Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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BA SCORE
92
outstanding

766 Reviews
THE BROS
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no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 766
Hads: 4,454
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: 766 | Hads: 4,454
Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.11/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle - $2.99 at Total Wine & More in Kennesaw, Georgia.

2013 Vintage.

Appearance: Slips out a black, viscous-looking body, though with only a very, very small, tan head.

Smell: An aroma choked with rich maltiness -- molasses, chilled espresso, chocolate, along with full notes of licorice sticks, plump raisins. Minor spiciness, slim smokiness.

Taste: Boldly roasty, espresso-laden, and heaping with melted, fine dark chocolate and thick molasses. Restrained sweetness, as it's tempered by the sharpness of the roasted malts, hops, and warming alcohol. Black licorice. Dark fruits. A little additional fruitiness attributed to the hops, slightly resiny. Reasonably dry on the smooth finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium carbonation.

Overall: Big and beefy yet relatively balanced -- I liked it. (818 characters)

Photo of tastybeer
4.12/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Deep dark black and big fluffy head. All sorts of stringy patches cover the glass once it recedes. Aroma initially brings creamy sweetness. Then digging deeper there's caramel, tobacco, coffee, toffee, and a touch of something like black raspberry. Pretty straight forward Russian imperial style. Taste is milky caramel, chocolatey, a bit smokey, and bitter only subtly through the finish. Mouthfeel is key. Very velvety smooth. Like hot cocoa in beer form and cool of course. The higher ABV is totally hidden as well. I haven't been in a stout-porter/dark beer mood for awhile however this beer might be changing that. (619 characters)

Photo of mscudder
4.12/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sierra Nevada, RIS you say? Totally in. Served in a snifter.

A - Nice deep black hue with a big two+ finger khaki head. Leaves some nice lacing behind.

S - Nice aroma filled with sweet chocolate, roasted malts, light espresso and perhaps a touch of vanilla. Robust as I desire.

T - Dark chocolate hits the palette first, and it hits heavy. Bit of espresso behind adding some bitterness to the brew. It carries some earthy tones which I failed to detect on the nose. Roasted smoothness throughout.

M - Large medium body with fair carbonation. Chewy feel with a relatively dry finish.

O - I prefer a bit more sweetness and less bitterness for an RIS that chooses chocolate as its most prominent ingredient. That said, this is an enjoyable RIS I would not mind having again. Good job Sierra. (793 characters)

Photo of JamieDuncan
4.12/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just slightly to much bitter threw it a little out of whack. But the bitter was probably a strong component to how well the ABV is hidden. Extremely tasty with loads of malty deliciousness, seems like a bit of coffee within the bitter finish. Very smooth and creamy, overall an outstanding beer that I would gladly have again. (329 characters)

Photo of PicoPapa
4.12/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle. Pours a pitch black color with dark brown hues and a ring of brown head. Minimal lacing. Aromas of espresso, dark chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla, and maybe even a bit of bubble gum. The taste is dark bitter chocolate and espresso. Smokey, roasted malts as well. Some vanilla and an overall sweetness flavor. Hints of caramel. Dark chocolate and coffee finish. Full bodied. I really liked the 30th Anniversary RIS so I was glad to hear they were releasing another Russian Imperial Stout. Overall, solid beer worth seeking out. (541 characters)

Photo of MetalHopHead6
4.12/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Sierra Nevada Narwhal is roasty, sweet, and bubbly.

It poured black with a short milk chocolate colored head; it left nothing on the glass. The aroma and flavor were very sweet up front, with a touch of licorice, followed by a lot of roasted coffee and a nice bitter dark chocolate finish. There was too much carbonation; however, the pleasant bitter chocolate taste remained on the tongue for a very long time, saving the feel.

Narwhal tastes very good and left a great aftertaste, which is the most important thing; however in every other category, it is average or a only bit above. (588 characters)

Photo of BEERchitect
4.12/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

With incredible power and the balance of flavor to boot, Sierra Nevada continues to advance beyond the stalwart taste of their flagship prominence and into the sadistic darker, mysterious, and imperial realms.

Narwhal pours with a creamy viscous character and inky nearest black coloration that's imaginable. The stratification of foam pulls from the beer underneath and tops the beer with a whipped topping-like blanket of foam that retains in lumbered fashion and with intermittent pockets of lace.

Bold roasted notes rise from the snifter and floods the nose with the memories of espresso, cocoa, campfire smoke, dark fruit, and slightly scorched molasses. Complex alcohols give a tinge of spice and ethanol and foreshadows the power of the taste and textures to come.

Again, "powerful" becomes the operative descriptor in taste as the most supple of sips explode on the tongue with robust sweetness of molasses laden roast. Espresso, cocoa, heavy toast, and burnt embers converge at mid palate of sweetness and char. Shortly after, the sweetness breaks apart and allows for the fruity taste of black licorice, cherry, and currant.

Calling this stout "full bodied" seems to undersell it entirely. this is a massively creamy and heavy handed ale that envelops the mouth with heavy coats of malt, roast, and seeping alcohols. Its larger than life "charred" persona extends well beyond middle palate and only recedes as the roast-derived bitterness and heated alcohols supplant it. A lingering finish of roast and fruit extend well into the next luscious sip.

Narwal is a decedent ale that's sure to be a staple all winter long in the cabinet of all lovers of stout. With its taste that should be reserved for those special occasions, there's the price of the ale that makes it somewhat "everyday". It's simply a low-guilt, guilty pleasure. (1,847 characters)

Photo of FFreak
4.12/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into tall tulip glass. Oily black with about 1/2 inch of brown head that slowly dissipates leaving nice lacing. A bit sweet and roasty in the smell with molasses, brown sugar and dark roast. Taste is somewhat different from the smell and hard to describe - dark brown sugar mixed with dark brown bread?? Mouth feel is delightful, probably the best aspect of the beer. Overall, I'd have to say I really like this one. Can't wait to try the barrel aged version. (485 characters)

Photo of lighthabit
4.12/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving Type : Poured from a bottle into a pint glass. Poured a bit warmer than I probably should have.

Appearance: Black. Well, almost black, just a tiny touch of deep, creamy brown, but not a lick of light getting through here. Not much in the way of lacing, which bummed me a bit.

Mouthfeel: I'm new to imperials, but seems about right. A bit sticky, but pleasantly so. Leaves itself behind in a smooth manner, a bit thicker than the Black Butte or Obsidian that I would use for reference.

Smell & Taste: I keep thinking of black licorice, which is good, because I love licorice. I think I'm missing some of the chocolate/coffee thing because at the temp at which I poured it, the alcohol is making its presence known (a bit more than I'd care for). I'm looking forward to trying one from the fridge later in the week, maybe late at night with some swiss, to see if more flavors make themselves known.

Overall: I like this beer. I don't think it's a go-to for a lot of evenings, but something I'd like to keep on hand for that once-in-a-while change. Side note: one of my favorites is SN's Torpedo. This is worlds away from Torpedo, but enjoyable none-the-less. (1,172 characters)

Photo of JustinAniello
4.12/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours pitch black with a half a finger of head that dissipates to minimal cap and lacing.

S - Aromas of coffee, chocolate, and wood with a mild alcohol fumes.

T - Light bakers chocolate turning toward a heavy coffee that lingers with bitterness. Sweet maltiness that just barely shows through. Definite alcohol taste, not in a bad way, even numbs the tongue slightly.

M - Medium body and carbonation, slightly oily. Could be a little thicker.

O - Pretty good Imperial Stout, nice flavor profile and aroma. Could use a little more body and maybe a little of that woodiness from the scent in the taste. Would be willing to have again, and certainly gets you feeling good. (677 characters)

Photo of DonDirkA
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sierra Nevada finally has a (good) shelf stout. And there aren't many imperial stouts in 4 or 6 packs aside from Ten Fidy so thats cool too. Pours midnight black with a thick brown head and nice lacing. Nose is strong roasted coffee, smokey malts, char and just a hint of raw cacao. Pretty basic imperial stout but it smells fantastic. The taste is surprisingly bitter. Bitterness, chocolate, roasted coffee, charred notes, smoked malts and some definite booze in there. The smokiness and bitterness are a bit strong but I think some age will mellow that out and the roasty flavors and coffee will come forward a bit. Still an awesome stout. Full body, heavy mouthfeel and light carbonation (typical stout style). Go Sierra Nevada! (731 characters)

Photo of TMoney2591
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a tumbler.

Didn't see getting a taste of this tonight, but I'm sure as hell not gonna argue. It pours a straight onyx topped by over a finger of golden brown foam. The nose comprises roasted malts, dark coffee, earthy greens, and dark chocolate. The taste brings in more of the same, with some heavy bitterness being balanced by the depth and relative sweetness of the roast and the chocolate. The body is a light heavy, with a light moderate carbonation and a fairly dry finish. Overall, a very nice, bold stout. It reminds me a lot of Ten Fidy, only drier, less creamy. Good times. (594 characters)

Photo of TreyIsWilson
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Pours a motor oil black with a one-finger tan head. Light amount of lacing.

S - Roasted malts and dark chocolate. Also picking up a hint of dark fruits.

T - Lots of big roasted malts. Coffee and dark chocolate are also well represented. Nice alcohol burn in the finish.

M - Heavy body with medium carbonation. Thick creamy mouthfeel. Leaves a stickiness on the tongue.

O - I really enjoy this stout. For the price this is hard to beat. Lots of big flavors going on. (473 characters)

Photo of Hopswagger
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

P: Super black body with a glisten of mahogany at the bottom of the glass. A dollop of creamy espresso froth that dwindles to a bubbly crown. Retention is nice and leaves thick micro bubble lacing that sloshes around the edge. The melted Dutch chocolate ice cream like head never seems to leave.

S: Rich roasty malts, bakers chocolate, burnt molasses, dark coffee beans, sawdust, sweet whisky mash, smoked grain and salted cashews.

T/M: Sweet burnt molasses, milk and bitter chocolate, charred grains, dirty wood, spicy booze with earthy and pine resin hops in the background. Coffee, black pepper, and sweet figs round out the multitude of malty layers. Full creamy but oily body with spicy carbonation.

O: A mystical adventure for your mouth. Super complex and ever changing this brew delivers amazing results. This is a beer of myth and legend that lives up to its magical name. Cheers! (895 characters)

Photo of srandycarter
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Pitch black. Nice thick tan head. Slow to leave. Some lacy stuff too.

S - Light musky cocoa, slight coffee.

T - Yum. Malty, cocoa, small coffee, very creamy.

M - Good carbonation, nice balance, very easy, likeable beer.

D - Not hard to drink. Could session. (265 characters)

Photo of Wasatch
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz. Bottle

Pours a very nice black color, very nice carbonation, with a fizzy tan head, which leaves some sticky lacing behind. The nose is malty, with some chocolate, toffee notes, slightly roasty. The taste is very nice malty, with lots of dark stuff, slight vanilla, some roastyness. Medium body, with a nice bitter finish, ABV hidden pretty well with this one. Overall a very tasty brew, glad to see it here in UT, would buy again. (438 characters)

Photo of Tsar_Riga
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A - A thick, dark, opaque black beer which generates a dark tan head with an aggressive pour.

S - There is, not surprisingly, a strong alcohol note, with a big malty blast. Coffee and chocolate notes are secondary. The booze overwhelms here.

T - This is a big beer, delivering on the smell. Beneath a complex combination of malts, caramel, coffee and chocolate is a build of booziness that comes in big for the finish. Surprisingly, the brew is not particularly bitter, nor overwhelmingly sweet, even though every flavor here seems to be turned up to 11.

M - Heavy enough to coat, but with carbonation sufficient to keep it from getting cloying.

O - A drinkable brew that does not hide its 10%, but still manages to be quite drinkable. Suggests many of the qualities of a barrel aged imperial stout, which is a real trick since it was not. The alcohol does cloud somewhat the complexity below, so I cannot say it is the best imperial stout I've had, but it is a good one. A very good one. (992 characters)

Photo of brentk56
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Arrives with an impressive khaki head perched atop the inky black liquid; sheets of lacing are left behind

Smell: Surprisingly fruity, with plum and cherry aromatics; roast and chocolate underneath

Taste: Though the roast and chocolate flavors jut out, the plum and cherry elements really build through the middle along with some licorice; after the swallow, both the fruit and licorice elements dominate the finish; alcohol is detectable as well

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation; some warmth in the gullet

Overall: There are a lot of really nice elements in this beer; I would prefer more chocolate and a fuller mouthfeel but those are minor issues (689 characters)

Photo of Darkmagus82
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into a pint glass

Appearance – Pours a deep-deep brown color with a one finger brown head. The head fades in over a bout a two minute time frame to leave a light level of lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma is big and delicious. It is largest of a sweet caramel and chocolate aroma with nice hints of vanilla and some light pine, dark fruits and coffee smell. Also heavy in the nose is a delicious and warming aroma of a bourbon smell giving mixing with the rest to give a sweet, dark, and warming smell.

Taste – The taste begins with a strong roasted malt, dark chocolate, and coffee taste mixed with the lightest hints of caramel and vanilla. The caramel fades fast from the tongue while the light vanilla remains constant throughout the taste. Toward the middle the coffee flavors grow even stronger in nature and are accompanied by a light earthy and pine hop taste. The pine and earthy flavors grow slightly stronger more toward the end with the roasted flavors that are in the brew also growing more roasted in nature. This darkening and hopping of the brew give a moderately bitter bite on the tongue, and when combined with a nicely concealed, but still detectable, alcohol flavor it creates a bitter cocoa and coffee flavor to be left to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is super thick and syrupy with a body that would be similar to taking maple syrup and diluting by half. The carbonation of the brew is on the very low side accentuating the thick feel of the brew. For a 10.2 % abv beer the body is much thicker then I would have expected (more akin to a 15 % brew). It is rather nice and appropriate for the darker characteristics of the brew, but is almost overwhelming due to the light level of sweetness to balance it out. Even so it is quite a feel and is overall rather nice.

Overall – A nice, big and roasty, stout that is on the drier ad thicker side. When in the mode for a great. not too sweet, sipping Imperial stout, then this is a great one to go to. (2,045 characters)

Photo of sevenarts
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Very dark black, dense and totally opaque. Tan head with some lacing.

S: Coffee, sweet chocolate, alcohol, a liitle boozey.

T/M: Rich coffee and chocolate up front, roasted malts, followed by boozey, warming alcohol on the back end. Thick and full bodied with a bit of a bite going down.

O: A very good imperial stout, dense and heavy and intense, and its ABV is really felt. (382 characters)

Photo of PaleZombie
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a stout glass.

A - Deep brown almost black. Cloudy, very little head. When held to the light I could not see through it but there were some sediment chunks of junk floating on the side of the glass.(Im not a fan of sediment)

S - Somewhat mild sent. Deep roasted malts, some coffee, small amount of chocolate, a mild floral hop note.

T - The taste is what is the best on this one. Up front you get smacked with rich somewhat bitter chocolate, some coffee, with a strong coffee bitterness, maybe some raisins, and a little bit of hop finish. Very bold but pleasant.

M - Smooth, creamy, somewhat syrupy, little carbonation.

O - This is pretty good, the smell and sediment was the only downfall. (728 characters)

Photo of Beric
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Serving: Bottle into snifter
Served: 27 February 2014

Appearance: Pitch black, with literally no light penetrating this brew. The dark brown head quickly disappears and leaves just a ring of bubbles around the edges. Looks impressive and daunting.

Smell: Roasted malts, black, dark-roast coffee, and unsweetened cocoa.

Taste: Wow, is this one complex. An initial burst of hop bitterness is followed by a strong assertion of roasted malts, dark roast coffee, espresso, and cocoa flavors. Finishes very dry.

Mouthfeel: Think and smooth, just as one would expect.

Overall: A great beer, and I was surprised to taste as much bittering hop as I did. When I burped, you could definitely re-taste the hoppiness (gross, I know). While hops aren't the dominant profile here, they are certainly assertive in their bittering qualities. But we wouldn't expect anything less from Sierra Nevada, would we? A great brew, and one I recommend. Definitely a sipper, and definitely a once-in-a-while beer, not something I could stomach any time any day. (1,039 characters)

Photo of SmashPants
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle: solid dark brown 355mL stubby with a funky label. A good package.

Appearance: pours incredibly dark- almost an impenetrable black. A huge tan head pops up to over two-fingers before slowly settling to a thin, creamy cap. Looks good.

Aroma: roast coffee, dark cocoa chocolate, a touch of dark fruits and anise, and a wonderful smokiness

Taste: roast coffee, dark cocoa chocolate, a touch of dark fruits and anise, and a wonderful smokiness round out this beer.

Aftertaste: hangs around for quite a while, with a slight warming alcohol feeling at the back.

Mouth feel: very full-bodied with a creamy, silky texture. Though I can't see through the beer, I am sure it must have plenty of fine sediment to make it this smooth. Very drinkable.

Overall: if any United States-based brewery was going to produce an exceptional Russian Imperial Stout, I would have put my money on Sierra Nevada. The outcome is a rousing success - rich and complex in flavour, full in body and with a fantastic drinkability. One of the best Russian Imps I have had to date. (1,060 characters)

Photo of JerzDevl2000
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Picked this up a few weeks back at Joe Canal's in Parsippany having never had this before. I love Sierra Nevada's offerings and was hoping that this would measure up to them. Thankfully, this did not taste like a dark version of their more notable Pale Ales and IPA's and considering the strength that this had, this was surprisingly easy to enjoy while being full and potent like a Russian Stout should be!

The pour to this was a dark raisin with just a hint of light seeping in around the edges, with a moderate tan head that was punctuated with bubbles coming up from the liquid. It gave this a lively appearance and the head settled into a few rings of lacing that went around the top third or so of my pint glass. The baker's chocolate was in the nose big time, along with some currant, dark fruit, and booze and all of these were present in the taste as well. Quite sweet, this had a cloying taste to it and the coffee same out more in the aftertaste once the Belgian-like notes and chocolate went down. Not a lot of hops here, the bubbles could be felt but not seen as the mouthfeel was pretty smooth with just a hint of lactose that softly came through as this warmed up.

This was strong but didn't really feel it but I noticed the warming coming over me once I made my way through this beer. Not overly spicy or boozy, this was a welcome departure from Sierra Nevada's other offerings while keeping up their level of quality that they've come to be known for. Those looking for a thinner Coffee Stout with hints of vanilla or a Russian Imperial Stout along the lines of the Old Rasputin will find that this straddled the line between the two, but quite nicely as I am looking forward to giving this another go! Certainly worthy of the Sierra Nevada moniker. (1,769 characters)

Photo of peensteen
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Served on cask at Cask Days 2014 in Toronto

Jet black colour, ring of tan head with a bit of lace. Smell is roasty, lots of chocolate and coffee, well hopped with some earthy notes, light dark fruit in the periphery. Taste starts out with some dark fruit, light roast with some bitter hop mid palate, chocolate and coffee flavours linger into the finish. Light carbonation, medium-full body, good feel. A solid imperial stout, nothing groundbreaking but a nice and flavourful stout that is a pleasure to drink. (512 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 766 ratings.