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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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798 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 798
Hads: 4,543
Avg: 4.13
pDev: 23.24%
Wants: 265
Gots: 1,173 | 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: 798 | Hads: 4,543
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of jtierney89
3.3/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Incredibly deep brown color, almost black, from what i can tell good clarity and about two fingers of mocha colored head. Charcoal heavily roasted grains, bit of asphalt, mocha and dark cocoa.

Not as heavily bodied as I thought it would be but a pretty good beer. I expected a bit more from sierra, but it's a pretty standard imp stout. Faintly creamy, bitter black chocolate, dark roast coffee, herbal hop, low astringency, bitter malts and bitter hops finishes dry. Overall good, clean tasting, on the heavier side of medium bodied, lingering burnt coffee, black chocolate and earthy hop flavors. A touch soapy and minty.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.3/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Heard the hype so I picked this one up. I'm not a big Sierra Nevada fan but I'm hoping this will change my mind. 10.20% ABV confirmed. 12 fl oz brown glass bottle (2012 vintage) with standard pressure cap and an appealing sleek label acquired at Cap N Cork Junior Market earlier today and served into a New Belgium stem-goblet in me gaff in low altitude Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California. Cost for a four pack was $10.99; it seemed a bit steep seeing as Old Rasputin was on the shelf below it for $8.99 per four pack.

Served slightly chilled; I'm trying to be better about serving my imperial stouts at a warmer temperature. Allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

Opened without issue; no upsurging or other problems.

A: Pours a one finger attractive tan-gold colour head of nice thickness and cream. Retention is fairly good (~one and half minutes) for the ABV and style. Body colour is a nontransparent solid dark black; yet it's weak. This is not the jet black of Speedway Stout, it's a bit grey actually. Hrm. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show. Carbonation appears fine based on the appearance. Pretty predictable for the style; there's nothing unique or special here that jumps out at me.

Sm: A bit of roast but not enough to suggest a strong roasty backbone. Hints of coffee and chocolate. Dark malts. Minimal hopping. Caramel, cream. It's a bit musty. Not at all assertive or bold like I'd expect from a beer in this style. Comes off quite tame, actually; I get more complex aromas from other imperial stouts even at much colder serving temperatures. No yeast or alcohol comes through. The coffee note is refined and milky; it reminds me of Founder's Breakfast Stout in that regard - which is always a good thing. An average to moderate strength aroma. I'm excited to try it.

T: Okay. Dark malts form the foundation, with emergent sleek coffee nearer the climax. Some roast in the late second act, but as predicted there's not enough. Minimal hopping if any. No yeast comes through. Alcohol is surprisingly well hidden - a highlight of this beer. Caramel, pleasant cream. The coffee is particularly well handled and blends in with the other flavours subtly. I do get some soy sauce character, but it's minimal. Some coffee grains lend it a pleasant near earthiness that pairs well with the sweeter malt characteristics. It lacks bold complexity or refined subtlety, but it's a nice little imperial stout in terms of flavour.

Mf: Unfortunately, the mouthfeel is strange. Entirely too slick and smooth and wet, which is nice for the smooth subtle coffee in the second act but is terrible for the style. Amping up the roast would lend it needed coarseness and dryness. It's also quite heavy on the palate without much reason to be. Too thick and even overbearing. Luckily, carbonation is adequate - which is to say it's bit less than you'd expect of most middle of the road more pedestrian styles. It's a bit chewy, but all around pleasant. Though it's a bit scratchy right on the finish (coffee grains, maybe?); I don't know what's going on there. Suits the flavours alright, but certainly doesn't feel custom tailored to them.

Dr: Hides its ABV pretty well, but it's still far from highly drinkable. More of a sipper that lacks enough flavour to justify its low drinkability. At this price point, I'm not disappointed with it. That said, I wouldn't buy it again. I'd much sooner reach for Old Rasputin or Ten Fidy if I'm looking for a budget imperial stout. This is one that fans of the style should try, and it's a good beer in the style for getting drunk. I'd try it on nitro, but otherwise it's rather forgettable. Sorry, Sierra Nevada, it'll take more than this to make me a fan.

High C+

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Photo of ccrida
3.33/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Appearance is thick black with a small, dark tan/light brown head, quickly dissipating, no lace.

Smell is soft, sweet malt sugars. Robust alcoholic character.

Taste is robust and rich. Sugary, caramel, sweet alcohol. A little raisiny. Not a lot of depth here, the 10.2 is pretty bruising.

Mouthfeel is dry and thick.

Drinkability is ok, this is a big, brash, old school RIS. I like the fact that it's all malt and not hoppy, but it's too hot.

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Photo of macaronnie68
3.33/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Just wasn't what I was looking for. I had been drinking some ales beforehand so maybe that affected my taste buds. But this just had too syrupy a taste for me.

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3.4/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

It pours a jet black color with a nice head that retains decent.stouts are hard to rate in appearance To me they are black and not much else.

The smell is good,you get coffee in the front then the alcohol just ruins it in the back end,maybe a little coco back there too.

The taste is not bad just the booze overpowers it,after a few drinks that's pretty much all you taste.

The mouthfeel is a little thin IMO.

Overall this is not a great imperial stout,too much booze taste.if Sierra Nevada can hide the abv better it would improve this one drastically

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Photo of fourstringer
3.41/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Samuel Smith pint glass. Moderately aggressive hand. Stamp on the bottle reads: 3221220:57. Labeled as 2013.

A: Pours a dark ruby, but is opaque blackness in the glass. 1/2 finger caramel head. Fair retention. Minimal lacing. Impressive body, but head is lacking.

S: Roasted malt. Coffee. Faint dark fruit. Alcohol. A bit subdued overall.

T: Tangy, roasted malt semi-sweetness into a mostly dry, chocolatey finish. Dark roast coffee. Black licorice. Definite alcohol presence. There is a medicinal element that develops and detracts.

M: Moderate to full bodied with a moderate carbonation. No complaints here.

O: Not terrible, but this struck me as a bit harsh and unrefined. Pretty boozy. Kinda reminded me of Nyquil. The green kind. Color me disappointed.


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Photo of Hoptometrist
3.43/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Served from the bottle into a globed glass

A- Poured a vicious vlack with a small dark mocha colored head that dissipated quickly. Some minimal splashy lace was left.

S- Big licorice, toasted coconut, and big whiskey notes. Very strong aroma with lots of booze on it

T- Follows the aroma very closely. Huge licorice notes, big whiskey notes, some toasted coconut, notes and some roastiness. Kind of an odd sour twang on the finish. Incredibly bitter stout, by far the most bitter stout I have ever had.

M Pretty thick mouthfeel, very creamy and smooth, almost velvety, big warming from the alcohol, and some alcohol burn

O- Great mouthfeel, but not one of my favorite imperial stouts. Pretty boozy and the sour finish is odd.

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Photo of AilidoBrew
3.45/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

poured into a Chouffe 250mL tulip

A: beautiful opaque with a thick head that dissipates at an average rate and leaves a heavy ringed lacing

S: not much of a smell considering the style; I could see myself mistaking the beer style (for an English brown) if I judged it by smell alone

T: very roasty; dark coffee mainly but followed by unsweetened cocoa: the bottle nails it by calling it "baker's cocoa and dark roasted coffee" but I would superimpose one for the other

M: the alcohol cuts through the thickness and gives it a lighter perceived body; silky and thick but with a lighter finish

O: a real nice R. I. Stout. Silky and smooth with a mellow alcohol burn masked by layers of roast. Hides it's true strength well. Lightens it's body by it's high octane nature while simultaneously hiding said nature in waves of roast. Let it warm some to bring out more depth and dark chocolate notes.

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Photo of Mdog
3.47/5  rDev -16%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pitch black with a huge head. Looks great.

Smell: Not much. Mild chocolate shows up eventually.

Taste: Dark chocolate builds in intensity through the glass. Dark fruits hang in the background. Gives a mild dark chocolate bitterness throughout.

Overall: Started out looking like a dream, but didn't deliver excellence in the aroma or taste. Some might be my personal preference in that I like imperial stouts to be a little sweeter than this, but it still didn't give a particularly memorable experience. Kind of middle of the road, not too sweet, not too hoppy.

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Photo of Jeffo
3.48/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A case of this actually made it to Amsterdam. Picked it up at De Bierkoning.

From a bottle into a snifter
Vintage: 2013

APPEARANCE: A dark brown, opaque pour yields a three finger, medium looking, creamy, tan head with excellent retention. Black body with no carbonation evident. Head fades to a full wisp and sticks to the sides of the glass. A faint wisp and ring remain until the end leaving some nice lacing down the glass. Pretty good looking stout. Needs to be even blacker for top marks.

SMELL: Dark baker's chocolate, light coffee, cream, some caramel notes and roasted aromas on the nose. Tobacco in there, as well as some leather too. Could be bolder, but complex and interesting enough.

TASTE: Baker's chocolate again, caramel and leather up front, then a big, roasted coffee finish with some burnt and charred malts at the swallow. Bolder and lingering finish of roasted coffee bitterness, burnt and charred malts, leather, tobacco, and some light vanilla cream. Quite burnt and roasted, with lots of other complex flavors as well.

PALATE: Medium body and medium levels of carbonation. A little light on the palate and too prickly for the style, but goes down okay and finishes somewhat mouth-coating. A bit of a burn at the swallow and a touch of heat lingers.

OVERALL: Pretty good stuff. Lots of burnt and charred notes with tobacco definitely give it a European tough. If you like this one, you'll probably like the stuff coming out of De Molen in Holland and various Danish breweries that deserve some praise. The feel is slightly lighter on this, which holds it back a bit. Fill that out and it would support the flavors that much more. Still, this is a solid effort worth checking out if you get the chance. If it were reasonably priced, I'd go back for seconds.

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Photo of corby112
3.49/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours viscous, pitch black and completely opaque with a two finger mocha head that slowly settles into a lasting ring. Decent retention with streaks of soapy lacing left behind.

Roasted malt aroma with a stronger hop presence than I expected. Floral and earthy with resinous, grassy pine character countering the burnt malt, coffee bean and oatmeal notes. I shouldn't be too surprised coming from SN but the hops are a bit too prominent for this style, in my opinion, taking away from the robust malt profile a bit too much. Even after warming up considerably, the nose is still pretty tame on this beer.

Medium bodied with a deeply roasted dark malt flavor that's complimented by a bitter, earthy hop presence that lingers into a slightly boozy finish. The hops aren't as strong as the nose hints at but there's still prominent in the flavor with sticky pine needle bitterness and subtle citrus. The dryness of the hops compliment the bitterness of the roasted malts. Hints of burnt toast, oatmeal, bitter dark chocolate and espressoo/coffee bean followed by lighter chocolate and alcohol sweetness. The high is relatively well masked but there's definitely some warmth lingering in the finish. Overall, this is a pretty good stout but the strong hop character hinders the malt flavors a bit too much for my preference. Decent but nothing out of the ordinary. Great value for the price of the four pack though.

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Photo of mlockman
3.5/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I am disappointed that neither my rating nor review for this brew were saved online. As such, I recall retrospectively that despite its high rating I was not impressed by this beer. While hop-flavor was present it was subdued given the hop-forward flavor profile of many of Sierra Nevada's other beers. Malt flavors were certainly present, but I found them to be one-note and and far from complex. This is a very good basic Russian Imperial Stout, but the flavor was not nuanced, and thus it was no more than that to me: basic. Perhaps with some barrel-aging or cellaring it takes on other characteristics?

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Photo of dank203
3.5/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

tulip. this ones quite dark. about a finger of dark head, leaves a nice film on top once it settles. the nose packs an abundance of dark fruits, and a lot of booze. a bit of chocolate, very sweet, like chocolate covered raisins I suppose. Ashy and boozy are the two main adjectives I'd use

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Photo of budgood1
3.5/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.5

pours out an opaque onyx black colour. large, thick and frothy light brown coloured head that has a great deal of creamy staying power. about perfect. the nose on this big stout is a bit non-descript...some cocoa and nougat with some NW hopping. taste profile is a straight up combination of creamy sweetened dark chocolate and yeast infused dark roasted malts. none too complex in the malt/yeast interaction, so no real layers of flavours... just char, java and a hint of sour. this imperial stout has a beefy hop attribute to it, enough that the pine and pith flavours are able to fight their way through the dark cauldron and murky depths of black malt madness. a nice, healthy back end bitterness is also obviously detectable...and it all lingers for a blistering finish. the body on this stout is beefy and sturdy, no detractions there. mouthfeel is silky smooth, almost too smooth for an imperial stout of this magnitude. and that leads into the drinkability factor, which is way to easy for an imperial stout, making it dangerously delectable.

overall, i was a bit underwhelmed in the grand scheme of things when sampling this. perhaps a bit of age would benefit this? or maybe i'm just let down with the overall nose and flavour profile. the interaction between malt and yeast leaves me wanting despite the bitter hop blast, which i was expecting. an egnigma...nonetheless, it's a tasty treat that has potential in the cellar.

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Photo of harrymel
3.52/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Second time with this beast. First time it was good, but I was drunky.
Bottled day 227 of 2012

Pours a dark, deep black with a central dome and accompanying rim of tan foam confluenced by etching about the remainder of the surface. Smells of sweet malts, hints of graham, some bits of cocoa, a good nougat character and a bit of milky character. I like the nose,but it is lacking in the hops I usually associate with a fresh RIS. Taste is more bitter than I recall, and rightfully so, it has a good earthy, spicy authoritative hops charm and then some toasted malts, bits of bitter chocolate, coffee and a hint of graham still. Full bodied with small, sharp and fleeting carb. A thick, wet finish. Nice beer, should be a year round beer, rather than a seasonal - it's nothing special and I like my seasonals to taste and be special.

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Photo of tigg924
3.53/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap at New World Tavern, Plymouth--served into a pint glass.

Appearance: black in color, 1/4 inch head, opaque, minimal carbonation

Smell: roasted malt and cocoa

Taste: big time espresso, roasted malt, chocolate, and light traces of nut

Mouthfeel: medium-heavy bodied, low carbonation, sweet with roasty bitterness

Overall: An above average roasty RIS. If you like your RIS to have big coffee flavors, this is the beer for you. I would like to see a bit more creaminess with this. This is not a bad beer, but with so many great RIS, this is just above average for the style.

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Photo of dirtylou
3.53/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz single

A funny thing happened last night while I was consuming Narwhal - I came to the sad realization that I really have no place in my cellar for a RIS not aged in some sort of barrel. Narwhal brings the heavy roast, chocolate, very dry, roasted and charred malts. It's just been done, and it's boring to me now. This would have been a great addition to the lineup in 2005, but it does nothing for me now.

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Photo of atr2605
3.53/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A-poured black with a tan head with nice lacing
S-roasted coffee, licorice, unsweetened cocoa
T-lots of roasted coffee flavors mixed with licorice and finishes with unsweetened chocolate
M-full bodied and low carbonation
O-Not a bad brew, honestly not my favorite for the style, booze is pretty apparent. Interesting to try

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Photo of Knapp85
3.53/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured out as a dark black color with a decent tan colored head on top. The retention and lacing was moderate. The smell of the beer was roasted with some chocolate and burnt aromas. The taste of the beer was also a little on the burnt side with a dark chocolate bitterness in there with more roasted malts. The mouthfeel was on the heavier side but not the smoothest of stouts out there, it's carbonation was good and it finished dry. Overall this beer was decent in my opinion. I may need to revisit this beer one day to get a better grasp on it.

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Photo of mrmaps
3.53/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Look: Dark

Smell: Low on volatiles

T: Light malt with some initial sweetness in the front that is covered by coffee with hints of vanilla. Finishes with a significant hop presence.

O: Flavor profile is dominated by hops at the end. Good product for those who don't like too much sweetness and more hops in their imperial stouts. Easy to drink with the alcohol well disguised. Not a huge imperial stout.

Value: Reasonable price for a quality beer.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 798 ratings.