Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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BA SCORE
93
outstanding

4,430 Ratings
THE BROS
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no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 4,430
Reviews: 817
rAvg: 4.16
pDev: 9.62%
Wants: 254
Gots: 1,119 | FT: 44
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.20% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 4,430 | Reviews: 817
Photo of deebo
4.5/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 version that has been sitting in my fridge since November. Poured into a snifter this brew comes out of the bottle looking like motor oil topped with a dark tan thick head 1 finger wide with good lacing. Aromas of chocolate and roasted malt. Fairly simple but delicious. Taste is also chocolately with some nice roasted slightly bitter malt. A rather thick yet smooth mouthfeel. Really clean for a 10%+ beer. This is a fantastic RIS. Favorite beer from Sierra Nevada

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

Review is from written notes. Dark aggressively black-brown pour with mocha foam. Smells loaded with semi-sweet chocolate, crispy toast, lightly burnt coffee. Very nice. Taste follows with thick dense toast and biscuit, char, heavily roasted coffee, baker's chocolate, dark dried cherries. Medium heavy body, creamy mouthfeel. Enjoyable and a nice RIS from Sierra Nevada.

Photo of AmitC
4.25/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

So now i am reviewing Narwhal, another SN product and an excellent one as usual.

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter. While pouring it is thick, dark brown. In the glass, it is dark as hell. Pure black. Head is dark tan colored not usual shining stuff in some of the other RISs that i have had. One finger thick. Not enough standing Disappears into a thing blanket and then a ring. Not enough lacing.

Aroma: Not much happening here. Dark roasted malts, somewhat burnt up. Sweet heavily malt forward nose. Very mild aroma for a RIS. Some hops that are very faint. 10.2 is very well hidden, no presence whatsoever.

Taste: Magic lies here. Charring malts enter but do not send an overtly burnt up taste. Use of coffee is apparent. Some dark chocolate. A very good amount of after taste bitterness, that is a mix of some bitter hops and roasted malts. Alcohol is hidden to a very good extent. Only when you have consumed enough does the effects start to show. This one is very delicious RIS. Strong yet with good drinkability. Finish is bitter dry. No sweetness in the taste at all.

Mouth feel: Thick bodied yet surprisingly smooth and creamy. Low to moderate on carbonation. Somewhat astringent in its taste of charred malts, smokiness and hopping.

Very enjoyable RIS. Keeps you wanting for more. Strong and powerful. To be enjoyed slowly. Let it warm a bit and let it sit. Let it linger in your mouth for as long as it can.

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

Poured into a tulip. Pitch black with a finger's width brown head and lacing down the glass.

Roasted malts, coffee, alcohol and grassy hop aromas.

A nice sweet roasted malt and cherry fruit flavor up front. The dark fruit is then overtaken by an alcohol and grassy hop flavor which continues into the finish with a lingering smoky roasted bitterness.

Full bodied and a little oily. Good carbonation to add a peppery feel.

A nice strong RIS. Quality stuff here and not for the light beer crowd. Packed with flavor and a strong alcohol presence, yet it remains smooth and drinkable.

Photo of RoamingGnome
4.26/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tasting Notes from 11/2/12. Poured from 12oz bottle into CBS snifter. This was served at cellar temperature.

A) Pitch black as expected. Nice thick 2 finger mocha head, which settled to a dusting relatively quickly. Decent lacing+ some legs.

S) I found the aroma pleasant, but not as pronounced as I expected. Dark roast, light coffee, malt sweetness that came off like brown sugar+ vanilla, kind of like a cookie dough. There was a whiff of booze.

T) Wonderful... Heavy roast+ some coffee flavor. Plenty of chocolate, and pleasing sweetness. Then some nice earthy hops for a little bitterness. The alcohol gives a little warmth, but is well hidden.

M) Rich, quite supple... This has a full body, with light carbonation. Feels rather thick, but goes down nice and smooth. Good aftertaste...

O) Excellent RIS right here. I enjoy a little extra hops in the flavor, and kind of expected that from SN. I love their regular stout. This one is a fantastic sipper for the cold months ahead. Glad to recommend this beer...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: very deep brown - virtually black; 1 finger relatively dark head that receded to a thin collar; OK lacing;

S: deeply roasted grain and bittersweet chocolate; a little boozy; a little smoky;

T: deeply roasted grain; a little nutty; a little smoky; finish has a little alcohol bite; a touch of bittersweet chocolate in the aftertaste;

M: full bodied - sticky; light to moderate carbonation; medium dry finish;

O: intense; a good way to an a session;

Photo of Gosox8787
3.83/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12 oz. stubby bottle from a four pack. Poured into a Dogfish Head tulip and served chilled.

Appearance: Dark brown to black in color. Pours a really nice, one finger medium brown head with decent retention. Recedes into a nice thin lacing.

Aroma: Roasted malt and a light smoke note. Nice bit of coffee beans and light milk chocolate. A tad more smoky than sweet.

Taste: The ABV is extremely well hidden in this beer. Light coffee bitterness with a nice smoke touch that weaves in and out. Some very light milk chocolate sweetness as well. Some leather and earthy notes as well. Really well balanced.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied and smooth throughout. Carbonation is on the low end.

Overall, a really balanced and tasty off the shelf imperial stout. It does feel a little boring and one note at times. The smoke and roasted malt characters create a nice background and the booze is very well hidden. I could use a bit more sweetness to offset the smoke and earth tones. A good buy but not up there with my favorite stouts.

Photo of martyl1000
4.25/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Black. Oily. Chewy brown head but the lacing slides off the glass too readily, via some obvious alcohol solvency.

Boozy aroma, w/ coffee, barely detectable chocolate. Nice, but fairly one-dimensional.

Booze first on the tongue. Then tart stone fruit, cherry, prune, or is it fig. Cocoa's next, along with burnt toast. Then more booze, which is an issue.

Thick, oily, despite the significant carbonation.

Very much like Old Rasputin, which isn't my favorite RIS. I like them sweeter than this. The simplistic aroma is the weak spot, here. But at this price point, I'll drink this regularly. Wish there were more chocolate and/or vanilla involved.

Photo of logicalparadox
4/5  rDev -3.8%

Good imperial stout. Smooth. Alcohol is exceptionally well-hidden. Chocolaty, roasty, and rich.

Photo of MikeWard
3.68/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. 2013 batch.

Poured a thick oily black. No light comes through the body. Head was about a finger, tan colored. The head dissipated quckly to a full covering, before completely disappearing about halfway through the drink. No lacing to speak of.

Wasn't getting too much from the nose, pretty subtle, some alcohol, coffee, a little toasted malt.

Taste was also very subtle, with the above flavors coming through, but no strength to any of them. None of them lingered on the tongue very long.

Mouth was around medium, a little dry at the end.

I've only had this beer once before, last fall. Remember enjoying it a lot more then than now. This seemed a bit uninspired. Nothing offensive about it, just a bit bland really. A bit disappointing. Does go down easy for a 10.2abv.

Photo of Murrhey
3.99/5  rDev -4.1%
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.

Photo of riversider76
4.45/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poura a dark brown with a nice tan head. Excellent retention, and laceing. Aroma is of dark chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts. Body is thick and creamy, with a bit of carbonation. Taste is of dark semi sweet chocolate, and roasted coffee. This is an excellent version of this style. A must try.

Photo of yamar68
4.1/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Classic imperial stout appearance... near pitch black, an edge of copper clarity, a finger of khaki head that recedes to a dense collar.

Fresh coffee notes, burnt chocolate... quite impressive actually.

I was a bit skeptical of this beer but Sierra Nevada nailed it - it's a textbook example of the style. Smooth chocolate and a hint of coffee, slight vanilla notes, entirely delicious.

Very, very good.

Photo of CloudStrife
4.05/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter. Bottled November 2nd 2012.

A: Pours a real dark black with a 1 very dense finger khaki head. Dissipates over a minute or two leaving a thin film. No real lacing. Light barely gets through the edges.

S: Real nice dark chocolaty malt along with a sweet dark fruitiness. Can get some booze.

T: Real nice blend of chocolate malts, vanilla and a great roastiness. Little bit of bite from the alcohol but works. Raisin and fig from the malts also a coffeeish taste.

M: Smooth and velvety with a nice full body. Appropriate carbonation for the style. Could enjoy sipping on these all night.

Overall great bold stout from Sierra Nevada. Glad they are offering another stout as I've always enjoyed their other one. Hopefully I can manage to save one of these for a year.

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

Another release in the High Altitude Series that houses big names like Hoptimum and Bigfoot!!

Pours out pitch black with a thick, mocha/tan head that lingers for a long time given the ABV.

The aroma has huge notes of semi-sweet chocolate, coffee and dark roasted malt.

The taste is also primarily chocolate and coffee, but there are the dark roasted notes and a surprising amount of hops that makes the beer somewhat bitter and dry. This is very balanced between the sweetness from the coffee and chocolate and the bitterness of the hops and coffee. The ABV is well masked with only a slight warming effect.

The mouthfeel is big, rich, creamy, silky and smooth.

A very nice effort from Sierra Nevada! Not the greatest Imperial Stout and I would have liked a little more complexity, but an extremely solid example of the style.

Photo of M_C_Hampton
4.33/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass, almost black with a nice dark tan head that lingers leaving good lacing, clear

S: coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, dark roasted grain

T: coffee, bitter coco, espresso, tobacco, dark roasted malty grains

M: heavy, oily, low carbonation, alcohol noticeable

O: great imperial stout, rich flavors

Photo of vandemonian
4/5  rDev -3.8%
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

Photo of cvm4
4.17/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle

A - Appearance is stunning. Rich, black body with a tan mocha head that leaves behind a highway of lacing.

S - Roasted malts, dry bakers chocolate and vanilla.

T - Bitter dark chocolate, roasted malts and a touch of molasses to start off. Bitterness all the way through with coffee on the finish along with a lingering smokeyness.

M - Medium body that is somewhat more carbonated than other RIS I've had. Doesn't feel "thick," but somewhat creamy/chewy and airy all at the same time.

O - Well done SN, well done. Continually impressed with how this beer comes alive as it warms.

Photo of ExaltedNecrosis
4.33/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into snifter.

A - Pitch black with one finger of creamy dark mocha / chocolate head. Leaves a good amount of lacing on the glass.

S - A somewhat subdued aroma of roasted coffee and chocolate.

T - Roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and a slight hint of vanilla. There is a also a bit of booziness, though not very pronounced for a 10.2%

M - Super smooth and creamy. Thick bodied and somewhat syrupy with low carbonation; this goes down easy.

O - A fantastic stout from SN with the standard roasted coffee and chocolate flavors, with a velvety smooth mouthfeel. Nice bit of alcohol warmth as well despite it being quite drinkable.

Photo of Dave1999
3.8/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours pitch black with a small tan colored head.

The smell is dark malts, alcohol, coffee and chocolate.

The taste is sweet and malty with a fair bit of alcohol.

The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy but just a little lighter bodied than I'd like for the style.

I really enjoyed this and it is available at a decent price. I don't think I'd pick this over ten fidy or stone RIS though .

Photo of FanofHefe
4.38/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 12 oz. bottle that pours a deep, black body with a two-finger dark tan head. The head settles into a nice cap and leaves streaky lacing on the glass.

The aroma is typical of a RIS, but a bit on the light side. Some roasted malt, a bit of chocolate, some dark fruit. Nice, but not complex.

The flavor steps it up a notch. Very nice blend of flavors: roasted malt, dark fruit - especially raisin, chocoalte, light coffee, and licorice. Excellent flavor balance.

Very smooth mouthfeel, medium to thick in texture. Nearly no notice of the alcohol. This is a top-notch RIS. Highly recommend.

Photo of rodlavers
4.29/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Served in a pint glass, Narwhal pours about as black as you can get, with a thick and foamy mocha head, and lots of lacing.

Roasted malt and coffee aromas are dominant, but there is some chocolate in there as well.

Really roasted malt is the winner here, very prominent and present, with roasted coffee beans in there as well, just not too strong, which is a good thing, leaving out some bitterness. Taste is really nice.

Feel is the best part, super smooth and easy to drink, with amazing roast aftertaste.

Overall I am glad I finally had a chance to do a proper review; last time, I gave it a 4/5, but that was based on a 2-3oz pour after hours of drinking IPA's and other stouts, which was an injustice. Narwhal is a good and hearty stout. Cheers.

A few add-on comments. Slightly altering my review based on a my current view of Narwhal, which I justify by my evolving pallet -- no beer ever tastes EXACTLY the same each time

Photo of DenverHopHead
4.49/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.
Appearance - black as motor oil; creamy, tan head; ring upon ring of lacing!
Smell - cocoa and dark chocolate; hint of espresso.
Taste - complex flavors! Starts off creamy, but a surprise rush of hops mixed with a hint of alcohol, follows with malts and coffee flavors.
Feel - a very complex RIS! I was taken back by the very noticeable hop presence, it almost comes off as a hardcore Black IPA! More medium body, not too heavy and very drinkable at 10.2% ABV!
Overall - terrific offering from Sierra Nevada! To me this is a cross between an RIS and a Black IPA! The price point gives this one the nod over many other stouts! I'm anxious to try this alongside a few of my favorite Black IPA's, like Wookey Jack, Sublimely, and Mountain Standard.

Photo of JRed
3.56/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Dark black in body with creamy tan head that floats on top for the duration of the drink. Aroma of roast, dark chocolate, dirt, and cocoa powdered mint leaves. Flavors aren't as aggressive as I thought they'd be: fluffy chocolate mousse, roasted malt leads to dirt, some tobacco towards the end. Milky body with light carbonation. A smooth stout that masks the big booze well behind layers of cocoa and crushed autumn leaves. Dangerously easy to keep picking up over and over again.

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
93 out of 100 based on 4,430 ratings.