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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

820 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 820
Hads: 4,652
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,229 | 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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 820 | Hads: 4,652
Photo of maximum12
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
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 popery
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It's a really pretty stout. The head is a thick blanket of brown foam. Fine bubbles stick to the walls of the glass with each sip. The body is jet black. It's hard to see any color even at the edges of my glass. The aroma is full of chocolate and coffee. There's some caramel and roast beneath those initial notes. It smells rich and sweet. A touch of hops blends into the background. The taste is also quite good. Heavier on the roast and coffee than chocolate. Starts with lots of caramel and chocolate sweetness before the more bitter flavors take over. Mouthfeel is soft and full. Excellent. This is a great example of the style. I wish it was a bit more chocolatey and even less bitter, but I could see my score going up even higher upon subsequent tastings.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
3.9/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours jet black with a dark brown head. In the aroma, dry coffee and notes of chocolate. In the taste, dry coffee and a chocolate malt that rides all the way through. A small bite and a medium to bigger bodied mouthfeel, with a dry and roasty coffee in the aftertaste. Big coffee, nice chocolate notes, and hides the alcohol.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.58/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ok, this review is for the 2013 batch as I forgot to review the 2012 which I actually thought was better. Dark black, brown healthy head. Aroma is alcohol, roast malt, not bad at all. Flavor is alcohol, dark malts, fruit, mild notes of chocolate. Overall pretty good but a little astringent for my liking,

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Photo of lordofthewiens
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I found a lonely four pack of this when I went to Gary's to pick up 2013 Bigfoot, and brought it home with me. Glad I did.

In a snifter this beer was black, really black, with just a rim of tan head.

Strong roasted malt aroma. Coffee. Charcoal.

The taste was mostly strong coffee, even a little bit on the burned side. There was a little bit of chocolate.

A dry, burned feeling in the mouth. Astringent.

Nice beer.

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Photo of mynie
4.24/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

On tap at The Pint in West Lafayette, IN. Ordered it because why not, what the hell.

Smells fairly tame, even as it warms. Big nodes of roasted barley combined with some light wisps of espresso and alcohol fire.

Tastes quite good, much stronger than its relatively tame ABV led me to anticipate. Very nice balance between sweet and roasty nodes, coming across both lively vinous and bitterly dark. Back end is a wee bit thin which blots out some of the complexities.

Nothing to write home about, really; just a nice, aggressive double stout.

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Photo of Pencible
3.78/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: This poured a totally opaque black with thick tan head.
S: It smelled like dry dark chocolate and roasted coffee, with some alcohol and subtle citrus zest.
T: It tasted like unsweetened dark chocolate and espresso, with some bitter resin hops. It had a harsh bitter aftertaste with notable alcohol warming.
M: It was thick and chewy with moderate carbonation. Great big body.
D: This had great looks and body, but the scent and taste weren't as impressive. It was hot and unrefined, so it wasn't very easy to drink. Maybe age will help tame this beast, but fresh is kind of rough.

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Photo of cosmicevan
4.07/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

thanks to devi0us for hooking up this beer which surprisingly has never showed up in NY (i believe there is some sort of lawsuit over the name???). enjoyed from my sierra nevada snifter.

a - pours a velvety black with a great shine and about 1/2 inch of head that touched the tip of the glass. the head slowly fizzled away leaving some nice lacing in the small amount of glass real estate left behind by the 12ozes of brew. really attractive.

s - good subtle roast with great coffee scent. some nice bakers chocolate. just lots of greatness and great balance. really really nice, my mouth begins to water.

t - the roast comes through big with lots of chocolate bitterness and a surprising hop like wallop with the bitter finish.

m - finish is surprisingly bitter, nice carbonation...a bit of a porter like char.

o - overall, went into this with no expectations other than that it is a beer from sierra nevada. not surprised that they were able to tackle a big batch RIS with class, flavor and quality. not the greatest RIS, but certainly one that i would pick up if it manages to show up in NY.

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Photo of gtermi
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Narwhal pours a dark black body with a thick tan head that slowly fades away and leaves a little bit of lacing on the glass.

S: There is a little bit of chocolate malt, a lot of burning booze, some roasted malt and even a tiny bit of sweetness.

T: Wow this reminds me a lot of Old Rasputin. It is so tasty with the chocolate and roasted malt flavors hitting my palate with a punch. There is a tiny bit of booze, but the sweetness really covers it.

M: Very thick and creamy body, that isnt too thick. It goes down with ease and really doesnt have much crispness.

O: This is just another damn good beer from Sierra Nevada, but what else should I have expected?? I mean everything they make is delicious and they knocked this beer out of the park.

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Photo of StJamesGate
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Motor oil in both color and consistency, with a cappuccino-colored head.
Blackberry, roast, charcoal, and caramel sauce on the nose.
Sweet licorice, 70% chocolate, ash, black currant, followed by solid branchy hops.
Cherry cola finish and gently bitter linger.
Full, creamy, round, smooth, no burn.

Big, sweet and velvety. More chocolaty than coffee, overall. No harsh roast, heat or big hops. Easy to like.

An RIS for rookies.

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Photo of Stevedore
3.76/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Note: my personal scoring system goes in whole numbers only)

2012 vintage 12oz bottle with bottling date 279 Julian, drank in snifter today 2/5/13

Aroma- A crisp roasty sweetness remniscent of burnt sugar, with some chocolate and coffee in the nose which I have to work a bit for. Pretty average for an imperial stout. (3)

Colour- Black cola-colour pouring with a 2-3cm brown head that sticks around for a good five minutes. Lacing is persistent but spotty. (4)

Flavour- Bold chocolate and roasted black coffee. A little bit of vanilla as well as hints of smokiness. (4)

Mouthfeel- A nice thick body with ok carbonation. Nothing special. It runs a bit dry with a good amount of heat. Aftertaste is of burnt malt and black coffee but doesn't linger all that long. (4)

Overall- Above-average, good-tasting double stout that comes with fairly complex flavors. But it's running rather hot and I think some age will do it some good. I'll stash a few away for next winter. (4)

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Photo of Suds
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Utterly black, the ale is thick and intense. It has a thin, light-brown head, with an intense smell and a heavy alcohol punch. The smell is of licorice, wood, fleeting smoke, and booze-soaked raisins. The taste is very dry...and very bitter. The bitterness begins in the foretaste, combined with an immediate intense warming. Lots of alcohol. Roasty flavors...bitterness and some woody resin-like characteristics. Full in body...luxurious and heavy. This is one powerful brew, in almost every sense of the word.

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Photo of jera1350
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Solid black bodied with just a ring of brown foam coating the edge of the tulip glass. Got some thick sediment out of the last 1/5th of the pour.

Heavy roast, fresh cream, light coffee bean, hint of dark chocolate.

Big boozy and toasted grain taste. Plenty of warmth felt also. Notes of deep dark chocolate, heavy cream and coffee bean. The roastiness lasts throughout and well into the aftertaste. Bitter chocolate and coffee bean. Finishes with a hoppiness on the tongue.

Feels much lighter than a 10% beer. Not thin, but just not as thick as many for the style. Smooth for sure and lacks the slick feel associated with imperial stouts.

A very well done imperial stout all around. Very well rounded, but nothing stands out a ton to me to make it elite. Doesn't matter, this is a satisfying imperial stout that will fit the bill for the upcoming winter months.

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Photo of jzeilinger
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours pitch black and the head quickly dies down to leave a very thin lacing ring and a heavy cascade of bubbles when the snifter is swirled.

S - Roasted cocoa nibs, bittersweet chocolate, light charcoal & coffee beans, dark fruit is subdued and buried.

T - Dark roasted chocolate, dark fruit, coffee/expresso, charred oak, and chocolate bitterness that lingers on the palate.

M - Velvety smooth, soft carbonation, thick body and texture.

O - Sierra Nevada is coming on strong with some excellent big beers, this is yet another one worth seeking out for the stout lovers.

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Photo of Gmann
4.02/5  rDev -2.9%
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 morimech
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours black and slightly viscous. Just over one finger of head forms and hangs around for some time before settling to a thick cap. Heavy lacing and rings are left down the glass.

Pleasing malty aroma with hints of roast, mocha, and a slight touch of smoke. Alcohol is detectable but nothing out of the ordinary for an Imprial Stout.

Alcohol and smoke plays a much larger role in the flavor. Still plenty of roasted and chocolate malt as well. Finishes with the flavor of ethanol. Plenty warm at the end.

Thick and creamy feel. It is full bodied. As always, Sierra Nevada does not disappoint in the mouthfeel whatever the style they brew.

I thought maybe they would of went safe with a RIS. But this is a big, bold stout that is not afraid to flex its muscles. Approachable flavors that just about anyone could appreciate.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.44/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured pitch black into generic snifter with small brown head. Aroma is roasty chocolate, and more roasted chocolate. Flavor follows with bittersweet chocolate and a very nice roasted finish. Extremely smooth with just the right carbonation. Thick but easy drinking. Like velvet. I would compare this closely with Oaked Yeti, with less sweetness and more bittersweet. This is a phenomenal brew feom SN. Easily rank this above some of the more hyped impies. I really can’t find anything wrong with this one.

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Photo of woosterbill
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle, 2012 vintage (obviously), into a Duvel tulip.

A: A straight pour yields a solid, dense light-brown head above a black body that glints crimson when held up to light. The head settles slowly and leaves some nice lacing. Lovely.

S: Spicy, with dark chocolate, spruce, and light booziness. The hops are huge, overwhelming everything else - but I expected no less from SN. Really nice, albeit in an almost Black IPA kind of way.

T: Follows the nose, but with a bit more malt richness - lovely brownie batter sweetness leads in to the highly bitter, spicy finish. Really intense, quite tasty, but a trifle harsh on the back end.

M: Creamy, substantial but not sticky. Excellent.

O: Really nice stout - reminds me a bit of '09 Imperial Stout Trooper, the year it was super hoppy. Good stuff.


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Photo of scottfrie
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle into snifter. 2012 four pack.

A: Pours black with a finger of milk chocolate head that quickly faded into a dense film.
S: Big chocolate, big hops (pine), with a well-integrated background roast. Vanilla and fudge are noticeable, with coffee being lightly detectable.
T: Follows the nose with rich and creamy notes of chocolate fudge, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, pine hops, hop resin, and vanilla. The finish is full of roasted malt and maybe a hint of coffee, and the aftertaste is bitter but smooth. There is a slightly boozy quality to the finish as well, but it’s not distracting.
M: Full body but not motor oil, with a very smooth and drinkable mouthfeel. Carbonation is fuzzy, soft and airy.
O: In a couple months to a year this beer will be drinking great. I love it now, but for those who want the bitter hops and the slight alcohol presence to fade away, sit on a few bottles. Thank you SN for release this as a four pack.

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Photo of FosterJM
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

1632nd Review on BA
Bottle to Snifter

2012 Release
Purchased a single 12 from Total Wine, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

App- Poured a very dark brown and then bordered onto a black color. A great amount of density in the center and a little bit of lighter browns on the edges. A nice 1/2 inch head was there and fairly compact and then moved into a nice bit of lace and cling.

Smell- It was a nice RIS. Had a good amount of malt behind it with some roasty notes and bit of the bottle conditioned hop bitterness. A bit of bakers chocolate came into play as well.

Taste- I enjoyed this RIS. It had a great balance behind it. A good hop bitter with a solid milk chocolate and roast offering. The beginning is a bit thin and takes a few sips to warm and release a bit more of the flavors. More grainy that I thought, but still very flavorful.

Mouth- A very solid medium body with a medium grainy carbonation. A good amount of chocolate and malts balanced by a nice amount of bitter.

Drink- I liked it. Couldve been just an off day for me to rate a little low. Might have to grab a 4 pk to sit on.

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Photo of rlee1390
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A-Black, some carbonation, one finger brown head.

S-Roasted malt, slight chocolate, some coffee as well.

T-Very malt heavy, dark chocolate, coffee, some burnt notes. Mild Bitterness in the finish.

M-Medium to heavy bodied, some carbonation, smooth.

O-Glad to see Sierra Nevada making an Imperial Stout. Now to try aging some.

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Photo of Holland
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: dark and thick with a one finger, tan head that gives way to a very thin sheet of foam on top.

S: big roasted smells like coffee and slight smoke. Sweet malt, too.

T: good bitterness and roasted flavor mix, with little of the sweetness I thought would be there from the smell.

M: thick body with medium carbonation that isn't too aggressive makes for a smooth stout.

O: very nice beer for $9 per 4-pack. Delicious stuff, would buy again, and I'm excited to age some of these.

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Photo of Fatehunter
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Off the tap, pitch black with minimal head.
Smell is a strong roasted and caramel malt. Rich and nice.
Taste is bold, chocolate and coffee. Balanced though.
Thick texture with low carbonation and heavy body.
Really hits the spot for an imperial stout.

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Photo of StoutHunter
4.01/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

I picked up a four pack of Sierra Nevada's Narwhal Imperial Stout a couple weeks ago for $10.99 at The Lager Mill. Russian Imperial Stouts are one of my favorite styles and Sierra Nevada is one solid brewery so I couldn't pass up the chance to give this beer a try, so lets see how it goes. This is the first time this beer has been bottled, 2012 vintage. Poured from a shorter brown 12oz bottle into a snifter.

A- I like the name and the artwork for this beer, it's nicely done and it's pretty unique much like the animal it's named after. It poured a nice and dark motor oil black color that didn't let any light come through and it had two and a half fingers worth of fluffy light mocha colored head that died down to a thin ring that stayed till the end and left some nice and sticky patches of lacing. This is a very good looking beer with a nice dark color and more head then usual for this style, there's not a damn thing wrong with it.

S- The aroma starts off with loads of dark roasted malts that have a higher amount of sweetness to them and imparted some roasted, charred, chocolate, molasses, cocoa powder, coffee, black licorice, and a slight bit of tobacco towards the end. I don't pick up any hops in the aroma but I do get a sweet boozy aroma. The aroma is nice and it's very true to style, the booze shows up a little too much, but it doesn't hurt this beer that much.

T- The taste seems to be pretty damn similar to the aroma and it starts off the same with lots of roasted malts that have a higher amount of medium sweetness and impart some highly roasted flavors along with some chocolate, coffee, and a slight tobacco and black licorice flavor. After that comes a sweet molasses flavor followed by a good amount of dark fruits that add some complexity to the flavor. On the finish I get some warming alcohol that makes the flavor a little boozy and the aftertaste is full of sweet roasted and charred malts. This beer tastes good and is very true to style, it has nice complexity, but the boozyness hurts it a little.

M- Not that smooth, somewhat creamy, a little sticky, very rich, full bodied, and it had a pretty good amount of medium carbonation. The mouthfeel was ok, but it would be nice if this was a little smoother.

Overall I thought this was a good beer and a good example of the style, it had just about all the aspects that I look for in the style with some good complexity, but it didn't seem to be as balanced as some of the better RIS's. This beer had ok drinkability, it's a sipper and the flavors did a good job at holding my attention, but I think one would be enough for me, it might start to be to boozy after that. What I liked the most about this beer was it's complexity and it's appearance, they were both pretty good. What I liked the least about this beer was the mouthfeel and the drinkability, it was a little rough around the edges and it would be nice if this beer was smoothed out a little. I would buy this beer again, it's pretty solid and affordable for the style, I might keep a couple bottles for the cellar to see how they change overtime and I would get a four pack if it's released again. All in all I thought this was a pretty solid Russian Imperial Stout, but it lacked the balance and refinement that some of the better ones have, it's good but It can't hang with the world class RIS's like Founders RIS or Bell's Expedition Stout. Sierra Nevada makes some solid beers and this one's no exception, they seem to be one of the most constant breweries and I respect that. 2013 Edit, I had a year old bottle recently and it smoothed a little with some great chocolate flavors, ages well so far.

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Photo of Bierman9
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I picked up a 4-pack of this yesterday at Ayottes ($9.49). Time for a little half-time libation...

Poured into a small DT tulip... It's a dense, opaque, deep brown colored bier. Head is a mocha hue, and is smooth and creamy but thins quickly. Lacing was on the light side. Aroma was mild, with some choco and a touch of coffee present. Loved the mouthfeel, as it was quite smooth and almost full-bodied, bordering on being chewy.

Flavor is lightly sweet, with some dark choco, mocha, roastiness and cocoa present. The latter reminds me a bit of a dry, powdery, teaspoon-full of Nestles cocoa mix. It's a bit bitter, but in a good manner, like semi-sweet dark-choco baking nibs. There's decent hopping in the finish, with floral action lingering in the dry finish. Pretty good, all in all...


4.05/5 rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4


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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 820 ratings.