as RIS's go. Serves as a good night cap or fireside sipper. And as with all SN brews, a great price-point

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Photo of VelvetExtract
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Ink. Pitch black. Head is of respectable stature. The best part of the head is its color. The head is brown. Legitimate brown. Sierra Nevada consistently makes the best looking beers. What a beaut. Light lacing webs…boy is the head dark.

S-Dark dutch chocolate and French-press espresso. A bit burnt and smoked. The nose does not have any unique traits, but it is very finely tuned. Not super-intense, but aromatic enough.

T-An addition of dark fruit and a lick of black licorice join the gang of dark chocolate, coffee beans and smoke. Like dumping a spoonful of cocoa powder into a dark-roast java. The bitterness stems more from the roast than the relatively modest hoppiness. Narwhal is an oily sea-monstrosity of deliciousness.

M-Full bodied. I can just picture this beer coagulating and turning into gel if left alone for too long. Plenty of carbonation. Booze is masked perhaps too well. This brew could dethrone you if you aren't wary of the ABV. Too drinkable…although it does warm up my cheeks a bit.

O/D-Like Hoptimum, this brew is a textbook Imperial Ale. Also like Hoptimum, Narwhal does not attempt to do anything that hasn't been done before. That is my only true criticism of this brew. It is a scrumptious and blameless Stout, but it offers no unique qualities. Regardless, this brew is a beast!

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Photo of ZAP
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Black with ruby hues..

S-Shaved chips of quality dark chocolate....dark fruits (prunes, raisins, dried black cherries, plums)....some light coffee

T-Rich and malty...hop load is dialed back which I can enjoy....roasty malts lend a decadent expensive chocolate flavor....light coffee...dark fruits still there but lighter than on the nose...a bitter splash of alcohol on the late finish....

M-Big....Rich....Full Bodied...Fits the Bill....right about where it should be....

O-An impressive IMPY...would seem to be on par with most of the heavy hitters...great price too....

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Photo of PatrickBeebe
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

2012 vintage into a snifter

still big huge roasted malts after 3 years in the cellar. the alcohol has definately cooled down drastically. hardly noticeable. not as choclatly as a fresh narwhal, but roastier and even more effervescent. some earthy flavors come through as well. body seems a bit light though.

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Photo of popery
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It's a really pretty stout. The head is a thick blanket of brown foam. Fine bubbles stick to the walls of the glass with each sip. The body is jet black. It's hard to see any color even at the edges of my glass. The aroma is full of chocolate and coffee. There's some caramel and roast beneath those initial notes. It smells rich and sweet. A touch of hops blends into the background. The taste is also quite good. Heavier on the roast and coffee than chocolate. Starts with lots of caramel and chocolate sweetness before the more bitter flavors take over. Mouthfeel is soft and full. Excellent. This is a great example of the style. I wish it was a bit more chocolatey and even less bitter, but I could see my score going up even higher upon subsequent tastings.

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Photo of TheRealBigC
4.18/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Finally! An imperial stout from the wonderful Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. What should be a recurring rotational release, Narwhal is a textbook imperial stout, only better. It is deep black, huge roasted malt smell and taste. The hops come into play in the complex palate, just enough to bring a pleasantly strong bitterness - if you let the sip sit in your mouth a bit, you will be able to pick it apart. The mouthfeel is ridiculously creamy even out of the bottle. I'm glad to see this one come to life. Sierra Nevada is an excellent brewery and it only makes sense that they would make a great RIS.

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Photo of Sammy
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Capone's Restaurant. Dark brown with no head. A rich aged beer aroma. A good carbonation and full mouthfeel. Chocolate is important, coffee-like roasting is incredible. Fruity, a little syrup. Very good drinkability, no obviously booziness, other than its slight resemblance to the new Manhattans.

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Photo of Kegatron
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a tulip glass.

Pours black/very dark brown, topped with a couple fingers of rich mocha head. This retains with a smooth ½ finger, leaving back a robust and sudsy looking cascade of patchy lacing. The aroma smells of chocolate fudge, coffee, dark cherries, a touch of licorice and some spicy sweetness from the alcohol. This smells delicious.

The taste is pretty aggressive with flavor. Bitter citric hops spread out, mingling with sweet notes of cocoa and caramel, before things segue into ripe dark fruit across the back. Roasted coffee character is scattered throughout, leaving zippy espresso on the finish and then finally a deep lingering charred feel. The mouthfeel is full bodied, with a firm prickliness that is overlaid on top of a slick chewiness underneath. You get just the right amount of beefy warmth from that 10% ABV here, which hangs just a touch of lingering fusel spice and sweetness on the tongue after each sip.

For an off-the-shelf and reasonably priced RIS from a major brewery, this was pretty damn solid! There is lots of flavor and complexity here and this just feels like it’s going to age marvelously over the years. I need to grab some more of this for the cellar before it’s gone.

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Photo of glass_house
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours opaque black like an imperial stout should. One finger of creamy off-white head. Aroma is heavy on roasted dark malts with a little burnt coffee, chocolate, and dark fruit.

Taste is heavy on the roasted malts with subtle fig and dark plum in the aftertaste. There are hints of coffee and chocolate, but much less so than many beers of this style. The roasted malt takes center stage. It's a bit of a one trick pony, but when that trick is really really good, that's not a bad thing. The mouthfeel is silky smooth and just slightly creamy. Coats the palate well. Virtually no noticeable alcohol. One of the smoothest 10%+ beers I've ever had.

There are more exciting and complex stouts out there, but this is super solid and never lets me down.

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Photo of CFHMagnet
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I bought a four pack about 3 months ago and have finally brought it up out of the basement. It poured over half a finger of mocha colored head over a deep brown/black body. Has a thin sheet of lacing to show off.

Smells of dark fruits, a tinge of dark chocolate and coffee and ends with mild alcohol.

Starts off slightly sweet with dark fruit, then plunges you into a dark chocolate bath. Coffee, more dark fruit and light alcohol finish her off.

This beer is very carbonated, must be what keeps it from bogging down. It is medium-heavy bodied. Leaves a light coating on the tongue.

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Photo of hopsputin
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

a: a deep, dark, thick black. kinda viscous. solid 2 finger tan head. looks like you could rest a coin on there

s: a nice rich blend of caramel malts, toffee, smooth roasted malts, sweet chocolate, hint of black licorice, brown sugar, molasses, some sticky syrup

t: heavy tasting. alcohol right off the bat. brown sugar & molasses. more alcohol. toasted malts, milk chocolate, some hops in here. hint of root beer, more alcohol

m: its definitely on the fuller side. sticky. this is a sipper for sure. not much carbonation - but its the perfect level

o: this needs to sit for a few years or months me thinks. i can taste a real nice base beer in here, theres just a lot of alcohol in the flavor right now. as it sits in the glass for a bit, those flavors do shine through. its a nice beer, that will be made better as the alcohol flavor dies off

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Photo of ronniebruner
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Easily one of the darkest stouts I have seen in a while. Beer pours a DARK black molasses color, making light impossible to penetrate this brew. The beer has a beautiful, smooth aroma, topped off with a nice amount of lace and head when poured into a glass. A slight hint of chocolate is abundant and the beer is extraordinarily smooth. Sierra Nevada never let me down and in my opinion it is a toss up between them and Widmer as the best American brewers. An absolute must have, so far the best new beer I've tried in the last 6 months or so.

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Photo of FosterJM
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1632nd Review on BA
Bottle to Snifter

2012 Release
Purchased a single 12 from Total Wine, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

App- Poured a very dark brown and then bordered onto a black color. A great amount of density in the center and a little bit of lighter browns on the edges. A nice 1/2 inch head was there and fairly compact and then moved into a nice bit of lace and cling.

Smell- It was a nice RIS. Had a good amount of malt behind it with some roasty notes and bit of the bottle conditioned hop bitterness. A bit of bakers chocolate came into play as well.

Taste- I enjoyed this RIS. It had a great balance behind it. A good hop bitter with a solid milk chocolate and roast offering. The beginning is a bit thin and takes a few sips to warm and release a bit more of the flavors. More grainy that I thought, but still very flavorful.

Mouth- A very solid medium body with a medium grainy carbonation. A good amount of chocolate and malts balanced by a nice amount of bitter.

Drink- I liked it. Couldve been just an off day for me to rate a little low. Might have to grab a 4 pk to sit on.

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Photo of cvm4
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle

A - Appearance is stunning. Rich, black body with a tan mocha head that leaves behind a highway of lacing.

S - Roasted malts, dry bakers chocolate and vanilla.

T - Bitter dark chocolate, roasted malts and a touch of molasses to start off. Bitterness all the way through with coffee on the finish along with a lingering smokeyness.

M - Medium body that is somewhat more carbonated than other RIS I've had. Doesn't feel "thick," but somewhat creamy/chewy and airy all at the same time.

O - Well done SN, well done. Continually impressed with how this beer comes alive as it warms.

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Photo of johnnnniee
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a solid black color with a huge fluffy tan head that slowly recedes to a cap on top. Smells of coffee and dark chocolate with a hint of caramel. Earthy citrusy hop aromas meld nicely with light aromas of dark dried fruits. The flavor is sweet with caramel and chocolate with a nice shot of espresso. A bit of earthy citrus hop flavor but mostly a roasty bitterness in the flavor. Light dark fruit flavors with a hint of alcohol round out the flavor quite well. Medium to thick body with a light to moderate level of carbonation and a sweet creamy velvety mouthfeel. Very nice Imperial Stout I really enjoyed this one and I guess I need to get back to the store to buy a few more to lay down.

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Photo of draheim
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz into a tulip. Pours a jet black w/ a 1-finger tan head.

Aroma is bitter, roasty: coffee, chocolate, dark fruit. All that's missing is the bourbon.

Taste follows nose. Rich bitter chocolate, deep roasted malt, coffee.

Mouthfeel is just right. Medium-bodied, balanced; crosses the palate effortlessly. Nice bitter finish.

Overall a rock-solid imperial stout. Well done Sierra Nevada. Once again a no-nonsense, straightforward, excellent beer.

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Photo of mactrail
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

More nearly black than a lot of beers claimed to be black. An unexceptional head but the sudsy mouthfeel is very pleasant.

Sweet in a rich and forgiving way with a distinct smack of licorice. The hops slowly come on the dominate the aftertaste, but it's never overly bitter. Becomes more tart after some sipping and has some pie cherry-like flavors. Grainy but refined, reminds me of really heavy black German bread with some yeasty intrigue. More licorice in the nose. Hints of bitter chocolate and dark nutty roasted flavors. Smooth and creamy without being unctuous.

The first time I tried this I thought it was exceptional. Certainly one of my top favorites in the RIS style. The neck label says "2012" so I hope it will be an annual delight. From the 12 oz four-pack bought at Ibis Market in San Diego.

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Photo of homebrew311
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served on tap at the Falling Rock. Appearance is opaque black with generous finger of head and heavy lacing that leaves layers behind. Smell is dry and roasty with dark fruits, chocolate, coffee, and grain. Taste is deep and roasty with light sweetness, heavy cocoa and coffee character at the end. Nice well rounded stout. Mouthfeel is heavy with medium carbonation. Overall, a very solid offering from Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of Kendo
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: Poured from the bottle into a Piraat tulip/snifter-type glass. Body looks thick; it's black with a half-finger light-brown head that settles quickly. Some splotches of lace cling to the side of the glass after each sip.

S: Very roasty - roasted barley malt and dark chocolate. As it warms up a bit, the roastiness takes a back seat to the chocolate.

T: Big RIS-type flavors up front: roasted barley malt, roasted coffee beans, charcoal and chocolate - both cocoa/milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Finishes with chocolatey flavors followed by a bitter taste of char/charcoal. Alcohol heat is noted, though more in the feel, as heat going down the chute, than in the taste. Lingering minerally taste of burnt charcoal provides bitter balance to offset the malty flavors up front. As it warms and the palate adjusts to that bitterness, the chocolate becomes more pronounced at the finish, which I like.

M: Definitely full-bodied. Carbonation is modest.

O: Good stuff, as per usual from SN. More roasty than I prefer in my stouts, especially when cold - it's almost Imperial Porter-like in that regard - but not off-putting in any way. Sure, I've had better stouts, but for the price ($10.49 for a 4-pack), I'm not unhappy with this new release.

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Photo of GeckoPunk
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Copied from Beer_Runner... Couldn't have said it better myself... (Although I poured aggressively and got about a finger and a half of Khaki head (Great Lacing!). I was told from someone at Amity Wine and Spirit that it had a stronger hoppiness to it, however, I didn't really pick up on it, although he said it was prominent only when the beer was cold. I had it at cellar temp, leaving me to believe I only tasted the robust stout/porter tastes associated from the beer.

A: An aggressive pour into a standard pint glass produced about half a finger of espresso creama colored head that was very dense. The head is fairly robust and lasted through about half of the glass and left a good lacing. The beer is a midnight black, and light will not even think about passing through it.

S: The aroma is a rich blend of strong, dark roasted coffee, unsweetened chocolate, and roasted barley. There is also some earthy hops making its way into the mix.

T: The taste begins with a big shot of strong coffee along with unsweetened chocolate and roasted barley. Very quickly bold, earthy hops and then some spicy hops join in for a west coast flair.

M: The beer has a heavy and full body that is very smooth and creamy. It feels thick and leaves a slick coating. All-in-all, it has a very satisfying feel.

O: A top notch imperial stout. The coffee, chocolate, and roasted barley flavors mix well together and provide a solid backbone to balance the earthy and spicy hops. It is a fairly complex tasting beer, but each element has its own characteristics, and together they create a bold and pleasing imperial stout.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 796 ratings.