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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: 4,666
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: 4,666
Photo of mdhobbs
2.99/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Just about everything I try from Sierra Nevada has the same ale taste and this Imperial Stout was no different. The stout pour nice and dark with a head that reminds me of chocolate but the pour seemed a little thin. The aroma is ale and the taste had the same bite to it. Maybe too much carbonation as well. I started the the beer being served cold and as it warmed, the taste seemed to improve a little but not to the extent that I try again.

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Photo of beertunes
2.99/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

This bottle's been kicking around the back of the fridge since I got it, at the release time. About time to hit it. Poured into 10oz goblet. Poured a solid black color, as expected, with less than 1/4 inch of brown head that quickly dissipated to a thin ring, that left surprisingly good lacing.

The aroma was average for the style, perhaps even a bit too roast forward. The flavors were the same mostly bitter roast and alcohol, and the beer was sharp, in a harsh way, not a crisp way. The alcohol wasn't the least bit hidden, and the finish was very harsh.

That overall harshness hurt drinkability a great deal. I had a tough time finishing my 12oz. Overall, while a decent brew, this isn't the Old Rasputin killer SN has seemed to position it as. I won't be having it again, I'll just buy a 4pack of the smooth, even, nearly flawless Raspy.

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Photo of 57md
3/5  rDev -27.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Appearance is a dark brown to black with a finger of head that quickly dissipated. The nose has distinctly cidery notes. The taste of straight-up alcohol overwhelms everything else in the flavor profile. The finish is astringent.

This is an offering that is way out of balance and a big disappointment considering I generally have a profound affection for SN beers.

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Photo of zeledonia
3.01/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours black in the glass, light coming through coffee brown at the edges. Two fingers of mocha brown head, good retention and nice lacing. Solid.

Smell is faint for an imperial stout. Light cocoa makes up the most of it. A little milky. Not bad, but I want more potency.

Taste starts out roasty, and quickly takes a downturn. I initially thought it was chili pepper spice, but now it's coming through as an off, bitter, cardboard-paper-glue sludge. This is truly foul. I'll drink enough to finish my review, but no more. So I drank a little more, and a strange thing happened. It warmed up, that nastiness faded, and it became, well, consumable. And then it warmed up a bit more, and it became passable. Still not something I'd call good, but no longer something I'd call bad.

Mouthfeel is fine. At least, what I can perceive through the nastiness is fine. Heavy body, medium carbonation, lasting finish.

This beer is weird. Based on comparisons to other reviews, I wonder if I got a bad bottle. Or maybe my sense of taste is just that different. As it warmed up, the bad flavors faded, and it became, well, okay.

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Photo of bum732
3.04/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

S: Dry, roasty cocoa and coffee. Slight vanilla.

L: Thick, viscous and black. Tan head that dissipates quickly.

T: Very dry, roasty stout. Coffee and dry cocoa like flavors dominate. Slight coffee sweetness with slight dark fruits. Finishes quite dry with residual cocoa sweetness.

M: Medium full mouthfeel, medium low carbonation. Alcohol fairly well hidden.

A very dry, roasty RIS. Reminds me a lot of Old Rasputin. A nice change to a lot of sweet RIS's, but i feel like its a little one noted. Should be interesting what a little age does to this beer.

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Photo of bcsbeer
3.04/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Warmed up before serving in a room temperature glass.

A: Jet black very small brown head that left the scene in a hurry.

S: Best part of the beer. Roasted malts, espresso, dark fruit.

T: This is a malt bomb. All the flavors are DARK all most to the point of being burnt. Coffee chocolate raisin. Big alcohol presents distracts from the flavors. It tasted more like 16% than 10%.

M: Heavy and thick and lifeless, like a glass of crude oil. I thought about trying to float a ball bearing. Very low carbonation.

O: I'm a big fan of Sierra Nevada and the style (RIS). Is seemed like they were more focused on the high ABV than anything else. This one conjured up images of the dead sea. I like a little more life in my beer. Maybe I would have better luck with it on tap. For now I will stick with the offerings from Old Rasputin and Stone.

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Photo of utfiero
3.06/5  rDev -26.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 2.75

Color- black leather. Medium, full mocha head.

Aroma- strong alcohol notes, coffee, and chocolate.

Taste- Starts rough and strong, very roasted malt with strong alcohol and finishing bitter, hoppy, and roasted (reminiscent of burnt bitter coffee). Like a Narwhal piercing my palate! 60 IBUs. Reminds me a little of a jagged version of Old Rasputin.

Consumed on 11-23-2013. Poured from 355 ml bottle into a Liefmans Goudenband glass (my preferred all purpose beer tasting glass).

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.13/5  rDev -24.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle into a pint glass. Really looking forward to this one.

A: Pours a very dark red color. It's so, so close to being pitch black, but not quite. The head is a two finger khaki shade. Retention is decent if not spectacular, and a nice layer of lacing is left behind.

S: This pops with chocolate, coffee, roasted malts, some leafy hops...and a LOT of alcohol. This smells really boozy even for 10.2%, and it's not a particularly refined alcohol presence. Even worse, it seems to detract from the rest of the brew. But of course, given the chance to warm up, all its alcohol calms down - slightly.

T: There's no two ways around it - this mutha is harsh. Roasted malts open this one up, sandwiching a cream-laden coffee middle with its boozy, fruity finish. Some hoppiness appears in the aftertaste. I would have hoped that the alcohol would at least create some nuance and depth, alas no; it's not dead simple, but it should be more complex considering. Giving it the chance to warm/open up doesn't improve it much either. Maybe it makes it *slightly* less harsh.

M: It's creamy and lush feeling, like an imperial stout should be. I'm also kind of glad it isn't particularly dry finishing, because all it would really do is expose the alcohol even further. Carbonation isn't really a factor.

O: This could be my biggest letdown of 2013. It had many things going for it to be topnotch - SN's reputation, well received on BA, inexpensive - but in the end was nearly ruined by the generic harshness. My other bottles are going in the cellar; there's a very good RIS underneath this all, and aging it may be exactly what the doctor ordered.

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Photo of mrandypandy
3.19/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

12oz bottle purchased at Green's, in Atlanta.

A - Pours a jet black, big mocha head that recedes down. Nice sticky lacing on initial pour also dies down. All-in-all, pretty.
S - Roasted malts and hops, not much else though.
T - Big and roasty. There's quite a bit of a harsh bitterness as well that I'm not quite a fan of.
M - Medium body, good carbonation, but the bitterness lingers.
O - Not a bad, but there are much better imperial stouts out there. I had heard some good things about this beer, but was slightly disappointed. Too much hops/bitterness, and not enough malts to balance it out. Reminds me a bit of other highly hopped imperial stouts like Sweetwater's Happy Ending, and Victory's Storm King. Needs time to sit and mellow out.

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Photo of eric5bellies
3.21/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Drank from my Duvel tulip

A - Pours a deep dark ebony colour witha tow fingered coffee caloured head that reduces quickly to a lacing film.

S - Booze, coffee malts with vanilla and small chocolate.

T - Up front some nice molassis malt, followed by combined coffee and chocolate. The finish is rough and boozy and a long sicky finish.

M - Full and low carbonation. Not silky

O - An ok RIS but there are far better examples. Not sure why its "exceptional" Would rather the Sam Smiths or Courage over this one

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Photo of chanokokoro
3.21/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a Sierra Nevada branded snifter

Pours a very deep dark brown topped with a two and half finger fluffy beige head. Above average retention, considerable amount of splotchy lacing as the head slowly recedes. Bakers chocolate and phenol alcohol on the nose. Opens with dark chocolate, roasted dark chocolate malt and a with just a hint of dark fruit midpalate. Finishes dry with a touch of roasted espresso, warming alcohol, and continued notes of cocoa. The lighter sider of full bodied, moderate carbonation, slick mouthfeel. A decent Russian Imperial Stout, but not very complex. The roasted chocolate malt flavor tends to dominate and at the same time lacks depth. I'm looking forward to revisiting this brew again to see if it delivers more the second time around.

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Photo of PincheNorteno
3.23/5  rDev -22%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Picked up a single 12 oz bottle, poured into a pub glass. It was a bit underwhelming. How does this qualify as an imperial stout? My benchmarks for this class is Bells Expedition Stout, and Narwal seemed more like a porter.

The mouthfeel was far too light and the flavors were not intense enough for me.
Dark roasted malt flavor, medium body, notable clarity and overall thinness. Thin tan head, hints of soy sauce and mild bitterness. I tested this beer in a selection of a dozen stouts and it was near the bottom of my list.

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Photo of Beejay
3.26/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

A: Dark black with a massive full dark tan head.

S: Sweet dark chocolate, with toffee and notes of dried fruit. A little bit of earthiness in the finish.

T: The first taste is caramel sweet, with a touch of dried fruit. The sweet flavor is followed by dark chocolate and espresso, and the brew finishes out with a hit of bitter earthiness.

M: Fairly thick body, the carbonation is medium, the finish slightly drying and there is a lingering hop bitterness.

O: Overall I like this beer, but the finish is a little harsh for me.. The lingering bitterness doesn't quite round out the finish like I would like it to.

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Photo of Gorilla_Biscuits
3.26/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

It's really malty with a hint of coffee, for some reason I think it has a rubbing alcohol taste to it as well which really bums me out, otherwise it's good.

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Photo of kitch
3.28/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

12oz bottle packaged on 6 November 2014 as per the back label. Poured into a Westmalle goblet.

A: It poured pitch black with minimal head and low retention.
S: Mocha chocolate with hints of espresso at first but followed by some alcohol.
T: Bittersweet chocolate with some coffee. Later on some booze does show.
M: Smooth, creamy and velvety. Very light carbonation.
O: I thought that this was a decent stout. Taste wise its not the best of its style but it is certainly solid. I’ve also heard that it ages well so I may have to find another bottle to age a few years.

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Photo of jtierney89
3.3/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Incredibly deep brown color, almost black, from what i can tell good clarity and about two fingers of mocha colored head. Charcoal heavily roasted grains, bit of asphalt, mocha and dark cocoa.

Not as heavily bodied as I thought it would be but a pretty good beer. I expected a bit more from sierra, but it's a pretty standard imp stout. Faintly creamy, bitter black chocolate, dark roast coffee, herbal hop, low astringency, bitter malts and bitter hops finishes dry. Overall good, clean tasting, on the heavier side of medium bodied, lingering burnt coffee, black chocolate and earthy hop flavors. A touch soapy and minty.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.3/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Heard the hype so I picked this one up. I'm not a big Sierra Nevada fan but I'm hoping this will change my mind. 10.20% ABV confirmed. 12 fl oz brown glass bottle (2012 vintage) with standard pressure cap and an appealing sleek label acquired at Cap N Cork Junior Market earlier today and served into a New Belgium stem-goblet in me gaff in low altitude Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California. Cost for a four pack was $10.99; it seemed a bit steep seeing as Old Rasputin was on the shelf below it for $8.99 per four pack.

Served slightly chilled; I'm trying to be better about serving my imperial stouts at a warmer temperature. Allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

Opened without issue; no upsurging or other problems.

A: Pours a one finger attractive tan-gold colour head of nice thickness and cream. Retention is fairly good (~one and half minutes) for the ABV and style. Body colour is a nontransparent solid dark black; yet it's weak. This is not the jet black of Speedway Stout, it's a bit grey actually. Hrm. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show. Carbonation appears fine based on the appearance. Pretty predictable for the style; there's nothing unique or special here that jumps out at me.

Sm: A bit of roast but not enough to suggest a strong roasty backbone. Hints of coffee and chocolate. Dark malts. Minimal hopping. Caramel, cream. It's a bit musty. Not at all assertive or bold like I'd expect from a beer in this style. Comes off quite tame, actually; I get more complex aromas from other imperial stouts even at much colder serving temperatures. No yeast or alcohol comes through. The coffee note is refined and milky; it reminds me of Founder's Breakfast Stout in that regard - which is always a good thing. An average to moderate strength aroma. I'm excited to try it.

T: Okay. Dark malts form the foundation, with emergent sleek coffee nearer the climax. Some roast in the late second act, but as predicted there's not enough. Minimal hopping if any. No yeast comes through. Alcohol is surprisingly well hidden - a highlight of this beer. Caramel, pleasant cream. The coffee is particularly well handled and blends in with the other flavours subtly. I do get some soy sauce character, but it's minimal. Some coffee grains lend it a pleasant near earthiness that pairs well with the sweeter malt characteristics. It lacks bold complexity or refined subtlety, but it's a nice little imperial stout in terms of flavour.

Mf: Unfortunately, the mouthfeel is strange. Entirely too slick and smooth and wet, which is nice for the smooth subtle coffee in the second act but is terrible for the style. Amping up the roast would lend it needed coarseness and dryness. It's also quite heavy on the palate without much reason to be. Too thick and even overbearing. Luckily, carbonation is adequate - which is to say it's bit less than you'd expect of most middle of the road more pedestrian styles. It's a bit chewy, but all around pleasant. Though it's a bit scratchy right on the finish (coffee grains, maybe?); I don't know what's going on there. Suits the flavours alright, but certainly doesn't feel custom tailored to them.

Dr: Hides its ABV pretty well, but it's still far from highly drinkable. More of a sipper that lacks enough flavour to justify its low drinkability. At this price point, I'm not disappointed with it. That said, I wouldn't buy it again. I'd much sooner reach for Old Rasputin or Ten Fidy if I'm looking for a budget imperial stout. This is one that fans of the style should try, and it's a good beer in the style for getting drunk. I'd try it on nitro, but otherwise it's rather forgettable. Sorry, Sierra Nevada, it'll take more than this to make me a fan.

High C+

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Photo of ccrida
3.33/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Appearance is thick black with a small, dark tan/light brown head, quickly dissipating, no lace.

Smell is soft, sweet malt sugars. Robust alcoholic character.

Taste is robust and rich. Sugary, caramel, sweet alcohol. A little raisiny. Not a lot of depth here, the 10.2 is pretty bruising.

Mouthfeel is dry and thick.

Drinkability is ok, this is a big, brash, old school RIS. I like the fact that it's all malt and not hoppy, but it's too hot.

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Photo of macaronnie68
3.33/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Just wasn't what I was looking for. I had been drinking some ales beforehand so maybe that affected my taste buds. But this just had too syrupy a taste for me.

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3.4/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

It pours a jet black color with a nice head that retains decent.stouts are hard to rate in appearance To me they are black and not much else.

The smell is good,you get coffee in the front then the alcohol just ruins it in the back end,maybe a little coco back there too.

The taste is not bad just the booze overpowers it,after a few drinks that's pretty much all you taste.

The mouthfeel is a little thin IMO.

Overall this is not a great imperial stout,too much booze taste.if Sierra Nevada can hide the abv better it would improve this one drastically

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Photo of fourstringer
3.41/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Samuel Smith pint glass. Moderately aggressive hand. Stamp on the bottle reads: 3221220:57. Labeled as 2013.

A: Pours a dark ruby, but is opaque blackness in the glass. 1/2 finger caramel head. Fair retention. Minimal lacing. Impressive body, but head is lacking.

S: Roasted malt. Coffee. Faint dark fruit. Alcohol. A bit subdued overall.

T: Tangy, roasted malt semi-sweetness into a mostly dry, chocolatey finish. Dark roast coffee. Black licorice. Definite alcohol presence. There is a medicinal element that develops and detracts.

M: Moderate to full bodied with a moderate carbonation. No complaints here.

O: Not terrible, but this struck me as a bit harsh and unrefined. Pretty boozy. Kinda reminded me of Nyquil. The green kind. Color me disappointed.


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Photo of Hoptometrist
3.43/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Served from the bottle into a globed glass

A- Poured a vicious vlack with a small dark mocha colored head that dissipated quickly. Some minimal splashy lace was left.

S- Big licorice, toasted coconut, and big whiskey notes. Very strong aroma with lots of booze on it

T- Follows the aroma very closely. Huge licorice notes, big whiskey notes, some toasted coconut, notes and some roastiness. Kind of an odd sour twang on the finish. Incredibly bitter stout, by far the most bitter stout I have ever had.

M Pretty thick mouthfeel, very creamy and smooth, almost velvety, big warming from the alcohol, and some alcohol burn

O- Great mouthfeel, but not one of my favorite imperial stouts. Pretty boozy and the sour finish is odd.

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Photo of Bluerabbitbell
3.43/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had at Bocktown in Robinson with Leah. I guess this style isn't for us. Tasted like cough medicine; high alcohol, bitter flavor etc. By other's reviews there are those that like this one. Can't say that I'm one of them.

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Photo of AilidoBrew
3.45/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

poured into a Chouffe 250mL tulip

A: beautiful opaque with a thick head that dissipates at an average rate and leaves a heavy ringed lacing

S: not much of a smell considering the style; I could see myself mistaking the beer style (for an English brown) if I judged it by smell alone

T: very roasty; dark coffee mainly but followed by unsweetened cocoa: the bottle nails it by calling it "baker's cocoa and dark roasted coffee" but I would superimpose one for the other

M: the alcohol cuts through the thickness and gives it a lighter perceived body; silky and thick but with a lighter finish

O: a real nice R. I. Stout. Silky and smooth with a mellow alcohol burn masked by layers of roast. Hides it's true strength well. Lightens it's body by it's high octane nature while simultaneously hiding said nature in waves of roast. Let it warm some to bring out more depth and dark chocolate notes.

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Photo of Mdog
3.47/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pitch black with a huge head. Looks great.

Smell: Not much. Mild chocolate shows up eventually.

Taste: Dark chocolate builds in intensity through the glass. Dark fruits hang in the background. Gives a mild dark chocolate bitterness throughout.

Overall: Started out looking like a dream, but didn't deliver excellence in the aroma or taste. Some might be my personal preference in that I like imperial stouts to be a little sweeter than this, but it still didn't give a particularly memorable experience. Kind of middle of the road, not too sweet, not too hoppy.

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