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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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172 Reviews
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Reviews: 172
Hads: 1,396
Avg: 4.3
pDev: 25.35%
Wants: 230
Gots: 732 | FT: 112
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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Reviews: 172 | Hads: 1,396
Photo of lafoodie8808
4.15/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

What is there to say about this beer? The base stout is fantastic and barrel aging it brings out a lot of the chocolate and caramel like qualities in the malt profile. However, there just isn't a lot of barrel so for the cost it's hard to justify.

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Photo of VTR
3.96/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

Finally found a stockpile of these and got to pick one up. This is Narwhal aged in barrels. The bourbon is very prominent in this beer and I appreciate that. If you don't enjoy a strong bourbon presence this might be too "hot" for you. I found this very enjoyable with the oak and vanilla melding very well with the base beer. I will pick up more when I find it again but its steep at the $20 mark but worth it at least once.

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Photo of bigbluebeerguy
4.21/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

An initial wave of bourbon hits the nose, backed by bitter chocolate, espresso roast, and campfire smoke. The tongue takes a decidedly sweeter turn as dark fruits intermingle with traces of vanilla and cola. Mid-palate finds notes of nuts, oak, and mild bourbon heat before building to a moderately bitter finish. I can't help but think letting this sit for a year was a good decision.

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Photo of dd43
4.46/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Outstanding barrel aged stout from Sierra Nevada. I would put this in the company of bourbon county, kbs, and other such vaunted barrel aged stouts.

Drank this at a tasting after aging the bottle for a year. Having never had it fresh, it still tasted somewhat hot, but really for a big beer like this you kind of know that going in.

Motor oil on the pour, beautiful inky black opaque appearance with a garnet highlight. Carbonation is actually a little more noticeable in the mouthfeel than bourbon county.

Aromas are coconut, vanilla, roasted grains/coffee and bourbon. Flavors are more roast with a warming whisky sensation, and the woody barrel notes hit you on the back end as you swallow. Expect to exhale some alcohol fumes after drinking this beer.

Worth seeking out, I will absolutely be on the lookout for it if I hear of Sierra Nevada releasing another batch in the future.

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Photo of brentk56
4.35/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Pours the color of starless midnight but leaves a galactic pattern of lacing; the head recedes to a film rather quickly, however, but can be resurrected with a swirl

Smell: Roast and oak, buttressed by chocolate, caramel, coffee and Bourbon tones

Taste: The Bourbon is nicely integrated with the roast, chocolate and caramel tones with vanilla and toasted coconut developing; in the middle, there are touches of coffee, graham cracker, cinnamon and some hoppy bitterness; a lively warmth builds, after the swallow; with all of the flavors coming together in the finish

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with moderate carbonation and some warmth in the gullet

Overall: A bit of aging in my cellar has served this beer well, with all the flavors merging nicely

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Photo of Newbeergeek1
4.42/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Narwhal is one of my top 5 beers of all time so when I had a chance to get this I grabbed it, pricey as it was at $20. I am super glad I did, finally got around to habit a long time friend around to share it with and we both wound up smiling a LOT. BUT, I must say that I think the regular Narwal slightly edged out the Bbl aged 22 oz. beauty. Regular Narwal, when I can find this wonderful seasonal, is a better buy. But if you haven't tried the Bbl age one go for it at least once. Hard to find here in Maine though

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

Pours almost black with some off-white bubbles. Smells of big caramel and oak, a bit of bourbon heat, and dark malts. Tastes like a bourbon-chocolate-malt ball. A bit sweet, but very smooth and even-flavored- nothing too bold. Feels slick and smooth, not very dense. Great treatment of Narwhal

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Photo of akrz47
3.78/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Latest version, aged for several months. It was good, not great. I didn't find it very hot, actually, like a lot of posts have mentioned. Would get better after more aging, though. Just not as complex or worth savoring as most good BB stouts. Seems like cheap bourbon. Good to try, going to age my other bottle a while, but probably won't buy the next round.

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Photo of Zonk
3.92/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

I really couldn't get over how boozy this was, but perhaps the barrel flavors will integrate with time. A great rich creamy stout, that's just overpowered by bourbon at the moment.

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Photo of YodersBeerEmporium
4.71/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Great Bourbon Barrel aged Stout! Especially for the money! Great burbon and chocolate notes and not too hot for being fresh. Going to cellar one as well.

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Photo of ShanePB
4.12/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750 ml bottle. Deep black body with a tan head that settled into a thin ring. No real lacing. Aromas of chocolate, cocoa nibs, whiskey soaked oak and some roast. Lots of roast on the palate with the chocolate making a center play, too. The oak and whiskey cask are on the back-end. Thick mouth feel. Enjoyable.

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Photo of breadwinner
4/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Good roast/char notes on this one, with a subdued but still noticeable barrel presence on the palate (but less pleasingly in the nose). I'm not a huge fan of base Narwhal, and while I think this is an improvement, the nose is still just a bit too spiritous. Not the greatest value either at $18/750ml.

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Photo of Slatetank
4.4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I enjoyed this bottle chilled in a stout glass recently at our annual stout tasting.

The color is black with beige cream and fine bead with moderate lace stickage. The smell is a mix of light woody barrel aroma with a nice level of malt roastiness and slight caramel accent with bourbon adding to the aroma and light spice in the nose. The feel is great rich malt with subtle sweetnes and mild dry woody quality with bourbon adding a mild alcohol element to the texture.

The taste is great with the stout base that is slightly spiced with hops yet a noticeable vanilla type flavor from the bourbon barrel aging that brings out the chocolate flavors in the malt with some light dried fruit and hints of molasses. This is the stout I enjoyed most of the several we shared I just found the bourbon to be very expressive without neglecting the Narwhal's great base flavor it is a great stout that is only enhanced by the bourbon barrel

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Photo of BuccoFan
4.19/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This was ultimately a pleasure to drink. Rich, full-bodied stout sweetened very neatly with the bourbon aging. My only complaint is that it had a tad too much carbonation on its way to warming up, but as I said, it was overall a pleasure.

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Photo of GarthDanielson
4.54/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a cork and cage 750 into a snifter, the beer pours jet black and oil thick, with a fluffy, tightly bubbled brown head that quickly settles into a sparse surface coating. Aromas of rich chocolate, heavy sweet cream, vanilla, roasted coffee, hints of char and wood, and bourbon highlights. Flavors are amazingly balanced, with rich cocoa nib and sweet vanilla cream blending perfectly on the forward tongue. Wow! Highlights shine through as the beer cascades over the taste buds, with caramel, roasted coffee, tangy crème, subtle char, and spicy bourbon all peeking in here and there. There is a subtle warmth building as you drink, with the smooth, rich, velvety body layering itself over your palate and slowly sinking in everywhere it touches. The aftertaste is rich dark chocolate, cream, and coffee, all blending together in a magnificent linger. Smooth, layered, velvety soft finish that lingers perfectly. This is a tremendous beer!

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

Appearance - The beer was black as a used motor oil with a slight tan head.

Smell - The nose was mostly a demonstration of boozy notes.

Taste - In the beginning, Narwhal showed notes of chocolate, amaretto, cherries, malt, and mellow booze. I let this one cellar for about 6 months, which may have mellowed the booze. The overall profile was well balanced, finishing warm sticky chocolate malts.

Mouthfeel - The carbonations was appropriately low, the booze and sweetness giving a sticky impression.

Overall - Sierra Nevada hits one out of the park with this beer. I sleep well tonight.

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Photo of Fatehunter
3.79/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Pours a thin head on a black body.
The aroma is licorice, anise and oak.
The taste is sweet, wood and alcohol heat.
The texture is smooth.
It's delicious.

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Photo of Brondeau
4.09/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasty but a bit too strong. The alcohol is forward. Reminds me of drinking SN's Bigfoot Barleywine for the first time. Alcohol forward. It's good, complex, dark. Not worth the $20 I paid for a pint, 9oz bottle.

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

From the 750ml C&C bottle to my Sierra Nevada balloon luettich - of course!
Notes taken on 01/18/2015

A: The BA Narwhal pours a muddy black in appearance with not much sheen to the body. Entirely opaque with a solid two finger stack of mocha tan suds formed over. Impeccable hang time there and a few creamy streamers running along the glass walls.

S: Rich and decadent with a chocolate coconut crème and bourbon vanilla spice character. There is a touch of smoky roast to this and fair hints of coffee bean as well. Nice layers of dark malts and brown sugars in between. A really refined nose with some great coconut and bourbon presence.

T: Flavors develop more of the same which is a beautiful blend of bitter chocolates, dark roasted malts, toasted oats/grains, Bourbon, coconut, and vanilla. It really is a perfected amount of bourbon influence here. Only complimentary to the beer itself and never too harsh or hot. Lightly earthy with some hop bitterness coming in on the back end and a touch of char. Alcohol is extremely well incorporated throughout. So smooth and frothy light while still packing in some great depth. Really good shit.

M: For an impy stout aged in spent oak barrels this has such a smooth and lush feel across the palate. Full bodied but greatly balanced between light and thick. Never syrupy or overbearing. Nice touch of bitters lend some drying stages towards the finish. Light ABV warmth on exhalation.

D: A mighty fine sipper. Big hats off to Sierra Nevada. I was pleasantly surprised by this one and found it to be masterfully blended. Everything comes together in great harmony and overall this is a far better brew than the base Narwhal Stout.

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Photo of FrostyFoster72
4.61/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

The nose is way more mild than the intense flavor. Not as boozy as you would think in the smell or taste. It looks perfect in the glass with a slightly aggressive poor. The taste is so complex, gets even better as it rises to room temperature! A truly monstrous stout!

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Photo of zeledonia
4.52/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Tasted 10 April 2015.

Pours black and thick, opaque. One finger of deep brown head, good retention and lacing.

Smell is richness, sweetness, and fullness, epitomized. Chocolate, soft bourbon corn sweetness. Waves of complexity. It's like a tropical sea at night. I want to dive into it and be surrounded by its warmth.

Taste comes through with a twang, that I assume is the alcohol. But given the ABV, it's dangerously well hidden. Molasses, licorice, and plums. Not as lovely as the smell, primarily due to that slight sharpness that's present throughout. But plenty good enough.

Feel is solid. Solid like a block of wood soaked in a delicious stout. Chewy, rich, with just enough carbonation to keep things in motion.

My mouth wants more of this. My head says 750ml is enough... or perhaps too much. A stellar beer, in the upper middle of the BA stouts I've had.

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Photo of Damian
3.71/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Drank from a 1 pint 9.4 fl. oz. corked and caged bottle purchased at Busa Wine & Spirits, Lexington, MA
Served in snifter

Dark brown/black appearance. Medium viscosity. The liquid was topped by a one-finger tall, frothy, creamy, mocha colored crown that quickly faded to a thin ringlet. No lacing whatsoever.

The aroma was subtle initially but also quite boozy. Roasty, smoky and ashy with a strong rubbing alcohol presence. Espresso was noticeable. Touch of brown sugar. Slightly sweet. As the beer warmed, the nose turned much smoother and more fragrant. The bourbon came forth but the sharp booziness also settled down. Sweet vanilla notes appeared. Raisins and dark fruits were detectible as well. Touch of oakiness.

Coffee and roast came through in the flavor profile. As was the case in the nose, the alcohol was rather overwhelming. Espresso was noticeable. Baker's chocolate appeared as well. The boozy, almost stinging finish contained notes of earthy, bitter hops and roast. Slightly acrid. Lots of dry, oaky, woody tannins were also present. Hints of char lingered after the swallow. With time, the flavors smoothed out a bit.

The beer was thinner bodied for the style but still creamy and slick on the palate. A fine, mild effervescence gave the beer a soft suppleness.

Although this barrel-aged release of Narwal takes the edge off some of the excessive roastiness and hoppiness found in the original version of the beer, it is also significantly boozier. I cellared my bottle for approximately a year, but it certainly could have been pushed out a while longer.

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Photo of superspak
4.52/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle into snifter, bottled on 10/16/2014. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense dark tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Light spotty lacing clings around the glass, with a fair amount of streaming carbonation retaining the cap. Aromas of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, toffee, toast, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, light dark fruit, light butterscotch, and roast/oaky earthiness. Incredible aromas with awesome complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel notes; with good strength. Taste of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, toffee, toast, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, light dark fruit, light butterscotch, and roast/oaky earthiness. Light herbal/roast/oaky bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, toffee, toast, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, and roast/oaky earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible complexity and robustness of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel flavors; with an insane malt/barrel balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy, silky, and lightly slick mouthfeel that in incredible. Alcohol is extremely well hidden with only a slight alcohol warmth lingering after the finish. Overall this is a world class barrel aged imperial stout. All around insane complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the huge ABV. A truly mind blowing offering.

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Photo of stevoj
4.71/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Everything its reported to be, and more. Pitch black with beige\ruby foamy head. Nice smoky aroma, wood, roast malt, burnt toast, some alcohol that singes the nose hairs. Taste is a bit mellower, lots of alcohol warmth, more roastiness, lots of wood. A sipper...

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Photo of CHickman
4.06/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2014 Bottle: Pours pitch black color with a thick creamy 2 finger light brown head that was full of bubbles and faded slowly, leaving good foamy lacing that slides down back into the brew.

Smells very earthy and oaky with the bourbon barrel influence making an immediate impact. Nose is a mix of cocoa powder, bourbon, toasted coconut, sheet metal, wood like sticks or tree bark, nuts still in the shell, coffee grinds, bakers chocolate and light vanilla. The earthy notes keep the bourbon in check and seem to bring out herbs, dry floral hops or a potpourri essence that then lead into charred wood and a lot of roasted notes at the end. The alcohol pops through but does not show it's real strength.

Tastes very similar to the aroma with the earthy and oaky flavors of bourbon barrel showing up first and bringing out metallic, tinny flavors that resemble yeast or a dirty penny. The booze seems like Jim Beam and leads into black licorice, dark roasted malt, cocoa powder, bourbon,light vanilla, toasted coconut, coffee grinds, a touch of dark fruit, twigs, sticks, tree bark and other woody, earthy or oaky flavors on the finish. This hides the 12.9% ABV very well but has less of the malty complexities that I enjoyed in the base beer.

Mouthfeel is thin and smooth, with some chewiness but a more watery presence than expected considering this is bourbon barrel aged stout. There is a slight coffee bitterness in the finish that fades off with black licorice and lingering earthy and leafy notes. The aftertaste is metallic, which is odd and unexpected - perhaps its the yeast.

Overall it was a very nice beer, but I hoped for a richer molasses and/or dark fruit addition from the barrel aging, whereas this brought in more wood, earthy and metallic notes. I like the base Narwhal stout better, but this was a good beer.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 172 ratings.