Narwhal Imperial Stout - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
93
outstanding

4,429 Ratings
THE BROS
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no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 4,429
Reviews: 817
rAvg: 4.16
pDev: 9.62%
Wants: 254
Gots: 1,117 | 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: 4,429 | Reviews: 817
Photo of avalon07
3.58/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a black color and a thick texture. There was a half inch of tan-colored, foamy, long-lasting head. Pretty good lacing.

S: Definitely an underplayed aroma of coffee, chocolate and malt. Decent.

T: Tasted of light coffee notes, some dark chocolate, roasted malt, and maybe some dark fruit. There's also a very pronounced burnt quality as well. Not a bad flavor, but it could have used a bit more punch.

M: A very well-carbonated beer with a smooth finish. Medium-bodied.

O: This isn't too bad of a beer, but it doesn't necessarily reside among the top tier Russian Imperial Stouts. Still, worth a look.

Photo of dgilks
3.96/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Inky, light absorbing black with a creamy, tan head. Nice head retention and good lacing.

An interesting aroma. Not intensely roasty. Rather there is plenty of anise and sweet malt. Some earthiness. Very much herbal.

More big, sweet malt there. The anise comes through in spades along with a touch of cocoa. A little chalky. It lacks a bit of brightness with it sitting back on the palate and the anise dominates.

Medium-full body with moderately-high carbonation. Quite dry.

A really interesting beer. I do like the cocoa flavour there and the earthiness is interesting. The anise is overbearing but the whole is good and it isn't an alcohol bomb.

Photo of ccrida
3.33/5  rDev -20%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Appearance is thick black with a small, dark tan/light brown head, quickly dissipating, no lace.

Smell is soft, sweet malt sugars. Robust alcoholic character.

Taste is robust and rich. Sugary, caramel, sweet alcohol. A little raisiny. Not a lot of depth here, the 10.2 is pretty bruising.

Mouthfeel is dry and thick.

Drinkability is ok, this is a big, brash, old school RIS. I like the fact that it's all malt and not hoppy, but it's too hot.

Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.27/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter.
10.2% ABV, number code on shoulder.

A - Almost midnight black, Narwhal quietly fills the snifter, even with a tall pour. The result is a low mocha head which briefly tops the black before sinking into it's depths leaving a ring of foam and a few splashes of lace.

S - Quite simple and closed off at first, Narwhal rises from the depths to a cold but soft nose of rich maltiness that expands from cocoa to dark chocolate developing with raisin and prune, subtle dusty earthiness, and a faint hint of warming alcohol on the finish.

T - Narwhal's flavor starts just like the aroma; simple and somewhat closed off. Rich roasted malt develops into subtle undertones of dark, bitter chocolate and espresso notes with a dry cocoa finish.

M - Like a good imperial stout, Narwhal is thick and rich with a milk chocolate smooth, velvety feel that slowly turns dry and bitter and rough around the edges from the heavily roasted malts. Warming alcohol emerges as this creamy beer coats the throat as it warms up for one pleasing winter stout!

O - Sierra Nevada Narwhal employs dark, roasted malts to create a deep depth of flavor throughout this imperial stout changing as it warms. A welcome addition to Sierra Nevada's seasonal line up, Narwhal is a wonderful sipping beer that encourages reflection on the malts' presence and use.

Photo of Cyberkedi
4.81/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Aroma absolutely screams "DRINK ME!" Smoky, oily, with strong notes of roast malt, quality coffee, chocolate and molasses, it demands that you take more than a mere taste. It pours an oily black sable that could hide in the folds of Darth Vader’s cape, with a firm and fine-bubbled tan head that hangs around for a while. Smoky flavor has firm tones of top-shelf malt and chocolate - you’d think they had tossed Hershey bars into the mash tun. Subtle notes and hints of quality coffee, molasses and caramel sneak through. Sweetness is not too strong - this ain’t no dessert beer. Firm, smooth, somewhat oily texture has a good amount of fizz and leaves a smoky, chocolaty, lip-smacking finish. Nar this whal when you can! :D

Photo of tectactoe
4.21/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an inky black color, thick as can be - honestly, one of the thickest looking beers I've ever seen. Tan head, decent retention. Aroma hits with a handful of roasted malts, as expected; the bottom comes up with some bittersweet chocolates and deep, warming alcohol notes in the background. A light leathery and mild tobacco aroma as it warms, too. The taste comes through with a canvas of roasted malts upon which a painting of mild charring, smoke, deep cocoa, light black licorice, faint dark fruit sweetness, and bitterness almost resembling espresso is displayed. The sweetness comes in hardest in the form of licorice, but is met diligently with a bitterness that is present from nearly start to finish; slightly ashy and mildly floral and spicy - I'm assuming this bitterness is from the hop character, although some of it tastes like that old bitter espresso bean flavor, too. Burnt, smoked wood in the aftertaste with some ashy and leafy bitter notes. Slightly sweet, but bitterness rules the aftertaste when all is said and done. Silky as hell, super creamy and thick.

I was shocked at how delicious this was, but at the same time, I should have expected it. Sierra Nevada puts out a damn good product, no matter what it is, and Narwhal is no exception. For this price, this is a steal. Great flavors, huge body, amazing mouthfeel - if you like RISs, give this one a shot.

Photo of Durge
3.88/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This imperial stout is a nearly jet black color with a nice light brown head and good lacing. The aroma offers clean, muted malt, nothing prolific. The flavor is full of thick malt and medicinal grass bite, mineral water and charcoal blended into a unique mouthful of stout. Sharp malty goodness, and not much else to say. Full bodied I'd say with a somewhat oily feel. Very tiny bubbles for a subtle but adequate carbonation. Quality stuff though not something I would have to revisit. Classy brew none the less.

Photo of barnzy78
4.35/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Narwhal 2012, served @ ~55F
12oz bottle, pours black with slight chestnut hues at the edges of the glass when held to a light. Light brown head is thin and leaves some lacing down the glass. Big roasty nose with dark bittersweet cocoa powder and coffee. Smells powdery if that makes any sense? Tastes are complex and bold with lingering dark rich cocoa, espresso, booze, roasted barley, slight anise and pine on the finish. Mouth-feel is smooth and nearly full bodied, nice carbonation allows for palate coverage and depth of flavors. Overall, a very nice RIS. I'd buy this again, and hope I see it again next year!

Photo of clayrock81
4.03/5  rDev -3.1%
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.

Photo of Jwale73
4/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I've been looking forward to trying this beer since I first heard about it. 12oz. bottle served in a tulip. Pours an inky black with a fizzy and effervescing two inch, mocha-colored head that sizzles and pops as it gradually collapses into a sudsy slick with a thin, bubbly band around the edges. Nose expresses dark, roasted malts, chocolate and brewers licorice - there's also a slight artificial sweetener character that reveals itself towards the back. Taste follows nose; however, there's also some smokiness in the flavor profile as well as molasses. Mouthfeel is medium-light (but closer to medium), with slightly oily texture, as well as a mild, even carbonation. Overall, a very solid RIS from a very solid brewery. Alcohol is extremely well-hidden, and balance is great. The only detracting qualities for me are the slight, artificial sweetener presence in the nose and in the flavor. Also, while the carbonation is not overly assertive, I would like to see it dissipate a little more. All and all, this beer is well worth your time if you enjoy the style.

Photo of VelvetExtract
4.18/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Ink. Pitch black. Head is of respectable stature. The best part of the head is its color. The head is brown. Legitimate brown. Sierra Nevada consistently makes the best looking beers. What a beaut. Light lacing webs…boy is the head dark.

S-Dark dutch chocolate and French-press espresso. A bit burnt and smoked. The nose does not have any unique traits, but it is very finely tuned. Not super-intense, but aromatic enough.

T-An addition of dark fruit and a lick of black licorice join the gang of dark chocolate, coffee beans and smoke. Like dumping a spoonful of cocoa powder into a dark-roast java. The bitterness stems more from the roast than the relatively modest hoppiness. Narwhal is an oily sea-monstrosity of deliciousness.

M-Full bodied. I can just picture this beer coagulating and turning into gel if left alone for too long. Plenty of carbonation. Booze is masked perhaps too well. This brew could dethrone you if you aren't wary of the ABV. Too drinkable…although it does warm up my cheeks a bit.

O/D-Like Hoptimum, this brew is a textbook Imperial Ale. Also like Hoptimum, Narwhal does not attempt to do anything that hasn't been done before. That is my only true criticism of this brew. It is a scrumptious and blameless Stout, but it offers no unique qualities. Regardless, this brew is a beast!

Photo of Brenden
4.1/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pouring motor oil-thick and a mean-looking black, Narwhal's got the look of a big imperial stout. A thick, tight brown head sits at one finger in height on this brew. It recedes after time, leaving a pretty heavy ring of lacing at the top with some legs to follow.
The aroma takes some time to pull out completely, but this beer's full of big, malty goodness with heavy notes of roast, lots of espresso, and unsweetened chocolate. As it warms, a gentle sting of alcohol comes out from underneath.
In the flavor, it's clear the brewers chose to go against the cloying sweetness of some other big stouts; in fact, this one nearly foregoes the sweetness altogether for a different profile entirely. The espresso and very-much-unsweetened baker's chocolate are the flavor highlights, but a touch of something like molasses along with a bit of charcoal make for a stronger, more bitter taste (in a good way). A bit of (very) dark fruits linger underneath if you know where to search.
The feel is thick, rich and robust. Somehow very heavy isn't too heavy for this beer, as it doesn't just sit on the palate or weigh it down. Instead, it moves very nicely, with a downright velvety creaminess on the tongue through every sip. There's a crisp nip that doesn't get too much in the way.

Photo of ZAP
4.18/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Black with ruby hues..

S-Shaved chips of quality dark chocolate....dark fruits (prunes, raisins, dried black cherries, plums)....some light coffee

T-Rich and malty...hop load is dialed back which I can enjoy....roasty malts lend a decadent expensive chocolate flavor....light coffee...dark fruits still there but lighter than on the nose...a bitter splash of alcohol on the late finish....

M-Big....Rich....Full Bodied...Fits the Bill....right about where it should be....

O-An impressive IMPY...would seem to be on par with most of the heavy hitters...great price too....

Photo of OWSLEY069
3.9/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours jet black with a dark brown head. In the aroma, dry coffee and notes of chocolate. In the taste, dry coffee and a chocolate malt that rides all the way through. A small bite and a medium to bigger bodied mouthfeel, with a dry and roasty coffee in the aftertaste. Big coffee, nice chocolate notes, and hides the alcohol.

Photo of sweemzander
3.91/5  rDev -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.

Photo of Darkmagus82
4.13/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into a pint glass

Appearance – Pours a deep-deep brown color with a one finger brown head. The head fades in over a bout a two minute time frame to leave a light level of lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma is big and delicious. It is largest of a sweet caramel and chocolate aroma with nice hints of vanilla and some light pine, dark fruits and coffee smell. Also heavy in the nose is a delicious and warming aroma of a bourbon smell giving mixing with the rest to give a sweet, dark, and warming smell.

Taste – The taste begins with a strong roasted malt, dark chocolate, and coffee taste mixed with the lightest hints of caramel and vanilla. The caramel fades fast from the tongue while the light vanilla remains constant throughout the taste. Toward the middle the coffee flavors grow even stronger in nature and are accompanied by a light earthy and pine hop taste. The pine and earthy flavors grow slightly stronger more toward the end with the roasted flavors that are in the brew also growing more roasted in nature. This darkening and hopping of the brew give a moderately bitter bite on the tongue, and when combined with a nicely concealed, but still detectable, alcohol flavor it creates a bitter cocoa and coffee flavor to be left to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is super thick and syrupy with a body that would be similar to taking maple syrup and diluting by half. The carbonation of the brew is on the very low side accentuating the thick feel of the brew. For a 10.2 % abv beer the body is much thicker then I would have expected (more akin to a 15 % brew). It is rather nice and appropriate for the darker characteristics of the brew, but is almost overwhelming due to the light level of sweetness to balance it out. Even so it is quite a feel and is overall rather nice.

Overall – A nice, big and roasty, stout that is on the drier ad thicker side. When in the mode for a great. not too sweet, sipping Imperial stout, then this is a great one to go to.

Photo of CrazyDavros
3.75/5  rDev -9.9%
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.

Photo of ArrogantB
3.58/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ok, this review is for the 2013 batch as I forgot to review the 2012 which I actually thought was better. Dark black, brown healthy head. Aroma is alcohol, roast malt, not bad at all. Flavor is alcohol, dark malts, fruit, mild notes of chocolate. Overall pretty good but a little astringent for my liking,

Photo of maximum12
4.15/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

How have I not reviewed this? I’ve drunk cases of it, a big stout that you don’t have to crawl over sweaty neckbeards to get, it just sits around, ignored, common. 12 oz. bottle.

The pour is Bic ink black. Minimal carbonation. I try to sniff & get a 19” girl hair up the nose, yeah, just try to use a vacuum around my house. It’s like vacuuming up after a pack of shedding St. Bernard’s. Nose is sweet malts, nice roast, light chocolate mania. It’s never really been an inhaling beer for me.

Narwhal tastes like Saturday night happiness. A plethora plentile of roast greets the tongue, backed by a deep, sweet, smiling triple handful of malts. Milky & smooth enough that I suspect that many oats were harmed in the making of this brew. Drinkable as fuck.

Excellent beer that’s nothing special by the numbers, just beautifully executed.

Photo of barczar
3.97/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque deep brown with just a hint of garnet highlights and a solid half inch milk chocolate head that slowly dissipates, leaving sheets of lacing.

Dark cherries, plums, raisins, chocolate, and roast malt begin the aroma. Toasted nuts, licorice, and tar add complexity.

Flavor reveals deep roasted malt, dark fruit, and a long, coffee bitter finish. Chocolate is slightly muted, in favor of tart cherries.

Body is thick, viscous, and chewy, with low carbonation. There's astringency at the finish, preceding alcohol warmth.

Probably the thickest beer I've ever consumed. Dark fruit tartness was a bit overpowering. Fairly boozy, as well. Good roast malt character. I'll probably like this better with some age on it.

Photo of cosmicevan
4.07/5  rDev -2.2%
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.

Photo of tigg924
3.53/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap at New World Tavern, Plymouth--served into a pint glass.

Appearance: black in color, 1/4 inch head, opaque, minimal carbonation

Smell: roasted malt and cocoa

Taste: big time espresso, roasted malt, chocolate, and light traces of nut

Mouthfeel: medium-heavy bodied, low carbonation, sweet with roasty bitterness

Overall: An above average roasty RIS. If you like your RIS to have big coffee flavors, this is the beer for you. I would like to see a bit more creaminess with this. This is not a bad beer, but with so many great RIS, this is just above average for the style.

Photo of mynie
4.24/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

On tap at The Pint in West Lafayette, IN. Ordered it because why not, what the hell.

Smells fairly tame, even as it warms. Big nodes of roasted barley combined with some light wisps of espresso and alcohol fire.

Tastes quite good, much stronger than its relatively tame ABV led me to anticipate. Very nice balance between sweet and roasty nodes, coming across both lively vinous and bitterly dark. Back end is a wee bit thin which blots out some of the complexities.

Nothing to write home about, really; just a nice, aggressive double stout.

Photo of lordofthewiens
4.2/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I found a lonely four pack of this when I went to Gary's to pick up 2013 Bigfoot, and brought it home with me. Glad I did.

In a snifter this beer was black, really black, with just a rim of tan head.

Strong roasted malt aroma. Coffee. Charcoal.

The taste was mostly strong coffee, even a little bit on the burned side. There was a little bit of chocolate.

A dry, burned feeling in the mouth. Astringent.

Nice beer.

Photo of Pencible
3.78/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: This poured a totally opaque black with thick tan head.
S: It smelled like dry dark chocolate and roasted coffee, with some alcohol and subtle citrus zest.
T: It tasted like unsweetened dark chocolate and espresso, with some bitter resin hops. It had a harsh bitter aftertaste with notable alcohol warming.
M: It was thick and chewy with moderate carbonation. Great big body.
D: This had great looks and body, but the scent and taste weren't as impressive. It was hot and unrefined, so it wasn't very easy to drink. Maybe age will help tame this beast, but fresh is kind of rough.

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
93 out of 100 based on 4,429 ratings.