Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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BA SCORE
93
outstanding

4,430 Ratings
THE BROS
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no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 4,430
Reviews: 817
rAvg: 4.16
pDev: 9.62%
Wants: 254
Gots: 1,119 | 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: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 4,430 | Reviews: 817
Photo of BradtheGreat7
4.32/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Review taken from notes - late October (2012)

12 oz brown SN style stubby bottle poured into an imperial stout pint glass(tulip pint). Label is great like usual from the folks at SN featuring a massive whale unicorn? Idk but
I like it. Mythic creature for a mythic brew? Awesome Look.

A - pours a jet black with the edges painted dark brown if held to the light. Pretty opaque color. Mocha brown head is pretty dark as well. I actually had a pretty massive head with this stout. Settles nicely to a thick ring of lace leaving some solid stick throughout the glass.

S - a mellow aroma at first, but massive Cocoa and dark chocolate with some roasted Malts rise up the depths of this black ocean of liquid. Hints of Dark fruit with some medium coffee expresso whiffs. A semi smokey character throughout the nose with the faintest alcohol whiff settle softly in the back.

T - rich and roasted dark malts with Bitter dark chocolate and expresso flavors. Hints of the darkest of fruit and thick molasses balance the bitterness. Pure cocoa In a dry finish. This is a class flavor for an RIS. Well done.

M - thick and luscious mouthfeel. Nice and sturdy in size. Smooth and creamy while doing an excellent job at coating the mouth. This is a stout man's mouthfeel. Smooth, thick and like velvet going down. Very drinkable considering the 10.2% it packs.

O - at last! We get a great imperial stout from SN. Sure they have the beer camp stuff, but with a brewery that does about everything right.. Including making a solid stout and porter that's easily to locate. this is massive and thick winter stout and lets hope it's a new tradition at SN. Like all good big stouts it's capable of Having the pop topped from day one or can sit in your cellar for as long as you'd like. This RIS has the quality, complexity, and depth to rival anything in it's category. An instant classic for me and one of the best I've had. It may not be better than some, but it's great enough to be in the conversation. Sierra Nevada is world class.

Photo of WSGosset
4.32/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Deep black. The head is very modest and the lacing is fairly light. It is possible that I served it just a little bit too cold.

S: The smell is fantastic. A little bit subtle, but overall a nice balance between roasted malt and coffee, along with a pleasant hint of alcohol (just enough to know you are drinking an RIS without being overwhelming).

T: It tastes very much like it smells: delicious! In addition to a roasty coffee taste, I'm also getting a touch of caramel, especially as the beer begins to warm a bit. There is a noticeably bitter aftertaste.

M: Very creamy.

O: I've always loved SNPA so I may be a bit biased towards SN products in general, but this is an excellent beer. While I have yet to taste some of the harder-to-find stouts talked about on BA, I imagine that this beer measures up quite well, especially given its availability.

Photo of ncketchum
4.32/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Excited to see this finally hit WI!
Served in a Duvel tulip, cellar temp

A - pours midnight black, large amount of dark chocolate head, which soon dissipates to leave a ring of lacing

S - impressive nose, roasted chocolate malt followed by a good amount of nuttiness, a hint of coffee, and the slightest bit of booze

T - Very complex taste - first, there is a big sweet cafe mocha presence, followed by the roasted malt, then a big bitter, piny hop note to end off the palate

M - minimal carbonation, nice and viscous, great imperial stout with a fairly big hop presence that I have come to expect from SN.

Photo of IPAGeorge
4.32/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a bottle into a tulip

A. A very dark brown almost black pour it a two finger khaki foamy/frothy head. Head disappears in 1 minute. Not much lacing.

S. Aromas of roasted malts and vanilla first fill the nose. Some milk chocolate.

T. Much more coffee comes through on the palate. Milk chocolate and vanilla there also. Some bitterness and grassy aftertaste which would signal to me some hoppyness. A very nice RIS. As it warms a little I get a nice upfront smokeyness.

M. A nice medium to heavy body. 7 on a 1-10 scale. Light carbonation. Finishes slightly dry. Not very boozy but you can tell it's there. Again a highlight of the beer.

O. At first glance after the pour I thought to myself " this looks nice ". Then the nose didn't present as much as it doors on the palate IMO. I'm usually not a huge fan of Sierra Nevada but this is my first stout and they got it right. I'm looking the mouthfeel and the taste alot. A good beer. Will be looking for the BA.

Photo of ponbon63
4.32/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: It pours jet black with a minimal head and basically no lacing. Excactly what you'd expect.

S: When RIS is done correctly it will always have an amazing smell. I was only slightly disappointed in the smell, but not because it was bad, because I am more of a fan of intense smelling RIS. as the smell of this beer is not as abrasive as some RIS's can be this may be a good beer for first-time drinkers of RIS. You can smell the coffee and dark chocolate and a hint of alcohol if you take a good whiff.

T: It's not nearly as intense as some I've tasted, however it has the signatures of a RIS. Coffee, bitter chocolate. The alcohol smell does not translate to tasting alcohol in the beer, which is good. Not overpowering by any means if you know what to expect.

M: Fairly carbonated for a RIS. Of course thicker than your average beer.

O: This is one of those beers that I love because of the style and the classic flavors that it brings. However, it's not as memorable as certain other versions of this variety. It's imperfect, but it is definitely a great addition.

Photo of ash111
4.31/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Had this from a bottle into a tulip glass. Good beer, great example of the style. It pours black, no light coming through. There is no head (but a more vigorous pour might produce one). Taste is lovely, everything you would want from an RIS. There is a noticeable, but not overwhelming, smell of alcohol that comes at the end of each sip. I personally don't mind this, but the alcohol is more aggressive than some other beers of the same style. I'm interested in how it ages (if any of mine can survive that long.

Photo of Stewsbrews24
4.31/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Small and quickly reducing head that is dough like and caramel brown. Mouthfeel is abrupt but not over powering.

Photo of oberon
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours jet black with a thinner deep mocha colored head atop,no light got thru even when held to the light.Deep roast,char, and smoke dominate the nose with underlying bitter chocolate,it smells a bit raw and in your face.Wow alot of different stuff going on on the palate,dark roast coffee,deep char and smoke, with a molasses,licorice, and alcohol induced sweetness that really hits home,I was right this is in your face.This is a big brash imperial stout,it's a little rough around the edges...in a good way.

Photo of MattyG85
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12 oz. bottle into a Surly Darkness chalice glass. 2012 bottle

Appearance: Pours a dark oily black with a moderate amount of bubbles. About two fingers of creamy tan head that fade into a thin layer. Leaves a decent amount of lacing around the glass.

Smell: A roasty and fairly sweet aroma. Dark roasted malts with hints of cocoa, dark bread, coffee, and cookie dough along with some caramel and toffee. A fair amount of molasses. Some subtle smoke. Hop presence is very subtle but there is a light earthy and piney scent. Also some subtle dark fruits with hints of cherry, raisin, and plum. Pretty decent smell.

Taste: Like the aroma hints, a dark, roasty, and sweet stout taste. Dark roasted malts with a taste of cocoa, toasted bread, coffee, and dough. Some burnt caramel and toffee along with some molasses sweetness. Subtle anise and some smoke that lingers through the finish. Undertones of dark fruits including cherry, prune, and raisin. Light earthy hops and resin round it out. A pretty good taste.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Creamy, slick, and somewhat syrupy. Alcohol is hidden well.

Overall: A very good take on the Russian Imperial Stout. Big, roasty, and sweet while avoiding becoming cloying. Very solid.

Photo of ocelot2500
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a jet black color with a tight, light brown head that leaves little bits of lacing.

Smells of deep roasted notes with some dark fruits.

Tastes of the full roasted notes with a touch of bitterness on the backend. Leads off with coffee and semi-sweet chocolate. A bit of roasted bitterness comes through in the middle. Licorice also comes through near the end and is complemented by some dark fruit notes. Finishes with a slight molasses note.

Mouthfeel is full with a creamy amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is a very good stout that is definitely worth checking out.

Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%
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.

Photo of Seanniek91
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Served from a 12oz Bottle into a Smutty pint.

Appearance- Pitch black with super thin mocha head. Very nice lacing on this one.

Smell- Coffee, chocolate roasted malts, some dark stone fruit, booze.

Taste- Chocolate, tons of coffee, vanilla oakiness, bittering hops, mild booze. Coffee finishes this one.

Mouthfeel- Smooth, thick, nice carbonation. Full mouthfeel, but not too viscous.

Overall- I really enjoy this RIS. Really nice flavor and body.

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%

(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

Photo of garymuchow
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Kinda stumbled upon this - wasn't looking for it, barely knew it existed, and there it was.
Poured into SA glass - black as coal with a rather big head for style, but it too is very dark. There is no light shining through anywhere.
Real nice coffee aroma. Pleasant and not over-powering. HInts of dark fruit.
Wow, nicely complex. Again with apparent coffee flavors. Sweet dark fruit up front. Then that passes through to more darker malt, but not necessarily roast, before hitting the roast/coffee flavors. New and fresh so it still has some sharpness. This combined with the carbonation brings it on even more. Alcohol in some warming effect, but really limited otherwise. Coffee flavor linger and assists in the adequate somewhat drying finish.
Smooth, even with the fresher carbonation. Moderately heavy, but really not much bigger than that.
Well done RIS. Especially with making it drinkable and not overwhelming for a beer of this size. I tend to like a little age on these, and I will give some bottles that opportunity. But having said that, this works well this fresh

Photo of scottfrie
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle into snifter. 2012 four pack.

A: Pours black with a finger of milk chocolate head that quickly faded into a dense film.
S: Big chocolate, big hops (pine), with a well-integrated background roast. Vanilla and fudge are noticeable, with coffee being lightly detectable.
T: Follows the nose with rich and creamy notes of chocolate fudge, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, pine hops, hop resin, and vanilla. The finish is full of roasted malt and maybe a hint of coffee, and the aftertaste is bitter but smooth. There is a slightly boozy quality to the finish as well, but it’s not distracting.
M: Full body but not motor oil, with a very smooth and drinkable mouthfeel. Carbonation is fuzzy, soft and airy.
O: In a couple months to a year this beer will be drinking great. I love it now, but for those who want the bitter hops and the slight alcohol presence to fade away, sit on a few bottles. Thank you SN for release this as a four pack.

Photo of Rollzroyce21
4.3/5  rDev +3.4%

Poured a 2012 vintage into a stemless wine glass on 22-Sep-14 (aged about 2 years).

Much smoother than fresh and the roasty chocolate flavors are holding up real well.

Photo of samtrillo
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%

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.

Photo of HattedClassic
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

The beer pours a decent foamy and tan head that dissipates quickly. The beer leaves some rather nice lacing around the glass. The beer itself is more of a really dark brown that borders on black instead of an actual black color or at least a black color with really dark brown notes.

The beer smell has unusually strong toffee notes for an imperial stouts. The beer has the usual light, bitter hops and roasted malt with dark chocolate smell. However, the roasted malt notes are fairly light and the toffee notes from the malt are front and center, which pulls the other notes together. The smell also has a very light alcohol note and licorice notes.

The beer taste is more roasted and more chocolatey than the smell. The licorice taste is very slight while the toffee taste is still fairly prominent. There is no real alcohol taste. The hops add a very interesting flavor to the mix. The hops give the beer a nice, underlying bitterness but it also enhances the fruitiness of the taste that follows it into the aftertaste.When the beer warms up a little, the beer has a nice toffeeish with dark chooclat taste that comes out very well.

The mouthfeel is heavy bodied with a little carbonation. However, the beer itself is very smooth and goes down very easily compared to other imperial stouts.

Overall, a very good imperial stout and worth getting when it's available. The taste is more complex and certainly different from other stouts because of the greater focus on the toffee flavor as opposed to the roasty and chocolate flavors that most other stouts have. I would definitely recommend picking this up when you can.

Photo of DrinkMoreBigBeers
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle has a date of 285

A - Pours out thick deep dark brown, once in the glass it pitch black. Produces a nice finger worth of dark rich mocha head which dissipates rather fast leaving big bubbles along the glasses edge.

S - Right away I get a nice bold-sharp sweet bitter roast with dark chocolate, wood. No alcohol detected. A nice swirl of the beer in the glass really gets the aroma's going and is a must which helps release this beers nice bold nose. I could smell this all night!

T - Right away this one is creamy, with a rich dark roast, cocoa nibs, anise, slight raisins, bitterness in the finish that lingers. A rather nice sipper that delivers a massive flavor profile that keeps giving. Slight alcohol here but blends well with the rich flavors. Once I poured the yeast in it became more bold, and rather bitter. I suggest keep the last bit of yeast in the bottle.

M - This one is a full bodied smooth drinker, that does tingle the tongue from the bitterness. Carbonated well which keeps the flavors going over the palate. Some beers this full bodied leave a sticky residue but this one does not seem to.

O - I love SN and this one delivers. It is a sipper that is great in the cold weather season. It to bad it is hard to get a-hold of at this point in time. I believe this beer will become better with age because it has a pretty bitter aftertaste that kinda distracts from the dark flavors which I believe is from the hops. Also, this beer has some alcohol which will fade with age. It may get a higher rating when cellard for a while, but for now its just excellent. Cheers!

Photo of toppoop
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%
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.

Photo of JMScowcroft
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Narwhal Imperial Stout, poured into a Fiddlehead snifter.

Look - Pours a medium thickness brown-black oily with a 1" fizzy mocha head that dissipates quickly. Good lacing.

Smell - Roasted malts with baker's cocoa and some coffee notes.

Taste - Full bodied and dark chocolate with roasted malt. Quite good. Finishes roasted. Tasty.

Mouthfeel - Rests chocolate and roasted malt. Dry and slightly bitter. Not overly boozy at all. Good drinkability with low carbonation and a light-heavy body.

Overall - Super solid RIS. Another quality brew from Sierra Nevada!

Photo of templar316
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I knew this would improve with time !! So much better now then when it first came out in nov(?). Pours thick and dark, no light, soft edgy lacing. Smell is slight in my Duval Tulip but the flavor burst's. There's vanilla here, sweet dark malt, and everything I want in a beer. Roasty coffee bitterness, cascade (and maybe willamette) hops. The rest of these will sit in basement till next winter. Perfect for 15 degrees.

Photo of BriantheBeerGeek
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2013 (Brewed on the 214th day ) poured into DFH tulip glass.

A- Motor oil black like a Russian imperial stout should be.

S- WOW, getting a lot more tropical hoppy notes than I would expect from a RIS. Malt is present though with coffee , bakers cocoa, ripe banana, cherry, tobacco, slight espresso, molasses and leather.

T-Again, WOW. Definitely a SN take on an imperial stout. Everything I look for in a RIS but with lots of hop presence. I imagine that the malt will come out more with age. Definitely one to set back a 4-pack or two for a few years. Coffee, chocolate, fig, tropical fruits, licorice, lots of roasty malts, slight alcohol, very nice.

M-Huge, as it should be.

O-I wish SN would do more malt forward beers like this, one of their best. If you love imperial stouts this is a must have.

Photo of BeerDawgs
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - Pitch black, with little head or lace. No other way to describe it!

S - Chocolate, hops, cocoa, sweet, dark grains

T - Wow..an amazing DStout. Sweet, but not too much, just right. Hidden ABV

M - Full bodied, well balanced.

O - One of the better stouts I have had. Well done Sierra Nevada!

Photo of rodlavers
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Served in a pint glass, Narwhal pours about as black as you can get, with a thick and foamy mocha head, and lots of lacing.

Roasted malt and coffee aromas are dominant, but there is some chocolate in there as well.

Really roasted malt is the winner here, very prominent and present, with roasted coffee beans in there as well, just not too strong, which is a good thing, leaving out some bitterness. Taste is really nice.

Feel is the best part, super smooth and easy to drink, with amazing roast aftertaste.

Overall I am glad I finally had a chance to do a proper review; last time, I gave it a 4/5, but that was based on a 2-3oz pour after hours of drinking IPA's and other stouts, which was an injustice. Narwhal is a good and hearty stout. Cheers.

A few add-on comments. Slightly altering my review based on a my current view of Narwhal, which I justify by my evolving pallet -- no beer ever tastes EXACTLY the same each time

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
93 out of 100 based on 4,430 ratings.