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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

820 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 820
Hads: 4,652
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.95%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,229 | 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: 820 | Hads: 4,652
Photo of Kuaff
4.65/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I enjoyed this RIS in my snifter at cellar temperature.

A full, bulging two fingers of light cocoa-colored foam form the head. The body is black, to put it simply.

Smells surprisingly fruity! I think I'm getting raspberries and, incredibly, freshly-picked blueberries. It's fantastic, as well as something I never imagined I'd smell in a stout. Moving on... there are also raisins, a rich semi-sweet chocolate scent, and a bit of molasses. A really awesome blend of aromas.

The berries are in the flavor a little too! It's like brownies with a strawberry or raspberry topping at first. That's what it's like early on... pretty sweet like chocolate milk, but also with a subtle, complementary fruity tartness. The back end brings a ponderous roastiness of coffee and dark chocolate that contrasts the initial sweeter flavors superbly.

The feel is thick and heavy as a narwhal (durhurhur), and the carbonation is calm like the sea at slack tide.

This isn't "just another" Russian imperial stout to me. It has some of the aroma notes and flavors of a Belgian strong dark ale, but still retains all the essential requirements for retaining stout status. And all of it's distinctive qualities mesh together beautifully. Not to mention it kind of has the consistency and taste of a chocolate milkshake, to my delight. Just as a Narwhal is a unique whale, but still a whale, this is a unique stout, but still very much a stout... and a very nice one.

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Photo of beersnobraven
4.65/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Look: Deep, black, beautiful. Awesome bottle art, too.
Smell: Smells a little like bittersweet coffee. Primary scents are malt and chocolate.
Taste: Holy crap! It's like drinking a liquid chocolate cake! Seriously, so much chocolate! If you did a blind taste test, I would have a thought that this was a stout brewed with chocolate. A great beer for a chocolate lover like me! Other flavors I'm picking up are malt, coffee, with a little-to-medium hops present.
Feel: Really thick and delicious. Very dense; definitely a sipper.
Overall: Probably my all-time favorite Imperial Stout, and I'd go far to say favorite beer of all time. It's great taste and mouthfeel are definitely its best attributes, while it's 10.2 % ABV is also a plus. Easily one of the best beers I've ever had.

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Photo of maedhros09
4.65/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Black with light, slowly forming, and barely lingering head. Smells sweet, roasty, chocolatey with minor licorice.

Taste: Medium sweet roasty maltiness, boozy, finishing with a somewhat mild tingling lingering paper-like hops bitterness. Smooth mouthfeel, medium body with little carbonation in the mouth. Flavors blend and balance superbly and the finish is lingering and memorable.

Update: After storing for a few weeks the bitter finish that I remember from the first sample seems to have mellowed and doesn't stand out as much. The finish remains somewhat bitter but nicely balances the initial sweetness.

Update #2: After 4 months cellared this beer is very creamy and mellow with a mild to moderate bitterness in the finish that blends really well.

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Photo of jucifer1818
4.61/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: poured this one into a thin flute wine glass, and even in its thin glass, this beer will not let any light penetrate its darkness

like the dark and mysterious see of its namesake, this beer is a perfect example of clear total darkness, easily ranking a 40/40 on the beer color scale

apart from its color it has a medium, maybe one finger head, that lasts far longer than one would expect for a beer of this alcohol level
This is exactly what I'm looking for in a stout, and I was going to just give this one a 4.5 on first glance, but I cant see any reason to take off that last bit
I have to give its appearance a perfect score

Smell: The smell is quite subtle to say the last. I am surprised by this, and don't know how to really rate it
on one hand, a beer this extreme, would be VERY hard to make it have such a subtle smell, but on the other hand, I was expecting (and really wanted) something really intense that I could enjoy more
I get very light milk chocolate, light fruits, alcohol boozyness (but very slight boozyness), and a little bit of pear
Its not bad, quite good, but to me feels too reserved for what it is

Taste: mhhmmmm, this is really really good. This beer tastes like liquified black chocolate. This is almost nothing else to say, with some light fruity flavors to counter its intense roasted chocoaltyness, with an intense dark chocolate bitterness mixed in with strong hoppy bitterness in the after taste

a beer that is very strong and malty, but keeps it from being cloying wit ha perfect hopping that keeps the malt first, and works well with its dark chocolaty bitterness
I can think of noting Id want to change on this beer

Mouthfeel: Slick, sweet, and very syrupy. It pours like Hersey syrup, yet is much easier to drink
drinkabilty and a heavy imperial stout are not often paired up, but the beer manages to pull it off, and has a delightfully moouthfeel

Overall: I'm giving this one a 4.5/5
Its a near perfect beer on all accounts, and a excellent offering from Siera nevada. I can easily see this beer turning into a PERFECT, 5/5 beer, after a good 8-12 months of ageing. Ill be drinking one more bottle for new years, and saving the last two for conditioning, quite possibly for next year to see how its changed over time
Highly, Highly recommend this beer


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Photo of Bugcatcher
4.6/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Incredible. This has to be my new favorite stout. Great mouth feel just the right amount of alcohol comes through. Just a great brew thick creamy awesome flavor this one's a winner

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Photo of masleumas
4.6/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

One of the best imperial stouts ive had. Sierra nevada knows how to please. very dark in color, can hardly make out any light through the other side of the glass. rich finish and texture as is expected but plenty of carbonation to balance it out. i really loved this one and am on the lookout to buy it again if i can find it. amazing, rad label too.

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Photo of bman13
4.6/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Great stout. Great balance of flavors, PERSONALLY think it's a bit hoppy for a stout but every beer is different, and I respect that. Still is one of my favorite stouts nonetheless.

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Photo of BeerManDan
4.6/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured a thick black brew, with a little dark tan foam and no lace.

The smell of deep roasted malts and dark roasted sweet coffee, with a hint of alcoholic chocolate, filled the nose with a pleasant alcoholic aroma.

The flavor was of a slightly bitter coffee and roasted malts taste, with a hint of dark chocolate on the finish. This Russian Imperial Stout has a long pleasant aftertaste. Not overly bitter and the high alcohol and flavors have a very pleasant taste.

I'm back for a case next time out to BEVMO.

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Photo of serspecv
4.6/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into an oversized pilsner glass from a 12oz bottle. Pours almost pitch black, not too thick as far as consistency. Head is minimal, a redwood color that leaves just a bit of lacing as you sip. Smells amazing, you'll know that this is going to be a delicious brew as soon as you catch a whiff. Velvety smooth, alcohol warmth present, but does not feel like you're drinking a 10%er. Has a chocolate richness to it. Very impressed with this beer. Definitely buying a six pack next time.

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Photo of LaneMeyer
4.6/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Super thick and chewy, just how I like it. Bitter, roasted notes of coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, dark malt, and a touch of caramel. Sierra Nevada hit the nail on the head with this one. Best SN offering I've had to date. Will be going back for more.

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Photo of horshack7
4.59/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: It's down right black as the night sky. The head is light brown and is about one finger thick.

Aroma: Vanilla bean, light alcohol notes, charred wood, subtle yeasty bits. Traces of dark fruits, citrus and black licorice.

Taste: Dark roasted hops and chocolate malts, milk and dark chocolate notes. Espresso, vanilla bean, charred wood. Quite the silky smooth mouthfeel.

Notes: Rather a hefty beer very good for a cold night. Cheers.

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Photo of seedyone
4.59/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From bottle at home. 2014 on bottle. Now this is what I call a stout. Look, smell, taste & feel are all very rich & full. This stuff makes no apologies, it just stands up straight & says "take it or leave it." I thought I caught the slightest hint of licorice/anise under my nose but it dissipated like a wisp, then came back again in the finish.

Alcohol taste but little of the burn. The chocolateness is of the bittersweet kind.

Every taste keeps saying to me "no kidding around". A real swashbuckler & I'm really enjoying it.

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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 fitrock2112
4.58/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured Narwhal into a Belgian Tulip.

A - The liquid pours black as midnight with a finger of mocha head. Classic looking stout here.

S - At first sniff I'm getting dark chocolates, bitter coffee, luscious roasted malts. Again, classic Imperial Stout characteristics.

T - Bakers chocolate right off the bat, more coffee, some bitter malts and hops. Wow, this is a quality beer here. This beer does have some more bitter hop flavor than some Imperial Stouts, but this is very nice. A touch of licorice.

M - Smooth Imperial Stout, heavy mouthfeel with medium leaning towards low carbonation. Ahhh so nice.

O - Quality beer by Sierra Nevada. Highly Recommended! Cheers!

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

Poured into a pint glass. Pours black like motor oil with a tall, brown head. The head retreats very slowly, leaving some lacing on the side of the glass. The aroma is filled with dark chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts. It's a good smelling stout. The taste follows the nose. The dark roasted malts, the chocolate, and the coffee are prominent without all being strong and overpowering. There are some hops on the back end just adding some back end bitterness to help balance this big brew. The body is full and thick with light carbonation. The beer just coats the mouth and allows the aftertaste to linger. You know this is a big beer when you encounter it, but it doesn't hit you over the head. It helps make this is a very drinkable stout. This is an excellent beer.

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Photo of snaotheus
4.58/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle poured into a large snifter

Pours black with a smallish dark tan head. Lots of fine carbonation. Smell is black licorice, roasted coffee, smoke.

Taste is awesome. Excellently balanced, not too sweet, not too bitter, not too smokey, but lots of each of these components. Cherry, chocolate, smoke, black licorice, very interesting all around.

Mouthfeel is surprisingly light and quite lovely. This is an excellent beer.

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Photo of Tilley4
4.58/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Great beer that I can't believe I haven't reviewed...

This beer hits all the marks for a great brew... relatively easy to find, amazing aroma and taste, and consistent every time...

One of my go to stouts, this beer is loaded with chocolate and roasted malts and has a nice kick of hops on the finish... I think the scores would be higher on this brew if it were released one day a year or had the hype surrounding it like others...

Terrific example of the style...

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Photo of Catracho5
4.57/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12 ounce bottle poured into a Belgian tulip glass. This is the 2013 edition.

Appearance: Pours pitch black with a tan head. No light penetrates the beer, less than a finger head after a semi aggressive pour, tiny bubbles in the head, some lacing, looks great in the glass.

Smell: Chocolate, roasted malts, not a heavy aroma.

Taste: Chocolate roasted malts on the front, I can taste the alcohol after drinking, The alcohol is not as strong as when I first tried it around October. The beer is about 5 months old. The alcohol has significantly subsided.

Mouthfeel: Very thick, oily coat on the palate, I can feel the carbonation, tiny bubbles, moved around in my mouth.

Overall: One of my favorites imperial stouts from one of my favorite breweries. This is at least, an outstanding beer, if not world class. A lot easier to drink after cellaring it for 5 months, still have some bottles I will open at the end of 2014, or maybe in between. Cheers!

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Photo of beerdrifter
4.57/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pitch Black pour with a creamy two finger caramel-colored head with nice retention and lacing. Unique, sweet, roasty nose with hints of espresso, licorice, toffee, cocoa, and a fair amount of hops, almost like a Black IPA. The taste is quite unique as well. Rich, roasty espresso and dark chocolate fudge dominate along with hints of piney hops, licorice, toffee, cocoa, sweet caramel malts, and some subtle soy sauce. The mouthfeel is smooth and somewhat creamy with absolutely perfect balance. Overall, I am totally amazed at how good this beer is. It's absolutely right up there with any Imperial Stout. Probably has taken over Ten Fidy's spot as the best readily available Imperial Stout out there!

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Photo of johnnieoz
4.57/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

12oz bottle, first bottling (2012)

Tasted side-by-side with Sixpoint's 3Beans. Perhaps an attempt to compare an imperial stout to a Baltic porter.

A: Pitch black, Abyss-like, with a burnet crown.

S: Molasses dominates, but otherwise unremarkable.

T: Rich, creamy notes of toffee, molasses, dark chocolate.

M: An ale that you want swishing around your mouth, coating your palate as often as possible. Smooth.

O: Up there with the very best like Stone's RIS & FSW's Parabola, extra points for being in a 12oz bottle like Old Rasputin.

Trying it side-by-side with a Baltic porter, albeit an unique one like 3Beans, confirms that I prefer this style. While there will always be a place in time for the porters that can traverse the oceans, I can begin to imagine what the Russian Czars came to expect from the stouts sent their way.

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Photo of StinkyFishBoys
4.56/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer deserves more credit than it gets, but that's not uncommon for this brewery. I had a 2012 bottle last night and it was a true delight. I'm not a violent man but I would fin fight my dad for another.

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Photo of JayS2629
4.55/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured a deep black with a nice two finger, creamy head. The aroma had a perfect balance of dark chocolate and coffee notes with hints of dark fruit and licorice. The flavor followed with a balanced earthy hops against a background of mocha and notes of vanilla and dates. The mouthfeel was thick and creamy. Rich, deep, and balanced. Nothing super complex, but perfect balance. Excellent standard example of the style.

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Photo of EvanJohnson
4.55/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tried this beer side by side with a Founders Breakfast Stout. Both were great but I have to say I enjoyed the Narwhal more. It's much different and cleaner than the FBS. At the same time you don't lose any of the complexity from the malt. Not quite as much chocolate. A great beer with a smooth finish. I'm just starting to enter the world of RIS and it's off to a great start with this one!

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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 TDotScott
4.55/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a wine glass. Cellared for 6 months.

L- Dark brown, with an off-white head that quickly dissipates.

S- Dark chocolate, plum, a note of espresso.

T- Dry chocolate up front, with a drawn out, lasting bitterness

F- prickly carbonation, a little heat. Medium-full body.

O- Very balanced, and quite typical of style

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 820 ratings.