Dismiss Notice
Sneak peek! BeerAdvocate magazine #104 (September 2015) featuring Leah & Oscar from Highland Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more ...
Dismiss Notice
Join The Buzz! Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest BeerAdvocate updates delivered to your inbox.

Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
92
outstanding

776 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 776
Hads: 4,475
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 9.2%
Wants: 260
Gots: 1,134 | FT: 45
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: 776 | Hads: 4,475
Photo of stakem
3.82/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a matching Sierra Nevada snifter. Big thanks go to Kegatron for gifting me with some of this. The brew pours black with a khaki colored head that froths up with more than a finger that is silky and paints the wall of the glass with a full webby pattern of lacing effect. When held to the light, the brew shows some ruby clarity faintly around the edges.

The aroma displays plenty of roast imparting faint notes of coffee, chocolate, earth, char and hints of citrus to fruity hops. The alcohol is present with a bit of fruity ester. When swirled, a bit of cheesiness and sulfur emerges with some mineral components. Overall though, this is a fine smelling brew for more than 10%.

The taste includes the previously mentioned dry roasted graininess that imparts flavors of coffee, and roasty earth. A bit leathery with the most mild touch of dark fruity alcohol notes. Some hop character is present giving this a touch of citrus and complimenting fruity to pine notes. The aftertaste has a bit of baker's chocolate included. As the brew warms up, that 10% alcohol starts to become readily noticeable with an almost neutral solvent burn across the tongue.

This is a medium bodied offering with a modest amount of carbonation. It is relatively smooth and easy drinking for something above 10%. I think Sierra Nevada was well overdue in putting a RIS into their regular lineup. This one fills the void in their catalog quite nicely. I would and will drink this one again when it is made available to me. Thank you for sharing Heath! (1,547 characters)

Photo of Mora2000
3.8/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a black color with a large tan head. The aroma has some roasted malt as well as some dark fruit. The flavor is very similar. There is a good bit of smoke and heavily roasted malt. I also get some sweet chocolate and cherry notes, as well as a good dose of alcohol. I also get a bit of tobacco in the flavor. As the beer warms I get a huge amount of black licorice flavor, which I am not a huge fan of. Thick mouthfeel and medium carbonation. (456 characters)

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

Very excited to try this one.

The appearance is near black with an oily beige head. The aroma offers dark roast, full bodied coffee, molasses. The flavor follows suit. Thick and rich. A touch of dark fruit. Big time dark chocolates and a touch of cacao bitterness. Palate coating with moderate carbonation. Zesty finish. A really nice example of the style. (358 characters)

Photo of tdm168
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - pitch black with a short, dense, brown, foamy head

S - roasted malt, anise, chocolate, alcohol, caramel

T - roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, faint anise, licorice, some faint bitterness

M - full bodied, smooth, warm, well carbonated

This is a solid, delicious stout with a great flavor profile. I feel like I could drink a lot of this even at 10%. It has a great malt character and the hops are noticeable but balancing. This is just an all around good beer. (466 characters)

Photo of BARFLYB
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle into a Sierra Nevada tulip style glass.

Narwhal poured out thick, a stout is a stout, this one has a very dark black color and a sturdy inch of dense dark tan bubbles like chocolate milk. It fades away into a small cap up top leaving minor splotches on the glass. Smell is pretty balls deep, scents include bakers chocolate, earthy hop tones, licorice, roasted malt, smores, and some minor dark fruit. It smells great. Taste is superb, just a big RIS, no bells or whistles. With so many RIS out there they kind of run in circles with one another. Narwhal does the same. Taste includes most of the scents up above, but the two characteristics that stand out to me in this specific RIS is licorice and dark fruit. Body is full and carbonation keeps the beer going after some warming, while this indeed does warm up to me. A one and done beer in a sitting with the body and alcohol. This is another RIS that I will be keeping in touch with during the cold months and possibly building a vertical down the line, which seems like the right thing to do. (1,060 characters)

Photo of billab914
3.85/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1oz bottle poured into my Devil's Backbone glass. Pitch black in color with a thick foamy head filling the top inch of the glass. Nice retention and lacing as I drank it.

Aroma has dark, roasted malts mixing with milky chocolate. It's got a noticeable hop presence to it as well. The roasted malts bring a little bit of a coffee flavor with them as well. Nice aroma overall.

The taste also shows a good amount of hoppiness to it with some herbal and citrus notes present throughout. The dark, roasted malts are bold and bring more of a darker chocolate and coffee flavor out. A little sweet, milky chocolate in the finish along with a little alcohol.

The mouthfeel is on the heavier side with carbonation being a little above average for the style. Overall, it's a very solid beer. It's a little hoppier than prefer in the style, but it comes together very well. The roasted malts were very bold, which really liked. Very nice beer overall. (945 characters)

Photo of Billolick
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012, 12 ounce bottle, allowed to warm quite a bit.

Pours near black, dark tan mini head, tiny bubble film, slight collar and nice fine low sheeting with strands of lacing.

Nose is loaded with dark chocolate, and mild coffee.

Very tasty, ejoyable and smooth RIS. Waves of chocolate, just ground fresh coffee, as well as some vanilla sweetness. Velvety smooth on the tongue and coating the mouth. Put it all together and this is truly great stuff.

Went prefectly with a chocolate Xmass desert bon bon kinda thing (516 characters)

Photo of smakawhat
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a snifter glass.

Out of the bottle pours dark brown, then hits with some very dark black walnut, almost midnight. Forms a solid cocoa and coffee like head, with lots of pinhead bubbles. Settles slowly, and manages to always keep a nice collar while drinking and a decent puck. Lots of leg coating and spotted catty lacing on the glass.

Nose is a little subtle. Simple roasted malts, but a nice waffer and ovaltine chocolate sense. Whoppers candy and malt. Mild char action, but mostly kind of closed. There is this sense this is sort of airy and light. Otherwise solid, not getting any coffee sense.

Palate hits with anything but. First notes of hop lime and grapefruit in the front palate, moves to a thick but waffer like dark bitter chocolate while consuming. Large surprising body melding with notes of char and more cocoa powder. Not particularly finding coffee on this but it's a superb feel, large since it seems unexpected from the bouquet.

Overall a great balance between hop action and roasted malt, a very controlled and fun beer, with not a boozy taste either for 10, a real fantastic stout very enjoyable. (1,150 characters)

Photo of Halcyondays
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle,

A: Pours a pitch black, with a medium light tan head, some solid spotty lace.

S: Roasted malt, hint of dark fruit, charcoal, licorice, dark chocolate.

T: Dark chocolate and a lot of licorice. Light residual sugar, with a hint of hops in the finish.

M: Medium to full-bodied, soft carbonation, creamy, long aftertaste for the style.

O: A solid RIS, it reminds me a lot of Old Rasputin with a bit more licorice in there. The price is great, well made, well worth a try. (487 characters)

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.9/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured into a De Struise snifter. 2012 bottle (duh).

Appearance - Murky in the pour. I bought it today, so maybe it was agitated, but still, shouldn't be that icky looking. A temporary brown head. Settles to the slightest of rings and not much else.

Smell - Roasty. Alcohol all over. Gives it a fruity aroma. Coffee roast most persistent, though.

Taste - Quite a bitter stout. Bitterness from start to finish. Coffee and deep roasted malts. Sweet molasses. The finish gets almost ashy in its roast. Like a tobacco flavor, I guess. That's the hip word to use. Alcohol bite in the finish with a licorice, raisin fruitiness.

Mouthfeel - Thick and chewy. It's boozy, but I like the alcohol in it. Really adds to the profile. Well carbonated.

Overall - Well, it's Sierra Nevada, so it's always going to be well-made. I might have to stock up on this the way I do Bigfoot. I could see myself getting a hankering for this in June when it's not on the shelves anymore. (979 characters)

Photo of Stinkypuss
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a dark and oily tar black with a brown head that laces the snifter well.

The aroma is roasted, smokey and perhaps a bit meaty. Some alcohol lofts above the darkness.

In the taste, dark chocolates, charcoal, tobacco and a firm hoppyness. Not to boozy though very strong. There's a subtle note of dark fruit. Earthy, light herb, big malt. Right about what you would expect for the style with perhaps more emphasis on his than many. Quite good.

The mouthfeel is full bodied, smooth and well carbonated.

Overall this is a nice big stout from Sierra Nevada. Totally drinkable and something I would have again. (615 characters)

Photo of Lare453
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz into a dfh glass

A. Black with a thick cocoa head that dissipates fast. No lacing.m

S heavy dark malt, coffee, cocoa, bitter dark chocolate

T surprisingly light sweet beginning, bitter chocolate and roasted coffee overwhelm the middle and end. The aftertaste is slightly boozi with a nice milk chocolate.

M a little thick, rich, smooth, fantastic.

O wonderful. A nice big one from Sierra Nevada. Very impressive. (422 characters)

Photo of johnnnniee
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a solid black color with a huge fluffy tan head that slowly recedes to a cap on top. Smells of coffee and dark chocolate with a hint of caramel. Earthy citrusy hop aromas meld nicely with light aromas of dark dried fruits. The flavor is sweet with caramel and chocolate with a nice shot of espresso. A bit of earthy citrus hop flavor but mostly a roasty bitterness in the flavor. Light dark fruit flavors with a hint of alcohol round out the flavor quite well. Medium to thick body with a light to moderate level of carbonation and a sweet creamy velvety mouthfeel. Very nice Imperial Stout I really enjoyed this one and I guess I need to get back to the store to buy a few more to lay down. (697 characters)

Photo of BillRoth
4.4/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Have had the 2012 fresh and the now just opened the 2013 @ I year after cellaring.
In both cases found a rich well crafted RIS with very good appearances and excellent carbonation and mouth feel. It drinks perfectly despite the 10+% ABV. On the merits of its brewing it is a top notch RIS and holds it's own against many of the very best RIS available.
What separates it is a distinct rich coffee/espresso like coffee quality that doesn't so much dominate as it is the singular flavor in the midst of a blend of anise/licorice, roasted grains, dark molasses flavors. Like Alesmith Speedway it just has a personal flavor of its own. Seems to be a combination of the brewer's art and the coffee chosen in the blend.
Just a great coffee RIS. Flavor profile is different of course, but I would buy this the way I look forward to Founder's IS, Bell's Expedition Stout and the much more common but still extraordinary Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. (937 characters)

Photo of corby112
3.49/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours viscous, pitch black and completely opaque with a two finger mocha head that slowly settles into a lasting ring. Decent retention with streaks of soapy lacing left behind.

Roasted malt aroma with a stronger hop presence than I expected. Floral and earthy with resinous, grassy pine character countering the burnt malt, coffee bean and oatmeal notes. I shouldn't be too surprised coming from SN but the hops are a bit too prominent for this style, in my opinion, taking away from the robust malt profile a bit too much. Even after warming up considerably, the nose is still pretty tame on this beer.

Medium bodied with a deeply roasted dark malt flavor that's complimented by a bitter, earthy hop presence that lingers into a slightly boozy finish. The hops aren't as strong as the nose hints at but there's still prominent in the flavor with sticky pine needle bitterness and subtle citrus. The dryness of the hops compliment the bitterness of the roasted malts. Hints of burnt toast, oatmeal, bitter dark chocolate and espressoo/coffee bean followed by lighter chocolate and alcohol sweetness. The high is relatively well masked but there's definitely some warmth lingering in the finish. Overall, this is a pretty good stout but the strong hop character hinders the malt flavors a bit too much for my preference. Decent but nothing out of the ordinary. Great value for the price of the four pack though. (1,415 characters)

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

2012 vintage, this was poured from a bottle into a mug. The beer is almost completely jet-black, with some chestnut highlights. No head, but there is a touch of bubbly filmy ringing around the surface. Aromas of chocolate, roasted coffee, a touch of booze, and earthy tones. Flavors are strong and rich, with a heavy roasted coffee backbone supporting a boozey and oaky highlight. Very deep and layered. Bittersweet chocolate laces throughout the palate, as well as a touch of bourbon. The aftertaste is bittersweet and roasty, with a slight booze linger as well. The beer is rich, but very smooth in mouth, and fairly light for an RIS, which makes it extremely palatable. Smooth, bitter, and rich finish. Very easy to drink despite the increased ABV and "big" flavor profiles. (777 characters)

Photo of Zorro
3.75/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Thick black pour. Black colored beer with a thin brown colored head.

Smells sweet with lots of coffee molasses and candied holiday fruit.

Starts out dry and bitter with a strong charred malt bite. Gets a little sweeter as you drink it but not by much. Chocolate and coffee flavors with a little bit of ash taste.

Thick and oily mouthfeel.

Overall an OK beer, but they didn't balance out the Patent malt enough so it ends up a little unbalanced. (449 characters)

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

12oz bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.

Pours a deep black colour, with a fine, slightly inconsistent pale brown head. Carbonation is fine, but the body itself looks surprisingly light and fluid. Some patchy carbonation. Looks fine except for the body—this is the beer you can really make thick, oily and chewy, and it seems this hasn't happened here.

Nose is wonderful. Big sweet nutty characters with deep chocolate hints and a lilt of buttered popcorn. Slight hint of liquorice on the back, perhaps more like liquorice ice cream. It's all really quite sweet and fragrant, and very pleasant.

Taste is also very good: here the sweetness is tamed somewhat (perhaps due to the slightly lighter body), and the liquorice comes through a little bit more. This leaves the roasted characters to make a bit more of an entrance, with some mild coffee and toasted grain overtones. Perhaps I was unfair on the lightness in the body: it's perhaps a purposeful (and rather clever) stroke to enliven the palate and keep the sweet richness from overpowering everything.

The feel is very smooth, even despite the lightness, and matches very nicely with the rest of the beer.

Yep. Pretty exceptional stuff here, although the mastery and skill of Sierra Nevada should have stopped surprising me years ago. This beer gives the impression that it was designed exactly this way—it perhaps doesn't take the risks that could make it superlative, but you understand that this beer from the moment of its conception was going to be very good indeed. (1,544 characters)

Photo of John_M
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at max's the other day, during Baltimore Beer Week.

The beer pours a blackish brown color with good head retention and lacing. The nose is likewise attraactive, showcasing considerable coffee, licorice and vanilla. The flavor profile replicates the nose pretty closely, but is clearly dominated by the licorice and vanilla (which I'm not entirely liking, but it's OK). There's also a hint of hoppy bitterness in the finish which further helps to buoy the modest sweetness in this beer. Mouthfeel is medium bodied to full, with a finish that is dominated by licorice and has a hint of alcoholic bite. Alcohol is well integrated into the flavor profile, but there's just too much licorice in the flavor profile for me to fall in love with this beer.

A solid beer, and possibly one that will benefit from some age. For now however, not among my favorite impy stouts. (872 characters)

Photo of barleywinefiend
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Poured a jet black, some carbonation, one finger brown head, some lacing

S: Roasted malt, slight chocolate, coffee. Good but standard.

T: Big hearty backbone with dark chocolate, coffee, some burnt notes. Mild Bitterness in the finish.I laso deteced some black liquorice.

M: Heavy bodied, some carbonation, smooth.

O: Good. This should age very well as most SN offerings do. (382 characters)

Photo of liamt07
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle form Siciliano's, 12oz into a tulip - 2012 vintage.

Impenetrable black with a deep brown head. Creamy retention and a whole load of lace. Nose of dark chocolate, coffee, molasses, carmel, dark fruit liqueur notes. Light anise and a bit of alcohol. Relatively sweet, but spot on for what I enjoy in imperial stouts. Taste has heavy dark roasted character, dark chocolate, light tar, charcoal with some back end sweetness to prevent everything from getting away. Full feel, some alcohol warmth. Medium low carbonation. This do es well as is and could be great with some time. (581 characters)

Photo of rhoadsrage
4.5/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a tulip glass)

A- This beer pours an inky jet black body with a dark coco tan head of cream that last as a thick foam and sticks to the glass with each sip. There is a few random bubbles that can be spotted in that abyss.

S- The inky but mellow deep charcoal aroma blends with black roasted malt and some brewer’s licorice note blend in the finish. It is a full aroma even during the pour.

T- The green wood taste gives way to a much larger black roasted malt flavor that is full and creamy. There is a slightly dry finish with a nice balance of black malt bitterness and perhaps some minty woody hops bitterness as part of that. The rich mellow but deep dark malt flavors linger in the dry finish along with the softer bitterness. As the beer opens up there are some dark graham malt flavors and brewer’s licorice flavors that come through aswell.

M- The medium-full mouthfeel has a nice creamy texture and an alcohol warmth that compliments the big beer.

O- This beer has a big complex rich flavor but it is very well blended. The alcohol offers a nice support to the big flavors and texture. It taste great now and I can’t think of a reason it would need any age. Delicious. (1,200 characters)

Photo of jdhilt
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a four finger tan head that slowly fades leaving a good lace. Black color, no highlights. Medium carbonation and medium-heavy bodied. Roasted coffee nose and flavor is roasted coffee, higher ABV is hidden. $2.60 for a 12oz bottle from a Tully’s Beer & Wine Wells, ME. (275 characters)

Photo of Wasatch
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz. Bottle

Pours a very nice black color, very nice carbonation, with a fizzy tan head, which leaves some sticky lacing behind. The nose is malty, with some chocolate, toffee notes, slightly roasty. The taste is very nice malty, with lots of dark stuff, slight vanilla, some roastyness. Medium body, with a nice bitter finish, ABV hidden pretty well with this one. Overall a very tasty brew, glad to see it here in UT, would buy again. (438 characters)

Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.34/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2012 Vintage poured in to tulip glass.

A - Black with half a finger of medium brown head.

S - A huge roast aroma up front with some coffee and a hint of smoke.

T - Very bold and flavorful right away. Starts with a big roast presence with some char. A big hop presence enters mid-palate along with a warming alcohol presence and hints of cocoa and licorice. The finish is dry and bitter with a lingering pine flavour from the hopping and becomes almost sticky a few seconds after the swallow.

M - Medium to full body. Creamy. Light carbonation. Somewhat sticky at times. (576 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 776 ratings.