Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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BA SCORE
93
outstanding

4,429 Ratings
THE BROS
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no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 4,429
Reviews: 817
rAvg: 4.16
pDev: 9.62%
Wants: 254
Gots: 1,117 | FT: 44
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: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 4,429 | Reviews: 817
Photo of beerdrifter
4.57/5  rDev +9.9%
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!

Photo of Extrajoker00
4.27/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Reviewed: 8/10/14

previous quick rating of 4.0 on 12/31/2013

Narwhal by Sierra Nevada
poured from a 12 oz.bottle into my Sam Smith Snifter

P-Classy black, white and gold with a horned Narwhal 4.5

A- Deep Black small brownish tan head. Some decent lacing 4.25

S- Coffee malt dark fruit and alcohol 4.0

T-Dark Chocolate, coffee, roasted malt and hops 4.5

M- Full Bodied and bright, rich and complex flavor explodes and fades slow mellowed by a slightly hoppy finish 4.0

D- very flavorful, but a little much for more than a sipper 3.5

O- very, very good, loving this style and this brew 4.25

Re-Visited this Beer and found it more to my liking second time around. if you get a chance, give this one a try ---- J

Photo of EmperorBevis
4.07/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big black body with 8/10 tan head but thick set

Pear drops on the aroma with chocolate

Takewise Smooth coffee with a cocoa smoothness and finishing with quite a complex bitterness avoids the over sweet aspect of a stout so strong

A great MF pitch perfect carbonation

this is really up there

Photo of beaverapproved
4.71/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled Aug 2 2013 I found it a bit gnarley fresh and decided to age it a tad. So, I'm excited to give it another go.

A - Center poured into an english pint glass. A very deep brown that's thick opaque espresso which could easily be mistaken as black. Big foamy and sticky looking 3 finger toffee colored head.

S - I'm not very keen with my nose but I'm definitely smelling lots of chocolate and actually detecting a hint of dark fruits/licorice too.

T - Wow, It's like night and day by just letting it tone down a bit. Immediately hits my taste buds with dark bittersweet chocolate. Also, I'm definitely getting the dark fruits/licorice that I was smelling as well which kind of reminds me of red vines. Has a dry finsih with a slight roasted bitterness.

M - Very creamy and leaves a stickiness on the lips. And, medium to low carb.

O - I'm really diggin this stout. It really did match the description on the label and highly drinkable when aged. Crossing my fingers I might be able to snag one more pack before it's gone.

Photo of mdagnew
4.43/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

330ml bottle bought from Drinkstore, Dublin

Poured pitch black with no hint of colour even when held up to the light. Dirty nut brown head poured big thick and foamy then faded slowly to decent covering... some decent lines of lacing...

Aroma - Rich roasted and charred dark chocolate maltiness, sweet coffee, some brown sugar sweetness, some sooty like smokiness, some dark fruits (blackcurrents, dates), pine and citric hop notes, toasted (maybe charred ?) fruit loaf, some earthiness, milky notes...

Taste - Dark chocolate, lots of roasted / charred bready malts, barely any alcohol noticeable, treacle sweetness, dark spicy fruits (raisins, date,some figs, red grape), piney and grassy hop bitterness, citrus hints, traces of piney resin, light liquorice, light sourness...

Feel - Fairly smooth and creamy with a little sharpness coming through... fairly full bodied... for a 10% brew this is dangerously drinkable..

Overall - A world class Impy stout - highly recommended...

Photo of utfiero
3.06/5  rDev -26.4%
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).

Photo of SerialTicker
4.21/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I'm surprised that this beer "only" scores a 92... what in the. Poured into a shaker pint.

Appearance: Pitch black. Tan head. Poured nicely. A bit of lacing, but not much.

Smell: Chocolate. Some smoke. A lot of roast. Not much in terms of dark fruits.

Taste/feel: Well, that's some damn good stuff. Chocolate and roastiness, as you'd expect. Some smoke. Dark fruits in there a little bit (mostly as it warms), but not too much. Alcohol is hidden well as far as flavor goes, but there's a definite warmth there. A bit more "harsh" than some other RIS's, I suppose. The feel isn't quite as full bodied as some others I've had, which is a slight knock, but still excellent. Drinks a bit too easily.

Fantastic beer. Not much else to say about that. Underrated, in my opinion. Stands up well to some other, perhaps more popular, RIS's.

Photo of jdhilt
4/5  rDev -3.8%
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.

Photo of damndirtyape
4.11/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle (2013 bottling - 3284205:07 date stamp) poured into a snifter.

Appearance: Totally black ale - no light even coming in at the edges. 1/4" dark tan head upon pouring died back to a thin skin across the top with lots of persistent strands, sheets, and islands of lacing noted.

Smell: Mild roasted grain, hints of alcohol, chocolate liquor. With a swirl there are some hops trying to get out but I still can't make them out in regards to their aroma. Maybe a mild citrus and pine. Not as rich as I thought I would be.

Taste: Bittersweet baker's chocolate, roasted malt, hints of coffee toward the end - approaching espresso coffee bitter finish, but with some pine notes as well. Hops in the finish complement all the chocolate and other sweetness up at the front.

Mouthfeel: Very thick and creamy up front with the carbonation coming out late in the swallow. Definitely some stickiness on the teeth after the swallow.

Overall / Drinkability: Definitely a sipping and savoring beer, but also appealing enough that I could drink it faster and not mind, but I would probably pay for it later. A good imperial stout, and was good with butter/sugar cookies - probably would be great with a steak.

Photo of dtivp
4.21/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a very dark brown, near black with a one finger dark tan head that fades quickly into a thin ring with very little lacing.

Aroma of dark roasted malt, dark coffee and chocolate.

Taste of dark roasted malt, nuts, dark roasted coffee with a slight sweet balance of chocolate and molasses.

Moth Feel was medium leaning full body with very little carbonation, creamy and the alcohol is very well masked, there is very little boozy warmth for a 10.2 % ABV beer.

Overall this is a very nice RIS, well balanced with a slight sweetness off setting some of the dark bitterness. This is a nice sipping beer on a relaxing evening.

Photo of ac22rush
4.09/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black and oily like the deep dark waters inhabited by the Narwhal. Some dark khaki foam lines the outside of the glass that gives way to some delicate lacing.

Smells like dark chocolate, raspberries, burnt caramel and cherries.

Taste, great dark and carmel malt profile up front comes nice and sweet warming the soul, then all those great magnum and challenger hops come in on the back end giving this brew wonderful balance.

Overall: This brew lives up to the high standards found in every other Sierra Nevada beer a benchmark imperial stout any craft beer brewer could aspire to. Cheers!

Photo of MadCat
4.5/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours black with a good dark brown head, leaves good lacing

Smell: Nice roasted malts, coffee, and a little dark chocolate

Taste: Starts off with that great stout taste of roasted malts. Next you get some coffee and dark chocolate. Then a little bit of hop bitterness

Mouthfeel: Full body, medium carbonation

Overall: Fantastic brew. Will have to pick up this every year and age some.

Photo of Act25
4.53/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Massive. Up there with all the best. Right now my favorite, and you could not know which 2x stout is best until you taste test.

Appearance: Pours an energetic black, with a tan head they mounds and then lasts and leaves rills and contours as it falls, leaving also behind spidery rings of lace. Best looking.

Smell: Dark pit fruit soaked in coffee and liquore, skewered on top of charcoal fire.

Taste: Follows the smell, so that the roast and plum/cherry flavors emerge after a chocolate coating. Much complexity and ancient church like flavors, incense, old wool, old wood, wet wool. Lovely bitterness paints the tongue keeping it an unsugared coffee like experience, along with some licorice and alcohol - but like an ancient after dinner drink. Chartreuse like.

Mouthfeel: Warm, full, bitter, great bitter roasty finish, leaves you in a kissy place. Warming.

Overall: My current favorite 2x stout. A must try. Accessible. Sierra scores.

Photo of BastardKing24
4.19/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a beer i seek out time and time again cause its just do wonderful

Pours almost jet black with a small tan head. Lacing is left with some strong legs on it.

Smell is sort of subdued but still great. Coffee, espresso, cocoa, roasted barley.

Taste is fantastic with chocolate, coffee, sort of smokey, vanilla, caramel, bitter hops, some alcohol heat, just great. Improves with warming.

Mouthfeel is superb , slick and oily, medium to full carb, sweetness is well balanced with the flavors.

Over all I suggest people that love imperial stouts try this, its lovely.

Photo of BillRoth
4.4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Have had the 2012 fresh and the now just opened the 2013 @ I year after cellaring.
In both cases found a rich well crafted RIS with very good appearances and excellent carbonation and mouth feel. It drinks perfectly despite the 10+% ABV. On the merits of its brewing it is a top notch RIS and holds it's own against many of the very best RIS available.
What separates it is a distinct rich coffee/espresso like coffee quality that doesn't so much dominate as it is the singular flavor in the midst of a blend of anise/licorice, roasted grains, dark molasses flavors. Like Alesmith Speedway it just has a personal flavor of its own. Seems to be a combination of the brewer's art and the coffee chosen in the blend.
Just a great coffee RIS. Flavor profile is different of course, but I would buy this the way I look forward to Founder's IS, Bell's Expedition Stout and the much more common but still extraordinary Oskar Blues Ten Fidy.

Photo of emyers
4.02/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured into a Founders snifter.

Appearance: Near black with a thick 1-inch medium brown head. Decent lacing.

Smell:Cocoa powder, roasted barley, coffee, caramel malt, hints of dark fruit. Alcohol isn't really apparent. Very well done, although fairly straightforward as far as imperial stouts go.

Taste: Big roasted malt flavor up front, Coffee and dark chocolate come through again. Molasses, caramel malt, and more roasted malt on the fninsh. Definietely more alcohol heat in the flavor than in the aroma, but not in a bad way. Finish is pretty bitter with the heavy roasted malt and bittering hops.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and rich with medium-to-low carbonation.

Overall: Very solid imperial stout. I'd put this in the same class as Old Rasputin.

Photo of mdhobbs
2.99/5  rDev -28.1%
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.

Photo of KYGunner
4.23/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Narwhal pours with a deep, black beautiful body that was topped with a dense, creamy froth.

Gorgeous scents of cocoa, light coffee, marshmallow creamy sweetness and hints of malty Graham cracker all waft gently to the nose.

The flavor really showcases the strong malt base with a steep charred grain profile. The char brings out the coffee and cocoa qualities. These malts also bring out a strong Graham cracker dryness. It is better served warmer as the booziness comes out in the cold.

The feel is moderately thick upon first sip but swallows with a touch of abrasive carbonation. There's an easy warmth from the strong alcohol character but it is tempered as it warms.

Narwhal proves itself as a quality stout with a begging for barrel aging.

Photo of smanders
3.75/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured into a 1 pint Ball (wide mouth) jar.

A - coffee black with 1 finger of dark caramel colored.

S - bittersweet chocolate, roasted malts and hints of coffee.

T - roasted everything = cocoa nibs, coffee, malt. Just a touch of sweetness. High ABV% is discernible.

M - almost light for a RIS. Very smooth.

O - I'm not usually a fan of the style, but being out of SN, I thought I'd try it. This one may just entice me to sample more RIS. Thanks Sierra Nevada!

Photo of minterro
3.72/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bought from Little's wine and liquor

A&S: Pours about a finger of milk chocolate colored head, which dies very quickly to nothing more than a small ring. Solid black colored beer that poured. Sweet dark fruits present complemented by some black coffee. alcohol is pretty hot when it warms.

T&M: Dark roasty coffee is pretty much all I'm getting in the taste. Even as it warms, not much as far a chocolate or other classic imperial stout characteristics. Surprisingly pleasant bitter finish. Not super creamy, but smooth.

Overall: About what I expected, nothing special, but nothing bad. Won't buy again, just really wanted to check it off my list.

Photo of bareju
4.2/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Bottle purchased in Ireland, left out of fridge for 15 minutes and poured into a pint glass.

A: Dark chocolate brown, almost black with a finger light brown head that recedes quickly and leaves a ring.

S: Very strong smell of chocolate and roasted malts, and a bit of alcoholic warmth just hidden under the surface - very nice. One of the best smelling beers I've ever had. The sheer strength of the smell is impressive.

T: Sweet chocolate followed by a bit of warm alcohol accompanied by a slight taste of cherry or fruity phenols. Warm alcohol lingers, slight bite in the mouth from the phenols, and finishes with dark roasted coffee and bitter hops. I really like the taste other than the phenols I'm picking up, the bite is a bit unpleasant. Phenols were replaced by spiciness as the beer warmed. Bitter coffee and hop taste lingers pleasantly long after the beer is gone. Tastes melded together cohesively as the beer continued to warm. Fruity taste ruins the taste for me a bit; reminds me of cherry cough syrup.

M: Full-bodied, creamy, low carb. Very easy drinking for a beer this big. Matches the sweetness of the chocolate and coffee notes excellently.

O: This is a very good beer, but the fruity part of the taste really threw me off. I'll have to pick up another bottle and see if I got unlucky or there's just something that I don't like. Everything but that one flavor is fantastic. Definitely didn't live up to its hype for me as far as taste goes, but still an enjoyable, if a bit disappointing, beer.

Photo of Catracho5
4.57/5  rDev +9.9%
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!

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

S - CHOCOLATE. Sweet.

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"

Photo of clayrock81
4.03/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured a blackish body with almost brown head that is one-finger high and leaves a little ring as it goes down. First thing that hits my nose is coffee, then a bunch of roasted (I won't say toasted or smoked) malts and some bitter chocolate (or dark). The body is heavy, and while I would not list heavy/stoutish beers as some of my faves, I really like this one b/c while heavy it still passes easy (slightly chewey as well). I get mostly a roasted, coffeeish malt experience but the addition, and then due to addition great balance, of some dark chocolate makes this a dry and sweet experience and thanks to the easy passing this beer is by no means a chore to continually sip on. This is a great stout that even not-stout fans should try.

Photo of CHickman
4.5/5  rDev +8.2%

2013 Bottle: Pours pitch black color with a thick creamy 2 finger tan head that was full of bubbles and faded very slowly, leaving very good spotty lacing and a layer on top.

Smells of oats, vanilla, cocoa powder, molasses, burnt grains, coffee, floral hops, licorice and a lot of smoky charred notes, like the malt went on fire and was then added to the mash. Nose has some sweet fruity notes, but it’s all things burnt overall with the burnt coffee or espresso leading the fade with chocolate and caramel accents that is nice to take in.

Flavor comes out with burnt malt leading the way and then turns in a mix of roasted sweetness with the cocoa powder, molasses, vanilla, coffee grinds, caramel, dry leafy floral hops, grapefruit, burnt wood, oats, licorice, smoky charred grains and anything else that seems like it was over a campfire; the chocolate notes come on stronger as it warms, with dark chocolate, vanilla, espresso and a sweetness that resembles the taste of a marshmallow that fell into the campfire coals, which is a really nice surprise. The alcohol is masterfully hidden, and the hops add mild spices and a citrus hop twang that add bitterness and a tiny bit of balance. Any fan of rich, roasted grains will love this brew and it’s complexities, which approaches the line for too bitter and too acrid but does not cross over into the land of negative flavor.

Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, this feels on the slick side even with the viscosity and has about average carbonation for such a bold beer. It’s bitter, it’s smoky, but it’s damn tasty and a really good RIS that went down easier than it should have. I really liked this beer when I bought this 4 pack last December and feel it got better with age. A high recommendation.

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
93 out of 100 based on 4,429 ratings.