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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.

204 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 204
Hads: 1,498
Avg: 4.3
pDev: 23.72%
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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first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 204 | Hads: 1,498
Photo of LtownTrev
5/5  rDev +16.3%

I am early in my appreciation of such things but I believe this to my benchmark from which the rest will be measured. Big fan of the espresso impressions!

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Photo of InkedinRi
5/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Tasting a 2013 bottle in 2015.. This stout is so outstanding! If you can find a few put one aside for a few years you won't be disappointed! Really mellows out the alcohol, Big coffee, roasted malt, coffee, coconut and that sweet Bourbon barrel taste! 5/5

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Photo of bcheng
4.98/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

It's fantastic, great nose, excellent balance and high enough alcohol to further the enjoyment. I actually like this a bit better than BCBS, but that's just me. It feels higher on the ABV than 12.9%, but I'm not complaining!

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Photo of redsahx
4.91/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured in a snifter. Dark black but not quite as pitch black as other imperial stouts. Nice mocha colored head that settles. Nice aroma with solid but not overpowering bourbon. I think I pick up a pleasant hop aroma buried in there as well. Flavors of roasted malts, coffee, bourbon and even a hint of hop bitterness smoothed out with the bourbon and alcohol. One of the most well-balanced bourbon-barrel aged stouts I've had. I still put the Bourbon County Coffee and regular stout ahead, but this one might top the rest (including KBS) for me. Tough call there. Anyways this is truly well done.

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Photo of iTunesUpdates
4.9/5  rDev +14%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is an ineradicable beer! So glad I found two of these. Was not sure what to think after the price tag. But it definitely lived up to the hype!

If you find this brew, buy it!

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Photo of threeviews
4.85/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

750ml bottle (Bottled On Date: Oc. 15, 2014) into a Rastal Teku 2.0 stemmed glass (Initial pour was ~14oz). The cork was firmly seated and moist, making for a relatively painless extraction. Not much in the way of a 'pop' when opened.

A- Conservative pour yields a black-as-night beer with a quickly dissipating, 1-finger mocha colored head. Based on the head, the viscosity of this beer is less than BCBS (of which will undoubtedly be the beer by which this one is judged), but equally as elegant. (5.0)

S- Beautifully complex. As such, I find the blend of aromas somewhat of a challenge to describe: Caramel, Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Oak, Whiskey (more spicy than a traditional, sweet bourbon) and a hint of coffee all dance and play. Only once at room temperature is the presence of alcohol perceived. (5.0)

T- Caramel, Vanilla Bean and Whiskey pounce first yet are overtaken by an oak tannin and cocoa astringency. The beer finishes bitter, as if you were sipping on an espresso. Each stage lingers long enough to reward each sip with a profound drinking experience. (4.75)

M- Although only clocking in at a point less in the ABV department (and as perceived during the pour), BBA Narwhal is significantly less viscous than BCBS 2014 and thus, increasing its drinkability. What's more, even at near room temperature, the 12.9% ABV is almost masked entirely. (5.0)

O- The only glaring issue with this beer is the ~$20/bottle price point. That aside (and like BCBS), this is another example of a perfectly executed BBA Imperial Stout. Although I personally like the whiskey characteristics to resemble more of a sweet bourbon (in that regards, I'll give a nod to BCBS), BBA Narwhal's overall complexity in aroma/flavor give it immense personality, allowing it to stand proudly on its own to garner many a bragging right. (4.75)

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.79/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Bottle purchased at Nathaniel Square Corner Store in Rochester, NY.

Pours the darkest of dark blacks, really just impenetrable to light, with a dark mocha colored tan head, about 2 fluffy, creamy inches, and a lot of lacing.

Smells just decadent and heavenly- big, sweet and slightly spicy bourbon, tons of vanilla and marshmallow, and chocolate.

This tastes great, it almost feels like a Bourbon County light. It's so vanilla heavy, I'd almost think it was made with vanilla beans, but it's obviously not- it's all from the barrel, which is great. There's a bit of coconut too, and rich fudgy dark chocolate, along with some slight cookie dough flavors. The bourbon is definitely there, it's slightly nutty, a bit peppery and spicy, and sweet, all at the same time. As the beer warms up, some astringent wood flavors develop, and the alcohol makes a taste presence. At all temps, the alcohol is unbelievably warming, but never gets overwhelming. It's quite easy to take this whole bomber on my own.

This is really creamy, and has a full, rich, and high-class mouthfeel. There's a lower but present amount of carbonation, and a pretty thick body.

This is an exemplary barrel-aged stout, and I wouldn't expect anything less from Sierra Nevada at this point.

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Photo of dar482
4.79/5  rDev +11.4%

The beer comes in a dark black color with a surprising amount of medium brown head and carbonation.

The aroma is more intense than a smooth sweetness of some BA stout. Dense roasted malt, licorice, vanilla, coconut, oak, cocoa chocolate, bright whiskey.

The flavor in the front hits like Narwhal. Harsh, bitter of anise and licorice, almost charred roasted malt. It is then layered with spicy whiskey. Then onto a bittersweet chocolate, espresso bean, and then finally coconut and vanilla to compliment the dabs and touches of sweetness that the beer has.

The aftertaste lingers of oak tannins, and more sweetness to not drag the palate down from the initial onslaught.

The mouthfeel is medium plus to full.

A wonderfully balanced brew that reminds me a bit of Barrel Aged Framinghammer, with its oak flavors on the finish.

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Photo of novamat
4.79/5  rDev +11.4%
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 geryeb624
4.78/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Was lucky enough to come across a bottle of this and split it today after Thanksgiving dinner with some family. Corked and caged, served in a tulip.

A- Pours a jet black with a finger of brown head. Actually looks pretty fizzy for a stout pushing 13% ABV. Overall very attractive in the glass.

S- All the things they say on the bottle come through in the nose: chocolate, vanilla, coconut, coffee. A little caramel and maybe some maple notes, and a definite hit of alcohol. Very nice.

T- This may actually be the tastiest stout I've ever had. Tastes nothing of the alcohol it contains, and the roastiness and bitterness of ordinary Narwhal are mellowed into a beautiful sweetness and notes of chocolate, caramel, coconut. Actually has a nice hoppiness too, in case you forgot it's a California beer. For me, almost the Platonic ideal of what a barrel aged stout should taste like.

F- Not too heavy or syrupy, this beer actually has a nice consistency and some good carbonation. I don't care for beers that overdo the body and run too thick, so this was very welcome.

Overall, this is a magnificent achievement by Sierra Nevada. Narwhal was a great beer, and this is up there with the best I've ever had. Going to be seeking out some more bottles to lay down, and maybe will try another next Thanksgiving. Cheers!

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Photo of Catracho5
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

Serving type: Bottle poured into a Sierra Nevada Tulip glass

Appearance: Pours a pitch black, very viscous, made a lovely gulping sound out of the bottle into the glass, tan head disappeared very quickly, the head was full of tiny bubbles, no light comes through. Looks great.

Aroma: Getting nothing but the bourbon but it's not overwhelming. Getting some slight baker's cocoa on the nose, no alcohol. Getting some dark fruit aromas, but it's mostly bourbon.

Taste: Big bourbon, I'm getting that chocolate, baker's cocoa in non-barrel aged Narwhal coming through, dark fruits, no alcohol burn, very smooth, not a lot of bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Very thick, the carbonation is there on the mouthfeel, there's some bitterness that lingers on the palate, some alcohol burn, but it feels like a drop of oil, very nice.

Overall: Very nice BA stout, I am very familiar with non-BA Narwhal and this is the only stout that I have had in both forms. I get some of the non-BA Narwhal coming through but the bourbon really changes it. It's not an overwhelming bourbon flavor, nice balance, this has a little bit more carbonation than most BA stouts I've tried. No hops at all in this beer, only a slight bitterness that blends well. This is a must for BA stout lovers. A beer that is well made, interested in seeing what some age does to this beer.

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Photo of ocelot2500
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

Pours a deep ebony color with a tight, tan head that leaves a ring of lacing.

Smells of deep roasted note with some bourbon to it.

Tastes of rich dark malts layered with sweetness and booze. Malts lead off with notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and dark molasses. This gives way to some dark fruits as well as some toasted nuttiness. Light barrel notes come next with vanilla and wood. A slight amount of piny hops add depth. Finishes with an alcohol warmth and another kiss of chocolate.

Mouthfeel is full with a creamy amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is very tasty. The barrel notes are somewhat subdued, but I think it makes for a better blend of flavors overall.

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Photo of deford
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

Poured from a bomber into a FW snifter.

A- This beer is beautiful. A gorgeous black with tinges of brown and a caramel colored head.

S- Bourbon, chocolate, bit of vanilla, burnt wood, dark fruits....pretty inviting.

T- Cocoa, licorice, dark fudge, coconut, prunes (just a lil bit). It all blends together so well. The licorice faded as it warmed and the fudge came forward.

M- It completely coats your mouth as if you ate a soft chunk of fudge that grandma made. Its almost chewy. I didn't even notice any carbonation. This beer is thick and sticky.

O-Simply fantastic! There's some kind of roastiness on the finish, a welcome balance to grandma's fudge. The barrel has done wonders for an already fabulous beer!

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Photo of ThickNStout
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

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 BenwayPHD
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

Pours pitch black with a 1 1/2 finger mocha head. The nose is mild but nice. Vanilla, bourbon, mocha, chocolate ice cream, slightly roasty. The flavor is fucking delicious. Chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, almost no booze. Very pleasant. Great, creamy mouthfeel.

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Photo of Martyrob
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

This is one of my favorite BA stouts. I think Narwhal is a good stout, but this puts it top of class. I will definitely be looking for this next year.

Now that being said:
- thick and coating the glass with a slight head
- rich chocolate and definitely can smell the booze
- taste like a wonderful balance of chocolate and bourbon with a nice linger on the tongue.

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Photo of Young_John
4.74/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

So. Damn. Good.
If only there were something exactly like this available in smaller portions or lower ABV so I wouldn't have to plan an entire day around drinking one.

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Photo of gibgink
4.73/5  rDev +10%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Really enjoyable BA stout from Sierra Nevada. Takes Narwhal up a notch. Picked up the bourbon, but not in excess. Tasted some chocolate notes, and roasted flavors as well. Very well done. Would recommend.

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Photo of Pourharddrinkslow
4.73/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Been looking forward to this one for a long time. Pours a jet black, thick but not too thick that it has no carbonation. A medium-hard pour will leave you with about a 1" head that dissipates quickly. The nose gives you almost exclusively bourbon with a small amount of coffee and cocoa mixed in. Now for the taste: Upfront is a strong bourbon taste that stays with you the whole time you're sipping, and lingers well after the brew is empty. The secondary taste has got to be dark chocolate, which blends nicely with the mild coffee flavors and provides the BA Narwhal with a hint of bitterness. I love sweet stouts and some of the more bitter ones, but this beer seems to be in almost perfect balance with it's tastes. As my glass gets lower I notice the beer just keeps getting smoother. This one is definitely a mellow, relaxing sipper. I put it right with BA Biscotti Break as one of my favorite stouts. My only regret is that I didn't buy more than one. I highly recommend giving this a try if you can get your hands on it.

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Photo of Lard_City
4.73/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Fruit, hops, molasses, malt, vanilla, raisins, boozy. There are a lot of tastes going on here and they all scroll by you in a spectrum. Just a delight but will hammer you pretty quick. Kind of like drinking port wine after dinner, just a little goes a long way.

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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 Chris585
4.71/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Chocolate - vanilla - roastieness. - barrel aged goodness. This is outstanding. I looked for this beer for a month and finally found it on New Year's Eve. The price point of 22.99 was crazy but I'm sure they would have got a buyer at some point. What do they care right. Beer wasn't worth the price, but I'm glad I had a chance to try it. All great in every category.

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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 larryi86
4.69/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

750 mL bottle poured into a teku

A- Pitch black with a two finger mocha head.

S- Chocolate, oak,!some bourbon and vanilla, roasted coffee, touch of caramel, almost no alcohol.

T- Very rich and big, dark chocolates, hints of dark fruits, bourbon, a lot of oak, vanilla, alcohol, but not boozy, espresso/roasted coffee that linger in the finish, very well balanced.

M- Smpith, full body, slightly chewy, carbonation is a little too high.

O- A great barrel aged stout the is actually more bitter than sweet. I was able to grab 3 bottles, but will probably hunt for a few more. I am a big fan of regular Narwhal and Sierra Nevada did a great job aging this!

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Photo of TheBrewo
4.67/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

We pop the cage and cork, pouring into our oversized tasting snifters. It shines a deep and murky shade of the darkest brown, letting up cola hues at the bottom and edges. A finger’s worth of chocolate milk colored milky and soapy foam tops the beer, retaining decently before leaving spotted islands of lacing around our glasses. This head is easily reproducible with a flick of the wrist. No real haze or sediment is appreciated, and carbonation appears to be moderate. Off the top of the aroma comes a beautifully spicy and woody bourbon booziness and warmth. Settling in behind this massive, inviting sheet are notes of richly roasted chocolate and caramel malts, bittered and powdery cacao nibs, sticky salted toffee, fresh vanilla bean, espresso, burnt leather, mild natural honeycomb, heavy creamer, distant herbal hoppiness, dried apricots and black cherries, big buttery diacetyls, almond extract, mineral, and powdery ale yeastiness. The taste is as boisterous as you’ve heard it is, blending together dark cherry flesh, medicinal phenols, massively charred oak, straight Kentucky bourbon corn, buttery toffee, honey, red wine grape bite, bittering raw black coffee beans, old plums, milk chocolate sweetness, marmalade fruitiness, smoldering maltiness of black, caramel, coffee, and chocolate varietals, vanilla extract, fiery but welcomed booze, black pepper, sweetly salted butter, soy sauce, and light banana esters. The body is full and chewy, and the carbonation is moderate. Each sip gives excellent slurp, smack, cream, and froth, with surprisingly wet and crisp finishing pop to the lip. The mouth meets syrupy coating, but warming and spicy dryness break through this rather quickly. Throughout the tasting you get rumbles of warmth through your stomach and esophagus. The abv is appropriately large, and the beer drinks quickly for a sipper.

Overall, the word that keeps coming to mind here is “big”. From that first whiff of authentic Kentucky bourbon, to the rumbly warmth and robustness of flavor, to topping out the feel with such creamy, milkshake frothiness, this is an intensely satisfying beer. Even when compared to many classic, standard Russian imperial stouts, its booze and strength to each aspect are remarkable and clear. You love that the alcohol is so spicy and hot, just for the sake of how fantastic it tastes, and how well it blends to the rest of what’s going on here. It does beautiful justice to its base Narwhal, while expanding its universe. It’s like Narwhal’s favorite grandfather; mystically wise and amazing to hang out with.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 204 ratings.