Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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BA SCORE
92
outstanding

765 Reviews
THE BROS
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no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 765
Hads: 4,453
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 8.96%
Wants: 255
Gots: 1,125 | 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
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Reviews: 765 | Hads: 4,453
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 brewcrew76
3.9/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Black with ruby highlights and little if any tan foam.

S - Burnt malt, alcohol, dark fruit, chocolate milk and light alcohol.

T - Bittersweet chocolate, burnt malt, coffee grounds, some herbal hop bitterness, some hot alcohol, molasses, light vanilla and dark fruits as it warms.

M - Full body, appears lightly carbonated until it hits the mouth and then a touch tingly on the way down. Warming.

D - Strong on the burnt bold flavors but still complex. Nicely done. (472 characters)

Photo of beerandcycling88
4.52/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

From notes
Poured from a cool looking 12oz bottle into a snifter.

A Pours a nice black with a mocha head that has great retention and leaves some nice lacing.

S Lots of coffee and milk chocolate and not too much else.

T By far the best part of this one. Lots of milk and dark chocolate backed up by lots of coffee and some pine like hops in the background.

M A bit thin but still good.

Overall this is an excellent non barrel aged imperial stout by Sierra Nevada that is well worth seeking out. I just wish I had more. (527 characters)

Photo of jondeelee
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Narwhal opens to a thick, black aroma bursting with ash, coffee, tobacco, and black malt, but these supported by an equally thick layer of heavy cream and caramel. Anise and black pepper dance in the background, adding spicy notes, joined by black breads, yeasty wheat dough, and toast crust. A reveille of dark fruit esters – fig, date, prune, black cherry – joins with blackstrap molasses and cocoa to add a layer of deep sugars, and the hops bring grapefruit rind, pine, pink grapefruit, and light hints of dandelion stem to form a bitter, citrusy buzz that nicely complements the sugars. Though the beer is not barrel aged, there’s a charcoal-and-vanilla bourbon-like undertone as well, adding delicious alcoholic liquor aromas to the mix. On the whole, the aroma is fantastic, being rich, fruity, black, hoppy, ashy, and bourbon-y, offering pretty much everything one could wish for in an Imperial Stout; the only way to improve this would be to actually bourbon barrel-age it.

On the tongue, the beer starts off black, and then gets even blacker, with massive waves of ash, coffee grounds, semi-burnt cocoa, black malt, and tobacco rushing across the tastebuds. Though these dark layers never let up, they are met after a time by a good layer of vanilla-soaked heavy cream, and a nice fruity layer of figs, dates, and prunes. Burnt pecans, toast crust, and heavy black breads add further earthiness, deepening the complexity. In subsequent sips the bourbon-like vanilla-and-charcoal notes gain more ground, adding alcoholic goodness to the mix. Hops are less present here than they were in the nose, but do add pine resin and grapefruit rind, creating some bitterness. The aftertaste is a continuation of the ashy notes, with sugars hanging on for all they’re worth, and at least the ash lingers on the tongue for a very long time. Mouthfeel is medium, and carbonation is medium.

Overall, this is a fantastic Imperial Stout, though it should be noted that it’s not for the faint of heart. This is mostly due to the tobacco ash and black malt notes, since at times they were so powerful that I felt like I had a mouthful of cigar smoke – especially in the aftertaste. But for fans of the style, there’s really not much else one could want in this beer, except perhaps some barrel aging. I did find the mouthfeel more watery than I would have expected, but almost everything else in here is excellent. Well worth trying. (2,440 characters)

Photo of neophilus
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Generous light brown head fills the top of the glass then quickly falls on top of a pitch black ale.

Aroma of dark roasted grain on top of a rich malty base, solid raw-grain bread scents with no hint of alcohol. Balanced hop bitterness with the first sip, pronounced american (citrus?) hop flavors quickly washed away by sharp roasted grain taste. Thick and lucious body carries the astringent roasted grain through to a dry finish.

Great balance in the finish, deftly pairing strong roasted grain with a thick and full malty body. Alcohol is well hidden behind this very solid malty RIS. This is a straight shooter that doesn't fool around with quirky flavors and nails the balance of drinkability just right. (712 characters)

Photo of falloutsnow
3.88/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From: Binny's, Champaign, IL
Date: None on bottle, released late fall 2012
Glass: New Belgium globe glass

Pours a 2cm tall head of tan foam, with above average retention for the 10.2% ABV (lasts about 2-5 minutes). Head fades to a thin film atop the beer, leaving moderate lacing, though not extreme. Body is a very dark brown to black, opaque, with carbonation not visible.

Aroma of smooth, sweetish roasted malt, a bit of vanilla, a hint of old coffee, and mild smoke. Altogether, not very inspiring, somewhat boring.

Opens with sweet, roasty malts with a bit of vanilla and marshmallow, smooth in flavor. The mid-palate finds roasted malt, burnt toast, smoke, and ethanol, which renders the flavor slightly sharp. Back of the palate notices continued roasted malt, marshmallow, vanilla, ethanol, slight bitterness from hops, and sharpness from the ethanol. Aftertaste is of roasted malt, burnt marshmallow, and mild lingering bitterness. While for a 10.2% ABV beer, the ethanol isn't as prominent as it could be,

The beer is heavy to medium heavy in body, with carbonation of medium-low intensity, leading to a slightly foamy, creamy, and smooth mouthfeel. Only minor ethanol is felt in the nostrils and back of throat. Closes fairly dry, with modest stickiness across the palate. (1,288 characters)

Photo of Somebody_Else
3.95/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

The darkness!

I think the smell is the weakest part of this beer. It's a good smell, just not this beer's strong suit. Light on the roastiness, medium on the chocolate, strong on the sweetness. A good combination, but for my preference, I like a little more of the roasted smell. Not smoke: roast.

Love this flavor! There be layers here! The very first sip gave me mahogany! I was not expecting that! This was followed by a lot of sweet malt. I got some of that roastiness I missed in the nose. After the swallow I got residuals of delightfully bitter hops, which rather surprised me. The hops and the residual wood flavor really worked for me. The other flavor that creeps in around the edges is Cabernet, which brought in an appreciated fruit note.

This beer was slightly too sweet for me, but not cloyingly so and I can accept that.

I most certainly will drink more of this! (885 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 feloniousmonk
4.39/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Russian Imperial Stout. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, California. At last, after 30 years, an imperial stout from Sierra Nevada. Is it any good? Is there any doubt? Let's find out.

On tap. My second keg of the stuff, finally taking a moment to sit down and take notes on it.

Black as sin, under a lush, creamy brown head, leaving lace. Beautiful.

Aroma: plenty of cocoa, espresso, molasses, anise. Deep stuff.

Taste: Floods the mouth with thick, viscous, lush dark malt. Anise sparks up and leads the pack of the flavors found in the aroma, chocolate second, smoke and char are in their, too, amid espresso and the like. There's a fierce tug of war going on between bitter and sweet in this (plenty of hops below the massive malt.) Layers upon layers, wave after wave, intriguing and delicious. Vast, complex, richly rewarding.

Full-bodied, long, lush malty finish. With dark delight after dark delight. A sure hit for the stout fanatic. If you don't dig this, my friend, there's something wrong with you.

Although one thing I'm not entirely keen on is this: I can't think of the name of this beer without thinking of "Rock Lobster" by the B-52's. (1,183 characters)

Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.99/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black and dark brown pour out the bottle, impressive depth and thickness to it. Solid 1+" head on it, tan in color, great density, retention and lacing to it. This is professional grade appearance.

Aroma was full of roasted and chocolate malt. They definitely didn't skimp. Already wondering how the pricing on this can be so affordable (4/$9.99). Plenty of coffee like aromas, the dark, sludgy variety that sits on the pot all day at Denny's.

The taste is substantial bitterness that falls off the tongue as the large body absorbs and washes it away. As usual, Sierra Nevada doesn't short you on the hops. Very dry in the end. Not going to be mistaken for a milk stout, that's for sure. Alcohol in check.

A beer like this should make you re-evaluate why you spend $10 on a bomber of imperial stout that probably isn't as good as this. (840 characters)

Photo of Bosoxfan20
3.77/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A- 12 oz bottle pours pitch black. Caramel head of 1.5 fingers. Quickly dissipates . Decent lacing, but not up to par with what i usually see from Sierra Nevada.

S- Wow. What a fantastic highlight of this beer. Supreme notes of chocolate and coffee. Powerful.

T- Coffee flavor is the most prevalent with a touch of coco and caramel. I would have loved it if the flavor would have followed the nose much closer. I felt like some of the chocolate notes were lost in the overpowering phenolic flavors of the alcohol. A touch of hops. Warm, dry finish.

M- Full bodied, good carbonation. A little dry, but still fairly smooth. Alcohol quite present.

O- Maybe the best smelling beer i have ever had. I really had high hopes for it based on the aroma. Unfortunately, the beer took a step back in the flavor. Maybe my expectations were that this would be on the same level with other imperial stouts as Old Rasputin from North Coast, but it is a step or two below that in my opinion. I can expect some alcohol presence with an abv of 10%, but it was a little too boozy for my taste. None the less, still a good beer, but just a little underachieving in my mind. (1,159 characters)

Photo of RblWthACoz
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Off my first sip, I can tell that this is a beer that would benefit from some aging. Bright berry tones seem to show quite large with a lot of malty sweetness. Mild roasted thing going on too. Extremely smooth feel. Excellent level of carbonation. Way too easy to drink for a 10.2% beer. Definitely a good brew. I'd get a case and let them rest for 1-2 years, if I was going to invest the coin. (394 characters)

Photo of Stevedore
3.76/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(Note: my personal scoring system goes in whole numbers only)

2012 vintage 12oz bottle with bottling date 279 Julian, drank in snifter today 2/5/13

Aroma- A crisp roasty sweetness remniscent of burnt sugar, with some chocolate and coffee in the nose which I have to work a bit for. Pretty average for an imperial stout. (3)

Colour- Black cola-colour pouring with a 2-3cm brown head that sticks around for a good five minutes. Lacing is persistent but spotty. (4)

Flavour- Bold chocolate and roasted black coffee. A little bit of vanilla as well as hints of smokiness. (4)

Mouthfeel- A nice thick body with ok carbonation. Nothing special. It runs a bit dry with a good amount of heat. Aftertaste is of burnt malt and black coffee but doesn't linger all that long. (4)

Overall- Above-average, good-tasting double stout that comes with fairly complex flavors. But it's running rather hot and I think some age will do it some good. I'll stash a few away for next winter. (4) (977 characters)

Photo of Sark
4.48/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Appearance- pouring this was like watching a dark cream liquor, it looks as though you might be able to put this stuff on pancakes! Beautiful dark beige velvet head and black as night

Smell- immediate chocolate coffee assault on the nose, toasty with hints of toffee

Taste- As if I took a bite of dark roasted chocolate with all of the complex sweetness and toasted caramel. The alcohol warmth keeps things nice on the finish

Mouthfeel- full-bodied and on the verge of chewy

Overall- A damn fine imperial stout. I'd buy one of these for the same price as the 4 pack. (570 characters)

Photo of tvl89
4.85/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is an amazing imperial stout from sierra nevada. It is a very complex brew. This is actually my first imperial stout , and I'm in love with it. The color is amazing: pitch black, very dark. The smell is awesome, chocolate and coffee are the most predominant ingredients I can smell. The taste is amazing with a delicious chocolate after taste. It is not as strong as I was expecting. I highly recommend it! (411 characters)

Photo of ONUMello
4.27/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 edition poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass
A: Pitch black color with a one-finger mocha colored head
S: Rich with coffee, cocoa, roasted malt and hops rounding it out
T: Also very rich with flavors that perfectly match the nose
M: Wow. Full-bodied, incredibly smooth but with a bit of a bite from the hops
O: This is a very well-made RIS that's incredibly enjoyable to drink (388 characters)

Photo of evanforbeer
4.42/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured black with tan head

On the nose cocoa, anise, dark fruit (cherry) and a touch caramel

Mouthfeel is rich and robust with some hop bite. Boozieness is there but not as potent as many 10% beers.

Taste follows with lots of cocoa, anise, vanilla, touch of coffee, cherry, caramel, hop citrus finishes with dry roasted barley and bittersweet dark chocolate.

A great brew from SN, top notch imperial stout. Huge but very drinkable, lots of complexity. (455 characters)

Photo of Phelps
4.15/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tap into a goblet at Whole Foods Chandler. Was told this was based on the 30th anniversary stout I love so much.

Syrupy dark brown edging on black. About a finger of silky khaki head.

Beautiful nose. In this order: burnt toast, dark chocolate, oats, licorice.

Very smooth blend of roasted coffee bean, bitter dark chocolate, oats, licorice and smoke in the flavor. Alcohol emerges as it warms and is hard to avoid.

Syrupy. Thick, creamy medium body. Light, tickly carbonation. More than a little alcohol warmth.

Super duper. Very drinkable for its size and strength. (572 characters)

Photo of philbe311
3.91/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A - One finger's worth of slightly active crisp two toned (part khaki / part medium brown) swirled head... Modest at best retention yields a splotchy veil of lacing in the center of the glass surrounded by a moderate to thick collar... The color isn't quite black, but rather a deep dark sweet caramel that lets the slightest bit of light leak in around the edges... A few small streaks of carbonation can be seen towards the top of the glass... A good bit of lacing clings to the sides of the glass...

S - Sweet to start... Caramel... Milk chocolate... Toffee... Brown sugar... Dark molasses... A slight hint of dark fruits... A bit of nuttiness as well...

T - A bit of the sweetness fades on the palate and is replaced by a brisk roasted malt component.... The sweet and roasty place nice together throughout... Good balance... Nice complexity with each sip... A slight bit of coffee emerges on the finish...

M - Full bodied, but not harsh... Smooth and sleek... Very limited carbonation... Goes down very easily sip after sip...

D - This is a very nice yet unremarkable Russian Imperial Stout... Tasty but a bit understated for the power and umph I typically expect for the style which isn't necessarily a bad thing... Goes down easily and is surprisingly drinkable given the 10+% ABV... I would gladly drink again... (1,328 characters)

Photo of vandemonian
4/5  rDev -3.1%
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 (359 characters)

Photo of jjchristiano
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Maybe the darkest beer I've ever poured. Held it up to a bulb in my desk lamp and the light did not shine through the beer.
S: chocolate, malt.
T: chocolate, malt, sweetness, low in IBU as I don't get any bitter hop. Little dark roasted coffee on the back side.
M: Smooth, lingering, soft carbonation.
O: A nice Imperial Stout in the Sierra Nevada lineup. I would buy again if I see it. (389 characters)

Photo of adam42381
4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a Cigar City snifter. Bottled on October 6, 2012 per Julian dating code printed on bottle.

Appearance: Pours a motor oil black with a 1 finger creamy medium brown head which dissipates to a chocolate milk-like bubbly foam. Solid lacing for such a big beer.

Smell: Sweet milk chocolate, dark roasted malt, a touch of molasses, a hint of hops and a bit of alcohol coming through in the background.

Taste: Very dark roasted malt up front with a bit of bittersweet chocolate in the middle before ending with a nice amount of hoppy bitterness and more dark roasted malt. The alcohol definitely makes an appearance, but is not terribly overpowering. Aftertaste is bitter, roasted and long-lasting.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and a good amount of carbonation.

Drinkability: Good drinkability. This one would be great on a cold winter's night. For me, it's still pretty damn good on a 75 degree late January afternoon in southwest Florida.

Overall: Very good beer overall. While I don't think it compares to some of the more heralded Imperial Stouts out there, I don't think Sierra Nevada set out to blow you away with complex additions. This is a straightforward take on the Russian Imperial Stout style. I would definitely recommend this one and look forward to trying it next year (assuming they bring it back). (1,343 characters)

Photo of mfavoino
4.2/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12 oz bottle on 19 Jan 13 at The Beer Stein in Eugene, OR.

A: Nearly pitch black with a finger or so of espresso head that settled to the rim of the glass. Very nice looking.

S: Strong burnt roasted malts, bitter chocolate, and a subtle coffee aroma.

T: Chocolate and a touch of alcohol heat hit my palate right away, then the dark roasted flavor came through. Some coffee bitterness, more chocolate, and dark fruits as it finishes. Left a strong roasted character lingering.

M: Full-bodied and thick, lower carbonation, and a touch hot with the booze.

O: Very good offering from SN in the RIS category. (627 characters)

Photo of templar316
4.29/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I knew this would improve with time !! So much better now then when it first came out in nov(?). Pours thick and dark, no light, soft edgy lacing. Smell is slight in my Duval Tulip but the flavor burst's. There's vanilla here, sweet dark malt, and everything I want in a beer. Roasty coffee bitterness, cascade (and maybe willamette) hops. The rest of these will sit in basement till next winter. Perfect for 15 degrees. (420 characters)

Photo of ash111
4.31/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Had this from a bottle into a tulip glass. Good beer, great example of the style. It pours black, no light coming through. There is no head (but a more vigorous pour might produce one). Taste is lovely, everything you would want from an RIS. There is a noticeable, but not overwhelming, smell of alcohol that comes at the end of each sip. I personally don't mind this, but the alcohol is more aggressive than some other beers of the same style. I'm interested in how it ages (if any of mine can survive that long. (513 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 765 ratings.