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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
92
outstanding

776 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 776
Hads: 4,474
rAvg: 4.13
pDev: 9.2%
Wants: 259
Gots: 1,134 | 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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 776 | Hads: 4,474
Photo of Tilley4
4.58/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Great beer that I can't believe I haven't reviewed...

This beer hits all the marks for a great brew... relatively easy to find, amazing aroma and taste, and consistent every time...

One of my go to stouts, this beer is loaded with chocolate and roasted malts and has a nice kick of hops on the finish... I think the scores would be higher on this brew if it were released one day a year or had the hype surrounding it like others...

Terrific example of the style... (468 characters)

Photo of BarryMFBurton
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Now here is a beer I have been anxiously awaiting since I heard it existed – finally, Sierra Nevada’s imperial stout has been released. Let’s taste the liquid hype…

Brewed a little over a month before the date of this tasting (October 5, 2012 by the code on the bottle).

A: Phenomenally thick, pouring like viscous black motor oil from the bottle. Dark brown bubbles form a ring around the top of the body, settling there for the duration as the only inkling of head. Ropy lacing strings all the way around.

S: Chocolate-covered pretzel and toffee encase this moderately-pungent nose in sweets, augmented by a spattering of burnt sugar, cappuccino, and marshmallow tones. It brightens up with a tinge of raspberry, hazelnut, and cherry cordial, as well as that classic, piney, Sierra Nevada hoppiness. But with all that, it still has a yeasty note overall, bready and earthen in every whiff – not a sugar bomb like Choklat or Dark Lord. In this nose, balance is always present.

T: One taste and it’s instant Sierra Nevada, immediately spreading those taut, piney bitters to the corners of the palate. It’s one of the brewery traits that got me into craft, so I know it and love it, but this time it definitely fits – the wave of blackened malt fits perfectly into the resinous hops. Char, oak chips, toasted bread, and peanut brittle make up the thick middle of the palate, but not without a smooth cocoa and nougat character throughout. On the ends, it’s woody and round, filling out with whiskey and molasses flavors. Finishes hot and bitter, cementing it as the most powerful Sierra Nevada beer I’ve had.

M: Goes down smooth and fiery, prickling up with resin astringency. Each sip doesn’t exactly pull the lips back with intensity, but certainly you notice its power.

O: A cheap, kick-ass RIS. This is a step from the norm for Sierra Nevada – it’s definitely the thickest and most slow-drinking beer from these guys – but it works at every turn. If this were more than limited release, I’d buy it all the time; over Old Rasputin, Storm King, and even Plead the Fifth. Put this in a barrel and this would stand up to the best of them. (2,173 characters)

Photo of Jimmys
3.83/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2012 bottle into SAVOR tulip.

A: pretty dark body, just a shade under black. head is coffee hued and forthy. residual head is average as is the lacing.

S: chocolate, tobacco, and coffee. the sugary sweetness has a roundness to it.

T: some black licorice is in there. a little bit of vanilla. finish is a blend of coco and coffee. lingering sweetness is pretty close to a dry chocolate.

M: the carbonation is a bit lively. more-so than i expected. full bodied.

D: a good stout for sure, unfortunately for myself i expected a little more. maybe an additional dimension of flavor that i couldnt find. however i do appreciate the lack of alcohol heat on such a recent, high abv stout. good, definitely worth grabbing for a solid stout experience. (751 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 JayS2629
4.55/5  rDev +10.2%
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. (419 characters)

Photo of mikeg67
4.4/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle. Pours black with a thin, short-lived, creamy, light brown head and nice lacing. Aroma is of bready, toasted malt, espresso, dark fruit and citrusy hops. Body is full and creamy. Taste is burnt toast, brown sugar, cappuccino, chocolate dark fruit and a lot of citrusy hops. Finish is long and very bitter. This brew should improve with age. (353 characters)

Photo of AdamBear
4.04/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A-comes out thick and black with a nice tan head

S-faint scent of dark roasted grains and cocoa beans. I wish it were a bit stronger.

T-comes in with a wonderful taste of crisp dark roasted grains. It really is so smooth and hits the spot. There's a slight bit of bitterness before the long matching after-taste. It's a great beer. Good hints of mocha.

M-medium dry carbonation with a semi dry finish

O-the flavors aren't unique. They're not strong, but they are flawless. It's really just an easy drinking strong stout that remains true to it routes. The ingredients taste very real and genuine.i love this. It's one I could get by the case. (648 characters)

Photo of beer2day
4.45/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark, inky black pour with no light coming through at all. 1 finger of darker mocha head, with light retention. Thick lace sheets all around the glass.

Lots of roast malt, sweet milk, bits of toffee and caramel, mocha, vanilla, medium roast coffee, and a touch of citrus hops. Complex and well done.

A bit more coffee forward as it hits the tongue, but not aggressive. Chocolate malt takes over, but again doesn't over assert. Citrus fights through the coffee and chocolate bitters in the finish to make its presence known. Some sweetness here, but chocolate, coffee, and citrus dominate that.

Feel is a bit thin. Wish it had more malt backbone.

Next to Celebration, my favorite SN offering. (697 characters)

Photo of bnes09
4.16/5  rDev +0.7%
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. (425 characters)

Photo of larryi86
4.38/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a tulip

A- Black with a three finger mocha head.

S- Roasted coffee, dark chocolate, some earthy hops.

T- Dark chocolate, roasted coffee, some caramel malts, earthy hops in the finish, some dark fruits, some milk chocolate.

M- Smooth, full body, a good amount of carbonation.

O- A great imperial stout. I enjoyed the 30th anniversary stout more, but I am very happy see Sierra Nevada brewing an imperial stout. (439 characters)

Photo of richj1970
4.19/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 32 oz growler into snifter,

A: Pours dark black with one to two finger mocha colored head that settles quickly and little to no lacing.

S: Milk chocolate, baked bread, and light coffee notes.

T: Semi-sweet chocolate morsels, and roasted coffee beans.

M: Full bodied and creamy texture. Very easy drinking.

O: This is a wonderful stout. Nice creamy mouthfeel, and chocolate notes. I could crush this all day, and looking forward to trying the barrel aged version. (487 characters)

Photo of utopiajane
3.76/5  rDev -9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours completely black with a frothy mocha colored head that left rings and patches of sticky lace. Nose is bold espresso coffee, unsweetened chocolate , a hint of prune, licorice and a bit of alcohol. The alcohol smells solvent and detracts from the nose. There is blackened malt character on the nose with a hint of smoke. The drink is syrupy. First thing you notice is that the body of the beer is thin and has a slick mouthfeel. The alcohol is prominent on the palate. The malt is black and roasted to perfection. Dry, bitter and not burnt. The coffee and the chocolate are smooth but neither of those is sweet. I kept waiting for caramel or molasses and it did sweeten on the nose as it warmed so that made the alcohol seem less bitter. I also lost the fruits I observed on the nose and this one could have used some raisin or some dried dark fruits. That kept the taste very bitter also. Finished dry and with some alcohol dryness too.

Thanks jzeilinger for the chance to try this beer. =) (996 characters)

Photo of BB1313
3.61/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a snifter. Pours black with some brown hues, mocha head which fades quickly and leaves decent lacing and retention. There's lots of char and smoke up front. Lots of chocolate malts as well. There's also a touch of roasted coffee beans and vanilla beans. The flavors are aggressively bitter. The hop presence isn't shy. Very roasty. The coffee really comes through in the flavors. Blast of anise. No sweetness. There's subtle heat going on with this one, slightly boozy. Mouthfeel has active carbonation, slightly syrupy, but on the lighter side of full-bodied. The alcohol is noticeable. Rough around the edges, but it works with the cold weather.

I've enjoyed my time with Narwhal. I have one more I'm going to age. I think time will do this stout very well. (784 characters)

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

Poured into a pint. Enjoyed with polenta and bean salad
A: 1/3 finger of dark brown head with good retention. Nearly opaque dark brown/black liquid. A tad more head please - it faded to nothing.
S: Milk chocolate, toasted fennel seed, black pepper. Only a very slight amount of booze when warmer, thankfully. Not harsh.
T: Some breathy esters open, coffee and chocolate dominate. Very dark chocolate. Quite hoppy middle. Bright citrus and pine. Hops stand up well to the malt. I'd prefer the estery breath to not be there.
M: Smooth open, bitter hoppy middle, roasty bitter dry finish. Robust and not hot. Some chest warmth, but not on the palate.
O: Enjoyable, solid RIS. I wouldn't expect less from Sierra Nevada. I would buy again. 1 is enough for a night. I'm interested to try it aged to see if the slight booze calms down. (828 characters)

Photo of eric5bellies
3.21/5  rDev -22.3%
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 (511 characters)

Photo of ocelot2500
4.3/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a jet black color with a tight, light brown head that leaves little bits of lacing.

Smells of deep roasted notes with some dark fruits.

Tastes of the full roasted notes with a touch of bitterness on the backend. Leads off with coffee and semi-sweet chocolate. A bit of roasted bitterness comes through in the middle. Licorice also comes through near the end and is complemented by some dark fruit notes. Finishes with a slight molasses note.

Mouthfeel is full with a creamy amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is a very good stout that is definitely worth checking out. (580 characters)

Photo of artoolemomo
4.06/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- Pours up a reasonable amount of head which looks as if it will have excellent retention. The head is a dark beige/mocha color while the body is an opaque, dark chocolate black. A bit of sheeting forms above the surface of the beer.

Nose- A bit subdued and the only thing that has real presence is the slight bubblegum that I smelled while pouring. There is some caramel, some roasted notes, and hint of cocoa but I'm a little concerned about the dominant bubblegum. The bottle shows the same thing. This, however, begins to dissolve and is taken over by cocoa. Swirling shows the bubblegum as banana.

Taste- Definite cocoa on the front with a hint of raisins lying around the edges as this moves into more and more cocoa with noticeable heat appearing on my tongue and in my cheeks. Dark chocolate and coffee notes rise with a some burnt caramel and toast bringing up the rear of the finish. Slight cardboard but it's hardly noticeable. Some hint of cherry as well with notes of oak and vanilla. A little bit messy and a little bit boozy. Very complex malt bill that echoes oatmeal as well. Probably would benefit from a little bit of age as it is a little too sweet and a little hot. Some nuttiness. I like almost every aspect of the flavor profile but the integration seems to be lacking. A little bit of banana as the finish and linger fade? Still, a pretty solid beer. Reminds me a little of Founder's Imperial Stout.

Mouthfeel- Between medium and heavy bodied with a good amount of carbonation that gives it a chewy, chalky, gritty feel. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Drinkability- After the heat subsides a bit, this becomes a pretty easy drinking beer. Great price for a four pack of such a boozy and heavy style. Less than 10 bucks for a 4 pack is a bargain. It's not in the same league as the best imperials I've had but at the price, it's hard to say no to.

Overall- Very good, solid beer. Definitely should give it a try. It looks as if will be my highest rating for a Sierra Nevada beer, knocking off SNPA. I will definitely be buying this again. And also aging a bottle. (2,104 characters)

Photo of drdiesel9483
4.09/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Look - very dark brown color. Great brownish head that last for a good amount of time.
Smell - I can smell the alcohol, chocolate, and lots of coffee.
Taste - coffee taste with some alcohol. Sweet chocolate taste as well.
Feel - smooth, with great medium carbonation.
Overall - I let this beer sit for about 6-9 months and it was fantastic. (340 characters)

Photo of FeDUBBELFIST
3.79/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

$4.50 for the 12oz bottle, served in a tulip
Bottle code 2279213:35
Sampled 03MAR13

[A] A swift pour produces a slim head of medium-dark brown color, foamy and quick to diminish. A small ring of foam around the glass is all that is left 30 seconds after the pour. The body is completely black with no transparency at any point. Short, drooping strands of lace stick to 1/3rd of the glass. No lacing.

[S] The least impressive part of the beer. Semi-sweet chocolate, fudge and cocoa powder. Neutral yeast, maybe a few berry-like esters and evident alcohol. Nothing special.

[T] General chocolate and roast - neither are overpowering. Midpalate the bitterness comes forward in the form of fresh pine and rich soil. Deep chocolate notes return after the smooth bitterness fades. Long lasting flavor.

[M] Medium body with a silky smooth texture at first, but a semi coarse, long lasting effervescence later. The latter part is not exactly complimentary to the style in my opinion.

[O] For whatever reason, Narwhal performs a little better out of the bottle than it did on draft two months ago. It was really underwhelming at that point. Today, while a bit better, it still isn't as good as some regularly available high gravity stouts, like Yeti, for example. (1,259 characters)

Photo of LambicPentameter
4.28/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Reviewing from notes as I continue to catch up on past experiences. I drank this one on 2/22/14. Enjoyed out of a stubby 12 oz brown bottle with the vintage--2013--marked clearly on the neck label. Poured into a large snifter.

Appearance - Pours and inky black hole of color on the body, with no light able to penetrate whatsoever. A head of maybe a finger--probably a little less--of dark ecru colored foam that recedes quickly, leaving a generous film across the surface with slightly more thickness around the edges of the glass. Sparse, almost nonexistent lacing dots the glass intermittently as I drink it down.

Smell - Bittersweet baker's chocolate and roasted char from the malt profile are at the forefront, with a rich sweetness. There is also a slightly different element, with notes of anise, licorice and even black plum providing some complementary characteristics to the chocolate and roast elements.

Taste - The balance of the profiles in the smell have been reversed on the taste, with the fruit--plum, black currant, and prunes--and licorice elements being more overt and lingering on the palate long after I've swallowed. Some heat from the alcohol is faintly present, and the semisweet chocolate and roasted malt is there as well, but seems to provide more of a foundation than come through as the primary flavors.

Mouthfeel - Very full bodied and moderate-to-low carbonation, with a finish that lingers on the palate long after the beer is gone.

Overall, this is a very good imperial stout, and while I'm usually remiss to compare specific beers directly, I can't help myself. The body, look and feel remind me so much of my favorite RIS, Founders' version, that I think it's fair to note that they are cousins from the same family of oppressive (in a good way?) full-bodied stouts, but take different paths when it comes to aroma and taste. Where Founders is a bit drier, with a focus on cocoa, roast and coffee notes, this one leans more towards fruit and anise. My personal preference is towards the former, but this is surely top of the list when it comes to stouts that incorporate those dark fruits. (2,130 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 ksimons
4.25/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A-black with no highlights visible with a fingers worth of tan head

S-Roasted malt, molasses, coffee, mild dark fruit, and some bitter hops

T-taste matches the aroma but is a little heavier on the hops. Still lots of roasted malts, coffee, light burnt flavor, and alcohol warming

M-full body, light to medium carbonation, a dry burnt flavor is left on the tongue

Overall I really like this beer, great combination of flavors, and even though the alcohol is noticeable it is not overbearing (493 characters)

Photo of chugalug06
4.27/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Kick ass three-finger foamy tan head. Brew is medium viscosity and burnt black color. Decent lacing, not great, but still nice.

Light, creamy, milk chocolate, coca, stiff.

Wet flavors for a RIS. Earthy mild dryness. Well put together and exposed. Great creamy milk chocolate flavors. Light and highly drinkable. Carbonation is medium and way smooth. Sweetness is tamed and even; well balanced. Bitterness is also balanced and well done.

Another fantastic brew from SN. Complex and very well put together. Highly recommended. (528 characters)

Photo of LampertLand
4.08/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Sierra Nevada 'Narwhal' @ 10.2% , served from a 4pack of 341 ml bottles purchased for $14.50

A-pour is black from bottle to glass with some ruby red peeking thru the glass edge as a small tan head quicly dissapates leaving a streaky lace along the pint

S-smell is boozey , roasted coffee

T-crisp & clean 'RIS' , some smokeyness on the swallow

MF-low/mild carbonation , full bodied

Ov-ok/good beer , ok 'RIS' , the smokeyness dominates this brew

prost LampertLand (468 characters)

Photo of scotorum
3.94/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 on the label, if I'm reading the code correctly it was bottled November 4th 2012.

Poured from the 12 oz. bottle into a Samuel Adams nonick.

a: Pitch black, finger thick tan head receded quickly to even surface foam and some clingy lacing.

s: Overripe fruit, alcohol.

t: Heavy dark malt with quite a bit of hop bite, smoky finish. Significant alcohol throat burn.

m: Medium to heavy. Quite smooth with plenty enough carbonation tingle on the tongue.

o: A flavorful imperial stout with a lot of not entirely pleasant punch. Perhaps the year of aging did not serve it as well as could be hoped. Tough to do more than sip, although few imperial stouts aren't.

UPDATE 2/4/14: Had another from the same fourpack and it was very smooth with more dark chocolate and less smoky taste, Some chocolate also in the aroma. The more I do these comparisons bottle to bottle of the same aged beer, the more I am convinced that it is difficult to predict how some will react to aging, and in fact they may react differently from one bottle to another. Doesn't seem to make much sense, and perhaps it's my own senses that are varying, but I find quite a difference sometimes among bottles in the same pack. (Lagunitas Brown Shugga and Brooklyn's now discontinued Monster come most immediately to mind). In any case I'm raising my ratings based on this second bottle. a: from 4-4.25; s from 3.5-4; mouthfeel from 4-4.25. And overall from 3.75-4. (1,438 characters)

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 776 ratings.