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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

826 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 826
Hads: 4,676
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 9.66%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,243 | 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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 826 | Hads: 4,676
Photo of wedge
3.6/5  rDev -13%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5


Deep, dark black color with a lean tan head that drops to a luscious, creamy covering. Smells dark and malty...spicy fruit, licorice, molasses, and a slight oxidized/aged aroma in back. Somewhat rich, but definitely big and roasty malt flavor. Char, cocoa, espresso, and dark fruity esters. Again, a particular spiciness permeates the flavor along with a heavy bitterness in the finish. Booze is thankfully low, though there is an expected warming deep down in the throat. Big bodied and creamy, but dry. I liked this a bit more during the first half, but the bitterness is becoming a little distracting. A solid RIS that I think is worthy of aging a couple more bottles for longer to see what happens.

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Photo of jtierney89
3.3/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Incredibly deep brown color, almost black, from what i can tell good clarity and about two fingers of mocha colored head. Charcoal heavily roasted grains, bit of asphalt, mocha and dark cocoa.

Not as heavily bodied as I thought it would be but a pretty good beer. I expected a bit more from sierra, but it's a pretty standard imp stout. Faintly creamy, bitter black chocolate, dark roast coffee, herbal hop, low astringency, bitter malts and bitter hops finishes dry. Overall good, clean tasting, on the heavier side of medium bodied, lingering burnt coffee, black chocolate and earthy hop flavors. A touch soapy and minty.

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Photo of gr0g
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Opaque, black appearance, capped with a finger's worth of dark tan foam. Head retention is good, while lacing is minimal. Has the rich, imposing look that an imperial stout should have. Char, molasses, and dark chocolate feature prominently on the nose. Some fusel presence on the back-end of the aroma, though not much (and not uncommon for an unaged imperial stout). Base aroma is very nice, just needs more "pop" to merit a higher score.

Narwhal has a very nicely balanced flavor profile. Upfront sweetness is tamed by bitterness on the mid-palate through to the finish. I wouldn't mind a little less bitterness to let the rich, chocolatey flavors to stand out more. Flavors of cacao nibs and black coffee astringency. Mouthfeel has a nice weightiness to it, while there's an appropriate level of carbonation. Alcohol heat is present but doesn't jump out and become distracting.

Narwhal is destined to become a top value imperial stout, widely available and of high quality. Compares very favorably with Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout in that regard. Another great beer by Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of dc87
3.93/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A - Not as attractive as other imperial stouts I've seen. As expected, a tar like dark brown-black body. Dirty white-brown head which disappears disappointingly quickly.

S - Predominantly fruity chocolate sweetness. A little coffee, and roasted malts and smokiness.

T - Complex and wonderfully balanced. Sweet dark fruits, berries, raisins and chocolate. Finishes with some perfectly complementary bitterness and charred. Delicious and drinkable.

M - Medium-full bodied. Some pleasantly nippy carbonation too.

O - A very tasty, well balanced and enjoyable imperial stout. Would definitely drink again.

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Photo of seand
3.68/5  rDev -11.1%
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.

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

Narwhal Imperial Stout

A - DEEP, DARK, muddy black, one finger very tan/almost brown head and some sugar legs

S - Nutty, huge vanilla, molasses, COCA, beast of roasted toasted grains, sexy smooth, deep chocolate dipped ripe berries, OAK, Charred OAK, BOOZE, sexy sweet molasses, bourbon vanilla, cinnamon, beautiful earthy hops and wow

T - DUDE, WTF, such a huge robust beast of a stout. Much love SN. Love my RIS and High octane and sugary stouts, but this is on another spectrum. Booze note kicks ass, The deer dark ripe berries are all dipped in sugarless coca, the roastedess and toastedess grains, deepest of darkest chocolates, molasses, bourbon vanilla, oak, nutty, charred anything and AWESOMENESS

M - Full bodied, overwhelmingly awesome robustness, medium plus acidity, well balanced, awesome complexity and the best robust imperial stoutness I have had in YEARS!

D/O - Robust is the name of this stouts game. DAMN. Not DAMN I need something less robust. Just DAMN, they did the robust and less sweet/boozey style WELL! Stoked on this beast for sure. Refreshing isnt a word used in this description, but tasty is!

Final Thoughts - $12 bucks IS high for a 4 pack but at a 10.2% and the taste, why the heck not?!!??!

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Photo of M_C_Hampton
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass, almost black with a nice dark tan head that lingers leaving good lacing, clear

S: coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, dark roasted grain

T: coffee, bitter coco, espresso, tobacco, dark roasted malty grains

M: heavy, oily, low carbonation, alcohol noticeable

O: great imperial stout, rich flavors

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Photo of JGlitz87
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
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.

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

12 ounce bottle - $2.99 at Total Wine & More in Kennesaw, Georgia.

2013 Vintage.

Appearance: Slips out a black, viscous-looking body, though with only a very, very small, tan head.

Smell: An aroma choked with rich maltiness -- molasses, chilled espresso, chocolate, along with full notes of licorice sticks, plump raisins. Minor spiciness, slim smokiness.

Taste: Boldly roasty, espresso-laden, and heaping with melted, fine dark chocolate and thick molasses. Restrained sweetness, as it's tempered by the sharpness of the roasted malts, hops, and warming alcohol. Black licorice. Dark fruits. A little additional fruitiness attributed to the hops, slightly resiny. Reasonably dry on the smooth finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium carbonation.

Overall: Big and beefy yet relatively balanced -- I liked it.

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Photo of AdamF625
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

A- pours jet black with a thick khaki head that fades quickly.
S- black malt, roasted barley, cacao
T- a lot of roast and black malt flavor, expresso, bitter chocolate, earthy hops
M- medium body and carbonation
O- well balanced between the dark malts and hops. The alcohol is hidden well but this beer sure keeps you warm.

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Photo of taylor714914
3.84/5  rDev -7.2%
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.

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3.4/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

It pours a jet black color with a nice head that retains decent.stouts are hard to rate in appearance To me they are black and not much else.

The smell is good,you get coffee in the front then the alcohol just ruins it in the back end,maybe a little coco back there too.

The taste is not bad just the booze overpowers it,after a few drinks that's pretty much all you taste.

The mouthfeel is a little thin IMO.

Overall this is not a great imperial stout,too much booze taste.if Sierra Nevada can hide the abv better it would improve this one drastically

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Photo of Beersnake1
3.77/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Pours black with a finger of light brown head. Head disappeared quickly - probably 20 seconds.

Smell: Not overwhelming. Toasted malts with some hints of dark fruit. Even a bit sweet. A bit smoky and a hint of caramel.

Taste: The taste follows the smell nicely. Fairly mellow, with a taste of toasted malts, caramel, and a bit of coffee. Not as burly as some other imperial stouts, but a nice smooth flavor. The alcohol content doesn't come through.

Overall: Nice beer from Sierra Nevada. Pleasantly smooth, but not extremely distinct from others in its class.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
3.84/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A 2013 bottle that arrived to Albuquerque in the last month. Poured from the 12-ounce bottle into a snifter.

The beer pours engine oil black and creates a delicious looking, off-brown head. Healthy lacing is present.

The aroma is boozy, smelling like a brandy with some fruity, cherry qualities. A sweetness is present, as is sweet malt. Some chocolate pops up too.

Taste-wise, there is a whole lot going on here: breadiness, caramel and chocolate and a potent blast of booze. Coffee hints drift in and out and linger with the dry aftertaste.

The booze really takes the beer over at this point, giving significant burn and a dry ending and taking away from the beers other flavors.

I will be aging a 4-pack of these and will be revisiting them later on in the winter and down the line and suspect they will improve significantly as the beer settles. Right now, the beer is still to potent to truly enjoy.

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Photo of MikeWard
3.68/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. 2013 batch.

Poured a thick oily black. No light comes through the body. Head was about a finger, tan colored. The head dissipated quckly to a full covering, before completely disappearing about halfway through the drink. No lacing to speak of.

Wasn't getting too much from the nose, pretty subtle, some alcohol, coffee, a little toasted malt.

Taste was also very subtle, with the above flavors coming through, but no strength to any of them. None of them lingered on the tongue very long.

Mouth was around medium, a little dry at the end.

I've only had this beer once before, last fall. Remember enjoying it a lot more then than now. This seemed a bit uninspired. Nothing offensive about it, just a bit bland really. A bit disappointing. Does go down easy for a 10.2abv.

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Photo of haschauer
3.62/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Very dark, pitch black body. Light caramel head.

S - Chocolate, toffee, coffee. Good smelling beer.

T - Chocolate and coffee up front. Some prevalent alcohol flavor. This is my third bottle from the 2013 varietal and the alcohol is already dying down but still there.

M - Good mouthfeel. Not too heavy, good level of carbonation.

O - I wanted to let this age a little more but I suppose I got a little excited with the weather cooling down so much at night these days. I will definitely let the last bottle I have lay down for a some months. Good stout but not as great as I was expecting.

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Photo of jopezu
5/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

pours an oil slick dark brown with a medium tan head that quickly rolls down to a bubbly film. nose; i can't stop drinking it long enough to discern... milk chocolate, fudge, espresso and hops. taste; dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, bitter coffee bean, bitter leafy hops, espresso, plum, light fudge & some slight wood notes. very highly carbonated with a silky, heavy mouthfeel. the hops, malt, abv and darkness are pretty much perfectly balanced to my palate. an expertly crafted russian imperial stout that brings a wallop on the roasted profile, and still has the hop to be a big beer. sierra neveda pulled no punches on this one!

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Photo of JRed
3.56/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Dark black in body with creamy tan head that floats on top for the duration of the drink. Aroma of roast, dark chocolate, dirt, and cocoa powdered mint leaves. Flavors aren't as aggressive as I thought they'd be: fluffy chocolate mousse, roasted malt leads to dirt, some tobacco towards the end. Milky body with light carbonation. A smooth stout that masks the big booze well behind layers of cocoa and crushed autumn leaves. Dangerously easy to keep picking up over and over again.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.58/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ok, this review is for the 2013 batch as I forgot to review the 2012 which I actually thought was better. Dark black, brown healthy head. Aroma is alcohol, roast malt, not bad at all. Flavor is alcohol, dark malts, fruit, mild notes of chocolate. Overall pretty good but a little astringent for my liking,

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Photo of Furlinator
3.56/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours near black with very little head and decent lacing.

Smell is alcohol and cocoa up front. A faint scent of raisins and plums with a bready
finish on the back end.

Taste is bitter coffee up front. Faint nut flavor and some dark fruit bring up the rear.

Medium bodied for a stout. Slightly creamy with medium carbonation.

As stated in previous reviews, the alcohol presence is obvious and certainly detracts from this stout's potential. A bit of a disappointment.

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Photo of mjpolzin
3.77/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Split a 4 pack with my brother in law. Always excited to try a new imperial stout. This one was somewhat of a disappointment though.

The pour into the glass was very dark but not as thick as some of the better imperial stouts. As was mentioned in many of the reviews on this site, the smell was of alcohol with some roasted malts in the background. The taste was very similar to the smell and unfortunately the alcohol taste masked what could be a very good imperial stout with some chocolate, dark fruit and malts hiding behind the alcohol burn.

I have another bottle of this. Perhaps with some age on it, the alcohol taste will die down a bit leaving behind a much better beer.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.13/5  rDev -24.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle into a pint glass. Really looking forward to this one.

A: Pours a very dark red color. It's so, so close to being pitch black, but not quite. The head is a two finger khaki shade. Retention is decent if not spectacular, and a nice layer of lacing is left behind.

S: This pops with chocolate, coffee, roasted malts, some leafy hops...and a LOT of alcohol. This smells really boozy even for 10.2%, and it's not a particularly refined alcohol presence. Even worse, it seems to detract from the rest of the brew. But of course, given the chance to warm up, all its alcohol calms down - slightly.

T: There's no two ways around it - this mutha is harsh. Roasted malts open this one up, sandwiching a cream-laden coffee middle with its boozy, fruity finish. Some hoppiness appears in the aftertaste. I would have hoped that the alcohol would at least create some nuance and depth, alas no; it's not dead simple, but it should be more complex considering. Giving it the chance to warm/open up doesn't improve it much either. Maybe it makes it *slightly* less harsh.

M: It's creamy and lush feeling, like an imperial stout should be. I'm also kind of glad it isn't particularly dry finishing, because all it would really do is expose the alcohol even further. Carbonation isn't really a factor.

O: This could be my biggest letdown of 2013. It had many things going for it to be topnotch - SN's reputation, well received on BA, inexpensive - but in the end was nearly ruined by the generic harshness. My other bottles are going in the cellar; there's a very good RIS underneath this all, and aging it may be exactly what the doctor ordered.

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Photo of martyl1000
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Black. Oily. Chewy brown head but the lacing slides off the glass too readily, via some obvious alcohol solvency.

Boozy aroma, w/ coffee, barely detectable chocolate. Nice, but fairly one-dimensional.

Booze first on the tongue. Then tart stone fruit, cherry, prune, or is it fig. Cocoa's next, along with burnt toast. Then more booze, which is an issue.

Thick, oily, despite the significant carbonation.

Very much like Old Rasputin, which isn't my favorite RIS. I like them sweeter than this. The simplistic aroma is the weak spot, here. But at this price point, I'll drink this regularly. Wish there were more chocolate and/or vanilla involved.

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Photo of scar
2.93/5  rDev -29.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

What I was looking forward to was a larger version of their stout that was made with Black Malt/ no Rbarley and was bottle conditioned. Unfortunately their stout and this imperial stout are no longer bottle conditioned and they have changed the recipes.

I was confused by this beer, I really didn't know what it was trying to accomplish other than strength and drink ability. Sadly, there are many big stouts far better than this one and I expected more from the great American institution.

Because of my disappointment pls refer to my numerical ratings rather than a written breakdown of this beer. I will leave you with this thought. Sierra Nevada has gotten larger and as a result only bottle conditions the pale ale and a few seasonals. However, this conditioning in the bottle is what made their products really pop and highlighted the craftsmanship and quality. Simply put, this company's beers cease to be interesting since they have stopped bottle conditioning.

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Photo of zac16125
3.57/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into a tulip
vintage 2013

A: Pours an opaque jet black with 1.5 fingers width of light mocha colored head. Decent retention, and leaves a good amount of lacing.

S: Tons of roasted malt, stale black coffee, bakers chocolate, an almost bourbon-ish booziness, some herbaceous notes.

T: Heavy on the roasted malt flavors, which are accompanied by floral hop notes and a hoppy bitterness. Wasnt expecting that. I also get anise, stale coffee, and an almost sour dark fruit character.

M/D: Full bodied, carbonation non the heavier side for the style, ABV very well masked. Drinkability is average.

O: I dont love this one, kind of a weird flavor profile. I expect it to get much better with age and will revisit this in a few months.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 826 ratings.