Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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

851 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 851
Hads: 4,790
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 288
Gots: 1,322 | FT: 45
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

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: 851 | Hads: 4,790
Photo of ToasterChef
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A cellar temperature bottle poured into a small snifter.

It is a black beer with a small brown foam head. Lots of foam and film left behind when I swirl my glass.

It is has a big roasted malt aroma with some hints of chocolate. There is a s lightly boozy quality to the nose, but it isn't off-putting.

This is a very roasty beer! Lots of roasted, nearly burnt malts. A good amount of alcohol in the finish helps this beer feel very warm. There are some cocoa flavors that can be tasted once you get past the roasted malts.

As I said above, the beer is very warming. It has a small but sticky film that retains a small amount of sweetness. and a touch of burnt malts. The body is thick and carbonation is low.

This is a great winter Imperial stout. It's strong and warming and not too sweet. the roasted flavors make me want to drink this in front of an open fire. I'll get more of this beer.

 896 characters

Photo of Arithmeticus
4.43/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured chilled in ribbed ale glass

A: solid black; thin head; good lacing;
S: good classic stout aroma: dark malt, anise
T: amazingly more sophisticated than the straightforward aroma; very boozy, complex; cocoa; smooth and sweet; licorice; dark chocolate

Really amazing imperial stout; quite different from other stouts I've had

 332 characters

Photo of Fcolle2
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours solid dark black in color with a thick body like molasses. Head is about one and a half fingers and tan in color. Head retains nicely and leaves some good sticky lacing all over the glass.

Smell is great. Rich roasted dark chocolate malt is forward along with a very clean scent and a faint strawberry like fruity ester. There is a big note able alcohol present one the back end, this does not bother me whatsoever though.

Taste is awesome and follows the nose. There is a rich dark chocolate flavor forward followed by roasted malt and a very light crisp ripe fruity tartness. More chocolate malt and booze come in on the back end.

Mouthfeel is good. Thick but not quite as thick as expected and carbonation is moderate. This keeps it highly drinkable at such a high abv.

Overall this was an awesome imperial stout I see why it rated so highly. Very boozy but it has some great flavors and aromas. I feel like this would be perfect to age, definitely putting some away.

 980 characters

Photo of Jacobob10
4.04/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle. Pours a deep black color with a large frothy tan head. The head dissipates into a thin film that is quickly revived with a swirl of the glass. Aroma is great, comprising of coffee, dark chocolate, and roasted malt. Flavor follows suit and adds a sweetness and bitterness into the mix. Thick texture and chewy. Full bodied yet incredibly smooth and drinkable for the high ABV. Great imperial stout that I probably would not go out of my way to seek out but would enjoy anytime.

 497 characters

Photo of nodder
3.93/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A- Black with a one finger light tan head. Fades quickly leaving slight lacing and alcohol legs on glass.

S- Dark roasted malts, coffee, dark chocolate, slight dark fruity notes. Slightly boozy smell also.

T- Standard RIS flavors. Coffee, dark chocolate, an earthy/fruitiness there also. A bit more alcohol taste than expected but this is still very good.

M- Medium mouth with slightly more carbonation than expected. Finish is bitter but nice. There is a definite alcohol burn on this one but not overpowering.

O- A bit boozy but still good. Gonna throw a bottle in the cellar for a year and see if it mellows.

12 oz. bottle

 630 characters

Photo of Powderhornphil
3.92/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer pours completely black with a nice head that recedes leaving a nice lacing.

The nose seems subtle coffee and chocolate.

Taste is coffee and chocolate a bit of alcohol on the end. A very nice tasting stout. I really enjoy the coffee notes on this one. Not too much roast.

Mouthfeel is nice and makes for easy drinking considering the abv.

Overall I like this stout; it's big but also subtle. I will put a couple of these away and will be interested to see how it ages.

 481 characters

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

This is a very well crafted Imperial Stout. The beers pours a near perfect head with its rich dark color. The aroma is roasty with slight coffee coming thru. The taste was excellent! cocoa and roasted coffee make up this potion of love from SN. The mouth feel was awesome and the 10% ABV was hidden well. Overall this was a great beer that I would purchase again for sure.

Bottom Line: if its on the shelf....grab it!

 419 characters

Photo of davey101
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage, bottled October 12, 2012. 12 oz bottle into a DFH signature glass.

A - Pours a dark black body with two finger mocha/red head. Settles into some thin edging. Solid amount of lacing and retention but nothing too impressive.

S - Roasted malt, coffee beans, cocoa powder and anise. Incredibly balanced. Just a great aroma.

T - Roasted malts lead into that signature SN grapefruit and pine hop profile. Finishes with bitter coffee beans and smooth milk chocolate. Just a touch of anise.

M - Smooth and creamy with nice carbonation. Alcohol is hardly noticeable and the beer really opens up as it warms.

O - This beer gets everything right, even as a fresh beer. Plus its SN so its at an amazing price and distribution. It seems less hoppy and intense than the the 30th Anny stout, but I really like this beer a lot.

 830 characters

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.

 731 characters

Photo of maxcoinage
4.44/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12oz bottle (2013 Vintage) into oversized snifter with a solid inch head that was mocha colored and took it's time to settle down. Color of the beer is pitch black.

The aroma consists of dark chocolate, coffee, dark fruits.

Taste includes dark roasted malt, coffee, caramel, very noticeable booze, some hoppy bitterness

Mouthfeel is rather thick, but not as much as you'd think at over 10%, medium carbonation, leaves a nice coating on your mouth and throat.

Overall it's a very enjoyable RIS, as I like boozy stouts, though I could see how some might think this is too hot. Looking forward to see how this changes with some age on it.

 651 characters

Photo of abeeronthebeach
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Tasted Blind against Old Rasputin. This was my preferred beer.

A - Light-swallowing black, accented by a bracelet of mocha coloured foam. Very thin head but what a gorgeous colour!

S - Not quite as forceful as implied by the colour but tantalising due to its subtlety nonetheless. Dundee cake (it's like Christmas cake) and treacle were the main characteristics I picked up. A murmur of coca cola once it warms up a little followed by a sweet, rich rum booziness.

T - Surprisingly sweet. Leads with treacle and follows with a booziness reminscent of a good single malt. By this I mean that it had that sort of smokiness or peatiness in its bite. To me it tastes like dark dried fruits soaked in whisky.

M - Creamy, thick like treacle or molasses. Chewy and pliable.

O - What a cracking beer for the price. Took Old Rasputin to the cleaners. Did a good job of civilising its 10% Abv which always wins brownie points with me. I was concerned I might be overpowered by this beer a I was recently by Rochefort 10 but this was not the case. Underrated.

 1,052 characters

Photo of Mikus
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%

Cold into the snifter, poured midnight black with a cocoa-tinged head w/small bubbles. Can't see the letters on the glass... nice. Aromas of roasted malts, coffee, some chocolate, and the clean SN bitter note. Deep, complex flavors. Some nice coffee on the end, and excellent balance, not afraid to have so E bitterness. Smooth mouthfeel, not chewy like other big stouts. Nice and crisp. I have waited a long time for this beer, and I was definitely not disappointed. Did anyone else notice, though, that this didn't necessarily get smoother, more complex as it warmed up? My only small concern. Would recommend.

 612 characters

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

12oz Brown bottle with pry-off cap and bottled on "07/31/14". Poured into a snifter

Appearance: Pours black with 1/2 finger of tan head

Smell: Roasted malts, chocolate, and cocoa

Taste: Similar to the aroma with mostly roasted malts and licorice and cocoa, with slight alcohol warmth

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied

Overall: A great representation of the imperial stout style. All the roasted flavors are present and has great balance. Theres little bit of alcohol but not overpowering.

 489 characters

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

Straight pour from 12oz pry-off bottle to a 25cl Duvel Single tulip; bottling date of October 5, 2012 (“2279209 : 46”) printed in white ink on the shoulder of the bottle, making this beer just over six weeks old on the date of consumption.

Appearance (4.0): Body is black as night—no surprise there, but there’s just absolutely no light passing through. The head is a dense two fingers of dark tan-colored foam, which dies down at a reasonable pace. “Dark tan” doesn’t do it justice, though—there’s milk chocolate out there lighter than this shade of brown. Modest lacing and moderate head retention, but both decent for the style.

Smell (4.0): Just roasty as hell—not in a charred wood kind of way, but in a French Roast coffee kind of way, or like dark chocolate-covered espresso beans. Picking up notes of molasses, anise, bitter, dark chocolate, some alcohol vapor, some smooth oat character (seems to me, anyway). Really nice nose on this bastard.

Taste (4.5): Not as bitter or charred as the nose might indicate—but not overly sweet in any way, either. Very satisfying chocolate and coffee notes, mainly a drying bitterness that accompanies very dark chocolate along with the modestly charred, very bitter but deeply flavorful character of espresso beans. Some burnt multigrain toast fleshes out the malt body, leading into a somewhat bitter finish that hangs on and continues for a while. The hops add a surprisingly clear citrus pith-type bitterness along with a somewhat bright citrus fruit (think mixed orange and grapefruit juice) flavor under the roasty malt body. Huh. Was not expecting that, but it’s quite nice. Damn, this is really, really good.

Mouthfeel (5.0): Very full-feeling with a thick, oily body that coats and paints every surface of your mouth and throat. Has that drying, vaporous feel on the finish that comes from the high ABV, but it’s not unpleasant. This kind of forces you to sip—it makes me want to exhale and take a couple of breaths after each sip before I take another, which for this size and style of beer, I really appreciate. Carbonation fits the style very well, never prickly but full and lush with a filling, foaming character on the way down. Holy hell.

Overall (4.5): To be honest, this is quite a bit better than I was expecting, and I was already expecting that Sierra Nevada would do a pretty good job. Turns out, they did an excellent job. This is a full-bodied, full-flavored, but attractive and pleasant-drinking imperial stout with a couple of unexpected and very welcome turns here and there. I’m not into most aged beers, but I’d be willing to bet this would be a good candidate. Outstanding, and a job well done by Sierra Nevada.

 2,728 characters

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

$20 for a growl fill on this ? mad props to Copper Mine Pub in N Arlington NJ

eyes...
devilishly black, totally opaque, lacing ? legs? yeah... got that, the head retreats pretty quickly but easily comes back with a quick swirl-o-rama, the head itself is a nice dark cocoa tone, this looks impy...

nose...
burnt wood left outside, the spicy note of licorice, bitter chocolate, hints of smoke and molasses,
hints of mint like toothpaste

taste etc...
initially pretty smooth but man this sucker is heavy, like drinking a cannon ball, woah this thing is thick and weighty, this is big boy territory right here... the first blast is sort of the sweet end of things with the malts parading the molasses across the mouth, then the after bomb drops... we're taking a trip to flavortown folks (can I say that without comping Guy Fierri ?).. anyhoo, the aftertaste slapped me so hard (insert one liner here but it probably involves my mom), you get some deep dark euro chocolate that teeters on barelywine-ish flavors but never loses the RIP style, the booze is there but really lends itself to the mix here.

verdict?
luckily I have my bro and his current girl to help me out with this growldog, cause otherwise I am taking a trip to passoutville. damn, this is one deep dark sucker, maybe not my fave RIS but it is bold, any RIS fan needs to check this out, it might be the spanish fly to your.. well..

 1,398 characters

Photo of TreyIsWilson
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Pours a motor oil black with a one-finger tan head. Light amount of lacing.

S - Roasted malts and dark chocolate. Also picking up a hint of dark fruits.

T - Lots of big roasted malts. Coffee and dark chocolate are also well represented. Nice alcohol burn in the finish.

M - Heavy body with medium carbonation. Thick creamy mouthfeel. Leaves a stickiness on the tongue.

O - I really enjoy this stout. For the price this is hard to beat. Lots of big flavors going on.

 473 characters

Photo of seedyone
4.59/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From bottle at home. 2014 on bottle. Now this is what I call a stout. Look, smell, taste & feel are all very rich & full. This stuff makes no apologies, it just stands up straight & says "take it or leave it." I thought I caught the slightest hint of licorice/anise under my nose but it dissipated like a wisp, then came back again in the finish.

Alcohol taste but little of the burn. The chocolateness is of the bittersweet kind.

Every taste keeps saying to me "no kidding around". A real swashbuckler & I'm really enjoying it.

 531 characters

Photo of jondeelee
4.45/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Narwhal opens to a thick, black aroma bursting with ash, coffee, tobacco, and black malt, but these supported by an equally thick layer of heavy cream and caramel. Anise and black pepper dance in the background, adding spicy notes, joined by black breads, yeasty wheat dough, and toast crust. A reveille of dark fruit esters – fig, date, prune, black cherry – joins with blackstrap molasses and cocoa to add a layer of deep sugars, and the hops bring grapefruit rind, pine, pink grapefruit, and light hints of dandelion stem to form a bitter, citrusy buzz that nicely complements the sugars. Though the beer is not barrel aged, there’s a charcoal-and-vanilla bourbon-like undertone as well, adding delicious alcoholic liquor aromas to the mix. On the whole, the aroma is fantastic, being rich, fruity, black, hoppy, ashy, and bourbon-y, offering pretty much everything one could wish for in an Imperial Stout; the only way to improve this would be to actually bourbon barrel-age it.

On the tongue, the beer starts off black, and then gets even blacker, with massive waves of ash, coffee grounds, semi-burnt cocoa, black malt, and tobacco rushing across the tastebuds. Though these dark layers never let up, they are met after a time by a good layer of vanilla-soaked heavy cream, and a nice fruity layer of figs, dates, and prunes. Burnt pecans, toast crust, and heavy black breads add further earthiness, deepening the complexity. In subsequent sips the bourbon-like vanilla-and-charcoal notes gain more ground, adding alcoholic goodness to the mix. Hops are less present here than they were in the nose, but do add pine resin and grapefruit rind, creating some bitterness. The aftertaste is a continuation of the ashy notes, with sugars hanging on for all they’re worth, and at least the ash lingers on the tongue for a very long time. Mouthfeel is medium, and carbonation is medium.

Overall, this is a fantastic Imperial Stout, though it should be noted that it’s not for the faint of heart. This is mostly due to the tobacco ash and black malt notes, since at times they were so powerful that I felt like I had a mouthful of cigar smoke – especially in the aftertaste. But for fans of the style, there’s really not much else one could want in this beer, except perhaps some barrel aging. I did find the mouthfeel more watery than I would have expected, but almost everything else in here is excellent. Well worth trying.

 2,440 characters

Photo of South2NW
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle to snifter.

A: very dark brown, closer to black. Very thin brown head with minimal lace.

S: Roasty. Coffee, malts, and a touch of chocolate.

T: roasty malts right away, followed by some dark coffee/chocolate flavors. Brief hop finish.

M: thick, creamy. Little carbonation. Not much alcohol burn. Very easy drinker.

O: SN did a great job with this. It's a very nice, balanced imperial. Great value at $10/4pk. Makes a great sipper on cold evenings. Paired well with thanksgiving desserts.

 504 characters

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

A: Jet black with a creamy, express colored head that has a good long retention period.

S: A solid roast with some licorice, moderate coffee and light citrus hop aroma. There is a low caramel malt sweetness and a light alcohol sweetness as well.

T: A huge malty flavor with rich dark flavors of roast, coffee and caramel along with a moderate sweetness. There are some underling burnt sugar and slight charcoal in there as well. The citrus hops flavors and bitterness are at a medium level. The balance is about equal between the bitterness and sweetness and almost out to a medium finish. The hops bitterness lingers a bit an edges out the dark roast flavors.

M: A full bodied beer with a moderately-strong level of carbonation.

O: Rich and full with equally strong malt and hops character; simply an excellent beer. I'm hoping this will be easy to find than Night Stalker where I live because Narwhal is running neck and neck with it as my favorite Imperial Stout. There will have to be a side by side tasting to for me to call a winner though.

 1,050 characters

Photo of timontheroad
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a dark black, only a little foam that faded to a light film, left no lacing. The aroma was of dark chocolate, slight coffee, sweet malt, and just a hint of dark fruit. Taste was of sweet chocolate and coffee, with some bitter hoppiness and alcohol burn. Mouthfeel was medium bodied, with some alcohol, but not too much. Just right. Overall, this beer is super tasty, can't wait to see what a year of cellaring has done to it.

 435 characters

Photo of BurgeoningBrewhead
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours like engine oil into a snifter; jet black with a thin brown head that fades into a loose topping of foam after a few seconds.
Smells of dark roasted metallic malt; coffee and chocolate, both dark and sweet. Simple but foreboding smell, unassuming but unapologetic.
Taste is very big, and much more complex than the smell suggests. Dark coffee and chocolate blends with sweet chocolate and dark fruit, as well as a thick booziness that warms as you drink.
Mouthfeel is thick and smooth, awesome.
Overall, this is a solid RIS. Definitely one of the more extreme examples, but a great one for those who love huge stouts.

 627 characters

Photo of AirBob
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%

A- Thin layer of khaki colored head which quickly dissipated. Deep black body. Sparkling off-white lacing.

S - Coffee grounds and chocolate syrup.

T - Sweetened, burnt coffee and unsweetened chocolate. Some earthiness in the middle. Finishes with numbing boozy heat. Very bitter dark chocolate and burnt coffee.

M - Low carb. Full bodied. Bitter finish helps to cut through any stickiness.

O - Bitter. Reminds me of sweetened Starbucks house blend with some booze. Could be better balanced, but the bitterness cuts down on the stickiness which made this more drinkable than other beers in the style.

 614 characters

Photo of mabermud
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A - Pitch brown. Beige, reluctant head that develops into a light halo.
S - Sweet lactose. Dark chocolate + sweet coffee.
T - Smooth, sweet coffee and milk chocolate.
F - It goes well with everything else.
O - Very nice. I will have it again.

 248 characters

Photo of Samp01
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle from mike67. Pours a deep slightly viscous black with a small brown head. Aroma and Taste of dark roasted caramel malt, some mild liquorice notes, dark fruit with some notes of dark cacao and mild espresso flavors with a dark toasted malt bitterness on the end for balance. A full bodied, creamy body on the palate with moderate carbonation and sticky mouth feel. A good full flavored brew, rich and creamy. Overall this is very good, delicious and flavorful brew.

 471 characters

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 851 ratings.