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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.

819 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 819
Hads: 4,651
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 9.66%
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: 819 | Hads: 4,651
Photo of bnes09
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ink black and completely opaque. Shallow tan head with descent retention and blotches of lacing.

Aroma of coffee, chocolate, peet and nuts.

Dense biscuity malt backbone. Aggressive roasted coffee, smooth dark chocolate, smoked meats and roasted almonds. Prune sweetness. Assertive herbal, earthy hop character. Very well balanced.

Full bodied with a rich texture. Solid carbonation for the strength.

Great imperial stout.

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Photo of StJamesGate
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Motor oil in both color and consistency, with a cappuccino-colored head.
Blackberry, roast, charcoal, and caramel sauce on the nose.
Sweet licorice, 70% chocolate, ash, black currant, followed by solid branchy hops.
Cherry cola finish and gently bitter linger.
Full, creamy, round, smooth, no burn.

Big, sweet and velvety. More chocolaty than coffee, overall. No harsh roast, heat or big hops. Easy to like.

An RIS for rookies.

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Photo of neenerzig
4.34/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into one of my snifters, this beer pours a an extremely dark brown, almost black color that lets in no light whatsoever. has a dark tan head that is about 1/4 inch thick when first poured that, despite the fact that I gave this beer a very rough pour, settled very quickly to a medium sized ring lining the inside of the glass along with swirls of foam on the surface of the beer. Okay lacing, but not that good. Aromas of caramel malt, hints of chocolate and vanilla, coffee, some hints of dark fruit that are all rounded out with a bourbon smell. pretty sure this edition of this beer was not aged in bourbon barrels, but it sure smells like it. Weird. The flavors match the aromas almost verbatim, caramel malt, chocolate and vanilla sweetness upfront, followed by some roasted coffee bitterness notes, hints of plum and raisin, rounded out with a touch of bourbon. Oh yeah a hint of alcohol too. The flavors mesh very well together as the beer sits and warms up a bit too. Has a slightly crisp, but mainly smooth, creamy, medium bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. This one really coats the palate. Easy to drink in the way an excellently crafted beer should be.


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Photo of homebrew311
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served on tap at the Falling Rock. Appearance is opaque black with generous finger of head and heavy lacing that leaves layers behind. Smell is dry and roasty with dark fruits, chocolate, coffee, and grain. Taste is deep and roasty with light sweetness, heavy cocoa and coffee character at the end. Nice well rounded stout. Mouthfeel is heavy with medium carbonation. Overall, a very solid offering from Sierra Nevada.

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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 far333
3.97/5  rDev -4.1%
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.

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Photo of Darkmagus82
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into a pint glass

Appearance – Pours a deep-deep brown color with a one finger brown head. The head fades in over a bout a two minute time frame to leave a light level of lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma is big and delicious. It is largest of a sweet caramel and chocolate aroma with nice hints of vanilla and some light pine, dark fruits and coffee smell. Also heavy in the nose is a delicious and warming aroma of a bourbon smell giving mixing with the rest to give a sweet, dark, and warming smell.

Taste – The taste begins with a strong roasted malt, dark chocolate, and coffee taste mixed with the lightest hints of caramel and vanilla. The caramel fades fast from the tongue while the light vanilla remains constant throughout the taste. Toward the middle the coffee flavors grow even stronger in nature and are accompanied by a light earthy and pine hop taste. The pine and earthy flavors grow slightly stronger more toward the end with the roasted flavors that are in the brew also growing more roasted in nature. This darkening and hopping of the brew give a moderately bitter bite on the tongue, and when combined with a nicely concealed, but still detectable, alcohol flavor it creates a bitter cocoa and coffee flavor to be left to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is super thick and syrupy with a body that would be similar to taking maple syrup and diluting by half. The carbonation of the brew is on the very low side accentuating the thick feel of the brew. For a 10.2 % abv beer the body is much thicker then I would have expected (more akin to a 15 % brew). It is rather nice and appropriate for the darker characteristics of the brew, but is almost overwhelming due to the light level of sweetness to balance it out. Even so it is quite a feel and is overall rather nice.

Overall – A nice, big and roasty, stout that is on the drier ad thicker side. When in the mode for a great. not too sweet, sipping Imperial stout, then this is a great one to go to.

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Photo of dirtylou
3.53/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz single

A funny thing happened last night while I was consuming Narwhal - I came to the sad realization that I really have no place in my cellar for a RIS not aged in some sort of barrel. Narwhal brings the heavy roast, chocolate, very dry, roasted and charred malts. It's just been done, and it's boring to me now. This would have been a great addition to the lineup in 2005, but it does nothing for me now.

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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 JayQue
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sierra Nevada is the Toyota of beers. Not always the cutting edge innovator, but consistently excellent with every offering. Narwhal pours a dense black color with a big dark tan head (on a hard pour). Good head retention, good lacing. Smell is about average for a big stout...Chocolate and rich malts. Taste is very good. A hint of alcohol while the beer was cold. As it warmed up, no harshness at all. About as smooth as an Oatmeal Stout, despite the big abv. Main flavors are rich malts and some chocolate. Expertly blended and very flavorful.

Mouthfeel is as smooth and rich as you could expect at this abv. Overall an excellent RIS. Well work a try.

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Photo of JackMcAwesome
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a mug.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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Photo of Pencible
3.78/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: This poured a totally opaque black with thick tan head.
S: It smelled like dry dark chocolate and roasted coffee, with some alcohol and subtle citrus zest.
T: It tasted like unsweetened dark chocolate and espresso, with some bitter resin hops. It had a harsh bitter aftertaste with notable alcohol warming.
M: It was thick and chewy with moderate carbonation. Great big body.
D: This had great looks and body, but the scent and taste weren't as impressive. It was hot and unrefined, so it wasn't very easy to drink. Maybe age will help tame this beast, but fresh is kind of rough.

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Photo of BigBarley
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Live review! First ever Narwhal and I'm pretty anxious to give it a try.
A - Very dark, not quite as thick as a lot of RIS I've had lately, but still looks formidable. Head was atoundingly big, coming at about 2.5 fingers, and retaining 1.5 worth for quite awhile. (I pour hard, high, straight into the middle of the goblet so these things happen...) Head is deep khaki with good lacing.

S - Well... the first thing I smell is the Sierra Nevada Pineforest Hop Heavy Aroma (I think that's the official name at this point) with a definite roasty undertone. Smells much more like I'd expect a black IPA to smell like, but the black malt character is definitely there. Smells good, just not as RIS as maybe one would expect.

T - Not bad. Different. Exciting. Definitely not bad. You get hops throughout the whole mouth, I'll say that. But underneath is rich dark chocolate, deep bitter coffee and a very mild vanilla wrapping it all up. Sweet and exciting, while maintaining a unique balance between the aggressive hop profile and the black strong flavors of the stout body.

M - Creamy, velvety, thick. Not much carbonation, but works out in this beers favor. Smooth and delicious.

O - I was not let down, and I was definitely given a unique experience. I will drink this beer again!

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Photo of tewaris
3.75/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Deep brown with a mocha head. Good retention and lacing. Malty and roasty aroma... somewhat campfire like. Taste is more aggressive with a solid kick of bitterness derived from both, hops and roasted malt. Long burnt finish. Medium body, apt carbonation. Will drink again.

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Photo of CwrwAmByth
4.19/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle shared with Ruds in the Cask (Pimlico) 26/2/2013 Served in a half pint tulip. Hats off to him for buying it to split with this poor student!

Pours an opaque dark brown/black colour, velvety in texture. Little carbonation.

Smells strong and malty - chocolate, slight coffee

Tastes strong though mostly quite well hidden. Heavy dark malts - chocolate, liquorice, coffee, slight vanilla. Nicely hopped too, fairly bitter aftertaste. Thick and still.

Overall quite a lovely beer. I'd definitely have this again, wish they'd import it properly.

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Photo of brewskifan55
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter

A: Dark chocolate brown with ruby highlights. Not much head; a few bubbles. Great lacing.

S: Chocolate and licorice

T: Pile driving, hard core chocolate. malty, smooth. Robust as hell. A coffee aftertaste. Fantastic.

M: Heavy with medium carbonation. Thick, chewy.

O: Glad to have caught this big fish. A great imperial stout. Another winner from Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of maleman
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

A - poured a dark coffee color with a thick, dark one-finger head.

S - not as much nose as the color might have represented, but coffee and chocolate were detectable.

T - a tiny bit of phenol up front, but the coffee and dark chocolate take over in the aftertaste.

M - above medium-bodied with a short lingering aftertaste. Very pleasant.

O - I'm beginning to like this genre more and more. This is one of the better offerings I have recently. Will partake again!

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Photo of SamJory
4.88/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a pitch black with a thick, dark tan head.

Aromas of sweet roasted malt and coffee.

Big roasted malt upfront with a hit of dark roasted coffee and dark cocoa. Restrained hop bitterness, letting the roasted malt give most of the bitterness.

Really full mouthfill and a long lasting finish. Incredible richness yet I could keep drinking this all evening (although probably not as it is 10.2%!)

Absolutely outstanding

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Photo of secondtooth
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a pitch black, with tons of tan suds and exquisite lace.

Nose is charred wood, dark bittersweet chocolate, and roasty coffee. I can sense the strength and richness already.

Taste is indeed rich, but oh-so-smooth. More of the roasty, charred chocolate, with some fruit near the finish. The 10.2% ABV is well-hidden here, and this is an exceptionally smooth and satisfying imperial stout. Outstanding.

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Photo of jjboesen
4.51/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Named after the horned cetacean - that's a whale for you Bud drinkers - this is a well made Imperial Stout that combines great taste with a smooth body. It opens in a swift rush of thick beige foam that subsides into a foreboding body of tar colored liquid. There is a pleasant nose of coffee ground that wonderfully supplements the semi-sweet dollop of baker's chocolate and burnt toast. Include a moderately dry smoothness to tingle upon the palate and you've good one velvet elixir.

While it may not be the greatest imperial stout out there, it is still a damn good one and one that must be tried.

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Photo of Seanniek91
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Served from a 12oz Bottle into a Smutty pint.

Appearance- Pitch black with super thin mocha head. Very nice lacing on this one.

Smell- Coffee, chocolate roasted malts, some dark stone fruit, booze.

Taste- Chocolate, tons of coffee, vanilla oakiness, bittering hops, mild booze. Coffee finishes this one.

Mouthfeel- Smooth, thick, nice carbonation. Full mouthfeel, but not too viscous.

Overall- I really enjoy this RIS. Really nice flavor and body.

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

Purchased a solo bottle from Sicialiano's market

A - Deep motor oil black, thick and syrupy, 1 finger thick of khacki head with not much lacing or retention to speak of.

S - Dark Chocolate, roasted coffee, charred wood, and a whisper of smoke.

T - Silky smooth bittersweet chocolate, coffee, vanilla bean, booze, slightly bitter and drying finish, but not overpowering. Overall, velvety soft mouthfeel.

O - One of the smoothest and drinkable Russian Imperial Stout I have had. A definite must try.

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Photo of Ego
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

$20 for a growl fill on this ? mad props to Copper Mine Pub in N Arlington NJ

devilishly black, totally opaque, lacing ? legs? yeah... got that, the head retreats pretty quickly but easily comes back with a quick swirl-o-rama, the head itself is a nice dark cocoa tone, this looks impy...

burnt wood left outside, the spicy note of licorice, bitter chocolate, hints of smoke and molasses,
hints of mint like toothpaste

taste etc...
initially pretty smooth but man this sucker is heavy, like drinking a cannon ball, woah this thing is thick and weighty, this is big boy territory right here... the first blast is sort of the sweet end of things with the malts parading the molasses across the mouth, then the after bomb drops... we're taking a trip to flavortown folks (can I say that without comping Guy Fierri ?).. anyhoo, the aftertaste slapped me so hard (insert one liner here but it probably involves my mom), you get some deep dark euro chocolate that teeters on barelywine-ish flavors but never loses the RIP style, the booze is there but really lends itself to the mix here.

luckily I have my bro and his current girl to help me out with this growldog, cause otherwise I am taking a trip to passoutville. damn, this is one deep dark sucker, maybe not my fave RIS but it is bold, any RIS fan needs to check this out, it might be the spanish fly to your.. well..

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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 JoeyBeerBelly
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle served in a snifter.

L - black with a tan head that thinned to a ring.

S - roasted coffee beans and black licorice.

T - as with the smell, lots of roasted coffee and black licorice in the taste with a gentle warming on the finish.

F - medium/full bodied with a silky smooth feel.

O - a very good example of the style.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 819 ratings.