Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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

765 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 765
Hads: 4,453
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 8.96%
Wants: 255
Gots: 1,125 | 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: 765 | Hads: 4,453
Photo of WAbeerfiend
2/5  rDev -51.6%

Poured into a tumbler in late 2013.

A: Opaque black.

S: Roasty malt, brown sugar.

T: Lots of bitterness overwhelmed anything else for me on the first sip.

O: I tried to make it through this with small sips, but the bitterness was too much. The alcohol was very well hidden. This was a drain pour. (301 characters)

Photo of NathanJoyce
2.12/5  rDev -48.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

This was my first Imperial Stout and I feel like I have diabetes.

Are they all this sweet and sickly?

Sure, coffee, chocolate, etc, etc. Thick and no sense of humour.

I'm willing to consider my lack of inexperience as a huge mark against my review, but honestly—this is strong and heavy and SWEET. I love strong, I love heavy, I just can't understand the attraction to the sweet... (386 characters)

Photo of Auracom
2.31/5  rDev -44.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

1/2 share from Dan, thanks man. 6 oz. poured into a Hunahpu's snifter on November 21st, 2012.

A - Standard visual affair - dark brown color, verging on black. Light caramel-colored head. Reduces down to a frothy ring. Marginal lacing but moderate legs.

S - Light milk chocolate, espresso, and honey malts. Very basic an unimpressive.

T - Very bitter throughout the drink, but only partially in the form of dark chocolate and coffee notes. This is a rare instance in which the hops taste like hops (fresh Expedition also comes to mind). Unfortunately, this is a big negative imo. Beyond that, unspectacular coffee beans and a light bready character.

M - Moderate body, low but appropriate carbonation, and a reasonably dry finish.

D - Mediocre. Though I'm sure the cost is reasonable, there's just no reason for me to buy this when I have stuff like Breakfast Stout available. The only thing that impresses me is that this feels and drinks like a 6% beer, not 10.2%. (971 characters)

Photo of JLaw55
2.5/5  rDev -39.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

The booziness of this one was unpleasant. It ruined what else it had going for it, which started out nice enough with layers of cocoa, coffee, and vanilla.

Will not seek out or purchase again. (193 characters)

Photo of Thickfreakness
2.72/5  rDev -34.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A- An onyx black pour with a fluffy and thick deep tan head that floats near three fingers. An absolute ton of sticky lacing grabs the sides of my Bruery tulip and NEVER lets go. Decently oily legs drip and ooze down the rim.

S- Nicely charred malt, bitter German chocolate, grapefruit peel, mango, slight touches of vanilla and pine. More Black IPA than RIS in the traditional sense.

T- WOW! Lots of char and citrus bite down on the tongue. RIS/Cascadian IPA? Reminds me of Storm King or Wookey Jack. Not my favorite type of RIS. Too much citrus, no dark fruit, cocoa, coffee, vanilla or other flavors/aromas that I normally associate in a RIS. The char and citrus just kind of strip your palate.

M- Dry, burnt malt, and too much citrus for what they call a Russian Imperial Stout! RIS' should envelope you in dark fruit, cocoa and coffee IMHO, not this! I'm getting tired of breweries labeling Cascadian/Black IPA's as RIS' just to sell beer!

O- This isn't bad mind you... it's just not what I consider the style to be, and I am a stickler for rating on style. If they said this was a black ipa, it'd be at least a 4! I'd put this up against Wookey Jack, Black Watch IPA, Hop Noir or some other really good Black IPA's. A world class, or even good RIS it isn't. Sorry SN, you usually wow me. Redefine it, and I'll re-review it! (1,335 characters)

Photo of ao125
2.77/5  rDev -32.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Serving Type : 2012 bottle. Poured from a bottle into a Duvel snifter glass

Appearance: Pretty standard really for an imperial stout. Black.

Mouthfeel: Not too thin, not too thick. A little more thin than I'm used to for the style, but not undrinkably so.

Smell & Taste: I'm actually going to group these together. My main problem with this beer is the hopping. Whatever hops were used, are not good. At least not in this style of beer. I feel like Mikkeller uses the same hops in Black Hole... which I'm also not a fan of.

Overall: Overall, I'm not impressed by this beer and I think I'll leave it to the fanboys. All I know is that for me to want to drink this, I need for the hop character to be almost completely gone... and for the price point for the 4-pack, I can buy a lot of other things. (802 characters)

Photo of DRyan
2.92/5  rDev -29.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

2012 Narwhal poured in a Guiness pint glass

A: Looks like you average Imperial Stout, or regular stout really. Has a nice dark head that receded slowly and left some lacing on the glass, but not really as much as I would expect from a IS
S: There's something about the scent I really don't get along with. It's got the roasty heavy malty smells I expect from an IS, but there's something else there I really can't put my finger on that is really not working for me.
T: It's a bit different, maybe more aggressively hopped than your average stout. According to SN, "Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke," but all I really got was the roasted grain and maybe a bit of a hint of coffee, as well as the hop bitterness
M: A bit thin for a stout really, but not bad
D: This is not a bad beer, but not a great one either. For the price, and with the other two entries in the "High Gravity" series from SN that I really like a lot, I expected a lot more from it. (1,048 characters)

Photo of scar
2.93/5  rDev -29.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

What I was looking forward to was a larger version of their stout that was made with Black Malt/ no Rbarley and was bottle conditioned. Unfortunately their stout and this imperial stout are no longer bottle conditioned and they have changed the recipes.

I was confused by this beer, I really didn't know what it was trying to accomplish other than strength and drink ability. Sadly, there are many big stouts far better than this one and I expected more from the great American institution.

Because of my disappointment pls refer to my numerical ratings rather than a written breakdown of this beer. I will leave you with this thought. Sierra Nevada has gotten larger and as a result only bottle conditions the pale ale and a few seasonals. However, this conditioning in the bottle is what made their products really pop and highlighted the craftsmanship and quality. Simply put, this company's beers cease to be interesting since they have stopped bottle conditioning. (972 characters)

Photo of jbertsch
2.97/5  rDev -28.1%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

6 months old.

Poured into a snifter.

Appearance is jet black. Head was fizzy and off-white, almost tan. Head unfortunately fizzled away fast.

Aroma gives off a mixed sense of char, bonfire, salty brine, booze, and some general roastiness.

Its flavor is not big on chocolate or coffee as one might look for. It's a bit nondescript. Some earthiness and a little wood is noticeable. Salty brine again is noticeable. Some alcohol soaked bittersweet chocolate makes a quick appearance on the finish. The flavor is a little syrupy.

Mouthfeel is oily and slick... it's a little detracting from the overall enjoyment.

Overall, I wouldn't buy this again. It's exemplary of the mediocre rut SN's beers can sometimes fall into. They're capable of better in my eyes. In my needs for an imperial stout, there's no need for me to return to this one. However, it's not terrible and what will save it are the leagues of SN fans. (922 characters)

Photo of hophugger
2.98/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Nice deep chocolate brown that just doesn't want any light to peek through, nice!! Relatively light aroma, with maybe a hint of sweet chocolate malt coming through. Taste is bold with hints of bitter chocolate and a touch of sweet malts. I know that the ABV is high, but the mouthfeel is predominately alcohol, taking away I think a little from what I would imagine to be quite a spectacular flavor. Burns ever so slightly as it inches its way across the tongue and down the gullet. Overall, a pretty balanced with what I think is just a touch too much alcohol feel that slightly numbs the mouth... (598 characters)

Photo of mdhobbs
2.99/5  rDev -27.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Just about everything I try from Sierra Nevada has the same ale taste and this Imperial Stout was no different. The stout pour nice and dark with a head that reminds me of chocolate but the pour seemed a little thin. The aroma is ale and the taste had the same bite to it. Maybe too much carbonation as well. I started the the beer being served cold and as it warmed, the taste seemed to improve a little but not to the extent that I try again. (444 characters)

Photo of beertunes
2.99/5  rDev -27.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

This bottle's been kicking around the back of the fridge since I got it, at the release time. About time to hit it. Poured into 10oz goblet. Poured a solid black color, as expected, with less than 1/4 inch of brown head that quickly dissipated to a thin ring, that left surprisingly good lacing.

The aroma was average for the style, perhaps even a bit too roast forward. The flavors were the same mostly bitter roast and alcohol, and the beer was sharp, in a harsh way, not a crisp way. The alcohol wasn't the least bit hidden, and the finish was very harsh.

That overall harshness hurt drinkability a great deal. I had a tough time finishing my 12oz. Overall, while a decent brew, this isn't the Old Rasputin killer SN has seemed to position it as. I won't be having it again, I'll just buy a 4pack of the smooth, even, nearly flawless Raspy. (845 characters)

Photo of 57md
3/5  rDev -27.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Appearance is a dark brown to black with a finger of head that quickly dissipated. The nose has distinctly cidery notes. The taste of straight-up alcohol overwhelms everything else in the flavor profile. The finish is astringent.

This is an offering that is way out of balance and a big disappointment considering I generally have a profound affection for SN beers. (366 characters)

Photo of zeledonia
3.01/5  rDev -27.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours black in the glass, light coming through coffee brown at the edges. Two fingers of mocha brown head, good retention and nice lacing. Solid.

Smell is faint for an imperial stout. Light cocoa makes up the most of it. A little milky. Not bad, but I want more potency.

Taste starts out roasty, and quickly takes a downturn. I initially thought it was chili pepper spice, but now it's coming through as an off, bitter, cardboard-paper-glue sludge. This is truly foul. I'll drink enough to finish my review, but no more. So I drank a little more, and a strange thing happened. It warmed up, that nastiness faded, and it became, well, consumable. And then it warmed up a bit more, and it became passable. Still not something I'd call good, but no longer something I'd call bad.

Mouthfeel is fine. At least, what I can perceive through the nastiness is fine. Heavy body, medium carbonation, lasting finish.

This beer is weird. Based on comparisons to other reviews, I wonder if I got a bad bottle. Or maybe my sense of taste is just that different. As it warmed up, the bad flavors faded, and it became, well, okay. (1,117 characters)

Photo of bum732
3.04/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

S: Dry, roasty cocoa and coffee. Slight vanilla.

L: Thick, viscous and black. Tan head that dissipates quickly.

T: Very dry, roasty stout. Coffee and dry cocoa like flavors dominate. Slight coffee sweetness with slight dark fruits. Finishes quite dry with residual cocoa sweetness.

M: Medium full mouthfeel, medium low carbonation. Alcohol fairly well hidden.

A very dry, roasty RIS. Reminds me a lot of Old Rasputin. A nice change to a lot of sweet RIS's, but i feel like its a little one noted. Should be interesting what a little age does to this beer. (559 characters)

Photo of bcsbeer
3.04/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Warmed up before serving in a room temperature glass.

A: Jet black very small brown head that left the scene in a hurry.

S: Best part of the beer. Roasted malts, espresso, dark fruit.

T: This is a malt bomb. All the flavors are DARK all most to the point of being burnt. Coffee chocolate raisin. Big alcohol presents distracts from the flavors. It tasted more like 16% than 10%.

M: Heavy and thick and lifeless, like a glass of crude oil. I thought about trying to float a ball bearing. Very low carbonation.

O: I'm a big fan of Sierra Nevada and the style (RIS). Is seemed like they were more focused on the high ABV than anything else. This one conjured up images of the dead sea. I like a little more life in my beer. Maybe I would have better luck with it on tap. For now I will stick with the offerings from Old Rasputin and Stone. (842 characters)

Photo of utfiero
3.06/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 2.75

Color- black leather. Medium, full mocha head.

Aroma- strong alcohol notes, coffee, and chocolate.

Taste- Starts rough and strong, very roasted malt with strong alcohol and finishing bitter, hoppy, and roasted (reminiscent of burnt bitter coffee). Like a Narwhal piercing my palate! 60 IBUs. Reminds me a little of a jagged version of Old Rasputin.

Consumed on 11-23-2013. Poured from 355 ml bottle into a Liefmans Goudenband glass (my preferred all purpose beer tasting glass). (483 characters)

Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.13/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle into a pint glass. Really looking forward to this one.

A: Pours a very dark red color. It's so, so close to being pitch black, but not quite. The head is a two finger khaki shade. Retention is decent if not spectacular, and a nice layer of lacing is left behind.

S: This pops with chocolate, coffee, roasted malts, some leafy hops...and a LOT of alcohol. This smells really boozy even for 10.2%, and it's not a particularly refined alcohol presence. Even worse, it seems to detract from the rest of the brew. But of course, given the chance to warm up, all its alcohol calms down - slightly.

T: There's no two ways around it - this mutha is harsh. Roasted malts open this one up, sandwiching a cream-laden coffee middle with its boozy, fruity finish. Some hoppiness appears in the aftertaste. I would have hoped that the alcohol would at least create some nuance and depth, alas no; it's not dead simple, but it should be more complex considering. Giving it the chance to warm/open up doesn't improve it much either. Maybe it makes it *slightly* less harsh.

M: It's creamy and lush feeling, like an imperial stout should be. I'm also kind of glad it isn't particularly dry finishing, because all it would really do is expose the alcohol even further. Carbonation isn't really a factor.

O: This could be my biggest letdown of 2013. It had many things going for it to be topnotch - SN's reputation, well received on BA, inexpensive - but in the end was nearly ruined by the generic harshness. My other bottles are going in the cellar; there's a very good RIS underneath this all, and aging it may be exactly what the doctor ordered. (1,648 characters)

Photo of mrandypandy
3.19/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

12oz bottle purchased at Green's, in Atlanta.

A - Pours a jet black, big mocha head that recedes down. Nice sticky lacing on initial pour also dies down. All-in-all, pretty.
S - Roasted malts and hops, not much else though.
T - Big and roasty. There's quite a bit of a harsh bitterness as well that I'm not quite a fan of.
M - Medium body, good carbonation, but the bitterness lingers.
O - Not a bad, but there are much better imperial stouts out there. I had heard some good things about this beer, but was slightly disappointed. Too much hops/bitterness, and not enough malts to balance it out. Reminds me a bit of other highly hopped imperial stouts like Sweetwater's Happy Ending, and Victory's Storm King. Needs time to sit and mellow out. (745 characters)

Photo of eric5bellies
3.21/5  rDev -22.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Drank from my Duvel tulip

A - Pours a deep dark ebony colour witha tow fingered coffee caloured head that reduces quickly to a lacing film.

S - Booze, coffee malts with vanilla and small chocolate.

T - Up front some nice molassis malt, followed by combined coffee and chocolate. The finish is rough and boozy and a long sicky finish.

M - Full and low carbonation. Not silky

O - An ok RIS but there are far better examples. Not sure why its "exceptional" Would rather the Sam Smiths or Courage over this one (511 characters)

Photo of chanokokoro
3.21/5  rDev -22.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a Sierra Nevada branded snifter

Pours a very deep dark brown topped with a two and half finger fluffy beige head. Above average retention, considerable amount of splotchy lacing as the head slowly recedes. Bakers chocolate and phenol alcohol on the nose. Opens with dark chocolate, roasted dark chocolate malt and a with just a hint of dark fruit midpalate. Finishes dry with a touch of roasted espresso, warming alcohol, and continued notes of cocoa. The lighter sider of full bodied, moderate carbonation, slick mouthfeel. A decent Russian Imperial Stout, but not very complex. The roasted chocolate malt flavor tends to dominate and at the same time lacks depth. I'm looking forward to revisiting this brew again to see if it delivers more the second time around. (793 characters)

Photo of PincheNorteno
3.23/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Picked up a single 12 oz bottle, poured into a pub glass. It was a bit underwhelming. How does this qualify as an imperial stout? My benchmarks for this class is Bells Expedition Stout, and Narwal seemed more like a porter.

The mouthfeel was far too light and the flavors were not intense enough for me.
Dark roasted malt flavor, medium body, notable clarity and overall thinness. Thin tan head, hints of soy sauce and mild bitterness. I tested this beer in a selection of a dozen stouts and it was near the bottom of my list. (528 characters)

Photo of Beejay
3.26/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

A: Dark black with a massive full dark tan head.

S: Sweet dark chocolate, with toffee and notes of dried fruit. A little bit of earthiness in the finish.

T: The first taste is caramel sweet, with a touch of dried fruit. The sweet flavor is followed by dark chocolate and espresso, and the brew finishes out with a hit of bitter earthiness.

M: Fairly thick body, the carbonation is medium, the finish slightly drying and there is a lingering hop bitterness.

O: Overall I like this beer, but the finish is a little harsh for me.. The lingering bitterness doesn't quite round out the finish like I would like it to. (620 characters)

Photo of Gorilla_Biscuits
3.26/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

It's really malty with a hint of coffee, for some reason I think it has a rubbing alcohol taste to it as well which really bums me out, otherwise it's good. (156 characters)

Photo of kitch
3.28/5  rDev -20.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

12oz bottle packaged on 6 November 2014 as per the back label. Poured into a Westmalle goblet.

A: It poured pitch black with minimal head and low retention.
S: Mocha chocolate with hints of espresso at first but followed by some alcohol.
T: Bittersweet chocolate with some coffee. Later on some booze does show.
M: Smooth, creamy and velvety. Very light carbonation.
O: I thought that this was a decent stout. Taste wise its not the best of its style but it is certainly solid. I’ve also heard that it ages well so I may have to find another bottle to age a few years. (571 characters)

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 765 ratings.