Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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BA SCORE
93
outstanding

4,430 Ratings
THE BROS
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no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 4,430
Reviews: 817
rAvg: 4.16
pDev: 9.62%
Wants: 254
Gots: 1,118 | 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

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 4,430 | Reviews: 817
Photo of Sammy
4.17/5  rDev +0.2%
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.

Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.05/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Thin rings of lace line the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, unsweetened cocoa, alcohol, and slight coffee aromas. Taste is much the same with a medium roasty bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and full bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with some solid aromas and flavors but I think the mouthfeel is the best part of the drinking experience with this one.

Photo of nmann08
4.02/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Vintage

Pours a dark black, soft brown head, very still and calm appearance.

Huge malty nose, sweet, smells like licorice. Chocolate and coffee fight to come through, but are muted.

Tastes are dominated by dark fruits, sweet flavors. The roasted barley taste shows up and it finishes with bitterness.

Mouthfeel is good. Creamy and rich.

Overall this is good. Personally, I enjoyed it more fresh, but could also be better with more time on it as well.

Photo of metter98
4.05/5  rDev -2.6%
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

Photo of brentk56
4.13/5  rDev -0.7%
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

Photo of BEERchitect
4.12/5  rDev -1%
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.

Photo of StonedTrippin
4.07/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

best russian imperial stout ive had in as long as i can remember. on tap at j. ryans in syracuse, ny. poured into a pint glass jet black, inky and thick, with very little head at all. the nose is moderately sweet like a milk stout, with all the familiar roasty coffee and unsweetened chocolate malt flavors i am used to in a big heavy stout. somehow the alcohol is also absurdly well hidden from the smell and taste, would never have put this at over 10%. coffee is the first flavor note, but its bitter and short lived. sweeter malt and chocolate flavors come in next, followed by a mellow carolina fres tobacco vibe that sets the whole thing off. maybe not the most complex stout ive ever tasted, but certainly one of the most elegantly put together big stouts out there right now. maybe just shy on the carbonation, but the feel remains light despite that and despite the full body because of a light silky texture to the liquid that just makes this way way way to drinkable for me. what can i say? another hit from sierra nevada.

Photo of Knapp85
3.53/5  rDev -15.1%
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.

Photo of biboergosum
4.21/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle, a nice snag from doktorzee on his recent jaunt through Vegas. Cheers, man!

This beer pours a solid black, with noticeable cola-tinted basal highlights, and three fingers of puffy, tightly foamy, and fairly creamy light brown head, which leaves some awesome craggy sea cliff lace around the glass as it slowly and evenly recedes.

It smells of well-toasted, almost meaty caramel malt, wet rye bread, powdered cocoa, stale ashes, dark-roast coffee beans, a hint of black licorice, earthy, leafy hops, and a subtly burbling alcohol astringency. The taste is semi-sweet chocolate, a consequentially reduced caramel malt, some persistent dark bready notes, edgy and earthy anise, gritty wet ash, well-roasted day-old coffee, the kind with too much nut flavourings added to it, and surprisingly (really?) bitter leafy, earthy, and dry citrus hops. A wee twinge of metallic alcohol sort of turtles as things barely warm.

The carbonation is pretty low-key, but hardly absent, a subtle bubbly edginess wafting about, the body a solid medium weight, dead smooth, and agreeably creamy, in a sort of milk-chocolate sense. It finishes well off-dry, the cocoa, caramel, roast, and hops forming one swell collection of lingering party goers.

A pleasurable and enjoyable RIS, the initially apparent unchecked sweetness duly run off at the pass in the typical Sierra Nevada way - mo' hops! It all seems to work - full-bodied, tasty and with the north of 10 points of booze doing its best shark impression by keeping its head under the surface (fin-free!*), I can just sit back and appreciate this hefty, well-made brew.

* This is a pun that only (especially new) dads will appreciate, so Imma just gonna keep it to myself for now.

Photo of emerge077
4.05/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a goblet, there was a brief crest of mocha tinged dark tan foam that receded after a few minutes down to a creamy collar at the edge of the glass.

Deep roastiness in the aroma, slight ashy char, mild dry bakers chocolate, coffee.
Flavors follow suit, huge roasted malt, blackened and ashy. Bitter dark chocolate and mild coffee notes dominate. Long lasting flavors of roast and chocolate that linger into the aftertaste. As it warms, some hop greenery comes into the picture. Reminds me of new green shoots extending skyward post-forest fire. For being 10% it's fairly approachable for the style, though still a slow sipper. Very tasty and palate coating.

As with most Imperial Stouts, allow to warm up as much as possible to get the full range out of it.

Review #2700

Photo of oberon
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours jet black with a thinner deep mocha colored head atop,no light got thru even when held to the light.Deep roast,char, and smoke dominate the nose with underlying bitter chocolate,it smells a bit raw and in your face.Wow alot of different stuff going on on the palate,dark roast coffee,deep char and smoke, with a molasses,licorice, and alcohol induced sweetness that really hits home,I was right this is in your face.This is a big brash imperial stout,it's a little rough around the edges...in a good way.

Photo of zeff80
4/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an opaque, jet-black color with a one-finger, light brown head of bubbly foam. It left thin rings of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of dark chocolate and roasted malt. There was a touch of pine.

T - Great blend of dark chocolate, burnt molasses, toffee and roasted malt. A slight piney bitterness added balance.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium to full bodied ale with a dry finish.

O - This is a really nice Russian Imperial Stout.

Photo of wethorseblanket
3.98/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2012 12oz bottle.

A: Pours black with a thin 1/8th-inch mocha head which fades to the rim and thin cap leaving spotty lace.

N: Baker's chocolate, cacao truffles, roast with some coffee, damp wood, malt, vanilla and caramel.

T: Roasty dark semi-sweet chocolate nibs, malts, faint char and coffee.

M: Full body and light carbonation. Rich, creamy and thick. Some dryness and mildly bitter finish.

O: Flavor is dominated by dark chocolate. Smells much better than it tastes.

Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.11/5  rDev -1.2%
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.

Photo of TMoney2591
4.13/5  rDev -0.7%
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.

Photo of oline73
3.58/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I had this on-tap at Max's during Baltimore Beer Week. Served in a sample glass.

Appearance: The beer is black with a layer of tan head. The head fades to a ring around the glass.

Smell: I'm getting a dark fruit sweetness along with some mild roasted malt. There is some dark chocolate in there as well. There is a slightly off note that reminds me of sweaty socks, but not enough to ruin the whole smell.

Taste: Sweet up front along with the roasted malt and dark chocolate flavors. I'm getting some dark fruit sweetness behind the roasty flavor. The finish is quite smooth, but there is some roast to counter that. The off smell doesn't show up in the flavor.

Mouthfeel: The body is just on the syrupy side of medium with lots of carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: The finish had enough bitterness but the rest of the sip could have used more. The smell was a bit off but the rest of the beer was pretty good. Not sure I need more.

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.46/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout
12 oz. brown glass bottle, "072414C120:16"

Appearance: Typical black/dark tan. Excellent head retention. Very good lacing.
Aroma: Golden caramel, light toffee, licorice, subtle fruit (black cherry), some piney/grassiness, chocolate, cold black coffee.
Flavor: As the aroma suggests, with additional espresso that's rich and creamy; and a subtle touch of orange-like citrus. It's a little spicy (hops? alcohol? both?), and a light touch of pine helps to balance it alongside a median bitterness. As you progress the black cherry note seems to step forward a bit. Dry, gently roasty and chocolatey lingering finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a very fine-bubbled moderate carbonation that at first gently bristles and then softens to become smoother.
Overall: Quite unique in its fruity component; and toned-down a bit in its chocolate and roast as compared to many examples of the style. It has finesse! Balanced, rounded, and satisfying. Without question, one of the best Imperial Stouts out there.

Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.78/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2012 release poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a deep dark black color, with a large dark brown head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains roasted malts, chocolate, coffee and a touch hops.

T: The taste starts out with a hearty roasted malt character that is quickly followed by a strong hops presence for the style. Then some sweet flavors of coffee and chocolate come in. There’s a decent balance, but the order in which the flavors appear is what makes this beer more distinctive from other stouts to me. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp and a little smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

O: Tasty, goes down ok, not too filling, strong kick, good representation of style, it’s a good beer but there are others in the style that I would choose first.

Photo of jlindros
3.98/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a darker caramel mocha colored creamy almost 1 finger head that fades slowly with nice lacing, over pretty much pitch black beer, and decent legs to go with the lacing.

Nose has plenty of dark malts, black malt, some roast, hint of charred almost acrid roast, a little espresso from the roast not from actual coffee, light fluffy nougat but no chocolate. a bit of earthy hops, some caramel and booze round off the nose.

Taste starts with burnt char, really charred roasted malts, and black malts that seem like they will get acrid but don't, at first. Dark malts is the key, tons of roasted malts that start to get a little soy sauce like as acrid flavors do start to come through, so much black malt and roast, with a bit of espresso from the roasted malts again. A bit of caramel and nougat again, as well as the complete lack of chocolate. Also some light earthy hops add to the bitterness that comes initially from the roasted malts. Some warming booze in the middle. Finish brings a decent amount of bitterness, some earthy spicy hops really come through on the finish, as well as bitterness from the char, a semi sticky sweetness, little syrupy, and some booze warmth on the back end, as well as plenty more black malts and roast.

Mouth is fuller bodied, slightly creamy but a bit syrupy, some booze warmth, fluffy nice carb.

Overall mixed, it has some good points, the hops come in nicely, the fluffiness, booze is hidden fairly well, and it will surely age well. However, too much roast and black malt flavors for now, a bit acrid, little soy sauce, etc. However, I think this will be a great beer in 2-3 years so I'll probably bunker a few down in the cellar.

Photo of Kegatron
4.17/5  rDev +0.2%
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.

Photo of RblWthACoz
4.16/5  rDev 0%
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.

Photo of mactrail
4.17/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

More nearly black than a lot of beers claimed to be black. An unexceptional head but the sudsy mouthfeel is very pleasant.

Sweet in a rich and forgiving way with a distinct smack of licorice. The hops slowly come on the dominate the aftertaste, but it's never overly bitter. Becomes more tart after some sipping and has some pie cherry-like flavors. Grainy but refined, reminds me of really heavy black German bread with some yeasty intrigue. More licorice in the nose. Hints of bitter chocolate and dark nutty roasted flavors. Smooth and creamy without being unctuous.

The first time I tried this I thought it was exceptional. Certainly one of my top favorites in the RIS style. The neck label says "2012" so I hope it will be an annual delight. From the 12 oz four-pack bought at Ibis Market in San Diego.

Photo of russpowell
3.97/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours jet-black with 4 fingers of caramel colored head. Good lacing & average head retention

S: Roastyness & cocoa, some boozeyness, faint figgyness

T: Follows the nose, dark fruit as well, some charred grain & some booze rake across your tongue up front. Some coffee as this warms, a bit of carob & booze, plus some faint raisin, then a smattering of charred grain & roastyness, plus woody & herbal hops. Finishes dry, fruitty, with carob, roasty grains & the specter of ainise

MF: Fairly chewy with light carbonation, fairly warming. Carbonation perks up as this warms

A nice take on the style, I need to do a side by side with old Raspy, I don't this quite beats that , but kudos to Sierra Nevada for spreading its wings. Would buy again to be sure, a little less boozeyness would help the cause. Will age great I'm sure

Photo of Rifugium
3.88/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First had: on tap at either Pinocchio's or TJ's

Dark pour, seemingly pitch black, capped with a small tan head; good retention and lacing. Roasty aroma, dark malts, cocoa. Roasty malts and coffee on the palate, somewhat charred, toasted grains, cocoa, notes of licorice/anise and fig-like dark fruits. Smooth mouthfeel, heavy-medium body, softer carbonation, making for a good drinker overall.

Photo of WVbeergeek
4.68/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

The elusive Narwhal, this is 2012 brewed according to the coding system they use it's bottled on 2285210:23 that's 2012 285th day on the 2nd bottling line at 10:23 am. I couldn't pass this up even though they had fresh Hoptimum I sided with the Narwhal since I hadn't yet tried this imperial stout. Pours with a black velvet smooth texture, pitch black body fills up my Stone Imperial Russian Stout glass nicely. Big smooth creamy texture mocha tan head follows the body with fine speckled lacing, this beer has some legs as I swirl it around in the chalice. Aromatics are killer dark ripened vinous fruit notes with dark chocolate and roasted coffee, it's an excellent combination brewed in this glass. Even some brown sugar/molasses like malt character kicking in with subdued earthy hops well hidden by the roasted qualities of black patent malts. The perceived sweetness comes off as dark partially fermented cherries or plump juicy raisins or a combination of those two fruits, but there is a fruity sharp sherry character going on here. Flavor rides a wave of those dark malts but has a surprisingly sharp sweet slightly salty breathe of ocean quality, maybe a bit of soy sauce that I get from some imperial stouts...it's not overkill but a nice dose of something to offset the dark malts acrid roasted malt character. Definitely sweet cherry hidden in there with well blended alcohol, caramelized brown sugar, earthy herbal hops in the backend with some added bitterness bitter dark chocolate and hints of espresso bean reach the palate as well. Like I said initially this is a killer complex ale, full bodied even smooth carbonation it's a joy to have on the palate with each sip cleansing any lingering harshness away it's drinkability is downright dangerous one of the biggest easiest drinking imperial stouts I've ever come across.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
93 out of 100 based on 4,430 ratings.