Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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BA SCORE
92
outstanding
869 Reviews
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BEER STATS
Reviews:
869
Ratings:
4,849
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
22.71%
 
 
Wants:
304
Gots:
1,361
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46
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: 869 | Ratings: 4,849
Photo of RexBanner
4.7/5  rDev +13.5%

Pours a deep dark brown, almost black. No light penetrated through this dark concoction. 1/2 finger head that dissipated fairly quick. Velvety smooth appearance.

Its aroma was of bready yeast, dark roast grains, alcoholic esters, bitter dark chocolate. Faint banana smell was also present.

The taste was of robust roasted grains and dark bitter 80% cacao. Very faint taste of hops was noticeable before everything was washed away by the alcoholic burn that permeated the mouth. Smooth mouth feel. Not as heavy as one might imagine for an imperial stout. As it reached room temperature it began to develop the flavor profile of a strong dark Belgian ale. Even the aftertaste was more akin to a SDB as oppose to a stout.

Overall, I would recommend this beer to others. It's definitely a sipper. I missed that characteristic smokey aftertaste common to stouts as well as the creamy, chewy mouth feel, but all in all, this is a superb beer worth trying.

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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

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Photo of BlurryVisi0n
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Served in a snifter glass.

Appearance: Medium bodied that looks thin but still thick in a sense , tan head which rose to maybe a notch or two below a finger's length.

Smell: Wow, a beautiful mocha scent. You feel a chocolate aroma hitting you immediately. Strong but still subtle.

Taste: A nice complexity of cocoa and coffee, very deep and smooth.

Mouth: Stick as it gets and honestly putting the glass down is the worst part about this brew.

Overall: Awesome beer, would recommend to anyone who appreciates what quality truly is. Snifter glass preferred, salud!

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Photo of hophugger
2.98/5  rDev -28%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Nice deep chocolate brown that just doesn't want any light to peek through, nice!! Relatively light aroma, with maybe a hint of sweet chocolate malt coming through. Taste is bold with hints of bitter chocolate and a touch of sweet malts. I know that the ABV is high, but the mouthfeel is predominately alcohol, taking away I think a little from what I would imagine to be quite a spectacular flavor. Burns ever so slightly as it inches its way across the tongue and down the gullet. Overall, a pretty balanced with what I think is just a touch too much alcohol feel that slightly numbs the mouth...

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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.

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Photo of REGreenBTRB
4.32/5  rDev +4.3%

Bottled on 07/31/14. Poured into a snifter.

A: 5 - Pitch black with a very thin head, tan/cinnamon head. It seriously looks like this glass just got colored with sharpie.

S: 3.8 - I get some of the roasted malt, dark chocolate, really not a whole lot of coffee. Mainly just the malt and coffee. It doesn't smell quite as strong as I was expecting.

T: 4.25 - It tastes wonderful! You definitely get a lot of the malt up front, and the dark chocolate is very present. There's just a hint of coffee. This is mostly roasted malts and dark chocolate, though I can definitely pick up on a little bit of the alcohol.

M: 4.25 - There is a slight alcohol burn, medium carbonation. Creamy finish.

O: 4.32 - Overall a very good beer. It's hard to go wrong with a dark chocolate/malty imperial stout. Definitely something worth trying! Woo Pig.

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Photo of DaBrewski
5/5  rDev +20.8%

Malty roasted coffee flavor with perhaps a touch of bourbon hook coming through at the end. There are hops there too.

There is some heat coming through.

However, where Goose Island's BCS would be an "11" on the amp scale Narwhal would be an 8. This is not a bad attribute.

Excellent Imperial Stout. Absolutely surprised me. Great price point for this bold stout.

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Photo of WAbeerfiend
2/5  rDev -51.7%

Poured into a tumbler in late 2013.

A: Opaque black.

S: Roasty malt, brown sugar.

T: Lots of bitterness overwhelmed anything else for me on the first sip.

O: I tried to make it through this with small sips, but the bitterness was too much. The alcohol was very well hidden. This was a drain pour.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of beerdedking
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%

Vintage 2013. From the snifter emits one of strongest black licorice scents in an RIS I've encountered.
Oohh, I'm gonna like this already. Comingled with the initial licorice are light scents of dark cherry and prune.
After the quickly dissipating head vanished, I started the swilling. The licorice continues with dark fruit and a touch of fine coffee
which all play nicely on the tongue long after a pull. My favorite attribute is the lack of char. Strangely this is bit thin for the style, but slightly. This minor lack of density does
give way to a bit greater drinkability. You can slug this baby down, then have another, then nite nite. Overall, this is quite worthy for the style, it's Sierra Nevada, and the
price is great as you'd expect. SN doing awesome things as usual.....

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Photo of samtrillo
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%

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.

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Photo of WoostaBia
4.49/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2014 Batch. Excellent beer. May taste better with age, has harsh edges that may get better with age. For a 10% beer the alcohol is well hidden. The hops and burnt malt flavors dominate.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%

(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

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%

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.

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Photo of Celtics17
4.66/5  rDev +12.6%
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

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Photo of MaineBrewing
4.26/5  rDev +2.9%
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..

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Photo of CTbrew32
4/5  rDev -3.4%
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)

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Photo of alphagnome
3.7/5  rDev -10.6%
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.

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Photo of Tele
4.42/5  rDev +6.8%
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.

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Photo of Trifecta1
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
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.

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Photo of dar482
3.81/5  rDev -8%
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.

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Photo of generallee
4.19/5  rDev +1.2%
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.

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Photo of Neorebel
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
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.

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Photo of LambicPentameter
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
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.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 869 ratings.