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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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BA SCORE
92
outstanding
872 Reviews
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BEER STATS
Reviews:
872
Ratings:
4,860
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
22.71%
 
 
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
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Reviews: 872 | Ratings: 4,860
Photo of elgiacomo
3.91/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottled October 6, 2012. Served at around 55F.

Pours black with a three finger light brown head that leaves impressive lacing and recedes to a small cap.

Aroma is coffee, dark roasted malts, some chocolate and dark fruits, a bit of herbal hops, some alcohol. Good, but not great strength.

Flavor starts with chocolate, coffee, dark fruits such as figs, plums and raisins, dark roasted malts, fairly sweet, minimal bitterness, some alcohol on the finish but not too bad.

Mouthfeel is nearly full bodied, sticky, good carbonation.

Very tasty and rich Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada. Drinking very good in its fresh state, will put some back to age as well.

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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 SHODriver
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: poured into a sifter black as night with a slightly frothy deep tan head with excellent retention. it pours like a whale of a beer
S: smells of dark roast malt, coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, and anise. smells incredible
T: flavors of charred wood, dark chocolate, a bit of coffee, burnt sugars, dark roasted malt, slight oily hop presence. swallow brings more huge flavors of roast malt, a bit of anise and an espresso finish
M: thick and nearly chewy with a soft carbonation that struggles against the viscosity of the beer
O: It's enornous, it's velvety smooth and it doesn't punch you in the mouth but it can probably put you down after a few. alcohol is very well hidden. This beer is absolutely phenomenal and a steal at the price point it sells for. Buy it and then buy some more to keep in the back of the fridge for a few years. I want this beer in a bourbon barrel!

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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 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 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 Beer-A-Lot
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

An outstanding and delicious imperial stout. Superb chocolaty and coffee flavors. a smell that doesn't disappoint. Rich and smooth. Perhaps my favorite beer from SN. What can I say? I love this style, and Sierra Nevada delivers on my high standards for stouts. Will make this a regular in my rotation, along with Ten Fidy, FBS, FIS, and others. Well done.

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Photo of BigGold
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Still not available in central Mississippi, finally had Narwhal at the Beerhive Pub, Salt Lake City, Utah, poured from 12-oz. bottle, stamped "PKGD 08/10/2015," into thick-walled tumbler. It was not worth the wait, but only because I hate waiting for beer.

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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 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 SanFranJake
5/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On draft in a tulip at SNBC.
Pours a deep dark black with 1/8" golden head which fades slowly.
Aromas of roasted coffee and chocolate which get deeper as the stout warms and the glass level lowers.
Super smooth and easy, almost chewy mouthfeel and a chocolatey aftertaste which lingers nice and long.
A step outside of Sierra's norm but a damn good beer all around!
I loved it in the bottle and have been picking the four-packs up as I see them. Great now...only time will tell for later.

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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 kemoarps
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Well finally something good comes up today.
The beer pours a sexy onyx black with a satiny brown head. Decent retention and lacing. I'm quite excited.

This excitement is mildly tempered as the nose is not as rich as I was hoping. There is some creamy dark chocolate, a touch of char and some candi sweetness lurking in the background.

Luckily once it hits my lips, all concerns aroused by the aroma are put to rest. Beyond the silky smoothe mouthfeel contrasted by tiny pinpricks of carbonation, there is a an inital sweet dark cocoa note that fades into more of the char and roasty malts before finishing bitter as bakers chocolate. Excellently blended, and immenently smoothe on the palate. This is another extremely well done beer from a reliable brewery, and one that I am excited to see how it transforms as it ages. Go and buy it if it's available in your area, it is WELL worth seeking out.

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Photo of boilermakerbrew
4.46/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours black as night with a rather large, chocolately brown head. Head retention and lacing is pretty awesome. Head is amazingly frothy and persistent. Lots of rising carbonation.

S- Lots of deep, dark chocolately roasts. Next come the coffee flavors. Coffee is pretty dominant right after the chocolate hits. Bitterness at the end suggests some hop profile, but most bitterness is from the dark chocolate.

T- Big chocolates right off the bat, just like the scent. Chocolate is very dark and pretty bitter. Coffee is not as strong in the taste as in the scent, but still present. Slightly warming alcohol heat is also present with a dull bitterness in the flavor. Slightest bit of hop bitterness intermingles with the chocolate and coffee bitterness at the end. Flavor finishes very clean with only a little lingering bite.

M- Thick and creamy and a little slick on the palate. Only slight alcohol heat as previously mentioned. Lower levels of carbonation add to the thick and creamy effect. Easily sessionable because of the thickness and its tendency to lend itself to sipping.

Overall, another stellar beer from SN. I haven't had the regular stout, but I imagine they built off of it for this one, and it makes me excited to try some.

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

Poured into a snifter, this is very dark, thick, and viscous. The smell is powerful with some traces of roasted grain, graham cracker, dark chocolate, alcohol, and piney hops. Initial taste is very sweet with some dark chocolate and molasses. More graham cracker and roasted malts round it out with a slight bitterness is left at the end. The alcohol is masked very well, keeping this very drinkable. I'm pretty happy with this one, it's definitely a very solid RIS.

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Photo of craftaholic
3.7/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Absolutely pitch black. Even with a flashlight held against it there is no light getting through that barren void. Had a layer of creamy tan head that left a little lacing and had subtle legs.

S - There's a lot of alcohol in the nose. With that there is hints of rich chocolate, hops and dark grains

T - There's a very strong coffee flavoring and after that it's a true melting pot of nuances. There is vanilla, grape, chocolate, grain, even a touch of citrus. Alcohol is present especially in the aftertaste but the malt is there to help mellow it somewhat.

M - Creamy and rich. Surprisingly more carbonated than expected.

O - It's definitely bold in both a flavor way as well as in the booze. It's a good sipper for sure.

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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 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 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 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 IronLover
4.32/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Velvety black in color. Poured with a short dark tan foam that quickly reduced to a soapy cap. Dark roasted malt and powdery dark chocolate aromas with ripe dark fruit and delicate hop notes. Thick, rich, viscous feel with subdued carbonation through the middle. Dark roasted malt flavors first followed by dark chocolate. Sweetness malt and chocolate is quickly overcome by bitter dark roasted coffee and pine hop bitterness. Finishes with a tangy, bitter, pine hip aftertaste with u.derlying dark roasted malt. Beautiful color, delicate aromas, and a rollercoaster of sweet and bitter 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 Mojo
3.73/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 ounce bottle -> tulip glass

This beer poured up a deep obsidian black with a lucious black appearance, one to one and a half finger foamy head, and lots of spotty lacing left behind. Smell is coffee, roasted nuts, and a bit of alcohol. Taste is pretty much the same as the smell. There is a sweet maltiness that is pretty well balanced by the taste of coffee, roasted nuts, a smoky flavor, and alcohol. The finish is a little too hot for my taste. This is not bad as you'd expect from a Sierra Nevada product, but it is nowhere near as good as Ten Fidy or Ol' Raspy.

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Photo of JRed
3.56/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Dark black in body with creamy tan head that floats on top for the duration of the drink. Aroma of roast, dark chocolate, dirt, and cocoa powdered mint leaves. Flavors aren't as aggressive as I thought they'd be: fluffy chocolate mousse, roasted malt leads to dirt, some tobacco towards the end. Milky body with light carbonation. A smooth stout that masks the big booze well behind layers of cocoa and crushed autumn leaves. Dangerously easy to keep picking up over and over again.

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

Now that I’m back in BNE, QLD (Brisbane, Queensland for my non-Australian readers) I paid a visit to The Archive cellars and had a squiz at their finest American brews, and there are indeed ample new and delightful things that I have yet to try so here is one: Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Imperial Stout. At 10.2% [DON’T FORGET THE .2!!!] ABV, I would consider anything over 10% to be a decent bold beer and SN are champs when it comes to slapping the tongue (with flavour!), so I will tread lightly here my friends, there is a label-conjured sea monster awaiting me.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: I’ve become bored of describing Imperial Stouts as they all look the same if done well (opaque black, caramel brown head, 9/10) so instead I decided to do it in Haiku:

Blackest beer boldness
Nothing can penetrate it
A happy man died here.

S: BIG vanilla scent pervades the entire cacao nib chocolate aroma of this brew - I dig it man! Aside from that we have a nice (cakey) biscuit base, coffee hints and brown sugar. The TL;DR here is: vanilla & chocolate, NOM-NOM-NOM. 9/10.

T: Flavour comes on all the more sinister than the aroma with some oily smoke notes, roasted espresso and a hard wooded character. Although the above vanilla and chocolate notes are there they do end up taking a backseat to the big-talking bold flavours. Granted at 10.don’tforgetthe2% ABV this is a brew not to be trifled with, unless you’re making a trifle with it, in which case: trifle away! Aftertaste has a weirdly (for a Stout at least) sneaky bitterness that creeps up and surprises you jump scare style. 9/10.

M: Not that I’ve drunk engine oil before (at least not intentionally) but this fine brew has the viscosity of a decent 10W-40, one of the most viscous multi-grade oils. Carbonation in this case is negligible as with a brew this heavy it’s hard to tell. 9/10.

D: So where does it land on the olde “stout-o-meter”? For better or worse it is right up there with Old Raspy, though Old Rasputin was had at a time when I was entranced by the bolder of Imperial Stouts, I wonder if I would rate it so highly today? A question for another time - all you need to know is if Narwhal is worth your time, a big “yes” and a hearty “cheers!” is my answer. 9/10.

Food match: Cubans... the people... nah, the cigars.

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