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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel AgedNarwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged

Educational use only; do not reuse.

206 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 206
Hads: 1,507
Avg: 4.29
pDev: 23.78%
Wants: 248
Gots: 826 | FT: 124
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  12.90% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 01-11-2013

This deliciously dark treat is our bold Narwhal Imperial Stout aged in oak Kentucky bourbon barrels. Black as midnight, this intense stout is incredibly complex with notes of dark chocolate, rich roasted grains, and espresso seamlessly blended with hints of vanilla and toasted coconut with a slight touch of honey from aging in the oak spirit casks. Nearly as rare as its nautical namesake, try it out while you can because, like the creature itself, it will disappear into the blackness soon and leave nary a trace behind.

Additional Info:
Narwhal was aged for 8 months in fresh bourbon barrels (a combination of Willett single barrel, Heaven Hill and various Beam brands).

ABV: 12.9
IBU’s: 62
Bittering Hops: Challenger
Malts: Two-row Pale, Caramel, Chocolate, Honey, Carafa III, Roasted Barley
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 206 | Hads: 1,507
Photo of brureview
4.02/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a jet black-brown color with a 2F head in a Stone snifter.

Aroma: Not very strong for a RIS. Ten Fidy and Siberian nights had stronger aromas, and they are not barrel aged beers. Oak, Chocolate and cocoa,are dominant with some vanilla. I expected a stronger aroma.

Mouth feel- very carbonated for the style. I wanted a less pronounced mouth feel. Nice bitterness.

Taste: lots of cocoa and chocolate. Dark malt. The style doesn't stand out in this beer. It needs to be more intense for a barrel aged beer.

Good bitter finish blended with chocolate. I like this.

Overall. Not worth the money. There should be more intensity, depth, and richness of flavor. I'll stay with the non-barrel aged Narwhal.

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Photo of K-Dog
3.98/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Got 2 bottles last year for 19.99 a piece. Drank fresh and was a little dissapointed. Thought aging a year might help but pretty much the same. Not enough bourbon present. As it warmed it did get better. I noticed a bitter chocolate taste along with some vanilla. It's not that is a bad beer I just think it's a little overrated and pricey. There are better choices for the style. Still worth ting at least once.

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Photo of Dope
4.43/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2015 bottling.

A: Midnight black pour with a tall, dense very dark brown head. Good head retention but almost completely devoid of lacing.

S: Big big bourbon notes. Loads of sweet dark caramel and hints of vanilla. Quite oaky. Charry, bittersweet chocolate and roasted malt character. Burnt marshmallows in there too. Very nice.

T: Bourbon is heavy but the base beer really shines through well. HUGE decadent chocolate and mocha notes. Buckets of caramel sweetens it up even more. More marshmallow on the back end with some lingering charred oak and caramel in the aftertaste. Hints of gritty cocoa float around between sips. Decent burn on the back end, enough to warm the belly. Yet, no real harshness despite the ABV.

M: Heavy, rich and smooth.

O: This is one seriously good RIS. Huge variety of strong flavors. Sweet but not cloying. Heavy and smooth too which drinks surprisingly well. Big ABV but no harshness. In fact, I would say it's shockingly mellow for the alcohol content. Flavors on the other hand are bold and pronounced. About as decadent and rich as it gets for a quality RIS. Stellar.

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Photo of CTbrew32
4.18/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

appearance- Black in color and pours a one inch tan colored head.

aroma- Bourbon, chocolate, and vanilla.

taste- Bourbon boozy sweetness at first followed by chocolate and vanilla sweetness. The finish has a mild roasted malt that adds bitterness and there's some lingering booziness from the beginning.

feel- Full bodied, low carbonation, and a semi sweet finish.


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Photo of oberon
4.22/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2015 edition.Pours jet black with a stiff half finger deep beige head atop that never really settles.Caramel and butteriness to go along with bourbon and chocolate notes in the nose.Just full and smooth in the feel department,alot of richness.The richness is prevalent on the palate as well,rich vanilal and butter notes from the barrel to go along with chocolate and dark fruit,not much roast wich is good it might intrude on the softer flavors.It's damn good,the alcohol creeps a little packing some heat after awhile,but the feel and the flavors are top notch.

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Photo of Benish
3.99/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

It's a solid barrel-aged imperial stout. But it's hard to justify the cost when you can that their regular version for much cheaper and it's just as good (in my opinion). Aroma wise and taste wise it was great but not something that stands out among others. I found it kind of thin with almost no viscosity. Kind of surprising considering their high alcohol content. Their barrel-aged Bigfoot is much better. Try that instead.

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Photo of russpowell
4.37/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours like sludgy motor oil, ebony with a thumb of hazel colored head& plenty of effervescence. Viscous, below average head retention & even less lacing

S: Carob & dark fruit, some port notes, molasses & licorice

T: Follows the nose, sherry & bourbon notes up front, raisins & figs as well, warming booze as well. Some chocolate & vanilla, dryness, slight leafy & woody hop presence & a little molasses as this warms, raisin as well, some red grapey notes too! Finishes with vanilla, oaky notes, red wine notes, a little herbal/woody hop counter-balance & just a little dark chocolate & just a little figgyness

MF: Thick, restrained carbonation, warming, carbonation picks up as this warms

A well put together barrel aged version of the style, much to love here! Well worth buying, a lot of flavor, ABV is well hidden & drinks very easy, all things considered

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Photo of rodmanfor3
4.22/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

L: Pours black with a thin head

S: Mostly barrel and booze

T: Unlike the nose, the heat from the alcohol is well integrated into the taste, melding with a nice malt roast and chocolate notes.

M: Thick and full bodied

Overall, a nice barrel aged seasonal offering that often gets overlooked.

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Photo of HopBomb515
4.43/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Deep black, tan head that fades and leaves spotty lacing. Notes of chocolate, oak, coconut, vanilla, light bourbon, and espresso beans. Silky, velvety smooth, coating and super smooth. This is an amazingly executed BBA stout. Great complexity of flavors.

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Photo of SCbrewpubfan
4.41/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2014 edition

L - No light gets through this beer. Like a black hole in a glass with some tiny bubbles of head that get sucked in quickly.
S - Boozy, but in a good way. Have to get used to that, and then chocolate, vanilla, marsh-mellow and dark fruit aromas all appear.
T - Star of the show. The booziness isn't nearly as present in the taste. Fudge, toffee, vanilla, and chocolate flavors mingle with roasted coffee bitterness. Little hot at the end, but just a reminder of the ABV.
F - Oily with little carbonation. Could be thicker, but certainly lingers.
O - Glad I sat on this for a year, but I bet it will get even better. This might be the perfect beer to drink on a cold evening by a campfire. Just enough heat to warm you up.

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Photo of TBoneJones
4.37/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Pours into my stout glass black and with a head appearing a delicious creamy tan, rich-looking. Lacing and all.
Smells chocolatey, some chocolate twizzler, and of bourbon barrel.
Taste is creamy chocolate charry and bourbon. Some hints of dark fruit such as fig, but this is mostly chocolate and even some has coffee impressions.
Feels creamy, fairly medium and smoothly drinkable.
There's a dry, boozy finish, but this is enjoyable to sip. Some are comparing this to other readily-available styles of the like, such as New Holland's Dragon's Milk equivalent. I think I prefer that just a little better to this, although this take on Narwhal improves upon the regular 4-pack offering quite a bit. Pricey of course (I paid about $20 at a fine bottle shop). Recommended either way. You'll either like it or love it if you're a fan of bourbon barrel stouts.

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Photo of hardy008
4.56/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours black with a two finger khaki head with good retention for a 12.9 % abv beer. The aroma has chocolate, cocoa, Bourbon, espresso, and dark roasted malt.

Tastes incredible with chocolate, cocoa, Bourbon, dark roasted malt, espresso, vanilla, coconut, and oak. Incredible that this 12.90 % abv beer has no alcohol taste. A very well made ber.

Medium to full bodied with moderate carbonation. Smooth and easy to drink. Definitely worth trying, and keeping some bottles to cellar.

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Photo of buckeye1275
4.65/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2015 edition. I'm a little pissed that this beer is around $20 when a 4-pack of Narwhal is $9. Does aging in barrels costs that much? Anyway, I digress. This beer is really good. Deep, rich stout flavors and just the right amount of bourbon flavors.

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Photo of AppaZappa
4.27/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2015 version into a snifter. A very nice bourbon stout. The nose really stands out here--chocolate, malt, vanilla, bourbon, touch of coconut. The bourbon is feint on the mouth and I'd like a bit more of that here. But this is a really smooth drinker, with chocolate really dominating. Oddly a bit thin for the abv, but this is very nicely done. I'm sitting on another (as well as a 2014) and will report back--eventually--if that changes this beer for the better. I happen to think it might, and this is already an impressive beer.

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Photo of oldn00b
4.08/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured 2015 version into a stout glass.

Pours a near jet black, no light gets through. Nice, light tan, foamy head forms well with great retention.

Nose is a bit on the light side. I pick up the roasty malt but not much at all in the way of barrel or booze. Nothing bad, just nothing overly compelling there.

Flavor is right on, nice full body. My main complaint is I am not getting a lot from the barrel. It definitely comes through soft and well rounded with just a touch of boozy heat. Malt profile is nice but nothing overly roasty, chocolately, coffee etc. prevails. The flavors all are very subtle. It's not cloying and is definitely very easy to drink - wouldn't call it "a sipper".

Carbonation level is great - tight and enough that with even a modestly rough rough pour it still has a solid amount of carb left. Lifts it off the palate well and adds a slight and necessary bittering component to lend to the balance. It's got a nice body. Its viscosity isn't something I'd call thin or thick, somewhere right in the middle. Very drinkable but without a thin characteristic present in a lot of imperial stouts, barrel aged or not.

It's good, it's not what I'd call great. Very enjoyable but a price is a bit steep and I think I prefer something like Dragon's Milk or even VA's own Dark Hollow.

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Photo of Cmun01
4.2/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Tasted from a bottle, corked.

A- Dark as night. Black. Tan head.

S- dark chocolate, mild bourbon notes, perhaps some vanilla.

T- the alcohol due to the high alcohol content stands out- some heat on the way down, dark chocolate taste, not very hoppy, a bit of espresso flavor

M- thick, almost too thick, good feel overall. Smooth finish

O- good beer. Tried this after Founder's Breakfast Stout and Backwood's Bastard. They were better than this, but this did not disappoint. Glad I got the opportunity to try this one.

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Photo of novamat
4.79/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Tasted from a bottle within a month or two of release. Pours a super dark brown like any good imperial stout should. Smell is primarily of roasted malts and a bit of bourbon. Taste is an awesome balance between chocolate and bourbon with other notes as listed in other reviews, and it has a creamy mouthfeel that is well balanced with carbonation and is very pleasant. This is my new favorite BA stout, will definitely buy again. And again.

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Photo of John_M
4.25/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On tap at the Arch Bridge tap house the other day.

The beer pours a blackish brown color with very good head retention and lacing. The nose is attractive as well, with light bourbon, dark chocolate, vanilla, light licorice and light coffee. The flavor profile replicates the nose pretty closely, and this comes across as a full bodied BA stout with iron running through it. This beer definitely has considerable backbone, and frankly, I think it could use some additional time in bottle or keg to soften up a bit. I found it to be a bit closed at present, with a dry, slightly bitter finish (despite the huge mouthfeel and long finish). Alcohol is noticeable, but is not obtrusive, hot or heavy on the palate.

A bit more bourbon aging would be nice, but regardless, this is a very well made BA stout from the folks at SN.

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Photo of Smokesnotes
4.15/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Was somehow a little disappointed in this beer. Narwhal is one of my favorite Imperial Stouts so I had very high hopes for the BA version. It was a good beer, I drank it with maybe only about 6-10 months of age on it, properly cellared. I just was expecting a bit more booziness/bourbon flavor. I almost think I prefer the regular version.

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Photo of BlushingMonk
4.39/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml corked and caged. Served fresh at cellar temp.

Pours like syrup. Black with a respectable carmel colored foam dome. Chocolate, cola, and alcohol on the nose. Bam! This is a big tasting beer. The 12.9% blends nicely with the light carbonation, bitter cocoa, sweet whisky, but there is no getting around the heat. Yum, chocolate flavored jet fuel with a long whisky mochaccino finish.

It's a pricey bottle, but a lot of fun to drink. I'd buy again and look forward to sharing some with friends. .

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Photo of mlockman
3.88/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

this really needed a night to air out a bit in the fridge before he flavors I was looking for really developed. On the first night, I found the flavors to be a jumbled mess and rather bitter; after having a freezer bag rubber-banded to the bottle neck and sitting in the fridge overnight, the bourbon notes really came out when I revisited it the next day. That being said, no other aspects of it really blew me away, and while the flavor was good on the second day (and indeed, flavor is what I base much of my "overall" upon) my odd/less-than-pleasant experience on the first day inclines me to not rate this as highly as other reviewers.

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Photo of vic21234
4.22/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

750ml corked and caged, poured into a snifter. Newest vintage.

A- Pours black as expected, with a small amount of khaki colored head which quickly fades to the sides of the glass.

S- Chocolate, cocoa, and some bourbon.

T- Roasted maltiness at first leads to notes of chocolate and oak before the bourbon kicks in. The bourbon hits hard, as this drinks rather hot. Do I also get some hop presence?

M- Heavy, hot, nice sipper.

This is a nice BA Stout, I can think of several better competitors in this class but a nice beer and glad I finally got my hands on a bottle.

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Photo of 1000lbgrizzly
4.44/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours thick, viscous jet black, with a rich mocha head. Aroma and taste carry huge notes of dark roasted malt, baker's chocolate, oak, whiskey heat and spice, a good amount of vanilla, touch of molasses and toasted coconut flakes. Very in-your-face. Bitter, warm with alcohol, and dry. I have an intuition that there is some behind-the-scenes hop resin adding to the intensity. The finish is long and dark, resounding with bitter chocolate and whiskey. Feels thick, sludgy, and a little sticky.
This one is a monster. Full-on assault of a good variety of rich dark notes, all about equally powerful and blended well. Even drank from a plastic cup, this one kicks ass.

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Photo of Jaycase
3.79/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

'14 vintage
Quite a bit disappointed with this. Perhaps I should not have waited and instead had it fresh. Barrel presence is practically non-existent in both aroma and taste. Flavor is bland across the board - nothing stands out at all. Mouthfeel is fine. Will try to seek this out fresh but will not get another for the cellar certainly.

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Photo of clayrock81
4.13/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured a black body with one finger khaki head that died quick with no lace. Aroma is more woody and roasted than I thought it would be but there are still some dark chocolate and vanilla notes. Thick, sticky full bodied beer that is real easy to drink thanks to woody smoothness. Balances coffee, roasted malt dryness and minor booziness with superb chocolate and vanilla sweetness for a real enjoyable beer.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 206 ratings.