Dismiss Notice
Sneak peek! BeerAdvocate magazine #104 (September 2015) featuring Leah & Oscar from Highland Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more ...

Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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

775 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 775
Hads: 4,471
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 8.96%
Wants: 258
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: 775 | Hads: 4,471
Photo of jpro
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz single picked up from Total Wine. Poured into tulip...

A: Pours with an ink-like blackness; two-finger mocha head leaves a ring of retention and few short-lived strands of lace; looks pretty bold.

S: Deep, dark, roasted malt; dark chocolate; coffee notes; sweet.

T: Bitter, charred malt; dark chocolate / chocolate syrup; chicory on end; pretty big oily hop finish.

M: Medium-full mouthfeel; high carbonation with some zing; not quite as full or as slick I'd like in an imperial stout.

O: A very nice Russian imperial stout from Sierra Nevada; is this a new seasonal? a one off? Interesting as its kind of out of nowhere. Big and bold and somewhat reminiscent of Old Rasputin - that's what it initially reminded me of, at least. A good beer, even with the slightly off mouthfeel. I'd have another - maybe on a cold winter night! (838 characters)

Photo of BigCheese
4.52/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle. About 2.5 months old. Served a bit below room temp.

A: Pours straight black, a thin but thick light brown head forms and sticks around for a few minutes. No real laving.

S: MMM. Dark Coco, espresso, raisins, maybe some vanilla. Pretty aromatic out of the bottle, enticing.

T: Not as viscous as I would have thought. A mix of dark coco nibs and espesso, some vanilla oak and maybe even coconut. Some caramel maltiness linges on palate. There seems to be some substantial hops trying to fight through, cascade perhaps, something with a very slight hint of pine. Primarily chocolate, with some cherries and honey too. A little bit of heat, but not much.

M: Super thick mouthfeel. Real chewy, very heavy, very creamy. One of the richest bodied beers I've ever had. Low carbonation.

O: A really smooth velvety brew, definitely well executed, I'd love to see how this ages. A great sipper to have on a cold winter night. Probably the best value RIS I've had to date. I will have to buy this again to drink and cellar. Try it if you can, a real winner from SN. (1,075 characters)

Photo of BierJager89
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: Black with a short brown head.

S: A touch of coffee and roasted malt in a weak nose.

T: Dark chocolate up front, a touch of floral hop character, roasted malt follows, then coffee in the finish with a touch of citrous and floral hop character at the very end.

M: Full bodied and smooth. Great.

O: One of my favorites from Sierra Nevada. Definitely recommended. (367 characters)

Photo of Andrewharemza
4.14/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle, Black color with beige head. Aroma is roasted malty, chocolate and coffee, caramel, light dark fruits. Sweet and bitter taste like aroma. Medium oily body with soft carbonation. (185 characters)

Photo of Lawl3ss
3.76/5  rDev -9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Chilled 12 oz. stubby into a shaker pint glass. 2013 vintage.

Look- Pours deep ruby brown, quite opaque. Finger and a half of dense toffee-colored head that refuses to settle. Decent lacing.

Smell- Dark roast, milk chocolate, blackcurrant. A little booze in the background. Nice.

Taste- Bold albeit standard profile. A bit of molasses and raisin stand out, dominated by bittersweet chocolate, charred biscuit, and medium roast coffee. A little boozy, not really surprising considering the 10%+ ABV. Not too sweet. Finishes with a moderately assertive herbal bittering, roast lingers.

Mouthfeel- Medium-full body, some astringency from the booze keeps it from being creamy. Slick feel, carbonation crisp. Not too heavy, but, well.... I was expecting something a bit more substantial.

Overall- Accessible. SN's not going too crazy with this, and that's probably a good thing. Still definitely worthwhile, and very reasonably priced for the category. Sic this on your friends when they talk about Guinness being "oh so dark"- they'll be pleasantly surprised rather than sickened. (1,081 characters)

Photo of magpieken
4.26/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 Fl. Oz. bottle. Pkgd 20/10/14. Jet black colour with a dense, creamy tan head which lasted well before settling to a ring and left some very nice lace lines. Roasted malt aroma of espresso, dark chocolate, molasses, prunes, tar and port. Light to medium sweetness and medium bitterness. Very roasty. Medium to full body. Slick texture, soft carbonation, noticeable alcohol (reminiscent of vodka but without the burn) and a long roasted, bittersweet finish. Very nice and also very drinkable. (494 characters)

Photo of hreb
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2014 edition. 12oz bottle, dated 08/13/14, served in pint glass. Beer pours pitch black and slick like oil, with nearly zero head. Dark aromas suggest molasses. Flavors are immediate and complex: layers of toasted barley, burnt toast, treacle, and of course ethanol, but there's also an assertive hop flavor. I find the combination spicy, very appropriate for winter, and decided American (a high gravity, high IBU stout? why not!). Mouthfeel is great, low carbonation, which is perfect for the style. (508 characters)

Photo of mabermud
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
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 acevenom
4.58/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a pint glass. Pours black like motor oil with a tall, brown head. The head retreats very slowly, leaving some lacing on the side of the glass. The aroma is filled with dark chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts. It's a good smelling stout. The taste follows the nose. The dark roasted malts, the chocolate, and the coffee are prominent without all being strong and overpowering. There are some hops on the back end just adding some back end bitterness to help balance this big brew. The body is full and thick with light carbonation. The beer just coats the mouth and allows the aftertaste to linger. You know this is a big beer when you encounter it, but it doesn't hit you over the head. It helps make this is a very drinkable stout. This is an excellent beer. (773 characters)

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

P: Super black body with a glisten of mahogany at the bottom of the glass. A dollop of creamy espresso froth that dwindles to a bubbly crown. Retention is nice and leaves thick micro bubble lacing that sloshes around the edge. The melted Dutch chocolate ice cream like head never seems to leave.

S: Rich roasty malts, bakers chocolate, burnt molasses, dark coffee beans, sawdust, sweet whisky mash, smoked grain and salted cashews.

T/M: Sweet burnt molasses, milk and bitter chocolate, charred grains, dirty wood, spicy booze with earthy and pine resin hops in the background. Coffee, black pepper, and sweet figs round out the multitude of malty layers. Full creamy but oily body with spicy carbonation.

O: A mystical adventure for your mouth. Super complex and ever changing this brew delivers amazing results. This is a beer of myth and legend that lives up to its magical name. Cheers! (895 characters)

Photo of greyghost86
4.94/5  rDev +19.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

As close to a perfect imperial stout that I have had. Beautiful dark coffee appearance. Dark tastes of chocolate, coffee, and hints of smoke. This is a brew you can chew. Love it! (179 characters)

Photo of horshack7
4.59/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: It's down right black as the night sky. The head is light brown and is about one finger thick.

Aroma: Vanilla bean, light alcohol notes, charred wood, subtle yeasty bits. Traces of dark fruits, citrus and black licorice.

Taste: Dark roasted hops and chocolate malts, milk and dark chocolate notes. Espresso, vanilla bean, charred wood. Quite the silky smooth mouthfeel.

Notes: Rather a hefty beer very good for a cold night. Cheers. (447 characters)

Photo of JGlitz87
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black and nearly opaque. Slight tan head.

S: Roasted malts. Little bit of chocolate

T: Lots of flavor. Roasted malts, chocolate, caramel, little bit of bourbon barrel taste. Slightly boozy.

F: Thick body and no carbonation. Very smooth. Hides it alcohol content well.

O: Very good beer. Not the best RIS I have ever had, but certainly good. Looking forward to see how it ages. (385 characters)

Photo of jucifer1818
4.61/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: poured this one into a thin flute wine glass, and even in its thin glass, this beer will not let any light penetrate its darkness

like the dark and mysterious see of its namesake, this beer is a perfect example of clear total darkness, easily ranking a 40/40 on the beer color scale

apart from its color it has a medium, maybe one finger head, that lasts far longer than one would expect for a beer of this alcohol level
This is exactly what I'm looking for in a stout, and I was going to just give this one a 4.5 on first glance, but I cant see any reason to take off that last bit
I have to give its appearance a perfect score

Smell: The smell is quite subtle to say the last. I am surprised by this, and don't know how to really rate it
on one hand, a beer this extreme, would be VERY hard to make it have such a subtle smell, but on the other hand, I was expecting (and really wanted) something really intense that I could enjoy more
I get very light milk chocolate, light fruits, alcohol boozyness (but very slight boozyness), and a little bit of pear
Its not bad, quite good, but to me feels too reserved for what it is
4/5

Taste: mhhmmmm, this is really really good. This beer tastes like liquified black chocolate. This is almost nothing else to say, with some light fruity flavors to counter its intense roasted chocoaltyness, with an intense dark chocolate bitterness mixed in with strong hoppy bitterness in the after taste

a beer that is very strong and malty, but keeps it from being cloying wit ha perfect hopping that keeps the malt first, and works well with its dark chocolaty bitterness
I can think of noting Id want to change on this beer
5/5

Mouthfeel: Slick, sweet, and very syrupy. It pours like Hersey syrup, yet is much easier to drink
drinkabilty and a heavy imperial stout are not often paired up, but the beer manages to pull it off, and has a delightfully moouthfeel
4.5/

Overall: I'm giving this one a 4.5/5
Its a near perfect beer on all accounts, and a excellent offering from Siera nevada. I can easily see this beer turning into a PERFECT, 5/5 beer, after a good 8-12 months of ageing. Ill be drinking one more bottle for new years, and saving the last two for conditioning, quite possibly for next year to see how its changed over time
Highly, Highly recommend this beer

cheers (2,331 characters)

Photo of samtrillo
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%

Black with no head and minimal lacing.

The nose is of cocoa and coffee and sweet malt.

The taste is much more pronounced. It reminds me of a dark chocolate covered coffee bean! A toasted essence to the malt. The back end of the taste profile brings to mind dark fruits, bittersweet craisin.

The mouthfeel is smooth and a little warm. Low carbonation. Very easy drinking for such a big beer in taste and ABV. Overall an excellent Russian Imperial. (450 characters)

Photo of mdwalsh
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Among the darkest beers I've ever poured, even the head has a black hue to it, making it almost gray.

The aroma is rich, full of dark fruit, roasted grain, but almost a meaty roast, not a coffee roast.

The taste, however doesn't seem as full. There is a little astringency that comes through, though that may be the chill, it needs to warm up. Still though, not amazing. Just a slightly better than average RIS here.

Mouthfeel is also fairly thin, but has appropriate carbonation.

Overall, not really something I will seek out, but not something I will pass up if offered either. I have just never been blown away by SN stouts. (633 characters)

Photo of taylor714914
3.84/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Another solid beer from Sierra Nevada.

Pours a chocolatey black with a tan cap of foam.

Smells of roasted malts, chocolate, and a bit of smoke.

Tastes of roasted malts, chocolate, a hint of blackberry, and some lingering residual malt sweetness.

Mouthfeel is slightly thin, but still decent.

Overall a good offering from Sierra Nevada. (340 characters)

Photo of SteveB24
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%

just tried this beer for the first time since my earliest days of craft beer drinking.
color is black as night with a finger of frothy brown head. lots of lacing on the side of the glass.
aroma is sweet and malty, with notes of molasses, coffee, dark fruit, with a mildly boozy finish.
lots of rich malt flavor, biscuit, slight maple syrupy taste, coffee in there too, with some deep woody notes. not too sweet. texture is full bodied, slightly oily, surprisingly carbonated.
overall this is an excellent representative of the style. delicious. perfect for cold nights.
the ten percent abv is barely noticeable, drinks dangerously smooth. (638 characters)

Photo of AirBob
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%

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

Inky black, quarter inch tan head that settles down quickly.

Rich aroma of chocolate, like cocoa powder. Not an especially big aroma, but that might be because it’s not so huge on hops. Still, good and inviting.

Big roast flavor and strong dark chocolate flavor in the finish—not to mention a fairly big wave of alcohol heat on this 10% whale of a beer. Just big flavor in general, all coming together nicely in the finish. Body is also robust, with a smooth texture and enough carbonation to also tickle the tongue. Hops are fairly neutral, providing for a clean cut in the finish. It doesn’t blow me away, but I also have no complaints. I think I’d need to try it against others to see how it really compares.

Sierra Nevada has done a nice job on this style, not surprisingly. I’m going to enjoy savoring the other three, and I’ll see how one evolves with a year’s worth of age. (898 characters)

Photo of brewtus
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into snifter

Drank on 11/22/12

A- pours black with a dark tan head
S- a bit metallic, roasts, malty, a bit of chocolate
T- starts with a nice bitterness, hints of dark fruit and chocolate. There's a nice dark chocolate dry finish. I get a little smokiness. The alcohol is well hidden
M- for the abv, it's quite drinkable but has a bit less thickness than your bigger RISs, certainly has great texture
O- I usually like most Sierra Nevada beers, but I'm not usually overly impressed by most of the ones the brew. This one was really great. It was a lot thicker than I figured it would be and had a smoothness throughout. It's an easy drinking stout and I'm glad I grabbed a bottle. (689 characters)

Photo of megahurts4
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sierra Nevada Narwhal

Appearance: dark brown, medium head, and a little lacing.

Smell: coffee, chocolate, hops, and mineral water.

Taste: vanilla, coffee, some hops, and a hint of cocoa.

Mouthfeel: medium and a slight chewy sensation.

Overall:
This is quite nice. While not incredibly complex, the flavors mesh very well and are properly proportioned. The mouthfeel is great. This is very drinkable. (408 characters)

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

A - Pours pitch black with a one finger dark mocha head that sticks around. Left spotty lacing.

S - Deep roasted malts, dark fruits, slight alcohol.

T - Deep roasted malt up front, alcohol in the middle, and very very dark, I guess you could almost say roasted like a smore chocolate finish. It's almost like it melts in your mouth.

M - Thick oily body with very lightly stinging carbonation.

O - Overall, I'm completely convinced that Sierra Nevada can do no wrong. In my opinion, this stout had a one of a kind flavor. I don't know how they managed to make the flavor seem as though it melts in your mouth. I'd definitely have again and I wouldn't mind aging one. (669 characters)

Photo of StoutItOutLoud
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2013 vintage. 12-oz poured to tulip. Consumed 2-20-2014.

Thick and viscous. Opaque black; large, frothy, 3-finger mocha head. Decent alcohol legs coating the glass. There's a cap holding out.

dark roast coffee; grassy hops; baker's chocolate. wish there was more dark fruit here

one dimensional - dark chocolate-hops roastiness. alcohol less noticeable than ten fidy

well-carbonated. medium mouthfeel. (405 characters)

Photo of seand
3.68/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours an opaque black with a fair amount of tan head. Most of it dissipates except for a little surface film and a ring around the edge of the glass, which is enough to leave a few bubbles of lacing.

S: Bitter sweet coffee and malt.

T: Bitter sweet malt, and a bit boozy. Aftertaste is coffee-like and a little astringent.

M: Full body, medium carbonation.

Overall, a pretty good beer, but definitely on the less sweet side of imperial stouts. It's still quite drinkable if that's what you like. (502 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 775 ratings.