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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

772 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 772
Hads: 4,467
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 8.96%
Wants: 256
Gots: 1,133 | 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
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Reviews: 772 | Hads: 4,467
Photo of budgood1
3.5/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.5

pours out an opaque onyx black colour. large, thick and frothy light brown coloured head that has a great deal of creamy staying power. about perfect. the nose on this big stout is a bit non-descript...some cocoa and nougat with some NW hopping. taste profile is a straight up combination of creamy sweetened dark chocolate and yeast infused dark roasted malts. none too complex in the malt/yeast interaction, so no real layers of flavours... just char, java and a hint of sour. this imperial stout has a beefy hop attribute to it, enough that the pine and pith flavours are able to fight their way through the dark cauldron and murky depths of black malt madness. a nice, healthy back end bitterness is also obviously detectable...and it all lingers for a blistering finish. the body on this stout is beefy and sturdy, no detractions there. mouthfeel is silky smooth, almost too smooth for an imperial stout of this magnitude. and that leads into the drinkability factor, which is way to easy for an imperial stout, making it dangerously delectable.

overall, i was a bit underwhelmed in the grand scheme of things when sampling this. perhaps a bit of age would benefit this? or maybe i'm just let down with the overall nose and flavour profile. the interaction between malt and yeast leaves me wanting despite the bitter hop blast, which i was expecting. an egnigma...nonetheless, it's a tasty treat that has potential in the cellar. (1,435 characters)

Photo of jbertsch
2.97/5  rDev -28.1%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

6 months old.

Poured into a snifter.

Appearance is jet black. Head was fizzy and off-white, almost tan. Head unfortunately fizzled away fast.

Aroma gives off a mixed sense of char, bonfire, salty brine, booze, and some general roastiness.

Its flavor is not big on chocolate or coffee as one might look for. It's a bit nondescript. Some earthiness and a little wood is noticeable. Salty brine again is noticeable. Some alcohol soaked bittersweet chocolate makes a quick appearance on the finish. The flavor is a little syrupy.

Mouthfeel is oily and slick... it's a little detracting from the overall enjoyment.

Overall, I wouldn't buy this again. It's exemplary of the mediocre rut SN's beers can sometimes fall into. They're capable of better in my eyes. In my needs for an imperial stout, there's no need for me to return to this one. However, it's not terrible and what will save it are the leagues of SN fans. (922 characters)

Photo of OBeerMeGreatOne
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle into a Chimay goblet. Pours out pitch black with a nice tan head. Lovely dotted lace sticks around for a bit.

Dark chocolate and plum don't mingle with much else in the smell, just a hint of anise and booze.

Chocolate, cherry, booze, anise, earth and citrus mingle brilliantly at the front of this beer. Molasses, coffee and plum round out the middle, sweet finish. Very thick and smooth going down!

Can't believe I've never had this before. Need to grab a few for the cellar! (491 characters)

Photo of JackieTH
4.23/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Review is from written notes. Dark aggressively black-brown pour with mocha foam. Smells loaded with semi-sweet chocolate, crispy toast, lightly burnt coffee. Very nice. Taste follows with thick dense toast and biscuit, char, heavily roasted coffee, baker's chocolate, dark dried cherries. Medium heavy body, creamy mouthfeel. Enjoyable and a nice RIS from Sierra Nevada. (371 characters)

Photo of lordofthewiens
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I found a lonely four pack of this when I went to Gary's to pick up 2013 Bigfoot, and brought it home with me. Glad I did.

In a snifter this beer was black, really black, with just a rim of tan head.

Strong roasted malt aroma. Coffee. Charcoal.

The taste was mostly strong coffee, even a little bit on the burned side. There was a little bit of chocolate.

A dry, burned feeling in the mouth. Astringent.

Nice beer. (419 characters)

Photo of bnes09
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ink black and completely opaque. Shallow tan head with descent retention and blotches of lacing.

Aroma of coffee, chocolate, peet and nuts.

Dense biscuity malt backbone. Aggressive roasted coffee, smooth dark chocolate, smoked meats and roasted almonds. Prune sweetness. Assertive herbal, earthy hop character. Very well balanced.

Full bodied with a rich texture. Solid carbonation for the strength.

Great imperial stout. (425 characters)

Photo of StJamesGate
4.14/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Motor oil in both color and consistency, with a cappuccino-colored head.
Blackberry, roast, charcoal, and caramel sauce on the nose.
Sweet licorice, 70% chocolate, ash, black currant, followed by solid branchy hops.
Cherry cola finish and gently bitter linger.
Full, creamy, round, smooth, no burn.

Big, sweet and velvety. More chocolaty than coffee, overall. No harsh roast, heat or big hops. Easy to like.

An RIS for rookies. (432 characters)

Photo of neenerzig
4.34/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into one of my snifters, this beer pours a an extremely dark brown, almost black color that lets in no light whatsoever. has a dark tan head that is about 1/4 inch thick when first poured that, despite the fact that I gave this beer a very rough pour, settled very quickly to a medium sized ring lining the inside of the glass along with swirls of foam on the surface of the beer. Okay lacing, but not that good. Aromas of caramel malt, hints of chocolate and vanilla, coffee, some hints of dark fruit that are all rounded out with a bourbon smell. pretty sure this edition of this beer was not aged in bourbon barrels, but it sure smells like it. Weird. The flavors match the aromas almost verbatim, caramel malt, chocolate and vanilla sweetness upfront, followed by some roasted coffee bitterness notes, hints of plum and raisin, rounded out with a touch of bourbon. Oh yeah a hint of alcohol too. The flavors mesh very well together as the beer sits and warms up a bit too. Has a slightly crisp, but mainly smooth, creamy, medium bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. This one really coats the palate. Easy to drink in the way an excellently crafted beer should be.

Eric (1,187 characters)

Photo of homebrew311
4.17/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served on tap at the Falling Rock. Appearance is opaque black with generous finger of head and heavy lacing that leaves layers behind. Smell is dry and roasty with dark fruits, chocolate, coffee, and grain. Taste is deep and roasty with light sweetness, heavy cocoa and coffee character at the end. Nice well rounded stout. Mouthfeel is heavy with medium carbonation. Overall, a very solid offering from Sierra Nevada. (418 characters)

Photo of Hoptometrist
3.43/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Served from the bottle into a globed glass

A- Poured a vicious vlack with a small dark mocha colored head that dissipated quickly. Some minimal splashy lace was left.

S- Big licorice, toasted coconut, and big whiskey notes. Very strong aroma with lots of booze on it

T- Follows the aroma very closely. Huge licorice notes, big whiskey notes, some toasted coconut, notes and some roastiness. Kind of an odd sour twang on the finish. Incredibly bitter stout, by far the most bitter stout I have ever had.

M Pretty thick mouthfeel, very creamy and smooth, almost velvety, big warming from the alcohol, and some alcohol burn

O- Great mouthfeel, but not one of my favorite imperial stouts. Pretty boozy and the sour finish is odd. (731 characters)

Photo of far333
3.97/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Dark brown with a low beige head that settles out quickly. Inviting aroma of cocoa and espresso, some raisin. Rich flavors upfront, dark chocolate, espresso, root beer, molasses, smoke and leather, some rough-edged roasty malt, sharp bitterness, interesting mix of flavors. Full mouthfeel, but slightly tannic and warming. Good beer. (333 characters)

Photo of Darkmagus82
4.13/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into a pint glass

Appearance – Pours a deep-deep brown color with a one finger brown head. The head fades in over a bout a two minute time frame to leave a light level of lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma is big and delicious. It is largest of a sweet caramel and chocolate aroma with nice hints of vanilla and some light pine, dark fruits and coffee smell. Also heavy in the nose is a delicious and warming aroma of a bourbon smell giving mixing with the rest to give a sweet, dark, and warming smell.

Taste – The taste begins with a strong roasted malt, dark chocolate, and coffee taste mixed with the lightest hints of caramel and vanilla. The caramel fades fast from the tongue while the light vanilla remains constant throughout the taste. Toward the middle the coffee flavors grow even stronger in nature and are accompanied by a light earthy and pine hop taste. The pine and earthy flavors grow slightly stronger more toward the end with the roasted flavors that are in the brew also growing more roasted in nature. This darkening and hopping of the brew give a moderately bitter bite on the tongue, and when combined with a nicely concealed, but still detectable, alcohol flavor it creates a bitter cocoa and coffee flavor to be left to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is super thick and syrupy with a body that would be similar to taking maple syrup and diluting by half. The carbonation of the brew is on the very low side accentuating the thick feel of the brew. For a 10.2 % abv beer the body is much thicker then I would have expected (more akin to a 15 % brew). It is rather nice and appropriate for the darker characteristics of the brew, but is almost overwhelming due to the light level of sweetness to balance it out. Even so it is quite a feel and is overall rather nice.

Overall – A nice, big and roasty, stout that is on the drier ad thicker side. When in the mode for a great. not too sweet, sipping Imperial stout, then this is a great one to go to. (2,045 characters)

Photo of dirtylou
3.53/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz single

A funny thing happened last night while I was consuming Narwhal - I came to the sad realization that I really have no place in my cellar for a RIS not aged in some sort of barrel. Narwhal brings the heavy roast, chocolate, very dry, roasted and charred malts. It's just been done, and it's boring to me now. This would have been a great addition to the lineup in 2005, but it does nothing for me now. (413 characters)

Photo of beertunes
2.99/5  rDev -27.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

This bottle's been kicking around the back of the fridge since I got it, at the release time. About time to hit it. Poured into 10oz goblet. Poured a solid black color, as expected, with less than 1/4 inch of brown head that quickly dissipated to a thin ring, that left surprisingly good lacing.

The aroma was average for the style, perhaps even a bit too roast forward. The flavors were the same mostly bitter roast and alcohol, and the beer was sharp, in a harsh way, not a crisp way. The alcohol wasn't the least bit hidden, and the finish was very harsh.

That overall harshness hurt drinkability a great deal. I had a tough time finishing my 12oz. Overall, while a decent brew, this isn't the Old Rasputin killer SN has seemed to position it as. I won't be having it again, I'll just buy a 4pack of the smooth, even, nearly flawless Raspy. (845 characters)

Photo of JayQue
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sierra Nevada is the Toyota of beers. Not always the cutting edge innovator, but consistently excellent with every offering. Narwhal pours a dense black color with a big dark tan head (on a hard pour). Good head retention, good lacing. Smell is about average for a big stout...Chocolate and rich malts. Taste is very good. A hint of alcohol while the beer was cold. As it warmed up, no harshness at all. About as smooth as an Oatmeal Stout, despite the big abv. Main flavors are rich malts and some chocolate. Expertly blended and very flavorful.

Mouthfeel is as smooth and rich as you could expect at this abv. Overall an excellent RIS. Well work a try. (655 characters)

Photo of JackMcAwesome
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a mug.

Appearance:
Completely black. Even the pour was black. Not much head, it went away quickly. I wasn't that aggressive with the pouring though, so maybe that's why.

Smell:
Like most others to be honest. A bit of chocolate, a bit of coffee. Maybe even steak sauce. haha. Interesting. And it lingers, which is always nice.

Taste:
Nothing distinguishable here. It's good, I just can't pick up anything with my rookie taste buds. Cocoa, maybe even some licorice.

Feel:
Heavy, with moderate carbonation. Great really. Everything I'd expect from a stout.

Overall:
This one is near the top of my list as I get more and more into stouts. The abv being where it's at is almost indistinguishable. This is one I'll revisit when I go for more stouts, just as a constant when I try others. (814 characters)

Photo of Pencible
3.78/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: This poured a totally opaque black with thick tan head.
S: It smelled like dry dark chocolate and roasted coffee, with some alcohol and subtle citrus zest.
T: It tasted like unsweetened dark chocolate and espresso, with some bitter resin hops. It had a harsh bitter aftertaste with notable alcohol warming.
M: It was thick and chewy with moderate carbonation. Great big body.
D: This had great looks and body, but the scent and taste weren't as impressive. It was hot and unrefined, so it wasn't very easy to drink. Maybe age will help tame this beast, but fresh is kind of rough. (583 characters)

Photo of BigBarley
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Live review! First ever Narwhal and I'm pretty anxious to give it a try.
A - Very dark, not quite as thick as a lot of RIS I've had lately, but still looks formidable. Head was atoundingly big, coming at about 2.5 fingers, and retaining 1.5 worth for quite awhile. (I pour hard, high, straight into the middle of the goblet so these things happen...) Head is deep khaki with good lacing.

S - Well... the first thing I smell is the Sierra Nevada Pineforest Hop Heavy Aroma (I think that's the official name at this point) with a definite roasty undertone. Smells much more like I'd expect a black IPA to smell like, but the black malt character is definitely there. Smells good, just not as RIS as maybe one would expect.

T - Not bad. Different. Exciting. Definitely not bad. You get hops throughout the whole mouth, I'll say that. But underneath is rich dark chocolate, deep bitter coffee and a very mild vanilla wrapping it all up. Sweet and exciting, while maintaining a unique balance between the aggressive hop profile and the black strong flavors of the stout body.

M - Creamy, velvety, thick. Not much carbonation, but works out in this beers favor. Smooth and delicious.

O - I was not let down, and I was definitely given a unique experience. I will drink this beer again! (1,283 characters)

Photo of tewaris
3.75/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Deep brown with a mocha head. Good retention and lacing. Malty and roasty aroma... somewhat campfire like. Taste is more aggressive with a solid kick of bitterness derived from both, hops and roasted malt. Long burnt finish. Medium body, apt carbonation. Will drink again. (272 characters)

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

Bottle shared with Ruds in the Cask (Pimlico) 26/2/2013 Served in a half pint tulip. Hats off to him for buying it to split with this poor student!

Pours an opaque dark brown/black colour, velvety in texture. Little carbonation.

Smells strong and malty - chocolate, slight coffee

Tastes strong though mostly quite well hidden. Heavy dark malts - chocolate, liquorice, coffee, slight vanilla. Nicely hopped too, fairly bitter aftertaste. Thick and still.

Overall quite a lovely beer. I'd definitely have this again, wish they'd import it properly. (551 characters)

Photo of brewskifan55
4.06/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter

A: Dark chocolate brown with ruby highlights. Not much head; a few bubbles. Great lacing.

S: Chocolate and licorice

T: Pile driving, hard core chocolate. malty, smooth. Robust as hell. A coffee aftertaste. Fantastic.

M: Heavy with medium carbonation. Thick, chewy.

O: Glad to have caught this big fish. A great imperial stout. Another winner from Sierra Nevada. (389 characters)

Photo of maleman
4.38/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

A - poured a dark coffee color with a thick, dark one-finger head.

S - not as much nose as the color might have represented, but coffee and chocolate were detectable.

T - a tiny bit of phenol up front, but the coffee and dark chocolate take over in the aftertaste.

M - above medium-bodied with a short lingering aftertaste. Very pleasant.

O - I'm beginning to like this genre more and more. This is one of the better offerings I have recently. Will partake again! (516 characters)

Photo of SamJory
4.88/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a pitch black with a thick, dark tan head.

Aromas of sweet roasted malt and coffee.

Big roasted malt upfront with a hit of dark roasted coffee and dark cocoa. Restrained hop bitterness, letting the roasted malt give most of the bitterness.

Really full mouthfill and a long lasting finish. Incredible richness yet I could keep drinking this all evening (although probably not as it is 10.2%!)

Absolutely outstanding (424 characters)

Photo of secondtooth
4.22/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a pitch black, with tons of tan suds and exquisite lace.

Nose is charred wood, dark bittersweet chocolate, and roasty coffee. I can sense the strength and richness already.

Taste is indeed rich, but oh-so-smooth. More of the roasty, charred chocolate, with some fruit near the finish. The 10.2% ABV is well-hidden here, and this is an exceptionally smooth and satisfying imperial stout. Outstanding. (407 characters)

Photo of jjboesen
4.51/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Named after the horned cetacean - that's a whale for you Bud drinkers - this is a well made Imperial Stout that combines great taste with a smooth body. It opens in a swift rush of thick beige foam that subsides into a foreboding body of tar colored liquid. There is a pleasant nose of coffee ground that wonderfully supplements the semi-sweet dollop of baker's chocolate and burnt toast. Include a moderately dry smoothness to tingle upon the palate and you've good one velvet elixir.

While it may not be the greatest imperial stout out there, it is still a damn good one and one that must be tried. (602 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 772 ratings.