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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

822 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 822
Hads: 4,667
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,239 | FT: 43
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: 822 | Hads: 4,667
Photo of bnes09
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
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.

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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 magictacosinus
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

SN, you are incredible. You know that I'd for sure drink something called a "narwhal imperial stout." Poured out of a 12oz bottle into a snifter.

The color is expected - a impenetrable, dark slick that smoothly pours out into the glass and produces a surprisingly huge head that carries its way all the way to the top of the glass. My God are the alcohol leggings large on this one. They're literally climbing to the top in long strings of carbonation! This is extremely thick and filling in appearance. Nothing could slice through this, and the generous carbonation definitely shines here - no matter how long I let this sit, it never lost its head completely. Simply a stunning take on the RIS style. It definitely made my stomach slightly retreat in fear looking at it.

The smell is predictably boozy, but there's a lot more going on for it than that. There are big bold, baker's chocolate aromas, combined with deep coffee grounds (resembling French roasted beans), and a combination of dark fruits and grassy zest. A best way to describe it is a combo of coffee, cocoa, buckwheat, dark cherries, and tamarind. All coated with insanely strong alcohol. Definitely good, but that alcohol kinda makes me a bit dizzy after whiffing at it long enough.

The flavor is a bit different though - just like Mission Dark Seas, this is an example of a West Coast RIS where the alcohol is not as present in the flavor than in the aroma. That is NOT to say that it isn't - this is a 20.8 proof beer after all - but it only shows up way at the finish. Instead, there are strong, dark malty flavors that get to the palate, combined with more coffee that chocolate, and topped with a unique yet vicious hop zest. This is definitely not for the faint of heart. I had to go really slow with this thing. The alcohol finish was ridiculous as it warmed up, but thankfully none of the flavors were thrown off. The mouthfeel as pretty much as perfect as its appearance. Lots of surprising carbonation, but also a near syrupy, bready thickness that never let itself go.

Of these latest "extreme" offerings from SN, this is one that I preferred a hundred times over Hoptimum. There's an incredible amount of balance going on here, which is saying something as this one of the most intense takes on this style I've had since Old Rasputin. However, it is quite easy to finish, but it requires patience. That alcohol will get to your head if you're not careful, and it's dry enough to be taken slowly but never gets astringent so that it will left alone. Even though I definitely won't be having this every day, it's truly fantastic one from SN!

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Photo of NWer
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I was really looking forward to this beer. I always anticipate what Sierra Nevada is doing lately to keep engaged with producing great beer in spite of their growth.
Pours dark brown into a tulip.
Minimal head. Carbonation is there, it just doesn't produce much foam.
Burnt dark chocolate nose & taste. A little edgy that should smooth out over time.
Mouthfeel, burnt edginess lingers. Not to the point of distraction however. Very enjoyable with a great price point for the style.

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

Pours a dark black, only a little foam that faded to a light film, left no lacing. The aroma was of dark chocolate, slight coffee, sweet malt, and just a hint of dark fruit. Taste was of sweet chocolate and coffee, with some bitter hoppiness and alcohol burn. Mouthfeel was medium bodied, with some alcohol, but not too much. Just right. Overall, this beer is super tasty, can't wait to see what a year of cellaring has done to it.

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Photo of hreb
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2014 edition. 12oz bottle, dated 08/13/14, served in pint glass. Beer pours pitch black and slick like oil, with nearly zero head. Dark aromas suggest molasses. Flavors are immediate and complex: layers of toasted barley, burnt toast, treacle, and of course ethanol, but there's also an assertive hop flavor. I find the combination spicy, very appropriate for winter, and decided American (a high gravity, high IBU stout? why not!). Mouthfeel is great, low carbonation, which is perfect for the style.

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

Bottle poured into a glass

Black liquid capped by brown bubbly lid

Aroma of sweet coffee malt

Taste off roast coffee, bittersweet on the tip and sides of the tongue

Smooth, roast coffee aftertaste

Nice beer

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

12 oz bottle, bottled on October 25, 2012, poured into a tulip glass.

A- Pours pitch black, very thick looking, produces a couple fingers of mocha head that recede to a collar, leaves spotty lacing.

S- Lots of roasted grain, coffee, dark chocolate, booze is just barely noticeable.

T- Big roasted flavors, lots of coffee, dark chocolate and maybe a bit of spice, cocoa, and just a little bit of molasses. The booze is pretty spot on and lends some fruity warmth. The flavor has a very nice balance of roasted and sweet flavors, although it inclines a bit towards roasted and hoppy bitter flavors.

M- Full-bodied, has a smooth, rich feel, alcohol warmth is perceptible but isn't hot.

O- A really tasty RIS, very drinkable and a great addition to Sierra Nevada's seasonal beers, good stuff.

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

A blackened mass came but of my 2013 Narwhal bottle. Like most stouts no light is getting through that liquid. poured about 1/2 finger of head. The smell is quite nice espresso is what I'm getting from it but it's quite a hoppy persona to it too. Has a very sweet taste profile, milk chocolate, espresso, ground coffee beans and a touch of booze too. A semi syrupy liquid wlith medium carbonation goes down.

Overall, I quite liked this one. Would be much better with some age on it. Relieve some of that boozy quality and bring up some of the more subtle flavors in it.

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

Tap into a goblet at Whole Foods Chandler. Was told this was based on the 30th anniversary stout I love so much.

Syrupy dark brown edging on black. About a finger of silky khaki head.

Beautiful nose. In this order: burnt toast, dark chocolate, oats, licorice.

Very smooth blend of roasted coffee bean, bitter dark chocolate, oats, licorice and smoke in the flavor. Alcohol emerges as it warms and is hard to avoid.

Syrupy. Thick, creamy medium body. Light, tickly carbonation. More than a little alcohol warmth.

Super duper. Very drinkable for its size and strength.

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Photo of stephens101
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A dark tan head fades quickly from two fingers with minimal residual lacing. Insert cliche of choice for the color black here. Nutty, chocolaty and vinegary to the nose. Closer inspection reveals a nice fusion of dark grapes and cocoa. Tastes silky smooth with milk chocolate notes that are quickly countered by a semi-rough woodiness. Black coffee, subtle hops and burnt sugar provide a fine follow up to the preceding notes. Fusel alcohol heat plays a big part in this burly one; demanding respect, but remaining fairly welcoming despite its 10 plus percent. Narwhal is simple one more notch in Sierra Nevada's belt of excellence and consistency. Few breweries do it better.

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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 OBeerMeGreatOne
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
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!

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle served in a snifter.

L - black with a tan head that thinned to a ring.

S - roasted coffee beans and black licorice.

T - as with the smell, lots of roasted coffee and black licorice in the taste with a gentle warming on the finish.

F - medium/full bodied with a silky smooth feel.

O - a very good example of the style.

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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 maximum12
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

How have I not reviewed this? I’ve drunk cases of it, a big stout that you don’t have to crawl over sweaty neckbeards to get, it just sits around, ignored, common. 12 oz. bottle.

The pour is Bic ink black. Minimal carbonation. I try to sniff & get a 19” girl hair up the nose, yeah, just try to use a vacuum around my house. It’s like vacuuming up after a pack of shedding St. Bernard’s. Nose is sweet malts, nice roast, light chocolate mania. It’s never really been an inhaling beer for me.

Narwhal tastes like Saturday night happiness. A plethora plentile of roast greets the tongue, backed by a deep, sweet, smiling triple handful of malts. Milky & smooth enough that I suspect that many oats were harmed in the making of this brew. Drinkable as fuck.

Excellent beer that’s nothing special by the numbers, just beautifully executed.

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

Poured from a 12oz bottle in a tulip pint.

A dark pour with 1.5 fingers of mocha head.

Smells of highly toasted grains, dark coffee and a hint of booze.

I taste a sweetness to the head that balances the super strong roasted grains. I like the start of this beer better than the end but the end aint bad. This is not for the faint of heart. Wow it seems that one of these should do the job or I have an empty stomach.

I like the contrast of a super creamy head being washed away by a velvet finish. This beer has great mouthfeel.

I must say this was quite a surprise and I'll be buying this again.

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Photo of MilkMan126
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

SN states that this beer is the most intense stout it's ever brewed.

In a low lit room, no light shines through the nearly black liquid. Small creamy head with nice lacing.

I smell roasted grains, dark chocolate, and fresh hops.

The taste follows the nose with added flavors of dark roast coffee, nutty, booze, and extra signature Sierra Nevada hops. Hops have a more dominant role in this beer than most RIS I've had. The order of which I taste these flavors changes as I drink on. The dark roast malt flavors and the hops battle back and forth. The tasty rich malt gets richer as it warms but the hops hold on strong. To me the hops are what truly makes this beer intense.

Nice bite from the carbonation and booze. Full with decent coating. Hops really linger on. Reminds me of the aftertaste that dark chocolate leaves.

Very good overall. Full of flavor. Though, over the top in some areas of the flavor profile which confuses the RIS style.

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

A - 2 1/2 finger frothy dark tan head. Jet black


T - sweet but robust roastyness. Immediately followed by chocolate, then spicy ness, bitterness from hops, not astringent coffe flavor. 10% abv well hidden. As it warms, surprisingly more spicy. This time from alcohol I believe. Chocolate still present but it takes a back seat to all the spicy ness.

M- creamy

Overall, really spicy for a stout. Of course SN loves to overuse hops. And they didn't make an exception just bc they made a stout. Too much for my taste, but with the tasty chocolate upfront, still makes for a good spicy "holiday stout"

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

$2.69 for a 12oz bottle @ Bevco. Brewed with Two-row Pale, Caramel, Chocolate, Honey, Carafa malts & Roasted barley. Hopped with Magnum & Challenger for bittering and Challenger for aroma.
OG=24.2 Plato, FG=6.6 Plato, 60 IBU's, 10.2% ABV.

Pours out to a thick near black, forming a large sticky creamy dark brown head like espresso crema, with superior retention and sticky lacing. Mild to moderate carbonation, ~2.0 carbs. Nose of burnt marshmallows, black walnut, prunes, green leafy herbal hops and a little bourbon (fusels?). Mouthfeel is thick and creamy with a dense syrupy body. The taste is a recap of the aroma...prune juice, bittersweet chocolate, a touch of french press, black walnuts and burnt marshmallows. There are some moderately boozy fusels in the middle, but they quickly dissipate by the finish which is mostly hops, wood ash and dark pipe tobacco. Bitterness is well-balanced for a RIS with a nice lingering bitterness in the aftertaste (probably the best part of the beer).

At first blush, the nose and look of this beer reminded me of Bells Expedition Stout, however once tasted, it's just not as cleanly fermented. This is a good RIS on par with Blackout or Victory , but just isn't on the same level as Expedition, Founders, or Siberian Night.

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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 VashonGuy
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12/2014 bottle into a tulip.

Dark, dark, dark. Not much of a head, nor much lacing. Aroma is milder than the flavor, which is big and bold. The flavor is classic RIS generally, with a little bit of hoppiness, and a fair bit of sweetness on the back end. The 10% ABV is pretty apparent, not in a bad way.

This is a huge beer, just what an RIS should be.

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Photo of Zach136
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

32oz counter pressure filled growler from Barrel and Barley in Woodstock, GA.

A - Pitch black, light caramel head that disapates quickly. Ok lacing.

S - Caramel and toffee notes, bit of roast coffee and cocoa as well. No hop profile to speak of.

T - Deep roasted malts, earthy coffee, noticeable hop profile that gives the brew a hint of that motor oil profile fresh RISs tend to have.

M - Slightly over carbed for my tastes - giving it an almost chalky mouthfeel.

O - Great RIS. Excited to set up a verticle.

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Photo of Gajo74
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very interesting and unique appearance; on the surface, a semi viscous dark brown and nearly black color. However, when held up to the light, there is a saucer like ring of red. A thin ringlike and broken lace orbits around 3/4 of the glass, and, eventually dissipates completely.
The aroma really picks up after the drink warms. At first, a subtle whiff of dark roasted grains. This is followed by a medicinal quality. Soon enough, a really pleasant dark and sweet chocolate aroma takes over. At the end of each sniff, there is a strong alcohol component.
The taste is biter sweet. The roasted malts add a sweet chocolate and dark fruit presence, as well as bitter coffee. Similarly, the finish is both sweet on the back of the throat and very dry and bitter. In the finish, you get a modest but significant hops presence.
Full mouthfeel and robust body. Soft carbonation brings out the flavors. Well balanced. At 10.20% ABV, this one is a sipper, yet, I finished it fast because it is, after all, pretty tasty and drinkable. Better to let it sit as it gets better and better as it warms.

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Photo of StJamesGate
4.14/5  rDev 0%
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.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 822 ratings.