Dismiss Notice
Sneak peek! BeerAdvocate magazine #104 (September 2015) featuring Leah & Oscar from Highland Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more ...

Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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

774 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 774
Hads: 4,470
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 8.96%
Wants: 258
Gots: 1,135 | 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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 774 | Hads: 4,470
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 (859 characters)

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. (543 characters)

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
12oz

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. (1,095 characters)

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. (597 characters)

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. (697 characters)

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. (449 characters)

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. (810 characters)

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. (418 characters)

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. (1,252 characters)

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. (1,611 characters)

Photo of Sarlacc83
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle, split.

A: Pure black. Mocha head fades to thin lacing. Sticks to the glass.

N: Chocolate, malt, coffee. Some tobacco and leather. Has a rye type pepperiness. Deep and rich. Molasses. Black licorice.

T: Licorice, chocolate, tobacco, pepper and earth. This is very ’spicy’ and sprucey. Has quite a bit of hop character to match the malty sweetness. Excellently put together if perhaps a bit green.

M: Perfect. Heavy without becoming cloying. Alcohol never distracts.

O: Sierra Nevada waited too long to release an RIS. This should be considered a standard. I’ll be buying more to age. (611 characters)

Photo of Franziskaner
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Dark black like crude oil. Even the minimal layer of head is tinged black. The nose is very appealing dark roasted barley. This is not to be taken lightly. Mouthfeel is silky and thick. Dark roasted barley, treacle, and molasses. This might be better in February rather than the middle of August. This is a real treat for imperial stout lovers like myself. A must try! (368 characters)

Photo of larryarms847
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours pitch black and sticky, but looks a bit thin with a thin layer of light khaki foam.

Dark chocolate, vanilla, espresso, and earthy hops.

Huge roasty character, vanilla, espresso beans, and chocolate.

Heavy-bodied, light carbonation, sticky, leans thinner than I was hoping.

Overall, while outstanding in flavor and aroma, the mouthfeel was a bit thin for my taste. (374 characters)

Photo of bushbeer75
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 oz brown bottle

Narwhal Imperial Stout filled my snifter with a jet black color producing a dark tan creamy and bubbly 2-finger tan head that stuck around and finally shrank to foamy lacing. The aroma is of smoky roasted malt, chocolate, and dark toffee. The taste is malt forward with notes of cocoa, strong roasted coffee and just enough hops to keep the malt from being too aggressive. The mouth feel is full, creamy smooth and rich with a heavy body.

Narwhal is a very enjoyable Stout and one that any Stout lover must try. Nice job Sierra Nevada! (561 characters)

Photo of kdahnke123
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a snifter at room temperature. 2013 Vintage.
A - Poured a nice dark color with a medium brown, quickly dissipating 1/4" head.
S - Chocolate and coffee upfront with a balanced hop and malt finish.
T - A little bite from the hops at first, followed by medium roast coffee/chocolate with a bite of the alcohol at the end. The malt is somewhat subdued with the rest of the flavors going on.
M - Very smooth, medium viscosity mouthfeel. Very little carbonation.
O - A very good example of an imperial stout. The incorporation of 10% alcohol and 60 IBU into a beer with this kind of balance is well done. Everything is in good proportion to one another. (660 characters)

Photo of RblWthACoz
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Off my first sip, I can tell that this is a beer that would benefit from some aging. Bright berry tones seem to show quite large with a lot of malty sweetness. Mild roasted thing going on too. Extremely smooth feel. Excellent level of carbonation. Way too easy to drink for a 10.2% beer. Definitely a good brew. I'd get a case and let them rest for 1-2 years, if I was going to invest the coin. (394 characters)

Photo of bnes09
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ink black and completely opaque. Shallow tan head with descent retention and blotches of lacing.

Aroma of coffee, chocolate, peet and nuts.

Dense biscuity malt backbone. Aggressive roasted coffee, smooth dark chocolate, smoked meats and roasted almonds. Prune sweetness. Assertive herbal, earthy hop character. Very well balanced.

Full bodied with a rich texture. Solid carbonation for the strength.

Great imperial stout. (425 characters)

Photo of gr0g
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Opaque, black appearance, capped with a finger's worth of dark tan foam. Head retention is good, while lacing is minimal. Has the rich, imposing look that an imperial stout should have. Char, molasses, and dark chocolate feature prominently on the nose. Some fusel presence on the back-end of the aroma, though not much (and not uncommon for an unaged imperial stout). Base aroma is very nice, just needs more "pop" to merit a higher score.

Narwhal has a very nicely balanced flavor profile. Upfront sweetness is tamed by bitterness on the mid-palate through to the finish. I wouldn't mind a little less bitterness to let the rich, chocolatey flavors to stand out more. Flavors of cacao nibs and black coffee astringency. Mouthfeel has a nice weightiness to it, while there's an appropriate level of carbonation. Alcohol heat is present but doesn't jump out and become distracting.

Narwhal is destined to become a top value imperial stout, widely available and of high quality. Compares very favorably with Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout in that regard. Another great beer by Sierra Nevada. (1,092 characters)

Photo of magictacosinus
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

SN, you are incredible. You know that I'd for sure drink something called a "narwhal imperial stout." Poured out of a 12oz bottle into a snifter.

The color is expected - a impenetrable, dark slick that smoothly pours out into the glass and produces a surprisingly huge head that carries its way all the way to the top of the glass. My God are the alcohol leggings large on this one. They're literally climbing to the top in long strings of carbonation! This is extremely thick and filling in appearance. Nothing could slice through this, and the generous carbonation definitely shines here - no matter how long I let this sit, it never lost its head completely. Simply a stunning take on the RIS style. It definitely made my stomach slightly retreat in fear looking at it.

The smell is predictably boozy, but there's a lot more going on for it than that. There are big bold, baker's chocolate aromas, combined with deep coffee grounds (resembling French roasted beans), and a combination of dark fruits and grassy zest. A best way to describe it is a combo of coffee, cocoa, buckwheat, dark cherries, and tamarind. All coated with insanely strong alcohol. Definitely good, but that alcohol kinda makes me a bit dizzy after whiffing at it long enough.

The flavor is a bit different though - just like Mission Dark Seas, this is an example of a West Coast RIS where the alcohol is not as present in the flavor than in the aroma. That is NOT to say that it isn't - this is a 20.8 proof beer after all - but it only shows up way at the finish. Instead, there are strong, dark malty flavors that get to the palate, combined with more coffee that chocolate, and topped with a unique yet vicious hop zest. This is definitely not for the faint of heart. I had to go really slow with this thing. The alcohol finish was ridiculous as it warmed up, but thankfully none of the flavors were thrown off. The mouthfeel as pretty much as perfect as its appearance. Lots of surprising carbonation, but also a near syrupy, bready thickness that never let itself go.

Of these latest "extreme" offerings from SN, this is one that I preferred a hundred times over Hoptimum. There's an incredible amount of balance going on here, which is saying something as this one of the most intense takes on this style I've had since Old Rasputin. However, it is quite easy to finish, but it requires patience. That alcohol will get to your head if you're not careful, and it's dry enough to be taken slowly but never gets astringent so that it will left alone. Even though I definitely won't be having this every day, it's truly fantastic one from SN! (2,623 characters)

Photo of NWer
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I was really looking forward to this beer. I always anticipate what Sierra Nevada is doing lately to keep engaged with producing great beer in spite of their growth.
Pours dark brown into a tulip.
Minimal head. Carbonation is there, it just doesn't produce much foam.
Burnt dark chocolate nose & taste. A little edgy that should smooth out over time.
Mouthfeel, burnt edginess lingers. Not to the point of distraction however. Very enjoyable with a great price point for the style. (481 characters)

Photo of timontheroad
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a dark black, only a little foam that faded to a light film, left no lacing. The aroma was of dark chocolate, slight coffee, sweet malt, and just a hint of dark fruit. Taste was of sweet chocolate and coffee, with some bitter hoppiness and alcohol burn. Mouthfeel was medium bodied, with some alcohol, but not too much. Just right. Overall, this beer is super tasty, can't wait to see what a year of cellaring has done to it. (435 characters)

Photo of hreb
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2014 edition. 12oz bottle, dated 08/13/14, served in pint glass. Beer pours pitch black and slick like oil, with nearly zero head. Dark aromas suggest molasses. Flavors are immediate and complex: layers of toasted barley, burnt toast, treacle, and of course ethanol, but there's also an assertive hop flavor. I find the combination spicy, very appropriate for winter, and decided American (a high gravity, high IBU stout? why not!). Mouthfeel is great, low carbonation, which is perfect for the style. (508 characters)

Photo of WunderLlama
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottle poured into a glass

Black liquid capped by brown bubbly lid

Aroma of sweet coffee malt

Taste off roast coffee, bittersweet on the tip and sides of the tongue

Smooth, roast coffee aftertaste

Nice beer (214 characters)

Photo of WillCarrera
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle, bottled on October 25, 2012, poured into a tulip glass.

A- Pours pitch black, very thick looking, produces a couple fingers of mocha head that recede to a collar, leaves spotty lacing.

S- Lots of roasted grain, coffee, dark chocolate, booze is just barely noticeable.

T- Big roasted flavors, lots of coffee, dark chocolate and maybe a bit of spice, cocoa, and just a little bit of molasses. The booze is pretty spot on and lends some fruity warmth. The flavor has a very nice balance of roasted and sweet flavors, although it inclines a bit towards roasted and hoppy bitter flavors.

M- Full-bodied, has a smooth, rich feel, alcohol warmth is perceptible but isn't hot.

O- A really tasty RIS, very drinkable and a great addition to Sierra Nevada's seasonal beers, good stuff. (793 characters)

Photo of TheFizzinator
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A blackened mass came but of my 2013 Narwhal bottle. Like most stouts no light is getting through that liquid. poured about 1/2 finger of head. The smell is quite nice espresso is what I'm getting from it but it's quite a hoppy persona to it too. Has a very sweet taste profile, milk chocolate, espresso, ground coffee beans and a touch of booze too. A semi syrupy liquid wlith medium carbonation goes down.

Overall, I quite liked this one. Would be much better with some age on it. Relieve some of that boozy quality and bring up some of the more subtle flavors in it. (570 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 774 ratings.