Dismiss Notice
Subscribe to BeerAdvocate magazine and get 12 issues / year of fresh beer content delivered to your door each month.

Already subscribe? to manage your subscription.

Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
92
outstanding

773 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 773
Hads: 4,469
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 9.2%
Wants: 258
Gots: 1,134 | FT: 45
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: 773 | Hads: 4,469
Photo of RaulMondesi
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%

Kind of like shamu doing the backstroke, I'd put this just a tick below "outstanding," status, but just barely. It's sumo status, but it's more like a featherweight sumo. A bit too light, a bit too lackluster... It has all those nice chocolate, toffee, rich notes that any player would like in a stout, but it's a bit thin and insipid.

Close, but, well, half of the cigar, I guess. (383 characters)

Photo of brewtus
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into snifter

Drank on 11/22/12

A- pours black with a dark tan head
S- a bit metallic, roasts, malty, a bit of chocolate
T- starts with a nice bitterness, hints of dark fruit and chocolate. There's a nice dark chocolate dry finish. I get a little smokiness. The alcohol is well hidden
M- for the abv, it's quite drinkable but has a bit less thickness than your bigger RISs, certainly has great texture
O- I usually like most Sierra Nevada beers, but I'm not usually overly impressed by most of the ones the brew. This one was really great. It was a lot thicker than I figured it would be and had a smoothness throughout. It's an easy drinking stout and I'm glad I grabbed a bottle. (689 characters)

Photo of spinrsx
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12oz Bottle from Total Wine Tampa FL for $3

Appearance - Dark brown colour with a large size frothy light brown head. I can't make out the amount of carbonation showing and there is some good lacing. The head lasted for around 5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, chocolate, vanilla, coffee

Taste & Mouth - There is a below average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, chocolate, and vanilla. There is also quite a bit of a charred coffee type flavour and a light hoppiness.

Overall - Wow, a great mix of smooth flavours with a lingering bitter finish. A really satisfying beer that is a great sipper. Once again Sierra Nevada impresses. (657 characters)

Photo of JackMcAwesome
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a mug.

Appearance:
Completely black. Even the pour was black. Not much head, it went away quickly. I wasn't that aggressive with the pouring though, so maybe that's why.

Smell:
Like most others to be honest. A bit of chocolate, a bit of coffee. Maybe even steak sauce. haha. Interesting. And it lingers, which is always nice.

Taste:
Nothing distinguishable here. It's good, I just can't pick up anything with my rookie taste buds. Cocoa, maybe even some licorice.

Feel:
Heavy, with moderate carbonation. Great really. Everything I'd expect from a stout.

Overall:
This one is near the top of my list as I get more and more into stouts. The abv being where it's at is almost indistinguishable. This is one I'll revisit when I go for more stouts, just as a constant when I try others. (814 characters)

Photo of Murrhey
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass in high elevation Libby, Mont. Reviewed live. 2012 vintage.

A- Very small mocha head with little retention. I attribute that to the high ABV. Very thin spotty lacing. Deep black color, slight mahogany around the edges. Scary looking beer.

S- Dark roast smells that shy away from burnt. Coffee grounds, dark chocolate. Almonds and vanilla make an appearance as well.

T- So roasty and warm. Very deep and bitter, like biting into a handful of coffee beans. Not delicate, but good.

M- Thick and syrupy.

O- Very nice beer. I really enjoyed this. Taste wasn't superb though. Might like to get another bottle and age it. (666 characters)

Photo of CheeseheadNation
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
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. (584 characters)

Photo of SitkaSteve
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was poured into a nonic pint glass.
The appearance was a jet black color with a one finger off white to tan head that dissipated within less than about a minute. Light lacing glosses around the glass.
The smell starts off with a nice gentle roast subjugating light chocolate malts, delicate bitter piney hops and a light coffee to blend.
The taste was off the hook, as it blended the roast with the bitter hops and coffee to allow a gentle sweetness through the chocolate malts. Light bitter hops and chocolate in the aftertaste and lead into a dry finish.
The mouthfeel sat about a medium on the body. I'd say good carbonation, nothing overly pounding, but its there.
Overall, this was a well down RIS, but I have to admit, I'd go for Old Raspy over this just b/c there's less hops in that one. (800 characters)

Photo of eschultz
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 Narwhal 12oz Bottle into a snifter glass:

Appearance -
Light brown head which lasted a few seconds
Dark rich black color with light carbonation

Smell -
Chocolate with a hint of coffee and vanilla

Taste & Mouth -
Sweet front with a bit of cocoa and banana
A lingering backend of dark roast coffee

Overall -
Very nice imperial stout with well balanced flavors, great appearance and mouth feel (404 characters)

Photo of wethorseblanket
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2012 12oz bottle.

A: Pours black with a thin 1/8th-inch mocha head which fades to the rim and thin cap leaving spotty lace.

N: Baker's chocolate, cacao truffles, roast with some coffee, damp wood, malt, vanilla and caramel.

T: Roasty dark semi-sweet chocolate nibs, malts, faint char and coffee.

M: Full body and light carbonation. Rich, creamy and thick. Some dryness and mildly bitter finish.

O: Flavor is dominated by dark chocolate. Smells much better than it tastes. (476 characters)

Photo of HowardTheDuck
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2013 bottle poured into a snifyer an cellar temo. The hops have faded significantly but not enough for my taste. Nice body with a one-finger head that dissipated quickly. (170 characters)

Photo of mdwalsh
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Among the darkest beers I've ever poured, even the head has a black hue to it, making it almost gray.

The aroma is rich, full of dark fruit, roasted grain, but almost a meaty roast, not a coffee roast.

The taste, however doesn't seem as full. There is a little astringency that comes through, though that may be the chill, it needs to warm up. Still though, not amazing. Just a slightly better than average RIS here.

Mouthfeel is also fairly thin, but has appropriate carbonation.

Overall, not really something I will seek out, but not something I will pass up if offered either. I have just never been blown away by SN stouts. (633 characters)

Photo of jlindros
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a darker caramel mocha colored creamy almost 1 finger head that fades slowly with nice lacing, over pretty much pitch black beer, and decent legs to go with the lacing.

Nose has plenty of dark malts, black malt, some roast, hint of charred almost acrid roast, a little espresso from the roast not from actual coffee, light fluffy nougat but no chocolate. a bit of earthy hops, some caramel and booze round off the nose.

Taste starts with burnt char, really charred roasted malts, and black malts that seem like they will get acrid but don't, at first. Dark malts is the key, tons of roasted malts that start to get a little soy sauce like as acrid flavors do start to come through, so much black malt and roast, with a bit of espresso from the roasted malts again. A bit of caramel and nougat again, as well as the complete lack of chocolate. Also some light earthy hops add to the bitterness that comes initially from the roasted malts. Some warming booze in the middle. Finish brings a decent amount of bitterness, some earthy spicy hops really come through on the finish, as well as bitterness from the char, a semi sticky sweetness, little syrupy, and some booze warmth on the back end, as well as plenty more black malts and roast.

Mouth is fuller bodied, slightly creamy but a bit syrupy, some booze warmth, fluffy nice carb.

Overall mixed, it has some good points, the hops come in nicely, the fluffiness, booze is hidden fairly well, and it will surely age well. However, too much roast and black malt flavors for now, a bit acrid, little soy sauce, etc. However, I think this will be a great beer in 2-3 years so I'll probably bunker a few down in the cellar. (1,678 characters)

Photo of sjverla
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Nose: Lots of coffee. Alcohol. Burnt sugar. Dark chocolate and a slight hint of vanilla.

Appearance: Black with mahogany highlights at the where light barely seeps in. About .5" of head that rose and fell quickly.

Taste: Enormous. Bitter coffee and semisweet chocolate. Full, viscous and smooth feel is incredibly satisfying. The finish is hot - a tad too much actually. A little age might be a good thing.

Overall: Damn good. A little too boozy young, but some age might do this some good. Also, the cut on the roof of my mouth might be causing issues. (556 characters)

Photo of CA_Infidel2o9
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz to a Tulip

A- jet black, 1" dark brown head

S- dark roasted coffee, dark chocolate, floral, almost fruity, earthy, alcohol

T- cocoa nibs, smokey, leather, slightly fruity, alcohol

M- oily, average carbonation

O- the first 3 of the 4 pack i drank fairly quickly after i bought it and each time it was way to boozy, so i decided to sit on this one for a while, and it seems that's all this brew needed. It was pretty good and the booze had subsided considerable and i think if i would have waiting even long it would have been even better. Still IMO it's nothing to write home about and i have had better. (627 characters)

Photo of micromaniac129
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into my yeti sniffer (because I could) a deep standard brown black color. A handsome looking beer with it's dense mocha head and what looks to be desent carbonation.
Aroma I thought was the weak point in that I could barely detect any aroma. I could barely smell some roasted malts and espresso.
Taste was fine. Had a roasted malt flair with coffee espresso cocoa and some ash.
Drinks really smooth and hides that alcohol quite well.
A good well made beer but, it's a safe beer being that to me, it's not very aggressive.
Taking a que from Charlie Manuel, but then again on the other hand this would be my first case of Imp stout I would buy. (649 characters)

Photo of lazjuarez
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Well, a gold medal winner at this years GABF, I couldn't wait for this to go down. Here goes....

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a goblet

A: Pours almost black in color with a frothy khaki colored finger worth of head. Head recedes rather slowly leaving behind small traces of lace, no light coming through whatsoever, carbonation is faintly visible under the head. A very nice looking RIS, so far so good.

S: Nose is of big chocolate notes, cocoa, black licorice, and a small touch of alcohol. At the end of the nose I'm getting more bitter chocolate, even some ash. Great nose, I wasn't expecting so much complexity.

T: Wow...nose translates to taste! Big bitter chocolate notes, cocoa, even the licorice. Middle of the tongue I'm getting the smokiness with the some alcohol. I'm impressed, I was not expecting this at all.

M: Medium bodied; even though the tongue and cheeks are coated with an amazing coat of malty goodness, the alcohol definitely cuts through and cleans the palate. I'm definitely getting a warming effect from this brew, but at 10.2% ABV, I wouldn't expect anything less. Overall an amazing brew with complex notes of bitter chocolate, black licorice, and some ash. The alcohol was a bit hot, but needed to clean the palate. I recommend this beer and can easily be paired with a good maduro. Cheers! (1,328 characters)

Photo of muchloveforhops3
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into tulip glass

p- poured at beer fridge temp (39 degrees F); standard black w/ a 1f tan head; quick recession to small cap; 4/5

n- soft-med; I pick up some sweet licorice, plums, molasses, and chocolate; should get bolder as it warms; 3.5/5; hasn't gotten as bold as I would have liked, but definitely more chocolaty

t- primarily smooth, sweet choc malt and coffee, supplemented by dark choc and dark fruits in the finish; residual coffee sweetness/bitterness in aftertaste; a touch of metallic bitterness is detected here and there in the finish; alcohol is well-hidden; good flavor; nice balance between sweet and bitter; 4/5

mf- outstanding; full-bodied and creamy; soft-medium carb; coating fin; essentially everything that a good imperial stout's mouthfeel should have, imo; best attribute of this beer; 5/5

o- seems easy to drink (the taste continues to beg successive sips), although the full body of the beer would catch up with me after awhile I think, thus cutting down the drinkability; SN has done it again- another great beer! would definitely have again; 4/5 (1,091 characters)

Photo of jpro
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz single picked up from Total Wine. Poured into tulip...

A: Pours with an ink-like blackness; two-finger mocha head leaves a ring of retention and few short-lived strands of lace; looks pretty bold.

S: Deep, dark, roasted malt; dark chocolate; coffee notes; sweet.

T: Bitter, charred malt; dark chocolate / chocolate syrup; chicory on end; pretty big oily hop finish.

M: Medium-full mouthfeel; high carbonation with some zing; not quite as full or as slick I'd like in an imperial stout.

O: A very nice Russian imperial stout from Sierra Nevada; is this a new seasonal? a one off? Interesting as its kind of out of nowhere. Big and bold and somewhat reminiscent of Old Rasputin - that's what it initially reminded me of, at least. A good beer, even with the slightly off mouthfeel. I'd have another - maybe on a cold winter night! (838 characters)

Photo of PittBeerGirl
3.98/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A- Body is a dark brown nearly black hue. Pours with a 1-2 finger foamy tan head. It fades to a thin collar and no lacing is left behind in the glass.

S- Pretty typical for an IRS. Chocolate, anise, a little bit of alcohol.

T- A lot like the nose but with roasted malt bitterness at the finish.

M- Medium to high carbonation, thick, heavy body.

O- Overall this is a pretty good imperial stout. Pretty typical for an imperial stout. Chocolate, anise, booze, roasted malt bitterness. (491 characters)

Photo of far333
3.97/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Dark brown with a low beige head that settles out quickly. Inviting aroma of cocoa and espresso, some raisin. Rich flavors upfront, dark chocolate, espresso, root beer, molasses, smoke and leather, some rough-edged roasty malt, sharp bitterness, interesting mix of flavors. Full mouthfeel, but slightly tannic and warming. Good beer. (333 characters)

Photo of Damian74Shensky
3.97/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into a tumbler.

A- Black with a quickly dissipating tan head.
S-Chocolate, Alcohol
T-Roasted Malts, slight chocolate, Alcohol
M- full body, medium carbonation, malty, syrupy and black licorice.
O- Good beer, just had a not-so-great flavor aftertaste. But was worth it, would get again. (300 characters)

Photo of russpowell
3.97/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours jet-black with 4 fingers of caramel colored head. Good lacing & average head retention

S: Roastyness & cocoa, some boozeyness, faint figgyness

T: Follows the nose, dark fruit as well, some charred grain & some booze rake across your tongue up front. Some coffee as this warms, a bit of carob & booze, plus some faint raisin, then a smattering of charred grain & roastyness, plus woody & herbal hops. Finishes dry, fruitty, with carob, roasty grains & the specter of ainise

MF: Fairly chewy with light carbonation, fairly warming. Carbonation perks up as this warms

A nice take on the style, I need to do a side by side with old Raspy, I don't this quite beats that , but kudos to Sierra Nevada for spreading its wings. Would buy again to be sure, a little less boozeyness would help the cause. Will age great I'm sure (828 characters)

Photo of pants678
3.97/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.75

That's as black as beer gets, I think. The head shrinks to lacing.

Milk chocolate smell more so than coffee.

Licorice, black malt or roasted barley. Baker's chocolate is liked on the website, I can believe that. Not detecting any additives or espresso notes. Not sweet, no fruity esters from the yeast, but quite a bit of hop. Damn near a black IPA.

Dense, dense, dense. Marshmallowy with a harsh bite on it. This'll sound like a swipe but it's a "managable" RIS. Kinda mean, little heavy. But I should've had this colder. (525 characters)

Photo of barczar
3.97/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque deep brown with just a hint of garnet highlights and a solid half inch milk chocolate head that slowly dissipates, leaving sheets of lacing.

Dark cherries, plums, raisins, chocolate, and roast malt begin the aroma. Toasted nuts, licorice, and tar add complexity.

Flavor reveals deep roasted malt, dark fruit, and a long, coffee bitter finish. Chocolate is slightly muted, in favor of tart cherries.

Body is thick, viscous, and chewy, with low carbonation. There's astringency at the finish, preceding alcohol warmth.

Probably the thickest beer I've ever consumed. Dark fruit tartness was a bit overpowering. Fairly boozy, as well. Good roast malt character. I'll probably like this better with some age on it. (729 characters)

Photo of JasonL
3.96/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I am a big SN fan and this type of beer from them doesn't come out much so I wanted to try it badly. I am a big stout fan and this one from them didn't disappoint me. It has a high price tag but I think its for a good reason. The ABV is 10.2% per bottle and the taste and body is superb. It is a well crafted beer which I come to expect from SN. The first sip from this stout was really bitter and strong but half way down the bottle I begin to taste to nice coffee and chocolate notes which defines a nice stout. Just a warning this beer has a strong ABV content so a four pack is like drinking 9 Budweisers.

Overall I love SN and they always instill to impress me with every new brew they craft and this one doesn't disappoint. (731 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 773 ratings.