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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

821 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 821
Hads: 4,665
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 23.19%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,238 | 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: 821 | Hads: 4,665
Photo of DenverHopHead
4.49/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.
Appearance - black as motor oil; creamy, tan head; ring upon ring of lacing!
Smell - cocoa and dark chocolate; hint of espresso.
Taste - complex flavors! Starts off creamy, but a surprise rush of hops mixed with a hint of alcohol, follows with malts and coffee flavors.
Feel - a very complex RIS! I was taken back by the very noticeable hop presence, it almost comes off as a hardcore Black IPA! More medium body, not too heavy and very drinkable at 10.2% ABV!
Overall - terrific offering from Sierra Nevada! To me this is a cross between an RIS and a Black IPA! The price point gives this one the nod over many other stouts! I'm anxious to try this alongside a few of my favorite Black IPA's, like Wookey Jack, Sublimely, and Mountain Standard.

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Photo of deebo
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 version that has been sitting in my fridge since November. Poured into a snifter this brew comes out of the bottle looking like motor oil topped with a dark tan thick head 1 finger wide with good lacing. Aromas of chocolate and roasted malt. Fairly simple but delicious. Taste is also chocolately with some nice roasted slightly bitter malt. A rather thick yet smooth mouthfeel. Really clean for a 10%+ beer. This is a fantastic RIS. Favorite beer from Sierra Nevada

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

Review is from written notes. Dark aggressively black-brown pour with mocha foam. Smells loaded with semi-sweet chocolate, crispy toast, lightly burnt coffee. Very nice. Taste follows with thick dense toast and biscuit, char, heavily roasted coffee, baker's chocolate, dark dried cherries. Medium heavy body, creamy mouthfeel. Enjoyable and a nice RIS from Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of beerdrifter
4.57/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pitch Black pour with a creamy two finger caramel-colored head with nice retention and lacing. Unique, sweet, roasty nose with hints of espresso, licorice, toffee, cocoa, and a fair amount of hops, almost like a Black IPA. The taste is quite unique as well. Rich, roasty espresso and dark chocolate fudge dominate along with hints of piney hops, licorice, toffee, cocoa, sweet caramel malts, and some subtle soy sauce. The mouthfeel is smooth and somewhat creamy with absolutely perfect balance. Overall, I am totally amazed at how good this beer is. It's absolutely right up there with any Imperial Stout. Probably has taken over Ten Fidy's spot as the best readily available Imperial Stout out there!

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

So now i am reviewing Narwhal, another SN product and an excellent one as usual.

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter. While pouring it is thick, dark brown. In the glass, it is dark as hell. Pure black. Head is dark tan colored not usual shining stuff in some of the other RISs that i have had. One finger thick. Not enough standing Disappears into a thing blanket and then a ring. Not enough lacing.

Aroma: Not much happening here. Dark roasted malts, somewhat burnt up. Sweet heavily malt forward nose. Very mild aroma for a RIS. Some hops that are very faint. 10.2 is very well hidden, no presence whatsoever.

Taste: Magic lies here. Charring malts enter but do not send an overtly burnt up taste. Use of coffee is apparent. Some dark chocolate. A very good amount of after taste bitterness, that is a mix of some bitter hops and roasted malts. Alcohol is hidden to a very good extent. Only when you have consumed enough does the effects start to show. This one is very delicious RIS. Strong yet with good drinkability. Finish is bitter dry. No sweetness in the taste at all.

Mouth feel: Thick bodied yet surprisingly smooth and creamy. Low to moderate on carbonation. Somewhat astringent in its taste of charred malts, smokiness and hopping.

Very enjoyable RIS. Keeps you wanting for more. Strong and powerful. To be enjoyed slowly. Let it warm a bit and let it sit. Let it linger in your mouth for as long as it can.

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Photo of dbossman
4.09/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Black with a solid but fairly quickly dissipating head; beautiful lacing

S: Big roasty coffee beans; some dark fruits; hoppy bitter up front with a sweet chocolatey malt undertone; this is a big beautiful and delicious spelling beer

T: Deliciously bitter and roasty; quite a bit of booze but the coffee and chocolate come rushing in afterwards; I wish it had more sweet balance--quite bitter in the finish (though I imagine this will improve with some age)

F: Creamy and viscous

O: A nice, thick, boozy stout; I wish it had more balance though; like I said, this will get better with age

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Photo of martyl1000
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Black. Oily. Chewy brown head but the lacing slides off the glass too readily, via some obvious alcohol solvency.

Boozy aroma, w/ coffee, barely detectable chocolate. Nice, but fairly one-dimensional.

Booze first on the tongue. Then tart stone fruit, cherry, prune, or is it fig. Cocoa's next, along with burnt toast. Then more booze, which is an issue.

Thick, oily, despite the significant carbonation.

Very much like Old Rasputin, which isn't my favorite RIS. I like them sweeter than this. The simplistic aroma is the weak spot, here. But at this price point, I'll drink this regularly. Wish there were more chocolate and/or vanilla involved.

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Photo of BeerDawgs
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
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 brewskis
4.19/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Has a jet black appearance with a finger length dark mocha head that dissipates slowly and leaves a thick lacing. Smells of lots of bittersweet chocolate, good amount of coffee, nice roasted element to it, some oak, molasses, maybe some dark fruit as it warms. Taste starts with the bittersweet chocolate and molasses. Then in the middle, a huge dose of roastiness comes through from the roasted barley, along with more molasses. Then the finish is more of the roasted flavors, almost like a smokiness, along with lots of bittersweet chocolate, more molasses, some coffee or expresso, a tiny bit of hop presence, get some fig as well. Definite alcohol presence on the finish as well, but does not detract from the other flavors. Pretty full body with a sticky and creamy mouthfeel. Decent amount of carbonation that livens up the body of the beer. This will age nicely. Nothing too flashy, but a solid imperial stout at an affordable price.

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Photo of GPHarris
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

a - poured a one finger thick creamy coffee-colored head into a snifter that left great lacing throughout. the body was dark black.
s - chocolate, coffee with a hint of piney hops.
t - roasted coffee, burnt chocolate, piney hops.
m - thick and viscous.
o - another terrific west coast take on the RIS. really loved this beer.

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

Enjoyed from a growler in a snifter, this fantastic imperial stout pours a thick, rich, black as sin with a thick light brown head that holds on for some time till finally turning int o a thin layer with fantastic lacing. Nose of dark chocolate, deeply roasted grains, toffee, and strong alcoholic UMPH! Flavors are bakers chocolate and dark sweet malts to the front and sides mingling with dark fruits of plum and dark cherries on the back. Rich coating mouth feel and coating finish. A stout lovers dream. Excellent.


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Photo of OBeerMeGreatOne
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
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 cvm4
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle

A - Appearance is stunning. Rich, black body with a tan mocha head that leaves behind a highway of lacing.

S - Roasted malts, dry bakers chocolate and vanilla.

T - Bitter dark chocolate, roasted malts and a touch of molasses to start off. Bitterness all the way through with coffee on the finish along with a lingering smokeyness.

M - Medium body that is somewhat more carbonated than other RIS I've had. Doesn't feel "thick," but somewhat creamy/chewy and airy all at the same time.

O - Well done SN, well done. Continually impressed with how this beer comes alive as it warms.

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

Pours nearly opaque black with half a finger of head

Big immediate roasted character in nose, bittersweet malted chocolate, dark coffee, smoke, some booze..woody, earthy.

Some malty sweetness then smoky roasted goodness, bitterness, coffee again, lighter chocolate notes than aroma, nice bitterness to balance malt complexities..very nice..smoky bitter aftertaste.

Feel is everything I want from an imperial stout..thick, chewy, delicious.

Dope release!

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Photo of SmashPants
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle: solid dark brown 355mL stubby with a funky label. A good package.

Appearance: pours incredibly dark- almost an impenetrable black. A huge tan head pops up to over two-fingers before slowly settling to a thin, creamy cap. Looks good.

Aroma: roast coffee, dark cocoa chocolate, a touch of dark fruits and anise, and a wonderful smokiness

Taste: roast coffee, dark cocoa chocolate, a touch of dark fruits and anise, and a wonderful smokiness round out this beer.

Aftertaste: hangs around for quite a while, with a slight warming alcohol feeling at the back.

Mouth feel: very full-bodied with a creamy, silky texture. Though I can't see through the beer, I am sure it must have plenty of fine sediment to make it this smooth. Very drinkable.

Overall: if any United States-based brewery was going to produce an exceptional Russian Imperial Stout, I would have put my money on Sierra Nevada. The outcome is a rousing success - rich and complex in flavour, full in body and with a fantastic drinkability. One of the best Russian Imps I have had to date.

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Photo of Dave1999
3.8/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours pitch black with a small tan colored head.

The smell is dark malts, alcohol, coffee and chocolate.

The taste is sweet and malty with a fair bit of alcohol.

The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy but just a little lighter bodied than I'd like for the style.

I really enjoyed this and it is available at a decent price. I don't think I'd pick this over ten fidy or stone RIS though .

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

Another release in the High Altitude Series that houses big names like Hoptimum and Bigfoot!!

Pours out pitch black with a thick, mocha/tan head that lingers for a long time given the ABV.

The aroma has huge notes of semi-sweet chocolate, coffee and dark roasted malt.

The taste is also primarily chocolate and coffee, but there are the dark roasted notes and a surprising amount of hops that makes the beer somewhat bitter and dry. This is very balanced between the sweetness from the coffee and chocolate and the bitterness of the hops and coffee. The ABV is well masked with only a slight warming effect.

The mouthfeel is big, rich, creamy, silky and smooth.

A very nice effort from Sierra Nevada! Not the greatest Imperial Stout and I would have liked a little more complexity, but an extremely solid example of the style.

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Photo of JMScowcroft
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
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 Kromes
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a tulip. Pitch black with a finger's width brown head and lacing down the glass.

Roasted malts, coffee, alcohol and grassy hop aromas.

A nice sweet roasted malt and cherry fruit flavor up front. The dark fruit is then overtaken by an alcohol and grassy hop flavor which continues into the finish with a lingering smoky roasted bitterness.

Full bodied and a little oily. Good carbonation to add a peppery feel.

A nice strong RIS. Quality stuff here and not for the light beer crowd. Packed with flavor and a strong alcohol presence, yet it remains smooth and drinkable.

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Photo of M_C_Hampton
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass, almost black with a nice dark tan head that lingers leaving good lacing, clear

S: coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, dark roasted grain

T: coffee, bitter coco, espresso, tobacco, dark roasted malty grains

M: heavy, oily, low carbonation, alcohol noticeable

O: great imperial stout, rich flavors

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Photo of Gosox8787
3.83/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12 oz. stubby bottle from a four pack. Poured into a Dogfish Head tulip and served chilled.

Appearance: Dark brown to black in color. Pours a really nice, one finger medium brown head with decent retention. Recedes into a nice thin lacing.

Aroma: Roasted malt and a light smoke note. Nice bit of coffee beans and light milk chocolate. A tad more smoky than sweet.

Taste: The ABV is extremely well hidden in this beer. Light coffee bitterness with a nice smoke touch that weaves in and out. Some very light milk chocolate sweetness as well. Some leather and earthy notes as well. Really well balanced.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied and smooth throughout. Carbonation is on the low end.

Overall, a really balanced and tasty off the shelf imperial stout. It does feel a little boring and one note at times. The smoke and roasted malt characters create a nice background and the booze is very well hidden. I could use a bit more sweetness to offset the smoke and earth tones. A good buy but not up there with my favorite stouts.

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Photo of MikeWard
3.68/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. 2013 batch.

Poured a thick oily black. No light comes through the body. Head was about a finger, tan colored. The head dissipated quckly to a full covering, before completely disappearing about halfway through the drink. No lacing to speak of.

Wasn't getting too much from the nose, pretty subtle, some alcohol, coffee, a little toasted malt.

Taste was also very subtle, with the above flavors coming through, but no strength to any of them. None of them lingered on the tongue very long.

Mouth was around medium, a little dry at the end.

I've only had this beer once before, last fall. Remember enjoying it a lot more then than now. This seemed a bit uninspired. Nothing offensive about it, just a bit bland really. A bit disappointing. Does go down easy for a 10.2abv.

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

Served in a pint glass, Narwhal pours about as black as you can get, with a thick and foamy mocha head, and lots of lacing.

Roasted malt and coffee aromas are dominant, but there is some chocolate in there as well.

Really roasted malt is the winner here, very prominent and present, with roasted coffee beans in there as well, just not too strong, which is a good thing, leaving out some bitterness. Taste is really nice.

Feel is the best part, super smooth and easy to drink, with amazing roast aftertaste.

Overall I am glad I finally had a chance to do a proper review; last time, I gave it a 4/5, but that was based on a 2-3oz pour after hours of drinking IPA's and other stouts, which was an injustice. Narwhal is a good and hearty stout. Cheers.

A few add-on comments. Slightly altering my review based on a my current view of Narwhal, which I justify by my evolving pallet -- no beer ever tastes EXACTLY the same each time

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Photo of Act25
4.53/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Massive. Up there with all the best. Right now my favorite, and you could not know which 2x stout is best until you taste test.

Appearance: Pours an energetic black, with a tan head they mounds and then lasts and leaves rills and contours as it falls, leaving also behind spidery rings of lace. Best looking.

Smell: Dark pit fruit soaked in coffee and liquore, skewered on top of charcoal fire.

Taste: Follows the smell, so that the roast and plum/cherry flavors emerge after a chocolate coating. Much complexity and ancient church like flavors, incense, old wool, old wood, wet wool. Lovely bitterness paints the tongue keeping it an unsugared coffee like experience, along with some licorice and alcohol - but like an ancient after dinner drink. Chartreuse like.

Mouthfeel: Warm, full, bitter, great bitter roasty finish, leaves you in a kissy place. Warming.

Overall: My current favorite 2x stout. A must try. Accessible. Sierra scores.

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Photo of Murrhey
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass in high elevation Libby, Mont. Reviewed live. 2012 vintage.

A- Very small mocha head with little retention. I attribute that to the high ABV. Very thin spotty lacing. Deep black color, slight mahogany around the edges. Scary looking beer.

S- Dark roast smells that shy away from burnt. Coffee grounds, dark chocolate. Almonds and vanilla make an appearance as well.

T- So roasty and warm. Very deep and bitter, like biting into a handful of coffee beans. Not delicate, but good.

M- Thick and syrupy.

O- Very nice beer. I really enjoyed this. Taste wasn't superb though. Might like to get another bottle and age it.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 821 ratings.