Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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

764 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 764
Hads: 4,452
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 3.63%
Wants: 255
Gots: 1,124 | FT: 44
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
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Reviews: 764 | Hads: 4,452
Photo of LambicPentameter
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Reviewing from notes as I continue to catch up on past experiences. I drank this one on 2/22/14. Enjoyed out of a stubby 12 oz brown bottle with the vintage--2013--marked clearly on the neck label. Poured into a large snifter.

Appearance - Pours and inky black hole of color on the body, with no light able to penetrate whatsoever. A head of maybe a finger--probably a little less--of dark ecru colored foam that recedes quickly, leaving a generous film across the surface with slightly more thickness around the edges of the glass. Sparse, almost nonexistent lacing dots the glass intermittently as I drink it down.

Smell - Bittersweet baker's chocolate and roasted char from the malt profile are at the forefront, with a rich sweetness. There is also a slightly different element, with notes of anise, licorice and even black plum providing some complementary characteristics to the chocolate and roast elements.

Taste - The balance of the profiles in the smell have been reversed on the taste, with the fruit--plum, black currant, and prunes--and licorice elements being more overt and lingering on the palate long after I've swallowed. Some heat from the alcohol is faintly present, and the semisweet chocolate and roasted malt is there as well, but seems to provide more of a foundation than come through as the primary flavors.

Mouthfeel - Very full bodied and moderate-to-low carbonation, with a finish that lingers on the palate long after the beer is gone.

Overall, this is a very good imperial stout, and while I'm usually remiss to compare specific beers directly, I can't help myself. The body, look and feel remind me so much of my favorite RIS, Founders' version, that I think it's fair to note that they are cousins from the same family of oppressive (in a good way?) full-bodied stouts, but take different paths when it comes to aroma and taste. Where Founders is a bit drier, with a focus on cocoa, roast and coffee notes, this one leans more towards fruit and anise. My personal preference is towards the former, but this is surely top of the list when it comes to stouts that incorporate those dark fruits. (2,130 characters)

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

2012 bottle

A-Black with a beatiful 1" head that disappears quickly. Nice early lacing.

S-Stars off very boozy, which is a personal favorite. Then cocoa and coffee.

T-Nice early alcohol with chocolate and creamy coffee notes.

M-Medium bodied with hint of booze.

O-Nice RIS easily attainable with great pricepoint. (318 characters)

Photo of toppoop
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - Aggressive pour into a snifter yielded a mighty head which shrunk down to a thin layer over the top. Slight lacing throughout.
S - Chocolate and booze dominate the nose with a touch of coffee and molasses.
T - Dark chocolate hits first with the booze to follow which clings to the palate for some time after a taste. A touch of bitterness at the end.
M - Very nice. Full and silky, clings to mouth and stays for some time. Very balanced carb as well.
O - Very good RIS. Think I'm really gonna enjoy this a lot more after some time in the cellar. (549 characters)

Photo of blackcompg
4.75/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This rating is on a bottle of Narwhal from 2012...

Appearance - Pours a solid finger of cinnamon colored foam, body is a completely opaque dark burnt sienna to black, and the lacing coats the entire glass, and just barely starts to break during the last few sips - gorgeous.

Smell - Rich dark chocolate, dark ripe fruits, molasses, roasted dark coffee, warm pumpernickel bread, touch of sweet black licorice and a whiff of black cherry.

Taste - Begins with a wonderful balance of dark chocolate, lightly sweetened rich french roast coffee, dark fruits and licorice, followed almost immediately by slightly astringent cherry and plumskin, then lightly burnt pumpernickel crusts with just a touch of pepperiness, with a ribbon of molasses throughout. Delicious and bold, with some very complimentary heat a little behind all of these flavors.

Mouthfeel - Smooth and rich, silky and creamy, mouthcoating in a very good way. Carb is on the lower side and provides just enough of a smooth foaming light scrub to allow some astringency and bittering roast to finish off the quaff. Latent carb provides a few tingly edges late after each sip.

Overall - Just a delicious and very satisfying RIS, a sipper for sure. Take your time with this one to fully enjoy the complex flavors here, and the wonderful transition from mouthcoating and creamy to lightly astringent and bitter, then repeat... This is a fairly easy RIS to get your hands on - do yourself a favor and get about 2 years on a few of them, well worth the wait. My favorite by far is FIS, and after 2 years this comes Really close, just a tad lighter, but not light by any means. An excellent RIS, highly recommend. (1,672 characters)

Photo of paladinjoe
4.8/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

First off, I'm not a huge fan of Stouts, with that said, I AM a huge fan of IMPERIAL Stouts, and this son of a gun fits that bill, without a huge bill (price) which again is something Sierra Nevada offers with this one! Most of the time, Imperial Stouts are expensive as hell, where as this one, is barely more expensive then their regular beers.

To the beer itself, very smooth, coffee, chocolate, some licorice, and a definite alcohol presence in this one, it literally warms your innards, no joke! This beer leaves you feeling very smooth, and very relaxed at the end of the evening, a perfect beer at the end of a cold/cool night in fall, winter, or early spring.. or whenever!! Very sellarable as well, this thing can last for many years if you want to sellar it. (769 characters)

Photo of Foyle
3.82/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: 1” head the color of which is like coffee with lots of cream. Moderate lacing left on the glass. The color is black – no opacity even with direct sunlight. Carbonation seems to be moderate.
Aroma: dark roasted malts, dark chocolate, a hint of smokiness, some citrus peel
Mouthfeel: body is heavy and very similar to a strong cup of expresso. Finish is somewhat dry with a slight alcohol burn in the aftertaste.
Flavor: coffee, expresso, dark chocolate, smoke flavor similar to grilled meats, strong citrus peel. Overall: this is not a training wheel beer. A finely crafted product from Sierra Nevada, this beer is outstanding on a cold day when you want something to sip in front of the fireplace. (716 characters)

Photo of OldRickSputin
4.04/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pleasantly surprised by this RIS! I know it's popular and has a good rating score, but I was skeptical.

It's extremely tasty and the carbonation and mouthfeel are just right.

If I had to pick something negative, it would be the dry, bitter/lingering after taste. But that's nitpicking.

Overall- outstanding offering, especially from Sierra Nevada, which doesn't have many offerings that appeal to me. (403 characters)

Photo of SteveMcQueen36
4.11/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Narwhal is one of the thickest and gnarliest beers I have gotten through. It was well worth it but boy was it heavy. It looked beautiful like black coffee in my glass. It tasted bitter as all hell. Very nice. (208 characters)

Photo of happy4hoppybeer
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pitch black with beautiful tan head, leaving considerable lacing on the glass. This looks like an Imperial Stout all right.

Very strong aromas of coffee, alcohol, chocolate etc. Very big on the alcohol.

Roasted/toasted barley, cocoa and coffee beans hit the tongue. Very creamy, fairly big body, medium carbonation.

As far as imperial stouts go, this stands among the finest. (378 characters)

Photo of teromous
3.68/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

A: Black body with a tan head. It takes a bit of agitation to get the head up, but it stays up surprisingly well. Mild lacing on the glass.

S: Alcohol comes through immediately, followed by a spicy note...a bit woody. It has a slight scent of coffee but mostly the alcohol comes through.

T: Oh holy alcohol. This thing is strong. There's a bold, very robust roasted bitterness. It's followed by what I can only describe as a coffee sweetness. Most people would sweeten coffee with sugar, but this beer is so robust that coffee makes it sweet. That alcohol adds a bit of sweetness as well. It finishes with a bit of cocoa and coffee on the tongue. The finish is probably what really makes this beer.

M: I feel that the mouthfeel on this beer is perfect. It's full feeling without being syrupy, the roasted bitterness wakes up the mouth and the alcohol seems to coat it momentarily. It has just enough carbonation for a stout this size without making it too flat or too "poppy." It's very enjoyable to drink. It finishes quite nicely.

O: I think that the alcohol comes through strongly, so if you either don't like the flavor of alcohol or can't get past it, you'll have a hard time enjoying the beer. It has a lot to offer and what I really appreciate is how it has a roasted flavor without being overly bitter. It has a nice balance of flavors without pushing anything over the top. Unfortunately this balance could be considered a downfall if looking for something outside of the box. While it is a great example of a RIS, it doesn't feel as unique as its namesake suggests. (1,579 characters)

Photo of Jeffo
3.48/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A case of this actually made it to Amsterdam. Picked it up at De Bierkoning.

From a bottle into a snifter
Vintage: 2013

APPEARANCE: A dark brown, opaque pour yields a three finger, medium looking, creamy, tan head with excellent retention. Black body with no carbonation evident. Head fades to a full wisp and sticks to the sides of the glass. A faint wisp and ring remain until the end leaving some nice lacing down the glass. Pretty good looking stout. Needs to be even blacker for top marks.

SMELL: Dark baker's chocolate, light coffee, cream, some caramel notes and roasted aromas on the nose. Tobacco in there, as well as some leather too. Could be bolder, but complex and interesting enough.

TASTE: Baker's chocolate again, caramel and leather up front, then a big, roasted coffee finish with some burnt and charred malts at the swallow. Bolder and lingering finish of roasted coffee bitterness, burnt and charred malts, leather, tobacco, and some light vanilla cream. Quite burnt and roasted, with lots of other complex flavors as well.

PALATE: Medium body and medium levels of carbonation. A little light on the palate and too prickly for the style, but goes down okay and finishes somewhat mouth-coating. A bit of a burn at the swallow and a touch of heat lingers.

OVERALL: Pretty good stuff. Lots of burnt and charred notes with tobacco definitely give it a European tough. If you like this one, you'll probably like the stuff coming out of De Molen in Holland and various Danish breweries that deserve some praise. The feel is slightly lighter on this, which holds it back a bit. Fill that out and it would support the flavors that much more. Still, this is a solid effort worth checking out if you get the chance. If it were reasonably priced, I'd go back for seconds. (1,790 characters)

Photo of biboergosum
4.21/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle, a nice snag from doktorzee on his recent jaunt through Vegas. Cheers, man!

This beer pours a solid black, with noticeable cola-tinted basal highlights, and three fingers of puffy, tightly foamy, and fairly creamy light brown head, which leaves some awesome craggy sea cliff lace around the glass as it slowly and evenly recedes.

It smells of well-toasted, almost meaty caramel malt, wet rye bread, powdered cocoa, stale ashes, dark-roast coffee beans, a hint of black licorice, earthy, leafy hops, and a subtly burbling alcohol astringency. The taste is semi-sweet chocolate, a consequentially reduced caramel malt, some persistent dark bready notes, edgy and earthy anise, gritty wet ash, well-roasted day-old coffee, the kind with too much nut flavourings added to it, and surprisingly (really?) bitter leafy, earthy, and dry citrus hops. A wee twinge of metallic alcohol sort of turtles as things barely warm.

The carbonation is pretty low-key, but hardly absent, a subtle bubbly edginess wafting about, the body a solid medium weight, dead smooth, and agreeably creamy, in a sort of milk-chocolate sense. It finishes well off-dry, the cocoa, caramel, roast, and hops forming one swell collection of lingering party goers.

A pleasurable and enjoyable RIS, the initially apparent unchecked sweetness duly run off at the pass in the typical Sierra Nevada way - mo' hops! It all seems to work - full-bodied, tasty and with the north of 10 points of booze doing its best shark impression by keeping its head under the surface (fin-free!*), I can just sit back and appreciate this hefty, well-made brew.

* This is a pun that only (especially new) dads will appreciate, so Imma just gonna keep it to myself for now. (1,730 characters)

Photo of Swettenham_Shire
3.83/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured into pint glass...

Appearance: pours a dark brown/black color with 1 finger tan head; lacing doesn't stick around
Smell: amazing malt, chocolate, and coffee scent mixed with alcohol
Taste: follows the nose; getting a sweet and bitter aftertaste
Mouthfeel: heavy; can feel the booze
Overall: I was happy to try this stout from Sierra Nevada, but probably won't seek it out anymore. I prefer others in this beer style (423 characters)

Photo of NathanJoyce
2.12/5  rDev -48.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

This was my first Imperial Stout and I feel like I have diabetes.

Are they all this sweet and sickly?

Sure, coffee, chocolate, etc, etc. Thick and no sense of humour.

I'm willing to consider my lack of inexperience as a huge mark against my review, but honestly—this is strong and heavy and SWEET. I love strong, I love heavy, I just can't understand the attraction to the sweet... (386 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 MartzMimic
4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark, dark black with a bubbly dark brown head that leaves quickly. Aroma of coffee, malt and plum. Big dark chocolate and coffee taste, along with touches of malt and alcohol. Mouth is thick, but incredibly smooth. This is a very nice stout. (250 characters)

Photo of ronniebruner
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Easily one of the darkest stouts I have seen in a while. Beer pours a DARK black molasses color, making light impossible to penetrate this brew. The beer has a beautiful, smooth aroma, topped off with a nice amount of lace and head when poured into a glass. A slight hint of chocolate is abundant and the beer is extraordinarily smooth. Sierra Nevada never let me down and in my opinion it is a toss up between them and Widmer as the best American brewers. An absolute must have, so far the best new beer I've tried in the last 6 months or so. (543 characters)

Photo of rjp217
4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

2013 edition bottle poured...

A - Solid black with a 1 finger brown head that dissipates rather quickly. Nice sticky lace retention

S - Milk chocolate, nuts, campfire

T - All kinds of chocolate, some smoke, oak, hops, caramel, boozy

M - Exceptionally soft and pillowy, medium body, low carbonation

O - An excellent, fairly easy to find RIS. It's big and boozy with a lot of complexity. I really like this one though it's just a step below that next level. (460 characters)

Photo of ranger7
3.74/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from the bomber into a pint glass.
Review from notes: January 28th, 2014.

A: Nice. Black and cloudy, can't see through. Tan head which sticks to the glass.

S: Chocolate and malt. More malt than chocolate, almost bitter.

T: Bitter front and end with smooth middle, can't pinpoint the bitterness.

M: Some carbonation, but smooth overall.

O: Good. This is a nice example of a Russian Imperial Stout with plenty of ABV bite. A bit too roasty for my tastes, but still good. (480 characters)

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

Serving: Bottle into snifter
Served: 27 February 2014

Appearance: Pitch black, with literally no light penetrating this brew. The dark brown head quickly disappears and leaves just a ring of bubbles around the edges. Looks impressive and daunting.

Smell: Roasted malts, black, dark-roast coffee, and unsweetened cocoa.

Taste: Wow, is this one complex. An initial burst of hop bitterness is followed by a strong assertion of roasted malts, dark roast coffee, espresso, and cocoa flavors. Finishes very dry.

Mouthfeel: Think and smooth, just as one would expect.

Overall: A great beer, and I was surprised to taste as much bittering hop as I did. When I burped, you could definitely re-taste the hoppiness (gross, I know). While hops aren't the dominant profile here, they are certainly assertive in their bittering qualities. But we wouldn't expect anything less from Sierra Nevada, would we? A great brew, and one I recommend. Definitely a sipper, and definitely a once-in-a-while beer, not something I could stomach any time any day. (1,039 characters)

Photo of heygeebee
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Briefly, looks on the money for an RIS, and rich and smooth on nose and taste. Velvety, mellow, luscious. Roasts, coffee, and dark choc to the fore, and less hoppy than we might expect from SN. Dry finish and less alcohol burn than you would think.

Overall, really solid and to style. (285 characters)

Photo of whoahwhat
4.33/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Had this on-tap, 10 ounces. One word: delicious. Have since had it from the bottle and it's just not the same. On tap, it was syrupy, complex, wonderful. beautiful espresso head. I'm really sad that I didn't get another glass of it, but, ya know, driving... Strong coffee flavors, plum, chocolate, just rich and tasty. (318 characters)

Photo of kdahnke123
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a snifter at room temperature. 2013 Vintage.
A - Poured a nice dark color with a medium brown, quickly dissipating 1/4" head.
S - Chocolate and coffee upfront with a balanced hop and malt finish.
T - A little bite from the hops at first, followed by medium roast coffee/chocolate with a bite of the alcohol at the end. The malt is somewhat subdued with the rest of the flavors going on.
M - Very smooth, medium viscosity mouthfeel. Very little carbonation.
O - A very good example of an imperial stout. The incorporation of 10% alcohol and 60 IBU into a beer with this kind of balance is well done. Everything is in good proportion to one another. (660 characters)

Photo of Nostrajonus
3.84/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A-This pours pitch black with a two finger brown head that dissipates slowly and leaves faint lacing.

S-The smell is wonderful. Rich roasted barley, faint coffee notes with background sweetness..no hops.

T-The taste was not as full bodied as the nose, I am missing the malt and getting too much sweetness....no hops.

M-The texture is not what I am accustomed to with this style. The carbonation was good, but I needed it to be a bit more heavy.

O-Overall this is a good beer. I have not been big on Sierra Nevada in the past, I will sample their newer offerings. (570 characters)

Photo of drdiesel9483
4.09/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Look - very dark brown color. Great brownish head that last for a good amount of time.
Smell - I can smell the alcohol, chocolate, and lots of coffee.
Taste - coffee taste with some alcohol. Sweet chocolate taste as well.
Feel - smooth, with great medium carbonation.
Overall - I let this beer sit for about 6-9 months and it was fantastic. (340 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 764 ratings.