Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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795 Reviews
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Reviews: 795
Hads: 4,531
Avg: 4.13
pDev: 23.24%
Wants: 263
Gots: 1,164 | FT: 44
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

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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 795 | Hads: 4,531
Photo of stephens101
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A dark tan head fades quickly from two fingers with minimal residual lacing. Insert cliche of choice for the color black here. Nutty, chocolaty and vinegary to the nose. Closer inspection reveals a nice fusion of dark grapes and cocoa. Tastes silky smooth with milk chocolate notes that are quickly countered by a semi-rough woodiness. Black coffee, subtle hops and burnt sugar provide a fine follow up to the preceding notes. Fusel alcohol heat plays a big part in this burly one; demanding respect, but remaining fairly welcoming despite its 10 plus percent. Narwhal is simple one more notch in Sierra Nevada's belt of excellence and consistency. Few breweries do it better.

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

A - Pitch brown. Beige, reluctant head that develops into a light halo.
S - Sweet lactose. Dark chocolate + sweet coffee.
T - Smooth, sweet coffee and milk chocolate.
F - It goes well with everything else.
O - Very nice. I will have it again.

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Photo of OBeerMeGreatOne
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle into a Chimay goblet. Pours out pitch black with a nice tan head. Lovely dotted lace sticks around for a bit.

Dark chocolate and plum don't mingle with much else in the smell, just a hint of anise and booze.

Chocolate, cherry, booze, anise, earth and citrus mingle brilliantly at the front of this beer. Molasses, coffee and plum round out the middle, sweet finish. Very thick and smooth going down!

Can't believe I've never had this before. Need to grab a few for the cellar!

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle served in a snifter.

L - black with a tan head that thinned to a ring.

S - roasted coffee beans and black licorice.

T - as with the smell, lots of roasted coffee and black licorice in the taste with a gentle warming on the finish.

F - medium/full bodied with a silky smooth feel.

O - a very good example of the style.

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

Poured into a tulip glass form a 12oz bottle.

Pours a pitch black slightly oily liquid. Some dark mahogany and caramel edges are present. There is a nice light tan 0.5 inch head that is formed. It recedes fairly quickly down to a thin film.

Aroma starts with roast and dark malts. Slightly smokey with some coffee notes. There is also some nice bitter chocolate in the nose. There are some slight grassy aroma in the nose as well that mix in with the roasted, dark and coffee notes. Pretty nice aroma.

Flavor starts off with dark chocolate notes. Some sweetness with nice dark cocoa bitterness. Then there is the roast that comes in. Coffee and espresso notes with some slight sweet milk chocolate notes present. There is definitely some nice grassy hop notes in the middle and the back end of this brew. Very well blended with the roast and stout notes. Quite the roasty brew with nice dark cocoa notes to finish it off. Mouthfeel is nice and slick. Creamy with good lively carbonation as well.

Pretty impressive brew by Sierra Nevada. Rich and creamy with some nice roasty coffee notes. Good RIS.

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Photo of maximum12
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

How have I not reviewed this? I’ve drunk cases of it, a big stout that you don’t have to crawl over sweaty neckbeards to get, it just sits around, ignored, common. 12 oz. bottle.

The pour is Bic ink black. Minimal carbonation. I try to sniff & get a 19” girl hair up the nose, yeah, just try to use a vacuum around my house. It’s like vacuuming up after a pack of shedding St. Bernard’s. Nose is sweet malts, nice roast, light chocolate mania. It’s never really been an inhaling beer for me.

Narwhal tastes like Saturday night happiness. A plethora plentile of roast greets the tongue, backed by a deep, sweet, smiling triple handful of malts. Milky & smooth enough that I suspect that many oats were harmed in the making of this brew. Drinkable as fuck.

Excellent beer that’s nothing special by the numbers, just beautifully executed.

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

Poured from a 12oz bottle in a tulip pint.

A dark pour with 1.5 fingers of mocha head.

Smells of highly toasted grains, dark coffee and a hint of booze.

I taste a sweetness to the head that balances the super strong roasted grains. I like the start of this beer better than the end but the end aint bad. This is not for the faint of heart. Wow it seems that one of these should do the job or I have an empty stomach.

I like the contrast of a super creamy head being washed away by a velvet finish. This beer has great mouthfeel.

I must say this was quite a surprise and I'll be buying this again.

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Photo of MilkMan126
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

SN states that this beer is the most intense stout it's ever brewed.

In a low lit room, no light shines through the nearly black liquid. Small creamy head with nice lacing.

I smell roasted grains, dark chocolate, and fresh hops.

The taste follows the nose with added flavors of dark roast coffee, nutty, booze, and extra signature Sierra Nevada hops. Hops have a more dominant role in this beer than most RIS I've had. The order of which I taste these flavors changes as I drink on. The dark roast malt flavors and the hops battle back and forth. The tasty rich malt gets richer as it warms but the hops hold on strong. To me the hops are what truly makes this beer intense.

Nice bite from the carbonation and booze. Full with decent coating. Hops really linger on. Reminds me of the aftertaste that dark chocolate leaves.

Very good overall. Full of flavor. Though, over the top in some areas of the flavor profile which confuses the RIS style.

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

A - 2 1/2 finger frothy dark tan head. Jet black


T - sweet but robust roastyness. Immediately followed by chocolate, then spicy ness, bitterness from hops, not astringent coffe flavor. 10% abv well hidden. As it warms, surprisingly more spicy. This time from alcohol I believe. Chocolate still present but it takes a back seat to all the spicy ness.

M- creamy

Overall, really spicy for a stout. Of course SN loves to overuse hops. And they didn't make an exception just bc they made a stout. Too much for my taste, but with the tasty chocolate upfront, still makes for a good spicy "holiday stout"

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

$2.69 for a 12oz bottle @ Bevco. Brewed with Two-row Pale, Caramel, Chocolate, Honey, Carafa malts & Roasted barley. Hopped with Magnum & Challenger for bittering and Challenger for aroma.
OG=24.2 Plato, FG=6.6 Plato, 60 IBU's, 10.2% ABV.

Pours out to a thick near black, forming a large sticky creamy dark brown head like espresso crema, with superior retention and sticky lacing. Mild to moderate carbonation, ~2.0 carbs. Nose of burnt marshmallows, black walnut, prunes, green leafy herbal hops and a little bourbon (fusels?). Mouthfeel is thick and creamy with a dense syrupy body. The taste is a recap of the aroma...prune juice, bittersweet chocolate, a touch of french press, black walnuts and burnt marshmallows. There are some moderately boozy fusels in the middle, but they quickly dissipate by the finish which is mostly hops, wood ash and dark pipe tobacco. Bitterness is well-balanced for a RIS with a nice lingering bitterness in the aftertaste (probably the best part of the beer).

At first blush, the nose and look of this beer reminded me of Bells Expedition Stout, however once tasted, it's just not as cleanly fermented. This is a good RIS on par with Blackout or Victory , but just isn't on the same level as Expedition, Founders, or Siberian Night.

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

Narwhal Imperial Stout

A - DEEP, DARK, muddy black, one finger very tan/almost brown head and some sugar legs

S - Nutty, huge vanilla, molasses, COCA, beast of roasted toasted grains, sexy smooth, deep chocolate dipped ripe berries, OAK, Charred OAK, BOOZE, sexy sweet molasses, bourbon vanilla, cinnamon, beautiful earthy hops and wow

T - DUDE, WTF, such a huge robust beast of a stout. Much love SN. Love my RIS and High octane and sugary stouts, but this is on another spectrum. Booze note kicks ass, The deer dark ripe berries are all dipped in sugarless coca, the roastedess and toastedess grains, deepest of darkest chocolates, molasses, bourbon vanilla, oak, nutty, charred anything and AWESOMENESS

M - Full bodied, overwhelmingly awesome robustness, medium plus acidity, well balanced, awesome complexity and the best robust imperial stoutness I have had in YEARS!

D/O - Robust is the name of this stouts game. DAMN. Not DAMN I need something less robust. Just DAMN, they did the robust and less sweet/boozey style WELL! Stoked on this beast for sure. Refreshing isnt a word used in this description, but tasty is!

Final Thoughts - $12 bucks IS high for a 4 pack but at a 10.2% and the taste, why the heck not?!!??!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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

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

12oz bottle into a tulip glass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 795 ratings.