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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: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,244 | 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 dfillius
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint. Enjoyed with polenta and bean salad
A: 1/3 finger of dark brown head with good retention. Nearly opaque dark brown/black liquid. A tad more head please - it faded to nothing.
S: Milk chocolate, toasted fennel seed, black pepper. Only a very slight amount of booze when warmer, thankfully. Not harsh.
T: Some breathy esters open, coffee and chocolate dominate. Very dark chocolate. Quite hoppy middle. Bright citrus and pine. Hops stand up well to the malt. I'd prefer the estery breath to not be there.
M: Smooth open, bitter hoppy middle, roasty bitter dry finish. Robust and not hot. Some chest warmth, but not on the palate.
O: Enjoyable, solid RIS. I wouldn't expect less from Sierra Nevada. I would buy again. 1 is enough for a night. I'm interested to try it aged to see if the slight booze calms down.

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Photo of benclimbs
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A very nice, highly drinkable imperial from Sierra

Pours black and viscous with a slight brown head

Smell is dry and dark - coffee and burnt malts and hints of spice...nice but not outstanding

Taste is very nicely balanced, bitter espresso, cocoa and licorice and a spicy finish.

Overall a success, would definitely buy this again - a great deal too @$10 or per 4/pk for such a big beer - one to enjoy around the christmas tree!

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Photo of draheim
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz into a tulip. Pours a jet black w/ a 1-finger tan head.

Aroma is bitter, roasty: coffee, chocolate, dark fruit. All that's missing is the bourbon.

Taste follows nose. Rich bitter chocolate, deep roasted malt, coffee.

Mouthfeel is just right. Medium-bodied, balanced; crosses the palate effortlessly. Nice bitter finish.

Overall a rock-solid imperial stout. Well done Sierra Nevada. Once again a no-nonsense, straightforward, excellent beer.

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Photo of LilBilly666
4.58/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Outstanding Stout! I didn't think I'd ever find a replacement for Founders Breakfast Stout, but this is damn close. This beer opens up beautifully as it warms. A great aftertaste with plenty of coffee kick. Thick tan/brown head into a Duvel "tulip" glass. I'm not sure what the official style term of that glass is. I've been holding out to try this guy, and I wish I hadn't, because Sierra is known for it's more hop forward beers. I'd love to have one of these year round or daily..

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Photo of dahlen22
3.85/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Black with a decent head.

Aroma: Chocolate and coffee notes.

Taste: Same as the nose. Cocoa, coffee, with a nuttyness and smooth and velvety on the palate.

Overall: Good beer for the colder winter months (forget this in the warmer months). Was well balanced, smooth, and the alcohol is well hidden considering the abv. For you casual stout (guinness) drinkers, this one might be too big, but if you love real stouts, this is a keeper. Cheers!!

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Photo of nUgZ
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle poured into a snifter.

A: Pours black in color with a minimal head and some lacing.

S: Roasted malts with some espresso and a hint of dark chocolate and alcohol.

T: Tons of espresso with nice roasted malts, nuts, and some dark chocolate. Alcohol is barely noticeable.

M: Medium bodied with good carbonation. Easy to drink for an Imperial Stout.

O: This is a very nice example of a Coffee Imperial Stout. It could use a little more body, but overall it's very good, especially for the price. I will be buying more.

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Photo of tigg924
3.53/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap at New World Tavern, Plymouth--served into a pint glass.

Appearance: black in color, 1/4 inch head, opaque, minimal carbonation

Smell: roasted malt and cocoa

Taste: big time espresso, roasted malt, chocolate, and light traces of nut

Mouthfeel: medium-heavy bodied, low carbonation, sweet with roasty bitterness

Overall: An above average roasty RIS. If you like your RIS to have big coffee flavors, this is the beer for you. I would like to see a bit more creaminess with this. This is not a bad beer, but with so many great RIS, this is just above average for the style.

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Photo of CheeseheadNation
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A - I love how dark this pours. Two fingers of light brown head leaving spotted lacing. A very heavy looking RIS.

S - Bold roasted notes of coffee, cocoa and molasses.

T - Smoky with cocoa nibs and black coffee upfront. Slight earthyness, malt and dark fruit on the finish. Alcohol is hidden decently.

M - Med to Full with low carbonation. Not as full as I would want a RIS but still quite lush.

One of the best bang for the buck RIS on the market. Very impressed with the quality. Would love to try it on tap at some point. I'll have to cellar a few to try this time next year.

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Photo of mikeg67
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle. Pours black with a thin, short-lived, creamy, light brown head and nice lacing. Aroma is of bready, toasted malt, espresso, dark fruit and citrusy hops. Body is full and creamy. Taste is burnt toast, brown sugar, cappuccino, chocolate dark fruit and a lot of citrusy hops. Finish is long and very bitter. This brew should improve with age.

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Photo of TheBigLebrewski
4.48/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- The ol' 1/4" dark brown head on a blackout brew. Yup.

S- Pretty clean. Not too roasted at all, and not much else happening. Smells good though.

T- There are so many great imperial stouts out there. And this is one of them. It's very simple - maybe even more clean than you'd like. But there's just nothing to complain about. A gentle molasses is really the only lingering flavor; otherwise neat, trim, and proper - an imperial stout.

M- Again, pretty damn standard, but in the enjoyable respect. Admittedly thin, thus the lowest point score for this one.

O- Shit, pretty cheap and easy to get. If your in the midwest, grab some Blackout Stout by Great Lakes to stay local; If you're more west, this is a must-have in the fridge for the winter months. I'm not writing grandma about it, but I'm sharing it with my friends. Indeed, it surpassed my expectations; SN usually has the good macro option when you can't get a micro. This one is better, relatively, than their usual offerings. So easy to drink... I guess I'd have to say a kinda laid-back imperial, but an awesome stout none-the-less. And most importantly, a great beer, regardless of the words on the label.

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Photo of Moorfog
3.84/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Interesting imperial stout....

This is without a doubt the blackest stout i've encountered, very dark. Head is an interesting shade of almost grey, two finger with a aggressive pour. Nice lacing.

The nose on this is off kilter. Obviously of what you would expect in a stout, but not a bold nose. Has a certain sour quality to the nose that is distracting, and not in a nice way, along with the chocolate and coffee.

Taste, it's much bolder than the nose. Espresso, bakers chocolate is front and center, maybe a little prune, and a decent hop bite for what it is, complimenting the bitterness of the other elements. It's malt is of a bitter quality as opposed to a obnoxious sweetness, so it works. It is a malt bomb being what it is of course. And yes, the alcohol warmth is noticeable, but not overboard.

Mouthfeel is a real letdown. For an imperial stout, it's too thin and over carbonated for the style, but i'm sure some would disagree with my opinion. And as another reviewer stated, it has a chalky quality after about 45 seconds, which is interesting, haven't experienced this in a beer, and kinda neat.

I'd say it's very good beer, and worth a try. There are other imperial stouts I prefer, but this is very good and certainly worth a try.

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Photo of SometimesIfart
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours pitch black with a one finger dark mocha head that sticks around. Left spotty lacing.

S - Deep roasted malts, dark fruits, slight alcohol.

T - Deep roasted malt up front, alcohol in the middle, and very very dark, I guess you could almost say roasted like a smore chocolate finish. It's almost like it melts in your mouth.

M - Thick oily body with very lightly stinging carbonation.

O - Overall, I'm completely convinced that Sierra Nevada can do no wrong. In my opinion, this stout had a one of a kind flavor. I don't know how they managed to make the flavor seem as though it melts in your mouth. I'd definitely have again and I wouldn't mind aging one.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First had: on tap at either Pinocchio's or TJ's

Dark pour, seemingly pitch black, capped with a small tan head; good retention and lacing. Roasty aroma, dark malts, cocoa. Roasty malts and coffee on the palate, somewhat charred, toasted grains, cocoa, notes of licorice/anise and fig-like dark fruits. Smooth mouthfeel, heavy-medium body, softer carbonation, making for a good drinker overall.

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Photo of billab914
3.85/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1oz bottle poured into my Devil's Backbone glass. Pitch black in color with a thick foamy head filling the top inch of the glass. Nice retention and lacing as I drank it.

Aroma has dark, roasted malts mixing with milky chocolate. It's got a noticeable hop presence to it as well. The roasted malts bring a little bit of a coffee flavor with them as well. Nice aroma overall.

The taste also shows a good amount of hoppiness to it with some herbal and citrus notes present throughout. The dark, roasted malts are bold and bring more of a darker chocolate and coffee flavor out. A little sweet, milky chocolate in the finish along with a little alcohol.

The mouthfeel is on the heavier side with carbonation being a little above average for the style. Overall, it's a very solid beer. It's a little hoppier than prefer in the style, but it comes together very well. The roasted malts were very bold, which really liked. Very nice beer overall.

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Photo of McD0uche
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass:

A: Pours a nice dark black/brown color that resembles cola. A small brown head froths up and dies down after a moment. Lacing exists! Looks like a stout for sure. Carbonation is present but not pronounced.

S: Chocolate, vanilla, wood, roasted malts, dark fruits. Nutty and inviting, smells like a chocolate bar.

*NOTE* I am a little congested at the moment. It's possible that I'm missing the full spectrum here. Same goes for taste.

T: Much like the smell, with rich chocolate at the forefront. Fruity notes play in the mix. Definite boozy flavor.

M: Carbonation is at a good level. Has a medium, oily body and finishes a little wet.

O: This was an enjoyable and worthy RIS. Unfortunately, it didn't supply anything extra that left a lasting impression on me. Overall, I'd say this is worth trying out if you can get it.

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Photo of barnzy78
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Narwhal 2012, served @ ~55F
12oz bottle, pours black with slight chestnut hues at the edges of the glass when held to a light. Light brown head is thin and leaves some lacing down the glass. Big roasty nose with dark bittersweet cocoa powder and coffee. Smells powdery if that makes any sense? Tastes are complex and bold with lingering dark rich cocoa, espresso, booze, roasted barley, slight anise and pine on the finish. Mouth-feel is smooth and nearly full bodied, nice carbonation allows for palate coverage and depth of flavors. Overall, a very nice RIS. I'd buy this again, and hope I see it again next year!

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Photo of ThePorterSorter
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Fresh on shelves in Buffalo, NY

The beer pours a deep, thick black with a dense foamy tan head that laces. No sediment or oily residue. The nose is a pungent mix of roasty, chocolatey malts, piney hops, and a touch of caramel. The roast really punches forward while tasting, followed by a cascade of fresh hoppy bitterness. There is a lingering bitterness and bite from the alcohol that palate-coats, but it's otherwise very smooth and drinkable. It's almost as hoppy as a (weak) black IPA, but I like the bitter contrast against the rich, sweet, roasty malt base. This is an exceptionally priced, widely available example of a hopped up RIS done right.

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Photo of morimech
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours black and slightly viscous. Just over one finger of head forms and hangs around for some time before settling to a thick cap. Heavy lacing and rings are left down the glass.

Pleasing malty aroma with hints of roast, mocha, and a slight touch of smoke. Alcohol is detectable but nothing out of the ordinary for an Imprial Stout.

Alcohol and smoke plays a much larger role in the flavor. Still plenty of roasted and chocolate malt as well. Finishes with the flavor of ethanol. Plenty warm at the end.

Thick and creamy feel. It is full bodied. As always, Sierra Nevada does not disappoint in the mouthfeel whatever the style they brew.

I thought maybe they would of went safe with a RIS. But this is a big, bold stout that is not afraid to flex its muscles. Approachable flavors that just about anyone could appreciate.

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Photo of grittybrews
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured an opaque black with a finger of mocha head. Aroma of roasty cocoa, licorice, and coffee.

Moderate carbonation and full, creamy, slightly chalky mouthfeel. Caramel and roasty chocolate up front with espresso and licorice. Quite a bit of hop bitterness and boozy warmth on the finish, with fruity esters that emerge as the beer warms.

Solid stout with sharp, big flavors.

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Photo of JoEBoBpr
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a tulip glass form a 12oz bottle.

Pours a pitch black slightly oily liquid. Some dark mahogany and caramel edges are present. There is a nice light tan 0.5 inch head that is formed. It recedes fairly quickly down to a thin film.

Aroma starts with roast and dark malts. Slightly smokey with some coffee notes. There is also some nice bitter chocolate in the nose. There are some slight grassy aroma in the nose as well that mix in with the roasted, dark and coffee notes. Pretty nice aroma.

Flavor starts off with dark chocolate notes. Some sweetness with nice dark cocoa bitterness. Then there is the roast that comes in. Coffee and espresso notes with some slight sweet milk chocolate notes present. There is definitely some nice grassy hop notes in the middle and the back end of this brew. Very well blended with the roast and stout notes. Quite the roasty brew with nice dark cocoa notes to finish it off. Mouthfeel is nice and slick. Creamy with good lively carbonation as well.

Pretty impressive brew by Sierra Nevada. Rich and creamy with some nice roasty coffee notes. Good RIS.

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Photo of BeerNFoodDood
4.55/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured this beer into a tulip from a bottle.

Pours a deep jet coffee black. With a nice vanilla cream head.

Smells of fresh coffee, chocolate, coconut, vanilla raisins.

At first taste the beer coats the inside of your mouth, bringing rich stone fruit, coffee and bitter cocoa forward. A nice subtle sweetness is balanced perfectly by that chocolate bitterness.

Beer laces nicely on the glass giving some noticeable legs.

Have a few fresh and a few for the cellar.


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Photo of Vonerichs
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Deep dark chocolate color with a half inch if espresso colored head.

The smell is bakers chocolate, coffee liquor, and anise.

The flavors are robust. Dark roasted espresso and bitter chocolate with a light hoppy bite. The finish is licorice then a heavy char.

I'm not much for giving 5s, but I can't think of any flaws in the mouthfeel. It's super rich and creamy. The carbonation is spot on. The body is heavy yet fluffy.

I was pretty blown away by this stout and would put it up there with my favorite RISs that don't come from a barrel.

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Photo of mrandypandy
3.19/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

12oz bottle purchased at Green's, in Atlanta.

A - Pours a jet black, big mocha head that recedes down. Nice sticky lacing on initial pour also dies down. All-in-all, pretty.
S - Roasted malts and hops, not much else though.
T - Big and roasty. There's quite a bit of a harsh bitterness as well that I'm not quite a fan of.
M - Medium body, good carbonation, but the bitterness lingers.
O - Not a bad, but there are much better imperial stouts out there. I had heard some good things about this beer, but was slightly disappointed. Too much hops/bitterness, and not enough malts to balance it out. Reminds me a bit of other highly hopped imperial stouts like Sweetwater's Happy Ending, and Victory's Storm King. Needs time to sit and mellow out.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

poured into tulip glass.

Appearance: black bodied beer with a huge mocha brown head. The head has got some nice staying power. Spotty lacing once the head drops down to a thin cap.

Smell: Nice milk chocolate note and mild yet crisp roast note. Got a hint of fruitiness. It also smells like its got an oatmeal note going on as well. The nose is really great on this beer probably my favorite part the beer as a whole.

Taste: Moderately roasted coffee kick that mixes with a hint of black licorice. The beer finishes with a mildly sweet and bitter flavors that are best described as lingering bakers cocoa, tobacco, and molasses notes. Maybe even a hint of charcoal in there too. Bold and complex without being abrasive.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied beer with moderate carbonation. The beer is a little bit creamy while also being slick. Really smooth not a hint of booze in this beer that is just over 10%. Carbonation is really well done adding a touch of finesse because it has a soft feel to it as well.

Overall: This is probably the second best beer I have had drank that is brewed by Seirra Nevada; only trumped by the Black Barleywine they put in the large format bottle a few years ago. This is a well made Russian Imperial Stout. It got an hier about it; to me its an approachable beer for people new to the style and its good enough to satify some people with those "hard to please" palates. Bold flavors and smooth drinking. Sierra Nevada would be wise to make this a seasonal beer no doubt in my mind! This one blows away old raspy by north coast.

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Photo of Sammy
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Capone's Restaurant. Dark brown with no head. A rich aged beer aroma. A good carbonation and full mouthfeel. Chocolate is important, coffee-like roasting is incredible. Fruity, a little syrup. Very good drinkability, no obviously booziness, other than its slight resemblance to the new Manhattans.

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