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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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796 Reviews
no score

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Reviews: 796
Hads: 4,536
Avg: 4.13
pDev: 23.24%
Wants: 264
Gots: 1,164 | 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: 796 | Hads: 4,536
Photo of mudbug
4.44/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A vigorous pour into the SM pint glass results in a pitch black body of liquid topped by a thin tan head of foam, thick lacing coats the side as the first sips lower the level. yep it looks like a stout.
Aroma is bitter chocolate. roasted barley and toast with a slight astringent alcohol.
Taste follows the aroma, bitter chocolate. burnt toast, molasses a slight sour tinge. a tad dry on the end. overall very pleasant without a noticeable aftertaste
Not an overpowering Stout on the sweet side, slightly dry and bitter, more like an Irish Dry Stout on steroids
A very nice Stout that is easy to put a pint down.

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Photo of Roguer
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Solid, perfectly black brew, 1/2 finger light tan head, quickly fading. Thin but nice lacing.

Slightly boozy aroma, with a hint of grain, grapes, and cocoa.

Very nice bite to this stout: chocolate in abundance, some grapes, dry grain, and a very noticeable alcohol flavor. Sweet, but not quite overly so. Just a hint of burnt grain in the background.

Slight sting on the tongue, then it settles in with a wonderfully thick feel. Nice clinginess; almost powdery cocoa feel. The alcohol is definitely present, but it's in no way bad.

You know how reviews are always saying, "This beer hides a 10% ABV very well,"? Yeah, not so much here. That doesn't make it bad: it's thick, balanced, strong, and flavorful. It's got a very nice sweetness to it, but a nice bite to back it up. Excellent brew.

2013 vintage.

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Photo of BeerDawgs
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - Pitch black, with little head or lace. No other way to describe it!

S - Chocolate, hops, cocoa, sweet, dark grains

T - Wow..an amazing DStout. Sweet, but not too much, just right. Hidden ABV

M - Full bodied, well balanced.

O - One of the better stouts I have had. Well done Sierra Nevada!

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Photo of megahurts4
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sierra Nevada Narwhal

Appearance: dark brown, medium head, and a little lacing.

Smell: coffee, chocolate, hops, and mineral water.

Taste: vanilla, coffee, some hops, and a hint of cocoa.

Mouthfeel: medium and a slight chewy sensation.

This is quite nice. While not incredibly complex, the flavors mesh very well and are properly proportioned. The mouthfeel is great. This is very drinkable.

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Photo of vic21234
3.79/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a snifter. 2013 Vintage.

A- Pours black with a small amount of khaki colored head which quickly fades to the sides of the glass.

S- Notes of chocolate and coffee malts come through.

T- Heavy chocolate and coffee notes on the taste, similar to the smell. The coffee is strong and almost bittering at the back of each sip.

M- Heavy and flavorful, yet not too harsh on the alcohol for a 10% ABV beer.

A nice imperial stout, but nothing too mind-blowing. I will be sitting a few down for some aging.

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Photo of Duane_Opfer
3.72/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass. Bottled on 10/17. Consumed on 11/18. Written from notes.

A - Brown approaching black. Less than a half finger of light brown head which dissipated quickly. No lacing.

S - Not very fragrant. Dark chocolate with a hint of lemon.

T - Dark chocolate with a hint of espresso and citrus/lemon. Very warming. Does not hide ABV well.

M - Higher than normal carbonation and also lighter bodied. Not appropriate for style.

O - Not unpleasant in any way, but left room for improvement. Felt like I was drinking a cross between a black ale and a porter.

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Photo of scotorum
3.94/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 on the label, if I'm reading the code correctly it was bottled November 4th 2012.

Poured from the 12 oz. bottle into a Samuel Adams nonick.

a: Pitch black, finger thick tan head receded quickly to even surface foam and some clingy lacing.

s: Overripe fruit, alcohol.

t: Heavy dark malt with quite a bit of hop bite, smoky finish. Significant alcohol throat burn.

m: Medium to heavy. Quite smooth with plenty enough carbonation tingle on the tongue.

o: A flavorful imperial stout with a lot of not entirely pleasant punch. Perhaps the year of aging did not serve it as well as could be hoped. Tough to do more than sip, although few imperial stouts aren't.

UPDATE 2/4/14: Had another from the same fourpack and it was very smooth with more dark chocolate and less smoky taste, Some chocolate also in the aroma. The more I do these comparisons bottle to bottle of the same aged beer, the more I am convinced that it is difficult to predict how some will react to aging, and in fact they may react differently from one bottle to another. Doesn't seem to make much sense, and perhaps it's my own senses that are varying, but I find quite a difference sometimes among bottles in the same pack. (Lagunitas Brown Shugga and Brooklyn's now discontinued Monster come most immediately to mind). In any case I'm raising my ratings based on this second bottle. a: from 4-4.25; s from 3.5-4; mouthfeel from 4-4.25. And overall from 3.75-4.

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Photo of JMScowcroft
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Narwhal Imperial Stout, poured into a Fiddlehead snifter.

Look - Pours a medium thickness brown-black oily with a 1" fizzy mocha head that dissipates quickly. Good lacing.

Smell - Roasted malts with baker's cocoa and some coffee notes.

Taste - Full bodied and dark chocolate with roasted malt. Quite good. Finishes roasted. Tasty.

Mouthfeel - Rests chocolate and roasted malt. Dry and slightly bitter. Not overly boozy at all. Good drinkability with low carbonation and a light-heavy body.

Overall - Super solid RIS. Another quality brew from Sierra Nevada!

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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 IAmAPenguin
4.71/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Aroma: thick, rich chocolate malts, black grains, subtle smoke, coffee bean oil and resin. Appearance: pitch black with fantastic lacing. Taste: smooth, velvety thick roasted chocolate, burnt caramel, continuous coffee, toasted bread, plums and red grapes. Overall, amazing alcohol finish smooth full bodied and rich

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Photo of Arithmeticus
4.43/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured chilled in ribbed ale glass

A: solid black; thin head; good lacing;
S: good classic stout aroma: dark malt, anise
T: amazingly more sophisticated than the straightforward aroma; very boozy, complex; cocoa; smooth and sweet; licorice; dark chocolate

Really amazing imperial stout; quite different from other stouts I've had

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Photo of metter98
4.05/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: The beer is jet black in color. It poured with a thin dark tan head that died down but consistently left a thin layer of bubbles around the edge if the glass and bits of lacing down the sides.
S: Moderate aromas of licorice are present in the nose along with hints of roasted malts.
T: The taste starts off like the smell with flavors of licorice after which strong flavors of roasted malts and a moderate amount of bitterness kicks in. The bitterness and roasted malts linger through the finish.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is quite roasty and bitter. Little if any alcohol is perceptible in the smell so it is quite drinkable considering its strength.

Note: 2013 vintage

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Photo of vette2006c5r
4.84/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Narwhal pours a black color with a small tan lacing head. There is a boozy aroma with hints of licorice. The taste is very bold, lots of coffee, chocolate, and some black licorice flavors, with a big boozy end. Very bold flavors great body. Overall a fantastic big bold stout.

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Photo of HardTarget
4.32/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Appearance: Black as night, only the thinnest of ruby edges. Holds a tan thin cover, not much lace.

Smell: Roasted malt, burnt sugar vapor is alcoholic and inviting. A rich tone with some supportive but mild hop notes.

Taste: Heavy malt has a toffee sweetness to it that is smooth and silky. Slight lactic twang of a mild stout, slippery feel of an oatmeal stout, full volume of an Imperial Stout. Somewhere down the British spectrum, definitely not an AMERICAN HOP STOUT, this is much more refined, restrained, civilized.

Mouthfeel: Fizzy milk shake. Great combination of heavy body and lively carbonation that helps keep the whole package together. Full chew, slick oil takes a while to soak in.

Overall: Wow. Serious yum. I'll be seeking more. It's a monster with a friendly face. You note alcohol, but it doesn't taste like the 10% it's swinging. A nice long evening sipper.

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Photo of Gmann
4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a pitch black color with a smallish dense brown head that dissipated into a slight cap leaving a wall of lacing.

The aroma is of a mild roast malt. Some subtle chocolate notes. Some anise spice. Hits the right RIS aroma notes.

The taste is of a big bitter roast. Burnt pumpernickel notes and scorched caramel. A booze soaked raisin fruit character. An herbal flavor which may come from the alcohol. Again subtle chocolate notes.

Big chewy feel, slightly tingly carbonation. Sweet but mostly bitter on the palate. Quite sticky in the finish. Boozy.

Very good RIS. Loads of flavor and complex. A bit too sticky.

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Photo of dbrauneis
4.1/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

A: Pours a clear but opaque jet black in color with light to moderate amounts of gentle carbonation along the edges of the glass and some faint crimson red + cola brown highlights. The beer has a finger tall dense foamy dark tan head that slowly reduces to a thin film covering the majority of the surface of the beer and a medium thick ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of roasted malts with lighter notes of cocoa, espresso, and dark fruit (raisin and plum). There is also a light aroma of anise/licorice and ash.

T: Upfront there is a moderate flavor of roasted malts and slightly burnt malts with a light amount of ashiness. That is followed by light flavors of anise/licorice and some light notes of dark fruit sweetness (raisin and plum stand out). Finally there is a moderate flavor of freshly brewed espresso and hints of bittersweet chocolate. Overall the beer is moderately bitter with a lingering bitterness.

M: Slightly heavier than medium bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation.

O: This is a really nice big stout - the alcohol is well hidden but this is definitely a sipping beer (and best served on a cold autumn/winter evening by the fireplace). Nice roasty flavors but a little ashy so folks that don't enjoy that would be better off not grabbing this one.

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Photo of Beer-A-Lot
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

An outstanding and delicious imperial stout. Superb chocolaty and coffee flavors. a smell that doesn't disappoint. Rich and smooth. Perhaps my favorite beer from SN. What can I say? I love this style, and Sierra Nevada delivers on my high standards for stouts. Will make this a regular in my rotation, along with Ten Fidy, FBS, FIS, and others. Well done.

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Photo of jeff1973
3.94/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a Stone IRS tulip. 2012 version, bottled 10/1/12, so a year old now. Bought 4pk for $9.99 at Hi-Times in Costa Mesa CA.

A - Pitch black w/ a motor oil slick look. Light mocha head with decent retention.

S - Bitter baker's chocolate, anise, maybe a little roast coffee.

T - Lots of semi-sweet chocolate, some roasty coffee, a bit of licorice. The chocolate is creamy. No alcohol at all for 10.2%

M - Thick and creamy (like a good imp stout should be). Carbonation is low to fit the creamy mouthfeel.

O - Very solid RIS. Bittersweet, creamy chocolate is abundant. I remember it being a lot more roasty and boozy fresh. Definitely something to age.

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Photo of Pegasus
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance; Utter black body, impenetrable to light, crowned by a small, dense tan head, which slowly fades to scattered patches of foam, like some archipelago on midnight seas. Thin, fine-beaded lacing coats the glass walls.

Aroma: Roasted malt, dark roasted coffee, and bitter cocoa dominate the aroma, the dark roasted malt being particularly notable. There is only a faint whiff of spicy alcohol in the aroma, remarkable considering the ABV of 10.2%

Taste: Opens with strong measures of cold coffee and bitter cocoa. Warming alcohol is soon evident, but is presented gracefully. The coffee and cocoa dominate, and are supported by a strong presence of roasted malt. Later in the taste, the is a strong hop presence, which compliments the coffee, cocoa, and roasted malt. The taste draws to a close with a late flourish of herbal hops against the roasted malt.

Mouth feel: Rich, quite smooth and full, with just a hint of carbonation.

Drinkability/notes: A really excellent example of the Russian Imperial Stout style, I am thankful to have found this gem. Narwhal should be bought to cellar, as a gift to our future selves.

Presentation: Packaged in a stubby twelve-ounce brown glass bottle with a pry-off crown, served in a New Belgium Brewing chalice.

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Photo of mschind
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Poured like thick espresso with a thin caramel colored head that dissipated quickly. Dark and oily looking, very inviting.

S-Toasty sweet malt with some french roast coffee notes

T-Dark chocolate, coffee and caramel malt. Surprisingly sweet, almost like a milk stout. Despite the sweetness, it was not at all cloying and finished with a nice balance.

M-Smooth, full and perfectly carbonated. There is some alcohol heat which served as a reminder that this is a beer to respect.

O-Glad I picked up a four pack instead of just a single. Now I can compare it to the Old Rasputin which is another favorite RIS.

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Photo of Shallow_Gravy
4.01/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

First review. Bottle (2012 vintage) poured to Black Tuesday glencairn glass.

A - Pours opaque black with an inch of of tight mocha head. Spotty lacing lines the glass.

S - Licorice, smoke, baker's chocolate, slight coffee notes. As it warms I sense some darker fruits (plum, date, and sweet grape). Nice smelling beer.

T - Sweet plum, slight roast, coffee grounds, and vanilla. Long lasting dark chocolate on the finish. Really impressed.

M- on the thinner side of medium-bodied. A bit syrupy, which helps bring out a bit of the coffee and darker chocolates.

O - Really Impressed by this beer. Really dug the darker fruit and chocolate notes. Excited to see where this goes in a yea or 2.

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Photo of Qbdoo
3.64/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Black as night, no light gets through. Smell is a slight mix of coffee, chocolate, and toffee, slightly burnt. Taste is similar and the mouth feel is lighter than expected for an imperial stout and more carbonated. In this style, I prefer a flatter beer. I really like it though, a definite A-, but I don't think it quite lives up to the other world-class beers in this style. But hey, it's a cheaper and a great runner-up if you want to save a couple of bucks.

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Photo of Fcolle2
4.27/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours solid dark black in color with a thick body like molasses. Head is about one and a half fingers and tan in color. Head retains nicely and leaves some good sticky lacing all over the glass.

Smell is great. Rich roasted dark chocolate malt is forward along with a very clean scent and a faint strawberry like fruity ester. There is a big note able alcohol present one the back end, this does not bother me whatsoever though.

Taste is awesome and follows the nose. There is a rich dark chocolate flavor forward followed by roasted malt and a very light crisp ripe fruity tartness. More chocolate malt and booze come in on the back end.

Mouthfeel is good. Thick but not quite as thick as expected and carbonation is moderate. This keeps it highly drinkable at such a high abv.

Overall this was an awesome imperial stout I see why it rated so highly. Very boozy but it has some great flavors and aromas. I feel like this would be perfect to age, definitely putting some away.

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Photo of Deerslayer210
4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Jet black oil with a dark tan head. The smell is of a plain stout, but hides all the flavor to come. The taste is a rich cocoa coffee. Mouth feel is of light weight oil that hides the high octane it carries. This is an outstanding stout that could be called a coffee stout. Sierra Nevada has one that I will never turn down. Try this one and you will be pleased. once again thanks to the mind!

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Photo of hagbergl
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a brown stubby 12 ounce bottle into my Beer Geek Nation tulip glass.

Appearance (4.25/5): Black with a two finger tan head. Not hugely heady. Evident alcohol legs appear on the sides of the glass.

Smell (4.25/5): Powdered cocoa, rich, dark chocolate, underlying molasses, roasted malt.

Taste (4.25/5): Strong initial flavors of dark chocolate and coffee, chewy, sticky molasses. At mid-mouth, more overtly chocolatey flavors and nice semi-sweet, rich, dark maltiness. This semi-sweetness subsides and gives way to a dry, mildly bitter roastiness. An imperial stout that–thankfully–aims at nailing classic stout flavors without doing anything insane. Complexity can come from good craftsmanship just as much as it can come from barrel-aging and/or employing wild yeast strains.

Mouthfeel (4.25/5): Nice and full-bodied; a nice resinous feel in the front and middle is contrasted with a dry and roasty finish. Very, very nice. Smooth and creamy.

Overall (4.25/5): A great Russian Imperial Stout that fires on all cylinders. It's not brewed with any additives–no coffee. No oats. No cacao nibs or chocolate added. No bourbon barrel aging. Sierra Nevada proves with Narwhal that complexity can be gained through great craftsmanship just as it can be gotten through adding complementary ingredients.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 796 ratings.