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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.

205 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 205
Hads: 1,502
Avg: 4.29
pDev: 23.78%
Wants: 247
Gots: 823 | 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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Reviews: 205 | Hads: 1,502
Reviews by the Alström Bros:
Photo of Todd
4.25/5  rDev -0.9%

More User Reviews:
Photo of ThickNStout
4.75/5  rDev +10.7%

Corked and caged 750mL bottle from Sprayberry Bottle Shop (Marietta, GA). 22.99. Bottled 10/14/14. Served in a Barrel and Barley teku.

Pours midnight black with a two and a half finger cap of dense, pale tan head. The froth slowly settles to a thin ring that leaves some nice patches of lace.

Sweet, rich, inviting smells of bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, burnt oak, coffee and caramel with a hint of the fairly formidable alcohol in the background. Quite nice.

Flavors are bold, rich and ocassionally bordering on hot. Dark chocolate fudge, bourbon, charred oak, vanilla, heavily roasted malts, burnt caramel, espresso, faint coconut, marshmallow, vague dark fruits and a nice blanket of booze over it all. Despite the name, this seems like a different stout than the base beer. Significantly sweeter with almost none of the anise that I recall being so prevalent. An outstanding blend of imperial stout and barrel character that goes down with an ease that belies it's near-13% abv.

Sludgy, heavy, creamy feel with an interesting, lethargic seeming carbonation. That may not read as a compliment but the mouthfeel is almost perfect for an imperial stout. Bittersweet dark fudge, bourbon and sweet barrel linger in the finish.

I remember thinking Narwhal had some real potential when I first tried it two years ago and that potential is fully realized in this barrel aged version. The barrel smooths out the flavors, adds a wonderfully sweet complexity and seems to have thickened it beautifully. This beer came out of left field and surpassed my expectations, which is a rare occurrence these days. Yes this is a tad pricey but Barrel Aged Narwhal is a benchmark example of what a barrel aged imperial stout can be and possibly the best beer I've had from the craft veterans at Sierra Nevada. Seriously- try this if you can!

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Photo of maximum12
4.27/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to my beautiful wife for hunting this one down at an obscure liquor store near her work after I missed out on it. Big 750ML bottle which, I suppose, I really must split with said significant other. Sampled right after the regular old version…which kicks ass. I have high hopes.

The pour is black. Real black. Black black. Black. Carbonation is even lower than in the version that never kissed a barrel. Baby Narwhal appears to have been drowned in a barrel, because the base beer has gone away. Smells of barrel, vanilla, with a faint, perhaps imagined grain of malts.

Narwhal – Barrel Aged tastes like Narwhal that’s been stuck in a barrel. There’s a lovely shot of vanilla on top of the beer, & a low-slung murmur of bourbon with a Kenny Wayne Sheppard riff. Plenty of oak listing against my tongue, lightly roasted, lightly chocolated. Silky & smoother than the pilot episode. I could drink this again. Now. Or later.

Honestly not all that different from the base beer, but interesting to have them front-to-back. The barrel is light but inviting & adds a touch of class to a beer that was in class, in a class, classless. What the fuck. I shouldn’t drink so much. Excellent brew.

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Photo of RAlmeida77
3.03/5  rDev -29.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.75

VERY underwhelmed by this one. Bourbon aroma and flavor was lacking for me. I like more of a bourbon presence. Also found it to be very thin for an imperial stout with an ABV like this. I really like thick drinking stouts. Disappointed.

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Photo of ajz132
4.63/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

750 mL bottle poured into a Jester King teku glass. ~12 oz poured initially. Date was smudged on the bottle and not legible.

A - This beer is bllllllacckkkkk - as dark as the depths of the water that its mastadonic namesake dives to many times a day. 2 fingers of frothy, mocha-colored head quickly receded to one and none after the beer sat for just a few seconds. Lacing consists of many small bubbles that quickly disappear.

N - The aroma on this beer is delightful and complex - that of a high end dessert establishment. The bourbon notes are the first thing that your nose grabs, but notes of dark chocolate, vanilla bean, and espresso are present as well.

T - When the beer is still cold (~50 F), the bourbon flavors are the first thing that you get and remain throughout the sipping of the beer, with some trailing coffee flavors. As the beer warms up, there are pronounced flavors of chocolate when the beer first hits the tongue, melding well with the bourbon flavors you pick up in the middle, and finishing with lingering espresso. The taste is quite good, but the wonderful sweetness that I look for in GREAT BA stouts is just not there.

M - For being a 12.9% monster, the mouthfeel on this beer is not as huge as it could be. While it is obviously no session beer, it is quite drinkable. It does, however, drink a little bit "hot" even when it has warmed up. I don't know if it has to do with the barrels that were used or just what, but the booziness is more pronounced than in the "elite" BA stouts.

O - This beer is no question a GREAT one. I certainly wouldn't let it sit on a table and not drink it, regardless of circumstances. That being said - it is not in the same class as the other world-class BA stouts that we all love, even though it has a similar price tag.

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Photo of deadonhisfeet
4.45/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a Brooklyn Brewery snifter. The pour is very dark, perhaps not quite black, and sports an impressive bloom for a barrel-aged beer. The nose has lots of chocolate and dark fruit as well as hints of oak, vanilla, and some smoke.

Full body, fairly firm feel, and lots of great flavor. The dark fruit on the nose turns out to be nothing more than a tease, but there's a lot to like here. Toasted oak, vanilla, toffee, and chocolate do battle up front while at mid-palate the warming bourbon-laced booziness adds richness to an already rich flavor. Lots of bittersweet chocolate rushes in on the finish, which leaves lingering chocolate and toasted oak behind. Try to imagine a toasted almond dipped in bourbon and covered in dark chocolate and you get the idea. Quite drinkable for such a strong beer. Excellent sipper on a chilly January evening.

A lot of breweries make bourbon barrel aged stouts. Not many make them this delightful. This is another beautiful beer from Sierra Nevada. It reminds me a lot of Bell's Black Note Stout, only with a slightly thinner feel and a bit better nose. Pricey at about $20 per bottle, but very high quality. Buy with confidence.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.31/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

(Reviewed from notes)

BOTTLE: Brown glass. Bomber format. Branded cork. Generally appealing label art.

Reviewed as an imperial stout per the label. Served cold into an Odell stem-tulip at high altitude in Fort Collins, CO. Expectations are above average; I'm not big in the original Narwhal and I'm not the Sierra Nevada fanatic everyone else seems to be.

No bubble show forms as it's poured.

HEAD: 1 finger wide. Khaki colour head. Creamy, thick, and full. Soft-looking. Retention is average – about 2 minutes. Leaves no lacing on the sides of the glass as it recedes.

BODY: Opaque solid black – pretty much what you'd predict, but not an ink black or anything. Clean; no yeast particulate or hop sediment is visible.

Overall, it looks apt for an imperial stout, but is far from unique or special looking. I've definitely seen far better in the style.

AROMA: Dark malts, chocolate malts, cream, and caramel. Barrel-wise, I pick up on some faint coconut, but no rich toasty evocative oak. There's a mild vanilla presence. It isn't as woody as I'd anticipate given the barrel aging.

No yeast character, overt alcohol, obvious off-notes, or hop profile is detectable.

Evokes a fairly balanced brew without much barrel character. Definitely seems more interesting than regular Narwhal. Seems a bit too sweet.

Aromatic intensity is moderate.

TASTE: Boasts interesting notes of faint toasted coconut, mild vanilla, and a kiss of bourbon. It's missing toasted oak barrel and barrel sugar notes. Dark malts and chocolate malts comprise the simple foundation. Comes off a bit too sweet, but it's not quite boozy. Some caramel.

No yeast character, overt off-notes, caramel, or hop profile comes through.

It's decently balanced, but leaves much to be desired in terms of complexity/intricacy, subtlety, and nuance – especially considering the style – which demands that a lot be happening, at least to set it apart.

Average depth, duration, and intensity of flavour. Decent flavour amplitude. It's nicely built, with some loose cohesion, but never comes off tasting like a gestalt whole.

I do like it, and it's certainly more interesting than regular Narwhal, but I still expect more from a barrel aged imperial stout – especially in today's oversaturated market.

TEXTURE: Smooth, wet, full-bodied, unrefreshing, lightly boozy, somewhat soft, fairly moderately thick and overcarbonated. Overall presence on the palate is nice but wanting. This texture doesn't elevate the beer and doesn't feel custom-tailored specifically to the taste, but it suits the taste decently and doesn't hold the beer back.

Not oily, gushed, astringent, harsh, rough, scratchy, or dragging on the palate. It does have a noticeable alcohol warmth, however.

OVERALL: Definitely an improvement on the base beer, but still ultimately underwhelming considering the style. There are far better beers available in the style for less money, but this is decent and I do enjoy it. Sierra Nevada continues to fail to impress me, but I'm glad I tried this once. Unfortunately, the barrel character just never melts into the base like it should. A nice stab at the style, with a good premise. The toasted coconut stands out, but is too subtle in my opinion. More drinkable than a sipper, but by no means easy to drink.

Low B-

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Photo of von_kaiser
4.5/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

purchased last years (2014) only to let sit. purchased 3 of this years (2015) to finally try and then age. this is drinking wonderfully now and can only imagine how much better time will add to it. grab this without hesititation if you're a fan of the style and grab a few more to let sit.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.49/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Incredibly powerful, yet full of grace- Sierra Nevada's Barrel-Aged Narwahl is woven into a seamless bourbon cocoon. And with wine-like tones, the Stout is so much more than just roast and booze.

As the beer is delivered to the table, a quick swirl seems to encourage the Stout to crawl around the glass on its own, trailing with inky legging as much as it does a scattering of lace. Its mocha-stained sheet of foam is creamy but loosely knitted together, eventually succumbing to its massive strength.

Its bold and fragrant aromatics lead with obvious roast overtones. Smooth like espresso, dark chocolate, roasted nuts and a hint of dark fruit. As the sweet bourbon notes release caramel, vanilla and weathered wood, it also highlights its floral, plumb, berries, grape and overall vinous, sherry-like tones. Warming a bit, its citrusy hop character pull from the roast and booze in a surprising turn before that first sip.

Its masculine sweetness wraps around the tongue with those espresso and bittersweet chocolate malts like fudge and chocolate-covered espresso beans. Hearty sweetness of burnt toffee and molasses supports the roast character to near perfection. Its bourbon infusion delivers a plethora of complexity at middle palate- vinous sherry, charred berries, dates, figs and plum that's pulled together by the natural caramel wood sweetness, vanilla, mature oak and cherry wood spice. Turning assertively bitter in finish, only the slightest grapefruit taste discerns its hop-derived bitterness from charred bitterness.

Its certain full and chewy body uses its embedded carbonation to give a marshmallow texture to the mouth. Its creamy sweetness dissolves in stride to give its finish remarkable semi-dryness without harsh astringency. Lingering with espresso roast, bourbon warmth and a wisp of campfire- the Stout is perfect as after dinner digestive.

Where the standard Narwahl is formidable in its own right, the bourbon aging really pulls out the fruit, floral and hop tones as much as it provides complexity of barrel, booze and controlled aging- savory inducing taste.

 2,097 characters

Photo of superspak
4.52/5  rDev +5.4%
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 cosmicevan
4.25/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

enjoyed side by side with a 2014 narwhal from sierra nevada 30th anni globe snifter.

a - brew pours a rich shiny silky black. great shine nice frothy offwhite head. great lace, esp for a BA brew. looks like the base, but the BA has bigger lace.

s - nose is exactly ad advertised...a big woody bourbon glazing over the nice roasted chocolate notes of the base.

t/m/o - really well balanced BA stout. has all the robust chocolate roast and chewy body of the original with a really nice glaze of woody bourbon. the barrel takes some of the extremeness of the roast of the base and sits it in the back seat. an improvement to an already tasty beer. the barrel aging really takes it to another level. very good, easy drinking and worth checking out.

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Photo of Slatetank
4.4/5  rDev +2.6%
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 mdfb79
4.17/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From NOTB notes from last month; had a few samples of this one and liked it a lot.

a - Pours a pitch black color with two inches of thick tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Looks great, just like the normal Narwhal.

s - Smells of roasted malts, bourbon, vanilla, bitter chocolate, toasted malts, burnt malts, light coffee. Awesome nose; really nice mix of sweet bourbon, vanilla, and chocolate.

t - Tastes of sweet bourbon, roasted malts, oak, vanilla, bitter chocolate, dark fruits, toasted malts, and burnt malts. Very nice again, though I liked the nose a little better. Little more fruit and bitter chocolate here.

m - Medium body and high carbonation. Thick and smooth, definitely doesn't feel like 12.9% ABV. Nice mouthfeel.

o - Overall I liked this one a lot; I had high hopes for this after having the base beer and this did not disappoint. Looks great, great mouthfeel, and an awesome nose full of swete bourbon and vanilla. I know they are different beers, but liked this one a lot more than the BA bigfoot. Hoping to see this one again sometime.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.64/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

we are approaching perfect with this one, and beer rarely ever does for me. this is extraordinary, and absolutely delicious. i am amazed how the barrel mellows the base beer, but how the unique flavors of narwhal come through the bourbon is incredible, not covered up by whiskey but enhanced by it. there has always been a little vanilla finish to the base beer, and that really comes out on the nose of this one, along with bakers chocolate, melting fudge, honey, and vibrant oak. there is the vanilla and chocolate complexion in the flavor too, but theres also a whole lot more, the coffee notes of the malt, and a burning dessert bread sort of thing, followed by moderate raw sweetness and just a tickle of alcohol. i do get a little coconut when i look for it, but there is a different kind of nuttiness here, more of an almond thing, almost creamy with the earthy side, works so well with the heavy bourbon flavors the beer finishes with. texture is amazing too, viscous but not syrupy, palate coating but not teeth rotting, and hearty but not filling, its a mix of sensations not usually associated with the style. this may well be my favorite barrel aged stout right now, and is certainly the beer of 2015 for me here in the early going. wow, go find this one and open it immediately, no need for cellaring at all its ready to rip!

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Photo of Nobcefus
3.45/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

I would have enjoyed stronger bourbon notes. I also don't like using the word "notes".

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Photo of smb
4.58/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Great across the board. Specifically... the intense, rich and overwhelming milk chocolate, vanilla and toasted coconut flavors, as well as the chewy, slightly oaky, creamy feel that coats and envelopes your palate as the flavors linger. Maybe not as much barrel as some would like, but it's there, just subtle.

The only reason the ratings aren't higher here is because it's fairly easy to get... but it's also easily one of the best of 2014.

 442 characters

Photo of Gr8Stouts
4.77/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Buy it! Worth the price. Top 5 Imperial Stouts

46 characters

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.

 564 characters

Photo of braugon
3.75/5  rDev -12.6%

Photo of DanGeo
4.31/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

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 SanFranJake
4.5/5  rDev +4.9%

Photo of SkiBum22
4.4/5  rDev +2.6%

Photo of Ben7773
4.46/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Photo of sabitu
4.75/5  rDev +10.7%

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 205 ratings.