Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

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

852 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 852
Hads: 4,791
Avg: 4.14
pDev: 22.71%
Wants: 288
Gots: 1,322 | FT: 45
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

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: 852 | Hads: 4,791
Photo of liamt07
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle form Siciliano's, 12oz into a tulip - 2012 vintage.

Impenetrable black with a deep brown head. Creamy retention and a whole load of lace. Nose of dark chocolate, coffee, molasses, carmel, dark fruit liqueur notes. Light anise and a bit of alcohol. Relatively sweet, but spot on for what I enjoy in imperial stouts. Taste has heavy dark roasted character, dark chocolate, light tar, charcoal with some back end sweetness to prevent everything from getting away. Full feel, some alcohol warmth. Medium low carbonation. This do es well as is and could be great with some time.

 581 characters

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

2012 Vintage poured in to tulip glass.

A - Black with half a finger of medium brown head.

S - A huge roast aroma up front with some coffee and a hint of smoke.

T - Very bold and flavorful right away. Starts with a big roast presence with some char. A big hop presence enters mid-palate along with a warming alcohol presence and hints of cocoa and licorice. The finish is dry and bitter with a lingering pine flavour from the hopping and becomes almost sticky a few seconds after the swallow.

M - Medium to full body. Creamy. Light carbonation. Somewhat sticky at times.

 576 characters

Photo of Stinkypuss
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a dark and oily tar black with a brown head that laces the snifter well.

The aroma is roasted, smokey and perhaps a bit meaty. Some alcohol lofts above the darkness.

In the taste, dark chocolates, charcoal, tobacco and a firm hoppyness. Not to boozy though very strong. There's a subtle note of dark fruit. Earthy, light herb, big malt. Right about what you would expect for the style with perhaps more emphasis on his than many. Quite good.

The mouthfeel is full bodied, smooth and well carbonated.

Overall this is a nice big stout from Sierra Nevada. Totally drinkable and something I would have again.

 615 characters

Photo of Zorro
3.75/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Thick black pour. Black colored beer with a thin brown colored head.

Smells sweet with lots of coffee molasses and candied holiday fruit.

Starts out dry and bitter with a strong charred malt bite. Gets a little sweeter as you drink it but not by much. Chocolate and coffee flavors with a little bit of ash taste.

Thick and oily mouthfeel.

Overall an OK beer, but they didn't balance out the Patent malt enough so it ends up a little unbalanced.

 449 characters

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

12oz. Bottle

Pours a very nice black color, very nice carbonation, with a fizzy tan head, which leaves some sticky lacing behind. The nose is malty, with some chocolate, toffee notes, slightly roasty. The taste is very nice malty, with lots of dark stuff, slight vanilla, some roastyness. Medium body, with a nice bitter finish, ABV hidden pretty well with this one. Overall a very tasty brew, glad to see it here in UT, would buy again.

 438 characters

Photo of JohnGalt1
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Narwhal was brought over tonight as part of the "we are not at the GABF tasting"... Not sure that this bottle makes up for it, but it helps... Thanks my amigo.

12oz bottle.. pitch black brew... the head is dark, darker brown.. nice retention...

Big roasty elements... dark malts and some background cocoa... cold brewed beans... very nice.

The flavor is rich and unrelenting... dark roast coffee... plenty of roasted malt.. dark chocolate... just enough sweetness to bring out the malty flavors... a bit of dark currant and maybe fermented out raisin..

Body is about right... carbonation is square....

Pretty damn good... seriously.

All 4's

 663 characters

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

On tap at max's the other day, during Baltimore Beer Week.

The beer pours a blackish brown color with good head retention and lacing. The nose is likewise attraactive, showcasing considerable coffee, licorice and vanilla. The flavor profile replicates the nose pretty closely, but is clearly dominated by the licorice and vanilla (which I'm not entirely liking, but it's OK). There's also a hint of hoppy bitterness in the finish which further helps to buoy the modest sweetness in this beer. Mouthfeel is medium bodied to full, with a finish that is dominated by licorice and has a hint of alcoholic bite. Alcohol is well integrated into the flavor profile, but there's just too much licorice in the flavor profile for me to fall in love with this beer.

A solid beer, and possibly one that will benefit from some age. For now however, not among my favorite impy stouts.

 872 characters

Photo of LiquidAmber
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Maudite snifter. Pours pitch black with a thin medium brown head with good retention and slippery lacing. Mild aroma of toasted malt, chocolate and a hint of coffee and anise. Flavor is much more intense, very toasty and slightly charred malt, bitter chocolate, licorice and burnt coffee, especially in the finish. Nice medium to heavy, creamy body. Flavor tends more towards the charred spectrum, but the the other flavors support it. Not quite a smoked beer, but leaning in that direction. Wow, this one will be on my regular list, delicious

 557 characters

Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.47/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.

Pours a deep black colour, with a fine, slightly inconsistent pale brown head. Carbonation is fine, but the body itself looks surprisingly light and fluid. Some patchy carbonation. Looks fine except for the body—this is the beer you can really make thick, oily and chewy, and it seems this hasn't happened here.

Nose is wonderful. Big sweet nutty characters with deep chocolate hints and a lilt of buttered popcorn. Slight hint of liquorice on the back, perhaps more like liquorice ice cream. It's all really quite sweet and fragrant, and very pleasant.

Taste is also very good: here the sweetness is tamed somewhat (perhaps due to the slightly lighter body), and the liquorice comes through a little bit more. This leaves the roasted characters to make a bit more of an entrance, with some mild coffee and toasted grain overtones. Perhaps I was unfair on the lightness in the body: it's perhaps a purposeful (and rather clever) stroke to enliven the palate and keep the sweet richness from overpowering everything.

The feel is very smooth, even despite the lightness, and matches very nicely with the rest of the beer.

Yep. Pretty exceptional stuff here, although the mastery and skill of Sierra Nevada should have stopped surprising me years ago. This beer gives the impression that it was designed exactly this way—it perhaps doesn't take the risks that could make it superlative, but you understand that this beer from the moment of its conception was going to be very good indeed.

 1,544 characters

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

Pours a four finger tan head that slowly fades leaving a good lace. Black color, no highlights. Medium carbonation and medium-heavy bodied. Roasted coffee nose and flavor is roasted coffee, higher ABV is hidden. $2.60 for a 12oz bottle from a Tully’s Beer & Wine Wells, ME.

 275 characters

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

A: Poured a jet black, some carbonation, one finger brown head, some lacing

S: Roasted malt, slight chocolate, coffee. Good but standard.

T: Big hearty backbone with dark chocolate, coffee, some burnt notes. Mild Bitterness in the finish.I laso deteced some black liquorice.

M: Heavy bodied, some carbonation, smooth.

O: Good. This should age very well as most SN offerings do.

 382 characters

Photo of corby112
3.49/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours viscous, pitch black and completely opaque with a two finger mocha head that slowly settles into a lasting ring. Decent retention with streaks of soapy lacing left behind.

Roasted malt aroma with a stronger hop presence than I expected. Floral and earthy with resinous, grassy pine character countering the burnt malt, coffee bean and oatmeal notes. I shouldn't be too surprised coming from SN but the hops are a bit too prominent for this style, in my opinion, taking away from the robust malt profile a bit too much. Even after warming up considerably, the nose is still pretty tame on this beer.

Medium bodied with a deeply roasted dark malt flavor that's complimented by a bitter, earthy hop presence that lingers into a slightly boozy finish. The hops aren't as strong as the nose hints at but there's still prominent in the flavor with sticky pine needle bitterness and subtle citrus. The dryness of the hops compliment the bitterness of the roasted malts. Hints of burnt toast, oatmeal, bitter dark chocolate and espressoo/coffee bean followed by lighter chocolate and alcohol sweetness. The high is relatively well masked but there's definitely some warmth lingering in the finish. Overall, this is a pretty good stout but the strong hop character hinders the malt flavors a bit too much for my preference. Decent but nothing out of the ordinary. Great value for the price of the four pack though.

 1,415 characters

Photo of rhoadsrage
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
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 tobelerone
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very nice imperial from Sierra Nevada, well worth the wait. A quality effort that’s affordable and easily accessible to boot. Pours deep black with a smallish cream colored head; decent retention and a bit of patchy lace. Not the best looking example of the style but that’s nitpicking I suppose. Aroma of roasted, nearly charred malt, espresso, black licorice, baker’s chocolate. The flavor mirrors the nose closely; the roastiness is the prevalent note here, again black licorice or anise is present, but integrates well and isn’t overbearing; booze is well-hidden, sweetness is average for the style, some piney hops tidy things up in a fairly subtle way underneath. Far from cloying; in fact I would have enjoyed a bit more caramel, brown sugar and chocolate here. But it’s a well-meshed flavor, not too big, hits all the right notes while taking a bit of a middle of the road approach. Very drinkable and very appealing.

The body is moderately full and carbonation is medium; the feel has just a touch of creamy smoothness. Again, it’s not particularly massive, but it drinks like a charm. Overall a real winner. Not going to make anyone forget the heavy hitters but you could do a lot worse than grab a four pack of this for your stout fix.

 1,259 characters

Photo of beerthulhu
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

- 2014. pkgd. 11.06.14. consumed 04.01.15.

A: Pitch jet black exit from the bottle with a tan rawhide colored, creamy topping. Moderate retention.

S: Nose of scotchy licorice, burnt chocolate, earthy bitterness, moderate awareness. No alcohol with a touch of dry vanilla bean.

T: Flavor was deep roasted chocolate malt with an earthy bitterness. Dry vanilla bean, roasty espresso notes, flashes of burnt toffee sweetness with licorice. Smooth scotchy alcohol, hints of banana bread yeastiness underneath, creamer with smoky pine hops.

M: Full bodied, creamy, earthy bitterness, burnt warmth, dry alcohol fade.

O: Drinks like a B.A. stout, burnt roasted flavor, soothing scotchy pine alcohol. Nice flavor.

 714 characters

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.

 845 characters

Photo of puboflyons
4.53/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From the 12 fl. oz. bottle, 2012 batch with a stamp of 2279210:52. Sampled on December 29, 2012.

The pour is very dark brown to black but under the light there is this kind of maroon tint. The moderate tan head is silky and soft and settles down after a few moments. There is a lot of lacing on the glass.

The aroma is of dark malts with coffee esters and a vague hop bitterness hanging around in the background.

The body is bold and smooth.

The taste begins with dark malts and yeast with a resounding bitterness balancing it off at the end. The bitterness lingers and burns slightly but the alcohol is well-integrated. This is a highly recommended stout.

 660 characters

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

$9.50 for the 4 pack, bought locally.

it pours black with a 2 finger head of tannish foam and leaves the usual excellence with the lacing.

The smell is of cocoa and roasted malt with some light notes of coffee. Err...maybe not so light notes of coffee. Good either way.

First sip in and it starts off, for me, as being very sweet soon overtaken by roasted malt and coffee that add a nice bitterness. There's plenty of the ample alcohol in the taste as well meaning a lot of warming. It finishes on the bitter side thanks to all that roasty goodness.

Full bodied, lightish carbonation, very smooth mouthfeel. On a day with the temps in the 60sF, not so drinkable but when the temps drop, the drinkability of this IS will rise. I'm bloody sure of that.

A big thumbs up to SN's bold new Imperial Stout!

Edit Nov 8, 2012:

I'm now on my 3rd bottle and my like for it grows and grows. There's really nothing I'd change with my review *other than* the scores. Onward and upward!

 978 characters

Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Had on tap at the Bryant Lake Bowl. L: Pours brilliant deep brown under a 1/2” very soft tan foam collar that grips the side of the glass. S: Coffee, dark dried fruit, roast, alcohol. T: Espresso, alcohol, dark dried fruit, suggestion of chocolate with a light caramel sweetness in the middle. The finish is long and dry with espresso overtones. F: Very creamy O: Beer stands out for creaminess and texture.

 409 characters

Photo of JohnParadee
3.94/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from bottle into chilled pint glass. Deep, dark, black color, with very thick tan head which dissipated to thin veil. Excellent, consistent lacing. Smell is incredibly rich aura of burnt/roasted chocolate malt and coffee/vanilla hints. Unfortunately, the palate was not quite as impressive (to me). A little too much dank hoppiness, with the result that the balance was out of kilter. Carbonation and mouthfeel was good, but I could not get past the uneven bite and apparent conflict between the hops and the flavors trying to compete. Maybe I had a bad bottle, or just need to let it sit and warm up a bit more. Willing to try again, as I love so much of what SN does.

 676 characters

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

12oz Bottle from Total Wine Tampa FL for $3

Appearance - Dark brown colour with a large size frothy light brown head. I can't make out the amount of carbonation showing and there is some good lacing. The head lasted for around 5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, chocolate, vanilla, coffee

Taste & Mouth - There is a below average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, chocolate, and vanilla. There is also quite a bit of a charred coffee type flavour and a light hoppiness.

Overall - Wow, a great mix of smooth flavours with a lingering bitter finish. A really satisfying beer that is a great sipper. Once again Sierra Nevada impresses.

 657 characters

Photo of clayrock81
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured a blackish body with almost brown head that is one-finger high and leaves a little ring as it goes down. First thing that hits my nose is coffee, then a bunch of roasted (I won't say toasted or smoked) malts and some bitter chocolate (or dark). The body is heavy, and while I would not list heavy/stoutish beers as some of my faves, I really like this one b/c while heavy it still passes easy (slightly chewey as well). I get mostly a roasted, coffeeish malt experience but the addition, and then due to addition great balance, of some dark chocolate makes this a dry and sweet experience and thanks to the easy passing this beer is by no means a chore to continually sip on. This is a great stout that even not-stout fans should try.

 741 characters

Photo of bluejacket74
4.47/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle, bottled on October 12, 2012. Served in a snifter, the beer pours black with a half inch tan head that sticked around for a bit. There's also a good amount of lacing. The brew smells like roasted malt, anise, bittersweet chocolate, coffee, and a little bit of piney hops. I think the taste is just like the aroma. There's a bit of sweetness, but also a lot of bitter roasty goodness. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's creamy and slick with a good amount of carbonation. The alcohol is well hidden, you wouldn't think it's 10.2% ABV when drinking it. I think this is a pretty good imperial stout, at $9.99 a 4-pack I know I'll be buying this again.

 665 characters

Photo of sweemzander
3.91/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz. bottle poured into a snifter.

(A)- Pours a fairly thick pitch black color. Produced a nice cap of tan froth. Good retention and lacing left behind.

(S)- A nicely deep roasted profile. Plenty of dry baked bread and raisin characters.

(T)- Similar to the smell: A good roasted malt profile. Some dry baked bread and raisin with a little bit of cocoa and bitter citrus from the hops.

(M)- A good mellow carbonation level and balance. I like the play of roasted bitterness, rich raisin, and subtle hoppy citrus at the end.

(O)- This is one solid stout. Personally, I do prefer my stouts less in the hop level, but this one has enough deep and rich flavors to mask and balance that out, and that is how the style can traditionally be. Definitely would be curious to see what some time will do to this one.

 811 characters

Photo of HuskyinPDX
3.9/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle opened on 11.6.12.

A - Pours a dark brown with a medium brown foamy head that lingers around for a bit.

S - Very roasty and bitter. Some chocolate and coffee.

T - Bitter coffee, but smooth chocolate. Better as it warms.

D - Heavier body and good carbonation.

O - Sold stout, but I was a bit let down till I let it warm a bit more. Very solid, especially for the price.

 386 characters

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 852 ratings.