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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 Bouleboubier
4.3/5  rDev +4.1%

(2014 version, packaged 07/24/14 - poured into a balloon)

A: just about jet black... dark tan foam, with some staying power, perhaps due to high-hopping

S: huge cappucchino roastiness with hints of black chocolate and a whisper of medicinal booze... piney hops out the ass... very bold aromas and quite inviting

T: cascading layers of intense roasted flavors roll and fold over the palate, while the back end bitterness and booze slowly fans out into and through the back part of the throat, stopping there and burning like a bonfire against a concrete wall, while falling quite short of traveling down the throat with any malt viscosity or hop resins - this is all on the first sip... subsequent sampling reveal more biting bitterness, dark chocolate, and a subtle spiciness, likely derived from a blend of (mostly) fusels and a healthy dose of the Magnum (sorry, Challenger's colorful personality gets swallowed up and wasted here)... not what you'd call 'sweet' this is

M: medium-bodied but built rugged and sturdy... everything drops off midway down the palate... soft, whiskey-like parching effect, but its heat stings... supremely bone-dry

O: roast, coffee, malt, hops, booze - that's the name of this game... it'd be nice to see how this develops over time, but I'm diggin' it for what it's got right now... I can't figure out why, but this tastes like a SN product - must be something in the water (1,410 characters)

Photo of Greywulfken
4.5/5  rDev +9%

A: perfect black beer with a dense mocha fluff; lengths of lace left behind

S: rich dark malt aromas full of cocoa and espresso suggestions; sweeter hints of molasses

T: bittersweet chocolates and espresso with cane sugar; flashes of vanilla; lighter tones suggestive of anise and oak

M: creamy smooth and soft; slips across the palate with the barest brush; a full-bodied beer that's light-as-a feather?

O: an epic Russian Imperial - runs a little sweeter and less bitter than say, an Old Rasputin; had a slimmer, less sticky character than say, Stone's IRS; an elegant entry in the style. Don't pass it up. (612 characters)

Photo of Celtics17
4.66/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Just a big flavorful beer. It's like drinking a candy bar. This is one you can truly age. It's a great 4 pack. The High Altitude series is great.

Aroma- Big notes of sweet milk chocolate and roasted coffee.

Taste- Big milk/dark chocolate flavor coming through.

Overall this beer has everything you want in a stout.

2014 BOTTLE (333 characters)

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

A- poured into snifter a pitch black with three finger massive fine bubbled tan head. Completely opaque, not even a twinge of light gets through when held to the light.

S- nose is a deep and dark roasted malt and candy sweetness, with notes of raisin, molasses, chocolate, smothered in alcohol.

T- taste is a a deep dark amalgam of sweet malt and roasted smokiness... lots of molasses and bakers chocolate followed by some must and wet tarp, ends in a very hoppy bitter, I love a hoppy RIS.

M- nice and thick, syrupy with ample carbonation, as expected for the style.

O- overall one of my go to faves in the style, would never pass one up. This review is on a 2013, had a few fresh and saved this for a bit. It seems to have taken on a musty dampness to it, not terrible but makes me not feel bad for drinking them fresh.. (830 characters)

Photo of CTbrew32
4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- 2013 bottle cap. Pitch black with a slightly mocha head. One finger head poured with no angle.

Aroma- Big notes of sweet milk chocolate and some dark fruit and roasted aromas as well.

Taste- Not far off from the nose with big roast malts at the front followed by milk chocolate and slight bit of dark fruit. A little hoppy and dry as well.

Feel- As noted before this is a little dry, but pleasant and very drinkable. A slight warming is noticeable at the back end.

Overall- Great imperial stout with nice roasted malts and sweet chocolate balancing each other out. Only downfall to me is the roast/coffee malts linger at the end which I could do without. Definitely worth picking up again. (90/100) (714 characters)

Photo of alphagnome
3.7/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Appearance:
Pitch black body wears a finger-thick medium-brown head. Respectable retention and a fair amount of carbonation.

Aroma:
Potent vanilla and oak aroma. Heavy, roasted dark malt and cocoa notes. Hints of coffee and cherry shine through.

Taste:
Considerable amount of hoppiness for the style, but I like it. Heavy roasted coffee and a bit too much vanilla. Quite boozy.

Mouthfeel:
Thick - a slow sipper. Moderate carbonation for the style. Semi-sweet finish.

Overall:
Not a bad Imperial Stout by any stretch of the imagination, but there are better, more enjoyable options available. Worth picking up though. Try Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer if you want to know just how good an Imperial can be. (708 characters)

Photo of Tele
4.42/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: 4.5 Black with a 2 finger tan head that lasts about 2 or 3 minutes. Small bubbles. Looks like a great/classic imperial stout.

S: 4.25 Roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate, and a little bit of coffee. Pretty mild at first. Will let it warm to see if it changes at all. As it warms, there’s a little coconut and caramel. Also, a tiny bit of blackberry. Some vanilla is working its way through now too.

T: 4.5 Malt sweetness up front, followed quickly by roasted malt bitterness. A good amount of sweet chocolate with the malt. Roasted malt adds a lot of bittersweet chocolate and coffee flavors. Really nice to get these flavors naturally without additives. Some acidity as it warms, but it brings along nice berry flavors from the aroma.

M: 4.25 Fairly thick for an imperial stout. Could be a bit more viscous, but really nice as is. Good amount of carbonation and the malt bitterness goes well with a little bit of dryness.

O: 4.5 I really like this stout. It’s definitely one of Sierra’s best brews and up there with some of my favorite, easy-to-get, non-BA stouts (think old rasputin and ten-fidy). Super easy to drink and develops a lot as it warms. I’ll be looking forward to this every winter. (1,213 characters)

Photo of Trifecta1
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Appearance is jet black, brown head. Smell is strong malt, sweet, chocolate, slight roasted vanilla. Taste is heavy and full, licorice, anise, chocolate, medium sweet malt, slight alcohol, coffee. Warming. Bitter finish. Mouthfeel is viscous, full, coating, oily. Medium carbonation. Tasty. (290 characters)

Photo of dar482
3.81/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

This is a 2013 bottle with about 9 months on it.

The beer pours black with a light brown creamy head.

The aroma has dense roasted malt, sweet chocolate, mocha coffee, a touch of dark fruit of cherries and dried plums.

The beer has a medium plus luscious mouthfeel. However, there is still an aggressive kick of alcohol, as with the beer fresh. Lots of deeply roasted coffee and malt, bitter chocolate, with a spike of alcoholic dark fruit on the finish.

The beer is certainly helped with age, but it still very alcoholic, which detracts from the palate. (557 characters)

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

Presentation: It was poured from a brown 12 oz bottle into a tulip glass. The label lists the abv at 10.2% and the year it was brewed. (2013) There is a short description of the beer as well.

Appearance: It has a very dark black body which is completely opaque. From the slow pour I got a tall tan colored head that settles down fairly quick but makes tons of cool lacing on the glass.

Smell: The aroma has a mild character with some modest sweet and roasted maltiness.

Taste / Palate: The mild aroma gives way to a big bold full bodied malty sweetness on the tongue. There are notes of caramel, toffee, molasses, and raisins. It’s 10.2% abv is noticeable but mellow and adds to its overall character. The palate feels smooth with light carbonation in this big heavy offering from Sierra Nevada. It finishes slowly with just a touch of earthy hops. (855 characters)

Photo of Neorebel
4.35/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pleasantly surprised that one of my local haunts had Narwhal on tap. She pours an inky jet black with a thick looking tan head to boot. Very nice, almost perfect for what I want in a stout, in fact. The aroma is quite roasty, with a fairly large presence of bittersweet chocolate as well. After a highly anticipated sip, that baker's chocolate satisfied my taste buds fully, along with very pleasant fruit esters (predominantly plum and dark fruits). What I like is how wonderfully bitter the overall package is. There is perhaps some hops detectable in the flavor here. Very full on the mouth feel. Overall, a very solid Imperial Stout. (637 characters)

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)

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