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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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BA SCORE
92
outstanding

772 Reviews
THE BROS
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no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 772
Hads: 4,467
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 8.96%
Wants: 257
Gots: 1,133 | 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: 772 | Hads: 4,467
Photo of leobageo
4.47/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Glass: Footed Pilsener

Appearance: Black, opaque with a solid tan head, rising to about 1cm, which takes about a 1min to dissipate. Followed by a fair lacing.

Smell: Definitely dark fruits, cocoa nibs, and light barely roasted coffee notes. Hops of the western US type.

Taste: Again the dark fruits, and cocoa nibs. However, the coffee and malts are more roasted on the taste. The bitterness comes from this, rather than the hops, as one would expect from a stout.

Mouthfeel: Similar to a slightly-watered syrup, but still creamy. Not as creamy as Stone's. No diacetyl. Slight carbonation.

Overall: Pretty decent value. Came in a four-pack, meaning you can share. Great for the season of stouts. If you like roasted malty notes, then this is good. I happen to be in that category. (788 characters)

Photo of Pahn
4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle into Captain Lawrence tulip.

Appearance: Long lasting frothy tan head. Several large lacing streaks. Black.

Smell: Cascade hops with an undercurrent of roasted malt. Straightforward, good. P.S. Apologies if the beer doesn't actually have Cascades in it. [edit: checking online shows me that Challenger hops were used, which--upon reading their characteristics--is a testament to Sierra Nevada's skill at using hops. They indeed do smell and taste like a citrusy version of Willamette / Northern Brewer. Great stuff]

Taste: Cocoa and roasted malt up front, underlying fruitiness in back, roasted malt bitterness in the finish (oily hop aftertaste). Flavor takes a long time to play itself out, which along with the almost-velvety mouthfeel makes every sip a delight. Solidly above average.

High ABV very well hidden--drinks so smooth that halfway through the glass you really feel a punch from the 10+% ABV. Great Winter beer, and while it doesn't wrench out as much flavor from all that alcohol as some other, superior beers (say, Hoppin Frog's BORIS), it does its job.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied. Creamy. Not as silken as Fritz and Ken's, but closer to that godly stout-feel than, say, Old Rasputin, which is humdrum in comparison. Moderate carbonation. Nice mild dryness at the end.

Overall: Great value. Well done feel, and a ton of flavor. For me, it comes off as a bit of a journeyman beer: straightforward cascade hops and roasted malt in the nose and most of the flavor, with some really exceptional mouthfeel and subtle estery flavor here and there.

Like Hoptimum and Bigfoot, a seasonal that should make value-minded beer drinkers very happy. (1,669 characters)

Photo of stakem
3.82/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a matching Sierra Nevada snifter. Big thanks go to Kegatron for gifting me with some of this. The brew pours black with a khaki colored head that froths up with more than a finger that is silky and paints the wall of the glass with a full webby pattern of lacing effect. When held to the light, the brew shows some ruby clarity faintly around the edges.

The aroma displays plenty of roast imparting faint notes of coffee, chocolate, earth, char and hints of citrus to fruity hops. The alcohol is present with a bit of fruity ester. When swirled, a bit of cheesiness and sulfur emerges with some mineral components. Overall though, this is a fine smelling brew for more than 10%.

The taste includes the previously mentioned dry roasted graininess that imparts flavors of coffee, and roasty earth. A bit leathery with the most mild touch of dark fruity alcohol notes. Some hop character is present giving this a touch of citrus and complimenting fruity to pine notes. The aftertaste has a bit of baker's chocolate included. As the brew warms up, that 10% alcohol starts to become readily noticeable with an almost neutral solvent burn across the tongue.

This is a medium bodied offering with a modest amount of carbonation. It is relatively smooth and easy drinking for something above 10%. I think Sierra Nevada was well overdue in putting a RIS into their regular lineup. This one fills the void in their catalog quite nicely. I would and will drink this one again when it is made available to me. Thank you for sharing Heath! (1,547 characters)

Photo of DRyan
2.92/5  rDev -29.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

2012 Narwhal poured in a Guiness pint glass

A: Looks like you average Imperial Stout, or regular stout really. Has a nice dark head that receded slowly and left some lacing on the glass, but not really as much as I would expect from a IS
S: There's something about the scent I really don't get along with. It's got the roasty heavy malty smells I expect from an IS, but there's something else there I really can't put my finger on that is really not working for me.
T: It's a bit different, maybe more aggressively hopped than your average stout. According to SN, "Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke," but all I really got was the roasted grain and maybe a bit of a hint of coffee, as well as the hop bitterness
M: A bit thin for a stout really, but not bad
D: This is not a bad beer, but not a great one either. For the price, and with the other two entries in the "High Gravity" series from SN that I really like a lot, I expected a lot more from it. (1,048 characters)

Photo of BeerManDan
4.6/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured a thick black brew, with a little dark tan foam and no lace.

The smell of deep roasted malts and dark roasted sweet coffee, with a hint of alcoholic chocolate, filled the nose with a pleasant alcoholic aroma.

The flavor was of a slightly bitter coffee and roasted malts taste, with a hint of dark chocolate on the finish. This Russian Imperial Stout has a long pleasant aftertaste. Not overly bitter and the high alcohol and flavors have a very pleasant taste.

I'm back for a case next time out to BEVMO. (516 characters)

Photo of CrazyDavros
3.75/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours black as the night with a large, dark tan head.
Nose shows chocolate, heavy roast, soft coffee. Also some light booze and a hint of wood smoke.
Heavy roasted flavours too, some chocolate and a fair bit of booze.
Nice creamy carbonation.
Would be even better if the booze wasn't so full-on. (295 characters)

Photo of djaeon
4.54/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pitch black. Expected coffee & dark chocolate flavors are every evident. Velvety smooth mouthfeel, some stickyness in the finish. A hint of bitter aftertaste, not unlike what you would get from black coffee (with booze in it).

All in all, a great imperial stout. (263 characters)

Photo of hosehead83
4.33/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a "stubby" 12oz. bottle into a wine goblet.
Pitch-black, almost purple hue, with a moderate head of cafe mocha.
Aroma-Dark roast coffee, dark chocolate
Taste-Baker's chocolate, dark roasted coffee. A big, rich, flavorfull stout, full of character and complexity. Good stuff! (286 characters)

Photo of macrosmatic
3.75/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed from notes. Poured from 12 oz. bottle into an Upland pint glass.

A: Very dark brown to black, nearly opaque. A one and a half finger's worth of espresso-colored head forms over a low amount of visible carbonation.

S: Overall a low amount of aroma. Some roasted malt, coffee, and just a bit of citrus hops.

T: Sweet malts, coffee and cacao, some citrus and bitter hoppiness. Sweet with a touch of bitter in the hang.

M: A relatively thick mouthfeel, moderate alcohol, low carbonation sensation.

O: I had a taste of this on tap a few weeks back, and I was really impressed. Out of the bottle, not so much. Not a bad beer still, but there are many better RIS options out there. (688 characters)

Photo of charlzm
3.95/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Consumed January 6th, 2012 from a Ladyface Ale Companie tulip.

Pouring somewhat vigorously, this beer gives up a one finger dark tan head that disappears almost immediately. 99% opaque black with a tiny hint of brown.

Aroma is graham crackers and vanilla.

Flavor is deeply roasted dark malts providing chocolate and woody notes. Some alcohol presence. Moderate bitterness on finish. Not terribly complex.

Mouthfeel is silky smoove and a little thick.

This is a quality RIS. Sierra Nevada seems to have staked out Old Rasputin's territory and made a credible play for it. (575 characters)

Photo of bcsbeer
3.04/5  rDev -26.4%
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. (842 characters)

Photo of cocojoe
4.02/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Rich black roasty color, dark mocha head

S: Very Roasty, subtle floral qualities

T: Thick, creamy, roasty, dark chocolate, semi-dry finish, some bitterness. Some floral bitter hop qualities are perceived. Chewy and delish.

M: Full-bodied, but not unbearably sweet

O: Great Imperial stout, especially for the price range. Not super sweet, roasty bitter character is still fairly prominent. (396 characters)

Photo of BigCheese
4.52/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle. About 2.5 months old. Served a bit below room temp.

A: Pours straight black, a thin but thick light brown head forms and sticks around for a few minutes. No real laving.

S: MMM. Dark Coco, espresso, raisins, maybe some vanilla. Pretty aromatic out of the bottle, enticing.

T: Not as viscous as I would have thought. A mix of dark coco nibs and espesso, some vanilla oak and maybe even coconut. Some caramel maltiness linges on palate. There seems to be some substantial hops trying to fight through, cascade perhaps, something with a very slight hint of pine. Primarily chocolate, with some cherries and honey too. A little bit of heat, but not much.

M: Super thick mouthfeel. Real chewy, very heavy, very creamy. One of the richest bodied beers I've ever had. Low carbonation.

O: A really smooth velvety brew, definitely well executed, I'd love to see how this ages. A great sipper to have on a cold winter night. Probably the best value RIS I've had to date. I will have to buy this again to drink and cellar. Try it if you can, a real winner from SN. (1,075 characters)

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

A: Pours jet black and opaque, with minimal reddish-brown head and minimal lacing.
S: Malty with chocolate and coffee scents.
T: Chocolate and coffee dominate. Not boozy. Slightly bitter finish.
M: Good full body, low carbonation.
O: A solid RIS, but not great. (263 characters)

Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.92/5  rDev +19.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout has a thick, creamy, tan head, lots of thick lacing left on the glass, and a very dark brown appearance. The aroma is of dark-roasted malt, and the taste is of black bread, chocolate, coffee, licorice, toffee, charcoal, bitterness, and black cherries. The mouthfeel is thick and velvety, and Narwhal Imperial Stout finishes semi-dry, heavy, warming, and smooth. Overall, this is an outstanding beer, and I recommend it in the strongest way!

RJT (483 characters)

Photo of starrdogg
3.8/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer pours black with a fluffy brown head. Smell is quite nice, a mostly chocolate and cocoa with hints of roast. Flavor doesn't come together as well as I'd hoped after the nice nose. It's got a lot of flavor with a lot more roast than I had expected. It starts out smooth and chocolatey, but halfway through it punches you with a bitter roastiness that overwhelms the flavor. Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied with nice carbonation. This is a nice stout, but the balance could be better, and the overwhelming roastiness in the finish is a bit much. It leaves a not-so-great flavor lingering on the palate as well. (613 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 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 chickenflea
4.07/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Thick black pour with small tan head, aroma brings notes of nice cocoa powder, coffee, roast, alcohol and maraschino cherry. Taste is very sweet with prune juice overtones. Very soon the coffee and dark chocolate tastes kick in followed by some alcohol burn and some floral bitterness. The taste is very promising but rough. I have two bottles left from the four-pack and these are definitely going to be stored for a couple years. The palate is perfect with medium carbonation and chewy texture. Full body. Overall it is good, but as I mentioned, it should get smoother with some age. I very nice beer in light of the price. Once again, SN gets props for staying true to their micro-brew heritage. (698 characters)

Photo of mdfb79
4.03/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 12/30/12 notes. Big thanks to BigSexy410 for giving me a bottle of this; don't think it has hit NYC yet and I've been wanting to try it. 12 oz. bottle poured into a pint glass.

a - Pours a pitch black color with one finger of dark tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Head lasts for a few minutes...looks fantastic.

s - Smells of roasted malts, bitter chocolate, vanilla, sweet chocolate, and some coffee. Nice nose, like it quite a bit. Nice nose amount of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts.

t - Tastes bitter chocolate, roasted malts, bitter coffee, espresso, vanilla, cream, toasted malts, burnt malts, some lightly sweet chocolate. Taste has more bitter chocolate and is lightly bitter overall.

m - Medium to full body more on the full side, and moderate carbonation. Body is pretty thick. No real heat to it.

o - Overall a really nice RIS; I love that it comes in 12 oz. bottles and would definitely buy a 4 pack of this if I saw it on the shelf. Loads of roasted notes and some bitter chocolate dominating the taste, it's quite nice and something I'd like to have again. (1,095 characters)

Photo of vkv822
3.84/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

12oz : tulip

Black, with a thick, foamy brown head. Minimal lacing.

Cocoa predominantly, some dark fruit and roast in the finish.

Medium body, bubbly, average carbonation.

A well crafted RIS. While it has a very enjoyable flavor profile, I can't help but feel there is nothing particularly memorable overall in the big picture of Imperial Stous. (349 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 rhoadsrage
4.5/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

(Served in a tulip glass)

A- This beer pours an inky jet black body with a dark coco tan head of cream that last as a thick foam and sticks to the glass with each sip. There is a few random bubbles that can be spotted in that abyss.

S- The inky but mellow deep charcoal aroma blends with black roasted malt and some brewer’s licorice note blend in the finish. It is a full aroma even during the pour.

T- The green wood taste gives way to a much larger black roasted malt flavor that is full and creamy. There is a slightly dry finish with a nice balance of black malt bitterness and perhaps some minty woody hops bitterness as part of that. The rich mellow but deep dark malt flavors linger in the dry finish along with the softer bitterness. As the beer opens up there are some dark graham malt flavors and brewer’s licorice flavors that come through aswell.

M- The medium-full mouthfeel has a nice creamy texture and an alcohol warmth that compliments the big beer.

O- This beer has a big complex rich flavor but it is very well blended. The alcohol offers a nice support to the big flavors and texture. It taste great now and I can’t think of a reason it would need any age. Delicious. (1,200 characters)

Photo of Thickfreakness
2.72/5  rDev -34.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A- An onyx black pour with a fluffy and thick deep tan head that floats near three fingers. An absolute ton of sticky lacing grabs the sides of my Bruery tulip and NEVER lets go. Decently oily legs drip and ooze down the rim.

S- Nicely charred malt, bitter German chocolate, grapefruit peel, mango, slight touches of vanilla and pine. More Black IPA than RIS in the traditional sense.

T- WOW! Lots of char and citrus bite down on the tongue. RIS/Cascadian IPA? Reminds me of Storm King or Wookey Jack. Not my favorite type of RIS. Too much citrus, no dark fruit, cocoa, coffee, vanilla or other flavors/aromas that I normally associate in a RIS. The char and citrus just kind of strip your palate.

M- Dry, burnt malt, and too much citrus for what they call a Russian Imperial Stout! RIS' should envelope you in dark fruit, cocoa and coffee IMHO, not this! I'm getting tired of breweries labeling Cascadian/Black IPA's as RIS' just to sell beer!

O- This isn't bad mind you... it's just not what I consider the style to be, and I am a stickler for rating on style. If they said this was a black ipa, it'd be at least a 4! I'd put this up against Wookey Jack, Black Watch IPA, Hop Noir or some other really good Black IPA's. A world class, or even good RIS it isn't. Sorry SN, you usually wow me. Redefine it, and I'll re-review it! (1,335 characters)

Photo of cosmicevan
4.07/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

thanks to devi0us for hooking up this beer which surprisingly has never showed up in NY (i believe there is some sort of lawsuit over the name???). enjoyed from my sierra nevada snifter.

a - pours a velvety black with a great shine and about 1/2 inch of head that touched the tip of the glass. the head slowly fizzled away leaving some nice lacing in the small amount of glass real estate left behind by the 12ozes of brew. really attractive.

s - good subtle roast with great coffee scent. some nice bakers chocolate. just lots of greatness and great balance. really really nice, my mouth begins to water.

t - the roast comes through big with lots of chocolate bitterness and a surprising hop like wallop with the bitter finish.

m - finish is surprisingly bitter, nice carbonation...a bit of a porter like char.

o - overall, went into this with no expectations other than that it is a beer from sierra nevada. not surprised that they were able to tackle a big batch RIS with class, flavor and quality. not the greatest RIS, but certainly one that i would pick up if it manages to show up in NY. (1,099 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 772 ratings.