Narwhal Imperial Stout
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
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Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #110
Ranked #1,831
4.18 | pDev: 9.57%
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
Notes: A malt-forward monster, highlighting the depths of malt flavor.

Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come.
Reviews: 1,058 | Ratings: 5,386 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of cwm51662
3.85/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

I never really considered combining a stout with an IPA before, but this certainly qualifies. A nice hoppy flavor, not usually my strong suit, but enough stout to make it good, and mouthfeel puts it over the top.

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Photo of Whyteboar
4.79/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled 10/01/2019
Poured at cellar temp (54 degrees) from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter, aroma was warm, malty and the appearance was very stout like: near black, opaque in the glass, nice umber colored head that dissipated quickly.
The flavor featured deep malts with nuances of coffee and cocoa with just enough hops bite in the back end to remind you that this was meant to spend a journey to Russia.
The mouthfeel was, for me, excellent. Just viscous enough, exactly what I want from an RIS. Overall this strikes me as an ideal candidate for the Russian Imperial Stout benchmark. Hits all the notes just right.
This will be a regular, if not permanent, fixture in my cellar.

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Photo of lmaduells
4.63/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

If there are no beers that can serve as a canon of a style
I found this one almost perfect. Balanced, all to the point, a round beer. Like a good classic. I like them a little more unbalanced but this beer is very well made

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Photo of mikeinportc
4.02/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 8/8/19
Black ,with some dark brown at the edges, with a moderate , quickly-dissipating tan head.

Smell is chocolate liqueur, cocoa, and a vaguely minty aroma, which I'm guessing is alcohol+something else(hops?).

Taste is almost-unsweetened chocolate brownie, cola, yesterday's coffee, finishing with slight roasted nut (pecan+walnut) flavor. Light bitterness that comes in late.

Feel is high-side of medium , oily, with some late, very very fine carbonation tingle.

Overall, it's a good non-BA stout. Worth a try if you like that sort of thing. (I do.)

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Photo of fountainofyouth
3.95/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a can into a pint glass.

Appearance: Pitch black, with a large, light brown head. Mean looking.

Smell: Bourbon, coconut, some dark ripe fruit.

Taste: Roasted malt, some bourbon. Not really finding chocolate or espresso as advertised.

Feel: Fairly thick, with moderate carbonation.

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Photo of Buckeye55
4/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Jet black pour with minimal head. Scent is of chocolate, malt and a hint of smoke. Taste mostly follows, but is obviously malt dominated. Full mouthfeel and an aftertaste that follows the taste

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Photo of GTC138
4.28/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Narwhal – Imperial Stout – Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico CA

Narwhal is one of the few bottled beers that was inside of my closest “bottle” shop. I mainly purchased it to add to my Sierra Nevada repertoire, but I also purchased this one because it is 10.2% alcohol by volume. The Narwhal is “inspired by the mysterious creature that dwells in the deepest artic seas. This beer contains notes of Baker’s cocoa and dark roasted coffee. This Imperial, has that strong mouth feel that you really look for in beers of this style. I really get a lot of the cocoa and less of the coffee which I prefer. Overall another solid brew from Sierra Nevada. I will give the Narwhal a 8.1 out of 10.0, and Beer Advocate gives this one an 8.4. Narwhal is also ranked the 110th best Imperial Stout in the world.

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Photo of RyanK252
4.12/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

On tap at SN Torpedo Room

A: Pours basically black with a creamy cocoa brown head that settles to a light layer and laces very nicely.

S: Big time roasty, black coffee, dark chocolate, a little char, fair hit of dark fruit, burnt sugar, and a little toffee sweetness.

T: Roasty, dark bittersweet chocolate, espresso, and a touch of char, some dark fruit, plum and cherry, earthy, herbal pine, and some burnt sugar some toffee sweetness.

M: Full body, moderate carbonation, creamy smooth.

O: Not sure how I haven't logged this one yet. Really solid imperial stout with probably the coolest artwork out there.

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Photo of ArchimedesSox
4.32/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: Black, opaque, 1/2 inch khaki head, good lacing
S: Charred malts, chocolate, coffee
T: Sweet malts, chocolate, coffee, almost bitter from the strong charred maltiness
M: Heavy
O: A very quality stout. Hides the abv well, great sweet flavor.
Side note: This is a 2018 version that I picked up at the Ashville brewery on Thanksgiving week of that year so around 15 months old at time of review.

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Photo of cratez
3.7/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Rating from notes. Consumed January 2014. "All of the components are here but the boozy, vinous, and lactic/acidic notes detract from an otherwise solid stout. A mixed bag IMO."

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Photo of JasonQKing
4.77/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I have been getting this one since 2016 now.

It's my favorite stout outside of Founder's Breakfast stout.

Love the bitterness on this and for 11.2% abv it is amazingly sweet and balanced.

Wanting to age this but I keep drinking it!

Great job Sierra Nevada!!

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Photo of JonnoWillsteed
3.82/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

L- Completely black, not a photon gets through it. Pours with 5mm fine-bubble mid-tan head, slowly receding.
S- Coffee, with a rich sense.
T- Pungent coffee, quite a prominent charred smokey edge to it with intense deep molasses.
F- Rich (occasional fleeting hints of 'sweet'), pungent, right in the winter-warmer category for me. Carbonation in the glass and mouth are both still good.
O- This might be the most pungent American beer I've had; I wonder how this divides people over there? I like it, but people not into strong coffee might enjoy it less.
Bought from Wholefoods, London W8. 355ml bottle £4.99 [!] 'PKGD: 10/1/2019' [1/Oct/2019?]; no apparent BB Date.

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Photo of VoxRationis
4.18/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Decanted from a 12 oz (355 ml) bottle into a tulip glass; 2019 release, packaged 8/8/2019, code 1843.
A: Pours a basically black color with a less than one finger, light brown head, rim retention, and spotty lacing.
S: Aromas of black coffee, unsweetened chocolate, orange zest, walnut, and licorice. A white pepper note.
T: Sweet to semisweet. Flavors follow the nose. Bitterness solid and consistent with the style.
M: Full bodied with moderate carbonation. Almost chewy, but very crushable.
O: A really delicious Russian Imperial Stout. Always fascinated by the beast, now, I supposed I have a new object of fascination.

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Photo of BoodahMoogle
5/5  rDev +19.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Black cherry, dark chocolate, coffee, toffee and BBQ. Absolutely everything I seek in an imperial stout. A really amazing brew, and probably one of the best I’ve had from Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of Tim91
4.53/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

This beer ticks a lot of boxes but then that same Sierra Nevada taste that every one of their beers has kicks in.

L: Awesome. Exactly what you want a stout to look like.
S: Awesome. Chocolate aroma.
T: Initially it tastes great but the finish is too much. Hops overwhelm the palate.
F: Awesome. Full-bodied. Really satisfying.

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Photo of wisrarebeer
4.22/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

My bottle was a 2012 vintage and I finally decided to crack it open in honor of the London citizens that used a narwhal tusk to thwart the terrorist attack. Beer held up very, very well and I was pleasantly surprised on how well it was made.

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Photo of pianoguy
4.41/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 Oz bottle. Bottle date 12/06/19

Pours a solid black body with a tan head. This stout usually seems to require a very aggressive pour to produce multiple layers of thick lacing. Retention remains moderate no matter how I pour it.

Smell is coffee and semi sweet chocolate along with a hint of wood smoke. Fairly prominent overall.

Taste brings out more of the wood smoke. Interestingly I'm not getting any alcohol whatsoever.

Full feel appropriate for the style.

Value (Does not affect score) Well crafted Imperial Russian stouts are hard to find in a 12 Oz serving. This one seems to be the best value.

I have had this beer quite a few times and I always get something different each time. But two things always remain consistent; The smoke quality, and absence of discernible alcohol (quite remarkable for a 10.5 ABV beer). Well done !

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Photo of LifesAnesthesia
4.42/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

L - Deep, pitch, opaque black with a dark tan head that dissipates somewhat quickly but leaves behind a nice tan cap with some lacing.
S - Rich roasted malt and cocoa with some dark fruit in there
T - Follows the nose: rich roasted malt up front and throughout with some bitter dark chocolate along with some dark fruits and coffee. Some hops in there as well.
F - Full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Smooth but somewhat watery on the very backend.
O - A pretty straightforward, but very well done imperial stout.

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Photo of AccipiterofBeer
4.3/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

L: 4. Initial pour leaves a dark tan head characteristic of the style. Dissipates over time to look like cola.
S: 4 Malty. dark fruits, hops. Some cacao.
T: 4.5 Fantastic bitterness. Follows the nose, Roasted Dark malts, Cacao, hops.
F: 4.5 A bit thinner than typical of the style but that lends to drinkability. Pleasant fizziness. Minimal alcohol burn.
O: 4.25 A RIS worth seeking out. Sierra Nevada is well known for their quality, but affordable ales and this is no exception.

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Photo of champ103
4.41/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I can't believe I haven't reviewed this yet, obviously one of the better Imperial Stouts on the shelf right now.

A: Pours a near opaque black color, with just a hint of red around the bottom and edges. A dense tan head rises to two fingers with excellent retention. Some lace left behind as well.
S: A huge malt aroma, with roasted malts, espresso, bittersweet chocolate. Black liquorice, and even some grassy hoppy aromas. Tons going on and it is all in balance and excellent.
T: Like the nose, an incredibly nuanced malt flavor. That goes from roasted to coffee/espresso, bitter chocolate, toffee. Black liquorice again, and a lingering bitterness builds as this warms. From a combination of a substantial grassy hop presents as well as bitter bakers chocolate. Again, really balanced and excellent.
M/O: A full body with crisp carbonation for the style. That smooths out as this breaths and becomes a bit more resinous and sticky without being overbearing. A great sipper, one of the more pleasing Imperial Stouts to drink. As I never tire of this, and it never becomes too much of a chore to sip on.

Yep, like I have said above, one of the better examples of the style. It also ages well. A classic from Sierra Nevada. I'd have to have this side by side with Old Rasputin but both are tops for me in this style.

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Photo of mwilbur
4.17/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2019 vintage. Poured from 12 oz bottle into snifter. Packaged 10/16/19.
A: Pours a very dark brown with hints of red amber at the edges with backlighting. 1 inch dark tan head with decent retention, settling to a thin skim.
S: Bittersweet chocolate, espresso, woodsmoke, and a hint of char.
T: Quick burst of dark dried fruit, quickly followed by woodsmoke, char, and baker’s chocolate. Hint of espresso in the background.
M: Medium heavy body. Darkly sweet and dry throughout. Moderately bitter. Lingers and matures on the palate.
D: Nice winter sipper. Really like the woodsmoke and char notes as well as the baker’s chocolate.

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Photo of aquaderek
4.64/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Dark, dark brown caramel lacing head after agitation. Raisins, coffee, and toasty malts. Syrupy mouthfeel and a little alcohol astringency. There is a time of year for this type of beer and this is it. SOLID

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Photo of SoundMakesSense
3.9/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2019 Narwhal purchased 11/29/2019
Label reads "PKGD 8/22/19"

L: A moderately hard pour into a goblet resulted in a very shallow head that, while thin in consistency and ephemeral, was a lovely, deep red-brown. Sitting in the glass, the brew is the color of cola, but more opaque.

S: Not unlike dark chocolate, and maybe a bit of raisin? A more rounded breadiness becomes apparent after warming up a bit, along with some nice coffee. Good, if a bit underwhelming at first.

T: Damn. The first quaff was nice, with plenty of all the things I like and expect in an imperial stout: chocolate, coffee, licorice, a bit of anise and dried know, the classic Good Stuff! But the rest of my glass was marred by an unpleasant bitter aftertaste. Don't get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the bitterness that comes with dark chocolate, coffee, etc., but this just tasted unordinarily harsh. Maybe it would taste better after a different meal? Maybe it just needs another several months to age? We'll see. Without that negative, taste would easily be a 4+.

F: Moderate body, alcohol almost imperceptible. Feels a little too carbonated while drinking, though swishing around the mouth while tasting creates a luscious, latté-like foam.

O: I feel let down. I love big stouts, but the harsh bitterness of this one kind of killed the vibe. I've had Narwhal in the past, though it's been several years. I remember it being better. Time will tell if aging it fixes the problems, or if this year's batch really just isn't as good. Also not unwilling to entertain the possibility that the meal I had before opening this bottle just didn't leave my tongue in the right place.

EDIT 1/3/2020:
Okay, after a couple more bottles, I can say that it was probably the meal that ruined my first one. Changed taste from 3 to 3.75 and feel from 3.75 to 4. Overall to 4. I think aging might raise the score even higher.

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

Poured to a snifter glass.

A: Body is dark and syrupy while head is brown-ish, past the beige color.
S: Aroma is very good on roasted malts that resemble dark chocolate, molasses and milk chocolate. There's a slight hint of alcohol but barely noticeable.
T: Taste is incredible with a generous part of sweetness incoming from the blend of roasted malts that results and a balancing bitter tone from the chocolate itself - not sure if was used at all. It's not a pastry stout but it's a close-to-perfection-grade old-school style beer. It's not fashionable but it's damn relevant.
M: Body is medium to high. Alcohol is barely noticeable. Bitterness is low.
O: It goes straight to my top Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of MattDecker
4.44/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Look: Pours a deep deep brown with a decent sized foam head.
Smell: Malt, Roasty, coffee/espresso, unsweet chocolate
Taste: Roasted dark chocolate malt, little bits of hop bitter kicks in after the big roasted flavors
Feel: Very full body

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 93 out of 100 with 5386 ratings