Dismiss Notice
Microbrew Invitational
Join us June 3 + 4 in Boston and help us drink 300+ beers, ciders, kombuchas, meads, sakes and more!

TICKETS: beeradvocate.com/micro/

Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
92
outstanding
872 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score
Send samples
BEER STATS
Reviews:
872
Ratings:
4,859
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
9.66%
 
 
Wants:
308
Gots:
1,369
For Trade:
45
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 872 | Ratings: 4,859
Photo of stephens101
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
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.

 676 characters

Photo of brewcrew76
3.9/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Black with ruby highlights and little if any tan foam.

S - Burnt malt, alcohol, dark fruit, chocolate milk and light alcohol.

T - Bittersweet chocolate, burnt malt, coffee grounds, some herbal hop bitterness, some hot alcohol, molasses, light vanilla and dark fruits as it warms.

M - Full body, appears lightly carbonated until it hits the mouth and then a touch tingly on the way down. Warming.

D - Strong on the burnt bold flavors but still complex. Nicely done.

 472 characters

Photo of WillCarrera
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle, bottled on October 25, 2012, poured into a tulip glass.

A- Pours pitch black, very thick looking, produces a couple fingers of mocha head that recede to a collar, leaves spotty lacing.

S- Lots of roasted grain, coffee, dark chocolate, booze is just barely noticeable.

T- Big roasted flavors, lots of coffee, dark chocolate and maybe a bit of spice, cocoa, and just a little bit of molasses. The booze is pretty spot on and lends some fruity warmth. The flavor has a very nice balance of roasted and sweet flavors, although it inclines a bit towards roasted and hoppy bitter flavors.

M- Full-bodied, has a smooth, rich feel, alcohol warmth is perceptible but isn't hot.

O- A really tasty RIS, very drinkable and a great addition to Sierra Nevada's seasonal beers, good stuff.

 793 characters

Photo of Greywulfken
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%

A: perfect black beer with a dense mocha fluff; lengths of lace left behind

S: rich dark malt aromas full of cocoa and espresso suggestions; sweeter hints of molasses

T: bittersweet chocolates and espresso with cane sugar; flashes of vanilla; lighter tones suggestive of anise and oak

M: creamy smooth and soft; slips across the palate with the barest brush; a full-bodied beer that's light-as-a feather?

O: an epic Russian Imperial - runs a little sweeter and less bitter than say, an Old Rasputin; had a slimmer, less sticky character than say, Stone's IRS; an elegant entry in the style. Don't pass it up.

 612 characters

Photo of ONUMello
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 edition poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass
A: Pitch black color with a one-finger mocha colored head
S: Rich with coffee, cocoa, roasted malt and hops rounding it out
T: Also very rich with flavors that perfectly match the nose
M: Wow. Full-bodied, incredibly smooth but with a bit of a bite from the hops
O: This is a very well-made RIS that's incredibly enjoyable to drink

 388 characters

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

12oz into a tulip. Pours a jet black w/ a 1-finger tan head.

Aroma is bitter, roasty: coffee, chocolate, dark fruit. All that's missing is the bourbon.

Taste follows nose. Rich bitter chocolate, deep roasted malt, coffee.

Mouthfeel is just right. Medium-bodied, balanced; crosses the palate effortlessly. Nice bitter finish.

Overall a rock-solid imperial stout. Well done Sierra Nevada. Once again a no-nonsense, straightforward, excellent beer.

 449 characters

Photo of Mdog
3.47/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pitch black with a huge head. Looks great.

Smell: Not much. Mild chocolate shows up eventually.

Taste: Dark chocolate builds in intensity through the glass. Dark fruits hang in the background. Gives a mild dark chocolate bitterness throughout.

Overall: Started out looking like a dream, but didn't deliver excellence in the aroma or taste. Some might be my personal preference in that I like imperial stouts to be a little sweeter than this, but it still didn't give a particularly memorable experience. Kind of middle of the road, not too sweet, not too hoppy.

 576 characters

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%

(2014 version, packaged 07/24/14 - poured into a balloon)

A: just about jet black... dark tan foam, with some staying power, perhaps due to high-hopping

S: huge cappucchino roastiness with hints of black chocolate and a whisper of medicinal booze... piney hops out the ass... very bold aromas and quite inviting

T: cascading layers of intense roasted flavors roll and fold over the palate, while the back end bitterness and booze slowly fans out into and through the back part of the throat, stopping there and burning like a bonfire against a concrete wall, while falling quite short of traveling down the throat with any malt viscosity or hop resins - this is all on the first sip... subsequent sampling reveal more biting bitterness, dark chocolate, and a subtle spiciness, likely derived from a blend of (mostly) fusels and a healthy dose of the Magnum (sorry, Challenger's colorful personality gets swallowed up and wasted here)... not what you'd call 'sweet' this is

M: medium-bodied but built rugged and sturdy... everything drops off midway down the palate... soft, whiskey-like parching effect, but its heat stings... supremely bone-dry

O: roast, coffee, malt, hops, booze - that's the name of this game... it'd be nice to see how this develops over time, but I'm diggin' it for what it's got right now... I can't figure out why, but this tastes like a SN product - must be something in the water

 1,410 characters

Photo of generallee
4.19/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Presentation: It was poured from a brown 12 oz bottle into a tulip glass. The label lists the abv at 10.2% and the year it was brewed. (2013) There is a short description of the beer as well.

Appearance: It has a very dark black body which is completely opaque. From the slow pour I got a tall tan colored head that settles down fairly quick but makes tons of cool lacing on the glass.

Smell: The aroma has a mild character with some modest sweet and roasted maltiness.

Taste / Palate: The mild aroma gives way to a big bold full bodied malty sweetness on the tongue. There are notes of caramel, toffee, molasses, and raisins. It’s 10.2% abv is noticeable but mellow and adds to its overall character. The palate feels smooth with light carbonation in this big heavy offering from Sierra Nevada. It finishes slowly with just a touch of earthy hops.

 855 characters

Photo of StaveHooks
4.47/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz poured into a snifter.

A - Black as the deep sea with a healthy cappuccino head that has plenty of staying power. The head forms a micro bubbled ceiling with a creamy uniform collar.

S - Deeply roasted malts, dark chocolate, underlying mint leaf, cold espresso, hard root beer candy. Smoke and perfumy alcohol come out as it warms.

T - Creamy and dense chocolate malts, espresso, toasted cocoa, cooked pine sap, bitterness seems to come from the coaco and the pine hops. Smokiness comes out as it warms. The finish is bitter, roasty, and very satisfying.

M - Creamy, silky, full bodied, low carbonation.

Sierra Nevada brings it Like a Boss. This is fresh and bursting with raw but perfect flavors for a fresh Impy. I would drink this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! For the price point, It's a no-brainer. I will be buying ALOT of this. Thanks again Ken!

 866 characters

Photo of jbertsch
2.97/5  rDev -28.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

6 months old.

Poured into a snifter.

Appearance is jet black. Head was fizzy and off-white, almost tan. Head unfortunately fizzled away fast.

Aroma gives off a mixed sense of char, bonfire, salty brine, booze, and some general roastiness.

Its flavor is not big on chocolate or coffee as one might look for. It's a bit nondescript. Some earthiness and a little wood is noticeable. Salty brine again is noticeable. Some alcohol soaked bittersweet chocolate makes a quick appearance on the finish. The flavor is a little syrupy.

Mouthfeel is oily and slick... it's a little detracting from the overall enjoyment.

Overall, I wouldn't buy this again. It's exemplary of the mediocre rut SN's beers can sometimes fall into. They're capable of better in my eyes. In my needs for an imperial stout, there's no need for me to return to this one. However, it's not terrible and what will save it are the leagues of SN fans.

 922 characters

Photo of tkdchampxi
4.43/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottom Line: Great, syrupy stout that reminds me a lot of coca cola and beer, but in a good way. Not as good as your Founders Breakfast Stout, but still very enjoyable, and worth the ticket price.

Appearance: Dark, with a very small head, when poured down the side of the tulip glass.

Smell: Cold, refreshing, a little piney, a little bit like a cola.

Taste: Coffee flavor typical of a stout, but subdued. Sweeter than a typical stout, that really reminds me of coca cola.

Mouthfeel: medium low on carbonation, but with a silky, syrupy texture. Maybe it could use a bit more carbonation?

Overall: Finally got to have my first Narwhal, and I'm happy to say that it lived up to its reputation of being a great stout, worth the $10/4pk price.

 745 characters

Photo of stumac
3.55/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours up black. Great lacing. Dark tan/light brown lacing. Whatevs. Smell booze, shattered dreams, my upper lip, toasted malts. Taste toffee, coffee, and bears. Oh my! Slightly boozy. Thick burnt malts. Big ol body. Smooth carbo. A tastey treat. I dig it

 254 characters

Photo of heygeebee
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Briefly, looks on the money for an RIS, and rich and smooth on nose and taste. Velvety, mellow, luscious. Roasts, coffee, and dark choc to the fore, and less hoppy than we might expect from SN. Dry finish and less alcohol burn than you would think.

Overall, really solid and to style.

 285 characters

Photo of Auror
3.86/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12oz bottle to CBS snifter on 11/03/12.

Appearance- Jet black with an iced coffee colored mocha head. Medium head on pour leads to persistent half inch ring. Excellent lacing..

Smell- Roasted malts, coffee, bitter chocolate. A bit smokier than I anticipated, not as much chocolate.

Taste- Flavor takes a back seat to mouthfeel. Sticky sweetness leads to a lingering piney bitterness. Individual flavors aren't very easy to pick out. It's mainly some sweetness, then roasted notes, followed by bitterness. Insert your favorite placeholder flavor (vanilla to smoke to hops).

Mouthfeel- Thick, viscous, coating, and slightly chewy. Carbonation levels prevent the beer from being as creamy as I like my stouts to be.

Overall- Considering this doesn't taste up my alley, I can at least appreciate the well-made aspects of it. The sweetness and bitterness balance well in the taste, although I think both are a little heavy. Alcohol is not very noticeable for a 10% plus beer. My score turned out very odd for this one.

 1,032 characters

Photo of grittybrews
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured an opaque black with a finger of mocha head. Aroma of roasty cocoa, licorice, and coffee.

Moderate carbonation and full, creamy, slightly chalky mouthfeel. Caramel and roasty chocolate up front with espresso and licorice. Quite a bit of hop bitterness and boozy warmth on the finish, with fruity esters that emerge as the beer warms.

Solid stout with sharp, big flavors.

 379 characters

Photo of facundoCNB
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

poured a thick black syrupy liquid into a tulip. two fingers of tan head and some nice lacing left behind. excellent retention. looks very nicely carbonated for a RIS.
smells of chocolate, dark roasted grains, dirt, coffee.
the taste is definitely different than most RIS i've had. nicely hopped up front. lots of very dark, rich notes. coffee, dark chocolate, tobacco, dirt.
a rich and creamy full body, slight alcohol warmth, mild carbonation. as the beer warms up, it develops more and more. i love drinks like this because they can last you a good amount of a night, tasting different every 5 minutes. you can barely taste or smell the alcohol. really bitter for a stout, which makes this one right up my alley.

 715 characters

Photo of SawDog505
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured down the middle of a 16 oz snifter, bottled on the 279th day of the year, and close to room temperature like the brewer would suggest. Pours a slick midnight black, with a massive 3 inch brown head that coats the sides of the glass with lace. The smell is anise, coffee, chocolate, and hints of smoke, balanced very well. Taste is very aggressive with all those flavors, probably will mellow with time, I will definitely hang on to a case of these to see what time will do, not complaining. Body is medium large, plenty of life especially for its size, a little dry as you should expect, and very approachable. This is a wonderful and affordable imperial stout at $8.99. Sierra does it once again!

 704 characters

Photo of Goblinmunkey7
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a near solid black. Some super dark reds at the edges when held to the light. Head is dark khaki and creamy. Nice retention with a smallish cap. Creamy lacing sticks to the glass. Big bubbly creamy.

Smell: Big notes of roasted barley. Some minor citrus in the back. Burnt edges and some serious cocoa. Baker's chocolate and some leather. Roasted malt sweetness. Touches of caramel and dark fruits, mainly plum with some dark cherry thrown in for good measure. Orange zest and milk chocolate.

Taste: Rich cocoa. Bitter baker's chocolate layered with sweet milk chocolate. Loads of roasted malt. Burnt with a nice push of char. Building sweetness is tempered by the super roasted malts. Some nice caramel malt and a backing biscuity malt presence. Leather and more burnt. Minor citrus from the hops, mainly orange zest. Fudgey at times, cakey at others. As it warms the burnt malts take the forefront and push a minor smokiness along with the char.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy. A lingering dryness from the sheer volume of deeply roasted malts. It's a sipper and a drinker.

Overall: Hell yeah underwater unicorn!

This isn't going to shatter a tongue or a mind, but damn if it's not one of the most drinkable RISes on the market. A bit of edge will temper the hops and really allow the malt flavors to shine. Great fresh and I can only imagine how great it will be when it's aged.

 1,402 characters

Photo of larryi86
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a tulip

A- Black with a three finger mocha head.

S- Roasted coffee, dark chocolate, some earthy hops.

T- Dark chocolate, roasted coffee, some caramel malts, earthy hops in the finish, some dark fruits, some milk chocolate.

M- Smooth, full body, a good amount of carbonation.

O- A great imperial stout. I enjoyed the 30th anniversary stout more, but I am very happy see Sierra Nevada brewing an imperial stout.

 439 characters

Photo of rajendra82
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown pour evolved into a near pitch black opaque liquid in the glass, with ruby highlights. The head was quite small in size, but it left some awesome khaki lace. The aroma of the beer showed off the roasted malts, with the smells of coffee, toffee, and chocolate. The taste was an extension of the smell, but with amped up intensity. The coffee taste was thick in this beer, with a bitter, astringent finish. If I let the sip linger in my mouth, some powder cocoa notes crept in. I usually dislike "Imperial" stouts that have runny, weak mouthfeel. Luckily this was not one of those namby pamby beers. The body was as thick as they come. Sierra Nevada has delivered another awesome product to the mass market.

 716 characters

Photo of vkv822
3.84/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

12oz : tulip

Black, with a thick, foamy brown head. Minimal lacing.

Cocoa predominantly, some dark fruit and roast in the finish.

Medium body, bubbly, average carbonation.

A well crafted RIS. While it has a very enjoyable flavor profile, I can't help but feel there is nothing particularly memorable overall in the big picture of Imperial Stous.

 349 characters

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

Pours a black body with a finger of brown mocha head.
Coffee and chocolate notes. The sweetness and the bitter coffee roastiness mixes so well with the chocolate making milk and darker bakers chocolate aromas. Some earthy hop and a kiss of booze.
Lots of sweet and bitter chocolate in here as well as coffee. Even with as hoppy as it is it doesn't get too bitter. Like in the nose a little alcohol is here but it doesn't hamper easy drink ability this stout has.
The body and mouthfeel is great on this. Subtle carbonation. It is pretty creamy like an oatmeal stout.
This is a pretty darn good stout. I was hoping it was going to be good enough to compliment that awesome label and it did. No extreme to it to separate it from the pack, but it goes on the list of super solid imperial stouts.

 794 characters

Photo of HamdenHector
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: very deep brown - virtually black; 1 finger relatively dark head that receded to a thin collar; OK lacing;

S: deeply roasted grain and bittersweet chocolate; a little boozy; a little smoky;

T: deeply roasted grain; a little nutty; a little smoky; finish has a little alcohol bite; a touch of bittersweet chocolate in the aftertaste;

M: full bodied - sticky; light to moderate carbonation; medium dry finish;

O: intense; a good way to an a session;

 454 characters

Photo of zimm421
4.01/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a jet black with a light brown head. The nose is sweet, slightly fruity and has good roast character. The taste starts out with chocolate and fruitiness, and is quickly followed by hoppiness. The finish is roasted malts and hop bitterness. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy. Personally, I think this is better with a bit of time on it to help round out the hops and bring the maltiness to the forefront.

 410 characters

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 872 ratings.