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

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

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228 Reviews
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Reviews: 228
Hads: 1,609
Avg: 4.3
pDev: 8.6%
Wants: 255
Gots: 916 | FT: 132
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

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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Reviews: 228 | Hads: 1,609
Photo of mothman
4.09/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Tan head. Black in color.

Rich and roasted. A fair amount of bourbon with a touch of heat. Lots of chocolate. Roasted malts. Oak and caramel. Molasses.

Medium bodied for a stout. A bit too much carbobations. Ends with bourbon and roast.

Solid offering from SN. Well done, but a bit expensive.

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Photo of kalosjakar
4.45/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Inky Black, not as much head as I thought.

Bourbon, toffee, caramel, roasted, marshmallow.
All of these I got in both the aroma and taste.

I loved the level of bourbon in this. Night and day compared to non BA Narwhal.

I aged mine for approximately 3 months. Cannot wait to buy it again next year.

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Photo of spark3148857
4.44/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pitch black with half finger khaki head that quickly recedes. Aroma of chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, oak. Milk chocolate, coffee, vanilla, oak, and bourbon coat the palate. Creamy and delicious, no perceptible alcohol.

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Photo of argock
3.87/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750 ml brown corked and caged bottle into a clear glass tulip. Purchased about 2 months ago at Wine Warehouse (Charlottesville, VA).

A: Black with rim of light beige head which leaves a few tiny scraps of lacing.

S: Aroma is mostly roast, woody oak, alcohol, and piney hops.

T: Flavor is a little harsh and rough with pretty hefty alcohol, roast, and oak characters which covers the more subtle nuances of bourbon, vanilla, and coffee which are there but not up front. There is dark chocolate too, again understudy to the dominant flavor. Hops are herbal and pine with medium bitterness. Heavy booze in the aftertaste.

M: Great body and crisp with more carbonation that most which prevents it from falling into the syrupy trap.

O: NOt worth the price and I would take Epic Big Bad Baptist or Heavy Seas Siren Noire over this everytime -- actually could buy two for the bloated price of this decent bottle.

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Photo of MtnSoup
4.15/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

While I didn't get a ton of bourbon barrel character from this beer, I wouldn't call it simple/less than complex - a lot going on here. Chocolate was the most noticeable quality, followed by espresso/vanilla flavors. Really a delicious beer that I'd like to age for awhile to see what happens. Need more of these.

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Photo of HalfFull
3.93/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750 ml cork and caged bottle served into a tulip glass, 2015 version. This BA Narwhal pours a clean jet black with a half inch cap of deep mocha colored foam which shows good lacing and maintains a thin cap when requested with a swirl of the glass.

Aroma of dark malts and a hint of chocolate and cocoa. Ethanol is evident though subtle and complimentary as for ecpectations. Some barrel notes emerge as the foam settles yet are not overbearing. Bit more notes of wood with a taste, along with roasted malts and a flash of vanilla on the swallow and followed by a moderate finish of coarse spiciness. Feel is rich and viscous enough to be balanced yet not so much as to be cloying. Overall a decent brew, the oak has mellowed things a bit but the bourbon is largely absent which is particularly surprising given the ABV boost vs the base beer. I'm guessing there is quite a bit of variation from batch to batch.

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Photo of dpgoblejr
4.95/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2015 Bottle
Black; the color with a slight amber hue around the glass. Extensive mocha, frothy, head and lots of lacing to boot. Bourbon, espresso, chocolate, vanilla and oak on the nose. Top notch flavors meet the tongue and tastes of cocoa powder, bourbon, coffee, vanilla and some coconut can be found. Super thick with a coating quality down th e throat. Mostly full bodied with just the right amount of alcohol heat. Superb comes to mind when describing this BBA Stout and one that should be enjoyed by all! Well done and go get one!

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Photo of HorseheadsHopHead
4.77/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled on 9/18/15

Pours a very dark brown, almost completely black, and looks pitch black in the glass. An aggressive pours yields a surprising two fingers of dark tan, mocha that leaves sheets of lacing.

The aroma offers lots of bourbon barrel goodness; bourbon, oak, vanilla, butterscotch, and burnt sugar, milk chocolate, and almond.

The palate offers milk chocolate, bitter cocoa, vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, burnt sugar, almond milk, figs and raisins, toasted coconut, bourbon, oak, and some charred smokiness. Well rounded with the alcohol level remarkably well hidden, only a warming on the finish, with some lingering sweetness.

Mouthfeel is medium-full, creamy and slick, but not chewy or heavy. A bit thicker than BCBS but not as oily, but not as thick as Founders Imperial Stout.

This is a top notch barrel aged beer and a delicious stout. It's not quite on the level of BCBS but it's pretty darn close. Absolutely worth buying on a yearly basis.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.09/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750ml C&C bottle; poured into a pair of SP sour flutes.

Appearance: midnight black body with tall cap light khaki head that drops down to ring around glass.

Smell: Roasty, dark fruits, spicy and slightly boozy bourbon. Lots of oak.

Taste: Same flavors as the nose with additional flavors of cola, rootbeer, and black licorice.

Mouthfeel: medium body with moderate carbonation. Pretty easy drinking BA stout and slightly thinner mouthfeel compared to non barrel aged narwahl.

Overall: This is not quite as good as regular narwahl. Thou it is still a pretty good barrel aged stout.

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Photo of yesterdayfaraway
4.48/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

S: this is the first Ba stout I actually smell coconut. I also get bourbon, oak, chocolate
T: good bourbon and chocolate. Again, I get coconut, oak. Nice barrel notes. Nothing overpowers, very well balanced.
F: medium to full thickness. Coats well
O: great beer, get some.

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Photo of Barracudas
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is a whale of a tale! The complexity of the flavor is outstanding! They have done a very good job with this Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout. Highly recommended!

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Photo of Moose90
4.6/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served On-Tap!

A — Pours a dark mocha black hue into the small glass, pitch black appearance with no visible light showing through around the edges. Dark chocolate powder colored brown head forms a little ring of lace around the top of the beer and down the side of the glass with each sip.

S — Smell is strongly focused on dark chocolate, bourbon, oak, bitter malts, coffee, toasted crusty bread, charred coffee beans. Lots of Bourbon and vanilla character on top of a dark and rich malt base.

T — Strong, focused, slightly astringent notes of coffee, chocolate, charred oak. Boozy, semi-sweet bakers chocolate, cocoa powder, bitter coffee, light vanilla sweetness rounds things out.

M — Full bodied, viscous, lingering finish.

O — Great overall, takes one of my favorite beers and manages to make it even better.

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Photo of leantom
4.37/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This one's a keeper. Much better than the regular Narwhal, IMHO. Here goes:

A: Perfect. Pitch black, massive head, and leaves plenty of lacing. Really not much to say; perfection in a glass.

S: Mix of vanilla, oak, coffee, and chocolate. Not much dark fruit. Just a coffee-bitter, chocolate bomb mixed with bourbon goodness. Only flaw is that the bourbon is a tad overwhelming and is overly predominant; it masks much of the chocolate and coffee flavors from the ale.

T: Good. Follows the nose, but with the same problem (i.e., bourbon somewhat masks the ale rather than compliments it). This is still a good beer, however, just be prepared for a bourbon bomb.

F: Great. Nice and thick.

O: Much better than the regular Narwhal. Worth every penny (just wish I always had the money to buy it!).

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Photo of KettleBellFreak
4.41/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Nice and smooth, bite of bourbon flavor that fades into a not so sweet coffee and graham cracker with a bit of cocoa on the finish. A thick viscous beer with great chocolate and bready smell. Really liked it.

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Photo of ZakFaruki
4.29/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

L: Poured from a corked 22 oz. into a tulip, pours an opaque black with a coffee brown thin white head, fades into a tiny ring leaving delicate amounts of lace on the glass

S: Obviously the oak and alcoholic bourbon scent lead the nose, with slight hints of sweet chocolate and coffee

T: Chocolate and malts lead the palate up front, and then fade with a strong boozy accent of bourbon, this is a big beer clocking in at 12.9%, so the ABV matches the boozy finish

F: Thick and creamy, as an imperial stout should be

O: As a fan of Imperial Stouts and the Narwhal, I figured it was about time to give this a try. My only complaint as others have is the bourbon tends to overtake the other flavors, leaving the creamy and coffee notes to be desired, but overall still a pleasant sipper to be enjoyed at least one or two occasions.

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Photo of Wiffler27
4.27/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

pours deep black with thick dark cream colored head.

smells sweet like bourbon with some dark malt as well.

tastes like bourbon with complexity of dark malt and coffee. a nice sweetness to it without being overly sweet. goes down easy but is clearly a sipper. isn't overly thin or thick on the feel.

overall this is pretty good! BUT i prefer the standard Narwhal. i am new to barrel aged but i'm trying them. i like bourbon but i'm not a huge fan of it with my beer.

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Photo of NickTheGreat
4.65/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2015 Edition
L (4.5) - Very dark, viscous beer with a tan-ish head. Not a lot of it, but it's there.
S (4.5) - Smells faintly of chocolate and coffee, and bourbon. Not really "burnt" so much as dark roast.
T (4.75) - Tastes just like it smells. Slight chocolate flavor with the bourbon finish. Very well balanced stout, but you can't help but notice the bourbon. Which is about right, not like drinking a boilermaker.
F (5) - Thick, creamy, perfect consistency. A wee bit of alcohol burn at the end.
O (4.5) - I really liked this one. A good BB stout. It's not over the top with the bourbon, but there's no mistaking it. It is not for the faint of heart. I will buy this any time I see it.

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Photo of ptykozoon
4.1/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours close to black with a ring.

Oak, subtle dark sweets - cinnamon, nutmeg.

Caramel, chocolate, raisin, light bitter dark chocolate.

Sharp carbonation, dry mouthfeel. ABV controlled expertly.

Delicious desserty beer.

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Photo of do_ob
4.3/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle split between two New Belgium snifters. Dark brown pour and pitch black in the glass. About 1/2 a finger of mocha colored head initially that bubbled down to a thick lacing after a couple minutes. Looks a lot like the non BA version in the glass minus the carbonation. Nose is charred oak, strong bourbon, and vanilla with backing notes of dark fruit, expresso, and chocolate. Despite the medley of ingredients, the bourbon dominates all, almost to the point of being cloyingly overpowering. The taste follows suit with sweet, warm bourbon taking the forefront. I also get notes of caramel, vanilla, molasses, and baker's chocolate. While the bourbon is definitely present, this beer isn't OVERLY boozy. It's well balanced enough to let the other characteristics shine through. Slight hints of coconut on the back end as it warmed. Very dense & syrupy feel with a sweet, warm alcohol factor in there. No burn, though, even at room temperature. Surprisingly smoother than it's standard counterpart.

Overall, excellent. Would be perfect with about a year on it to mellow the bourbon a bit. Much less roasty than the non BA version, which is a good thing, in my opinion. For $22.99/bottle, it's worth picking up once a year.

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Photo of Bonkinishwa
4.34/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Narwhal Imperial Stout (Barrel Aged). 12.9% ABV. 750ml bottle split between two snifters. 2015 Edition.

Look: Same viscous, pitch black body as the regular Narwhal. Aggressive pour created a small, mocha colored head, which ended up as sticky lacing on the sides.

Smell: Immediate sweet charred oak, and sweet bourbon. While its cold, not much else can be picked up, but as it warms, some rich vanilla, caramel, roast coffee, and dark cocoa break through.

Feel: Thick, heavy body, with a fair amount of carbonation.

Taste: Sweet bourbon and charred oak barrel are up front, but not as strong as the aroma. On the back end, some roast coffee, and sweet cocoa are picked up. As it warms, the caramel sweetness and vanilla mix in with the other flavors.

Overall: Has the same flavors and aromas of regular Narwhal, but add some sweet barrel aging, caramel, and vanilla, and higher ABV, and you get this. Great combination and balance, not too boozy, and almost no burn. Paired great with some homemade chocolate cake.

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Photo of brureview
4.02/5  rDev -6.5%
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 -7.4%
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%
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 -2.8%
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 -1.9%
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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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 228 ratings.