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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

821 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 821
Hads: 4,662
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 23.19%
Wants: 269
Gots: 1,238 | 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: 821 | Hads: 4,662
Photo of StoutHunter
4.01/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

I picked up a four pack of Sierra Nevada's Narwhal Imperial Stout a couple weeks ago for $10.99 at The Lager Mill. Russian Imperial Stouts are one of my favorite styles and Sierra Nevada is one solid brewery so I couldn't pass up the chance to give this beer a try, so lets see how it goes. This is the first time this beer has been bottled, 2012 vintage. Poured from a shorter brown 12oz bottle into a snifter.

A- I like the name and the artwork for this beer, it's nicely done and it's pretty unique much like the animal it's named after. It poured a nice and dark motor oil black color that didn't let any light come through and it had two and a half fingers worth of fluffy light mocha colored head that died down to a thin ring that stayed till the end and left some nice and sticky patches of lacing. This is a very good looking beer with a nice dark color and more head then usual for this style, there's not a damn thing wrong with it.

S- The aroma starts off with loads of dark roasted malts that have a higher amount of sweetness to them and imparted some roasted, charred, chocolate, molasses, cocoa powder, coffee, black licorice, and a slight bit of tobacco towards the end. I don't pick up any hops in the aroma but I do get a sweet boozy aroma. The aroma is nice and it's very true to style, the booze shows up a little too much, but it doesn't hurt this beer that much.

T- The taste seems to be pretty damn similar to the aroma and it starts off the same with lots of roasted malts that have a higher amount of medium sweetness and impart some highly roasted flavors along with some chocolate, coffee, and a slight tobacco and black licorice flavor. After that comes a sweet molasses flavor followed by a good amount of dark fruits that add some complexity to the flavor. On the finish I get some warming alcohol that makes the flavor a little boozy and the aftertaste is full of sweet roasted and charred malts. This beer tastes good and is very true to style, it has nice complexity, but the boozyness hurts it a little.

M- Not that smooth, somewhat creamy, a little sticky, very rich, full bodied, and it had a pretty good amount of medium carbonation. The mouthfeel was ok, but it would be nice if this was a little smoother.

Overall I thought this was a good beer and a good example of the style, it had just about all the aspects that I look for in the style with some good complexity, but it didn't seem to be as balanced as some of the better RIS's. This beer had ok drinkability, it's a sipper and the flavors did a good job at holding my attention, but I think one would be enough for me, it might start to be to boozy after that. What I liked the most about this beer was it's complexity and it's appearance, they were both pretty good. What I liked the least about this beer was the mouthfeel and the drinkability, it was a little rough around the edges and it would be nice if this beer was smoothed out a little. I would buy this beer again, it's pretty solid and affordable for the style, I might keep a couple bottles for the cellar to see how they change overtime and I would get a four pack if it's released again. All in all I thought this was a pretty solid Russian Imperial Stout, but it lacked the balance and refinement that some of the better ones have, it's good but It can't hang with the world class RIS's like Founders RIS or Bell's Expedition Stout. Sierra Nevada makes some solid beers and this one's no exception, they seem to be one of the most constant breweries and I respect that. 2013 Edit, I had a year old bottle recently and it smoothed a little with some great chocolate flavors, ages well so far.

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Photo of mattkoon
4.01/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

ive had this beer on tap before- this is the first time out of the bottle. the color is black- opaque when held up to light. the smell is full of dark malt and chocolate. the flavor is blackened dark chocolate malt, black coffee and alcohol, not surprising with the 10.2% abv. this is a super solid stout.

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Photo of Shallow_Gravy
4.01/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

First review. Bottle (2012 vintage) poured to Black Tuesday glencairn glass.

A - Pours opaque black with an inch of of tight mocha head. Spotty lacing lines the glass.

S - Licorice, smoke, baker's chocolate, slight coffee notes. As it warms I sense some darker fruits (plum, date, and sweet grape). Nice smelling beer.

T - Sweet plum, slight roast, coffee grounds, and vanilla. Long lasting dark chocolate on the finish. Really impressed.

M- on the thinner side of medium-bodied. A bit syrupy, which helps bring out a bit of the coffee and darker chocolates.

O - Really Impressed by this beer. Really dug the darker fruit and chocolate notes. Excited to see where this goes in a yea or 2.

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Photo of EdTheEdge
4.01/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A- Easily the darkest beer I ever tried. It's almost black with a thin one finger dark tan head.

S- Dark Chocolate, Coffee with a dense coco base.

T- Robust, Big, Malty, Roasty, Coffee, Semi-Sweet Chocolaty with a welcomed bit of bitterness... almost perfect.

F - Smooth, lightly carbobated and slighty oily.

O- One of the better Sierra Nevada brews. I could drink this quite often. This is not my favorite style but I enjoyed this beer very much.

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Photo of divineaudio
4.01/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz into my deschutes snifter.

a - pours deep, dark brown, almost black. formed a finger of dense, dark brown head upon pouring that eventually calmed to a thin film, leaving behind a thick sheet of lacing bordered by small spots. a damn fine looking beer.

s - roasted malt, charcoal notes, faint dark chocolate, faint alcohol astringency.

t - notes of dark chocolate, char, and faint tobacco supported by roasted malt goodness. faint, earthy hop character, but just enough for balance. has an alcoholic bitterness that fades into a dark chocolate bittersweetness and lingers for a bit.

m - full bodied, adequate carbonation, medium co2 profile. faint alcohol warming.

o - pretty damn enjoyable, but a little hot and rough around the edges. quite drinkable for 10%, but certainly could use some time to mature. gonna pick up some more of this and sit on them for a while. definitely a welcome addition to the imperial stout category.

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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 mdaschaf
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a very deep black with some brown highlights on top. Small khaki colored head with minimal retention and sporadic lacing.

S: Lots of roasted malt, dark chocolate, a little bit of espresso. I can also pick out just a little bit of pine at the end.

T: Roasty malt up front, more dark chocolate, a little bit of mint in the middle mixed with some pine. Some licorice as well.

M: Medium to full bodied with a creamy mouthfeel, low carbonation. No sign of abv.

O: Pretty good imperial stout, easyish to drink, lots of nice stout flavor.

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

2012 bottle

A-Black with a beatiful 1" head that disappears quickly. Nice early lacing.

S-Stars off very boozy, which is a personal favorite. Then cocoa and coffee.

T-Nice early alcohol with chocolate and creamy coffee notes.

M-Medium bodied with hint of booze.

O-Nice RIS easily attainable with great pricepoint.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a large brown foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of roasted malt with black chocolate notes is quite interesting. Taste is a nice mix of roasted malt with some black chocolate notes. Body is pretty full with nice creamy touch with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Well brewed overall with good mix of complexity and good drinkability.

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

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout is a dark and tasty imperial stout.

A: Black colour and a 3 mm head that lasts pretty well. 4

S: Malty with some dark, burnt flavours. Some fresh hoppiness too. 4

T: Sharp burnt malt and dark fruit. Definitely a full-on start. The finish has some sweetness and ash flavour. 4.

M: Thick. Pretty low carbonation. 4

O: 4

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Photo of JohnGalt1
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Narwhal was brought over tonight as part of the "we are not at the GABF tasting"... Not sure that this bottle makes up for it, but it helps... Thanks my amigo.

12oz bottle.. pitch black brew... the head is dark, darker brown.. nice retention...

Big roasty elements... dark malts and some background cocoa... cold brewed beans... very nice.

The flavor is rich and unrelenting... dark roast coffee... plenty of roasted malt.. dark chocolate... just enough sweetness to bring out the malty flavors... a bit of dark currant and maybe fermented out raisin..

Body is about right... carbonation is square....

Pretty damn good... seriously.

All 4's

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Photo of BobJude
4/5  rDev -3.4%

First time trying, 12 oz bottle into a snifter. Poured with almost no head, jet black and not as thick as I was expecting. Mostly roasted malts on the nose. Paired with some 72% dark chocolate which is pretty much my standard for RIS. Taste was the biggest miss for me - mostly malts and some fruit, very little else. Mouthfeel was thin in my opinion for RIS. I had this one night after a 2014 Expedition, which was spot on, so maybe just variations on the style with my preference being a bit bigger RIS than Narwhal.

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

A- Color is opaque black with a beautifully thick, syrupy look and about a finger of foamy head that looks like coffee with a lot of cream. Lacing is abundant as well.

S-Some noticeable alcohol in the aroma, with dark-roasted coffee and bittersweet cocoa.

T- Flavors are tasty, and are primarily of bitter cocoa, and black coffee. Some sweetness lingers on the palate after each sip.

M-Fairly full body with a good amount of carbonation.

Narwhal is good, it's not particularly exciting or original, but affordable and worth a try.
Would be worth aging, in order to mellow out some of the bitterness.

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

Poured into a tulip. Pitch black with a finger's width brown head and lacing down the glass.

Roasted malts, coffee, alcohol and grassy hop aromas.

A nice sweet roasted malt and cherry fruit flavor up front. The dark fruit is then overtaken by an alcohol and grassy hop flavor which continues into the finish with a lingering smoky roasted bitterness.

Full bodied and a little oily. Good carbonation to add a peppery feel.

A nice strong RIS. Quality stuff here and not for the light beer crowd. Packed with flavor and a strong alcohol presence, yet it remains smooth and drinkable.

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Photo of anthony-martinez
4/5  rDev -3.4%

i accident bought this brew - narwhal imperial stout along with other brews IPA & Double IPA. i drank this brew first and i kinda like bitter-coffey kind. it hit my tongue smooth and strong kick on end note. i also ate Heresy chocolate nuts bar during tasting it. great beer for stout category

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

A: Black as midnight.

S: I get those familiar Sierra Nevada hops, chocolate, spice, rum.

T: Sweet chocolate, bitter hops, rum soaked raisins, pretzel, salt, burnt toast, roasty malt, nutmeg, gingerbread, and some caramel.

M: Thick but not super viscous. Nice though, no doubt.

O: I have had this beer before and forgot about it. Good thing I decided to pick another one up again, because the flavor is complex and it's an overall pleasant beer. I love the RIS's and this beer does the style good.

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

Appearance: In a long list of the most opaque black beers out there. Two finger light brown head that leaves nice lacing.

Aroma: Coffee, molasses, cream, chocolate syrup.

Taste: Heavy on the bitter black coffee flavor. Dark chocolate as well but not as prominent. Not quite as roasty as I was expecting but still quite robust. Very bitter probably more due to the malt bill than the hops utilized because there is no discernible hop presence. Still, a nice change of pace from the usual RIS (although I probably wouldn't classify it as such). Dry finish and lingering black coffee bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a good level of carbonation and pretty easy to drink but more of a sipper.

Final Thoughts: Not my favorite but a very good Imperial Stout, especially if you like coffee flavor in your stouts. Would I drink it again? Yep, got a few in the cellar to see how it does with some age on it.

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Photo of BradC
4/5  rDev -3.4%

Pours opaque black with a head that quickly fades and leaves some nice Lacing. Smells of roasted grains, some dark raisin aroma. Tastes of roasted grain, slight chocolate notes, a little coffee. Not as thick as I expected, pretty easy drinking and the high ABV is well hidden. Overall, good Imperial stout, would buy again.

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

Pours a four finger tan head that slowly fades leaving a good lace. Black color, no highlights. Medium carbonation and medium-heavy bodied. Roasted coffee nose and flavor is roasted coffee, higher ABV is hidden. $2.60 for a 12oz bottle from a Tully’s Beer & Wine Wells, ME.

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

On tap at max's the other day, during Baltimore Beer Week.

The beer pours a blackish brown color with good head retention and lacing. The nose is likewise attraactive, showcasing considerable coffee, licorice and vanilla. The flavor profile replicates the nose pretty closely, but is clearly dominated by the licorice and vanilla (which I'm not entirely liking, but it's OK). There's also a hint of hoppy bitterness in the finish which further helps to buoy the modest sweetness in this beer. Mouthfeel is medium bodied to full, with a finish that is dominated by licorice and has a hint of alcoholic bite. Alcohol is well integrated into the flavor profile, but there's just too much licorice in the flavor profile for me to fall in love with this beer.

A solid beer, and possibly one that will benefit from some age. For now however, not among my favorite impy stouts.

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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 jrenihan
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer is black with a small tan head. Head fades quickly, leaving a bit of lace.

Aroma contains vanilla. roasted malt and coffee. Nice although nothing out of the ordinary for the style.

Lots of coffee and roasted malt in the taste. Some vanilla as well. Nice and full but standard.

Full bodied, moderate carbonation. Thick.

Overall, good and enjoyable but nothing surprising.

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Photo of uvachief
4/5  rDev -3.4%

Draft. Deep brown, almost black with about a 1/2 finger of head that dissipated quickly. Smells of chocolate, bread and roasted grains. Little coffee. Surprisingly light in the mouth. Not as creamy as you would expect. Tastes of dark chocolate, roasted malts and light coffee. Not espresso. Not thick. Not what I was expecting. It is light and good. Drinkable. Doesn't feel like a high ABV but it is. Good imperial stout but lighter than I wanted. I like mine thick and creamy.

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Photo of zeff80
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an opaque, jet-black color with a one-finger, light brown head of bubbly foam. It left thin rings of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of dark chocolate and roasted malt. There was a touch of pine.

T - Great blend of dark chocolate, burnt molasses, toffee and roasted malt. A slight piney bitterness added balance.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium to full bodied ale with a dry finish.

O - This is a really nice Russian Imperial Stout.

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

Wow. This is an imperial, alright. This tastes like it must have hundreds and hundreds of calories.

It's a bottle of motor oil. - black and opaque. There is a light and persistent head. The aroma is of the cocoa and coffee tastes that are under the hood of this monster. The taste is not for the faint of heart. It is extremely roasty, chocolate and coffee with a nice aftertaste of mostly coffee.

Over all this is a great effort and yields a nice thick stout.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 821 ratings.