Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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Stout - Russian Imperial
Ranked #119
Ranked #2,022
4.18 | pDev: 9.57%
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
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: 1,082 | Ratings: 5,440 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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Sigmund from Norway

3.99/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

355 ml bottle, shared by gunnar. Pitch black colour, moderate to low brown head. Nice aroma of chocolate / cocoa, molasses and coffee. Same elements in the flavour, add a little liquorice and decent hops, and you’re there. Good stuff.

Sunday at 03:40 AM
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Viaduck from California

4.08/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Black with a tan head that is rather impressive for an imperial stout. Aroma is mostly chocolate & coffee, maybe some caramel too. Slightly sweet with a hint of bitter. Lots of chocolate & coffee flavor followed by some complex malt & hop flavors. The coffee type bitterness seems to increase the more it is consumed. No alcohol flavor but mild stomach heat. Velvety smooth with good carbonation. Delicious!

Mar 13, 2021
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backblast from Alaska

4.35/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Tastes of rich dark malts, unsweetened chocolate and coffee with a hint of molasses & brown sugar. A bit of malt bitterness gives it a good balance and a very nice lingering aftertaste.

Mar 13, 2021
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davisdahlberg6 from Tennessee

4.41/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Canned on 09/18/20 and enjoyed in a snifter on 02/28/21
A: Pours black, about as dark as strong coffee, not necessarily jet black. About an inch of dark khaki foam with good retention time and nice lacing as the foam dissipates.
S: Initially there is strong earthy notes with oak and burnt wood character. Strong notes of bourbon combined with vanilla all supported well by the underlying coffee and chocolate. Coconut aroma is present throughout but is not overwhelming.
T: Taste follows the nose, but the coffee and chocolate are more pronounced in the taste. Same earthy notes and vanilla present in the nose. Coconut adds a sweetness to balance out the sharp Bourbon is more pronounced especially as the beer warms. Abv is fairly well hidden but the warmth and bourbon finish is more pronounced as the beer warms.
F: Smooth, velvety feel and very creamy. Complex, but well balanced and no specific aspect is overwhelming, they compliment each other well and make for a fantastic beer!
O: This beer is fantastic! I would definitely buy it again considering the $16 price tag for a 4-pack of 16oz cans. Throughout this review I feel I have understated the coconut. I love coconut stouts, they have great flavor and subtle sweetness and this beer does it best.

Feb 28, 2021
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JohnniEMc from Pennsylvania

4.53/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Hooked a pint can and sank the contents into a clear Imperial pint glass. A brown so dark it's just about black and a tan head makes a nice color combination. The aroma is aptly described on the label, as there are "notes of oak, vanilla and coconut. The head transitions into some nice glass lacing. This is a poignant tasting affair. The delicious roasted malt forward is rich and velvety smooth. It really does bring notes of oak, vanilla, coconut and even a little dark chocolate along the way to an expresso and slightly alcoholic finish. The slight alcohol taste there only augments the overall. A whale of a great brew.

Jan 23, 2021
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Antg8989 from New Jersey

3.84/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Aroma is a mix of roasted malts, elderberry, dark berry, cherry cough medicine and of course chocolate and coffee. Taste is more chocolate dominant. Dark berry. Not getting much Bourbon. Feel is lightly carbonated. Overall, not bad. Maybe this wasn't stored correctly.

Jan 17, 2021
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Guaro from Italy

3.96/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Black with compact cappuccino-colored foam and good persistence. Aroma: toasted and burnt, cocoa, coffee, caramel, tobacco. On the palate there is all the olfactory bouquet, a beginning with a hint of sweetness and then immediately moving on to a soil rich in roasting and burning. Bitter finish with resinous tones. Abv well present. Body and medium carbonation.

Jan 06, 2021
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Rschis16 from Maryland

4.22/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Black beer, completely opaque with a thin dark tan head on top. Some earthy coffee, dark chocolate and dark roasted malts in the nose. Flavorful dark roast coffee and unsweetened chocolate are the highlight flavors. The coffee comes through not in a caffeine sense but a nutty brightness that you find in complex dark roasts. The hops balance a huge malt but they also add a bitterness that goes really well with the natural bitterness of the dark roasted malts. Those hops and that roasty malt flavor linger in the aftertaste too and just remind you how complex the beer is. There's a full complementing body to boot. This is one of those beers you take your time with, let it warm up and try to pull out as many complexities and flavors as you can. Great stuff.

Jan 03, 2021
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blazerkor from Nevada

4.14/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

It smells like rich malted coffee and chocolate.

It tastes like it smells malty, bitter like dark chocolate and a hint of coffee.

The finish is clean and bitter like a shower after listening to Trump.

The mouthfeel is like a velvet foam with the slightest bit of fizzy bight.

Oh yeah this is a delicious stout that you guys should try a very solid 5 out of 6.

Dec 29, 2020
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Roy_Hobbs from Connecticut

3.97/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Fully opaque, jet black pour with a medium amount of head. Aroma has somewhat muted chocolate and coffee notes. Taste has plenty of roasted malts with plenty of coffee notes as well. Very nice, silky yet full feel. This is a really nice old school stout. Not a lot of gimmicks, just a nicely done beer that will be perfect to sip on over the next hour or two.

Dec 12, 2020
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bitterandstout from Oregon

4.6/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Look: Jet black pour with a nice nice, tight khaki head.
Smell: cocoa, toasty malt a little coffee and a wee bit of alchohol.
Taste: Dark chocolate,coffe and toasty roastiness, malts prominent in middle, finish is chocolate, coffee & cocoa/chocolate.
Mouthfeel: oh so smooth and unctious.
Quality stout, definite value for money. Sierra Nevada are back in the game!

Dec 10, 2020
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TheBricenator from Oregon

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

Look: Pitch black with a righteous tan head that pillows up and looks awesome atop the beer, leaving sticky lacing as it recedes
Aroma: Baking cocoa, roasted barley, percolated coffee, some earthy notes, and just the slightest alcohol heat
Taste: Tongue-coating dark chocolate and roast set the tone with waves of coffee and earthiness rolling in soon after. Dark malt depth expands in the middle before chocolate and roast grab hold again and lead to the finish
Mouthfeel: Silky smooth, medium-high carbonation, full bodied, light wafts of booze, and a soft bold finish with a little sharpness that I can’t pinpoint if it’s from the hops or dark malts but works well regardless
Overall: This is awesome stuff. One of my favorite Russian Imperial Stouts and easy to taste why each and every year I have it. Layers of chocolate, roast, and coffee along with a hoppy underbelly and enough booze to remind you that it’s a big beer all executed extremely well. Top notch in my book, tasty as hell, and highly recommended

Dec 03, 2020
THE_VANDAL from Arkansas

4.72/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Smokey coffee and malts greet you on the pour. Rich cocoa joins these flavors in the mouth, with a deep molasses sweetness. The exhale really amplifies the grains here, with oats, rye, and barley in abundance along with a subtle charred oak bitterness. Magnificence in complexity and taste- a coffee and malt lovers dream.

Oct 26, 2020
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sulldaddy from Connecticut

4.32/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

I cant believe Ive never reviewed this beer before. 2020 vintage poured at cellar temp into my snifter.
The beer pours a dark coffee color with no light passing through my glass. A creamy tan head of 1.5 cm foams up and rests on the surface as a dense creamy covering. Super dense lattice that clings to my glass on a swirl and after each sip.
THe aroma is rich and malty with dark chocolates, roasted malt, some light char notes and a bit of molasses. Maybe a little earthy hops but this is definitely a malt dominant nose.
First sip reveals a medium to thick body with smooth texture and fine and very tingly carbonation. The beer drinks very easy and doesnt have any stickiness or chewiness to it. Could be a little thicker body if I had to find a complaint.

Flavor is roasted malts, dark chocolate, almost like bakers chocolate with a bitterness to it. I also get some molasses and a bit of dark fruit in the middle, but this gets buried by bitter bakers chocolate and roast on the finish.
No hop character on the flavor profile and the alcohol is also very well hidden, making this a little bit of a dangerous beer.
Glad I picked these up again and glad to finally get my review in the books of BA!

Oct 19, 2020
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MesaDan from Minnesota

3.66/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottled 9/4/20…consumed 10/16: Nose of chocolate with slight sweet malt; Tan, quickly dissipating head with slight rim lace and a chestnut brown hue; Medium mouthfeel with soft carbonation and a chest warming; Starts out with a sharply bitter not very sweet cocoa / malt taste and notes of a deep roast, slightly smokey coffee; Finishes with dry bark notes. One of the more out of the box tasting Imp. Stouts I have had.

Oct 16, 2020
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theo_d from Maryland

4.66/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Between this and their other beers, Sierra Nevada can do little wrong in my book. Narwhal ranks with Kalamazoo and Guinness 200th Anniversary Export. The price of the 6 pack offers great comparative bang for the buck. I do like the bourbon barrel aged variation more, as it seems thicker with less carbonation, but this is so far the only stout in which I buy by the case. I never tire of it, and am up for a bottle any time of the day.

Oct 16, 2020
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Explorer_Bill from Kentucky

4.38/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Ok. I’m not usually a stout drinker although I do enjoy them occasionally, especially when seasons change to the cooler time of year. I picked up
A 6 pack of Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial stout in 12 oz bottles at the local liquor store this weekend and gave it a try this evening. I thought ahead and placed a bottle in the wine cooler rather than my beer fridge out in the garage so I could experience this beer served closer to the appropriate temp.

L: deep brown almost black with a tan, low volume head.
S: cocoa, faint coffee, molasses, malts
T: bitter chocolate, bakers cocoa, strong black coffee. I’m not picking up the sweetness of molasses in the taste but I do notice some of the expected earthy molasses undertones or maybe it’s peat (as I imagine peat would taste). A bit of bitter hops bite as well, which I appreciated. The hops in the finish worked well to counter the strong malty base.
F: this is definitely a heavy bodied beer. I enjoyed the thickness and the carbonation as they competed. It definitely added to the complexity of the drinking experience.
O: I was surprised how much I enjoyed this beer. It actually reminded me of a stout (brand and name I do not recall) that I had in San Diego way back in the late 1980s at a small English pub just a couple of blocks north of downtown and a couple of blocks from San Diego Bay.

This Sierra Nevada Imperial stout might be my favorite among cold weather, seasonal offerings I’ve tried. Qualifier: I don’t drink many stouts or porters regularly so my reference is a bit limited, but I thoroughly enjoyed this beer and I’m looking forward to having the remaining 5 for nightcaps over the next several days. I might even consider cellaring a bottle for down the road.

Oct 14, 2020
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SierraNevallagash from Maine

4.24/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2020 bottle - poured into a flared ale glass at 38°F.

Pours a deep used motor oil brown, sitting black as night in the glass - impenetrable to light. Half a finger of mocha brown head forma before quickly receding to a razor-thin tan collar.

Nose: Bold roasted malt wafts out of the glass with notes of blackened barley, baking cocoa, and espresso, with lighter notes of caramel, toffee, malted milk, molasses, and perhaps just a whisper of earthy hops. Slightly subdued, but very classic.

Palate: Narwhal greets the palate with a huge flood of deeply roasted malt. It's instantly rather sweet, and translates to the palate like liquid dark chocolate. There's some caramel, molasses, brown sugar, toffee, and a healthy amount of roasted malt, but it isn't acrid, charry, or smoky. That subtle malted milk ball note also translates to the palate. Perhaps the best part of this is the hop presence. While very restrained in the nose, it's beautifully integrated here. It isn't piney, spicy, or fruity, but rather earthy and musty, very much like boiled Simcoe. Extremely similar to the pronounced Simcoe note in Hopslam and Pliny. This hoppy note peaks mid-way through the finish, where the malty sweetness greatly subsides, allowing a gently dry roastiness to emerge, pairing with the hops, and concluding with cacao nib, black malt, vanilla, and leafy hops in a dry, bold, slightly earthy finish.

Mouthfeel/Body: Narwhal is surprisingly full-bodied. It greets the palate fluid, and then quickly takes on a richness that isn't viscous, but definitely gives a little bit to chew on. It remains very drinkable, partly due to the adequate effervescence and toasty finish, and never becomes cloying or heavy.

Overall: This is such a classic Russian imperial stout, with a few unique components. The West Coast hop influence is beautiful, and really captures the Sierra Nevada spirit. The perfect balance between malty sweetness and roastiness is unparalleled. It's a classic, old world Russian imperial stout, with a modern twist, and it is really quite perfect for what it is.

Sep 27, 2020
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sjdevel from Utah

3.68/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

LOOK - super dark / black - 1 finger head after pouring from a 12oz bottle but it disappears very quickly - slight ring of bubbles cling on to the outer circumference
SMELL - some charred grains, molasses, coffee, and hint of chocolate - not very aromatic
TASTE - super powerful blast of bitter charred grains and bitter hops - some coffee and barely any chocolate - stays very dry and tart and never sweetens up with any malt or caramel - some molasses, burnt sugar, and tobacco
FEEL - full bodied beer but basically goes flat after a few minutes - could have benefited from some more carbo
OVERALL - I have heard a lot about this beer for years and finally got the opportunity to try it. I am disappointed really. Here it says a RIS, but the bottle says Imperial Stout.... not sure it fits either. I think it is super heavy on the over-burnt grains and bitterness - it isn't very well balanced like a typical Imp. stout - needs a touch of sweetness and caramel/chocolate to offset the huge amounts of bitterness - probably will not purchase this one again - not my kind of stout at all - this was a 2020 Narwhal and maybe it needs some time to mellow out? I am not sure if all of the BURNT flavors would tame down after a year or two or not

Sep 19, 2020
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janubio from Spain

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

Bottle at Las Buenas Pulgas, served in a snifter glass. Black color, medium beige head with long retention, sticky lacing. Aroma of coffee, figs, molasses, chocolate, raisins. Full body, sticky texture, good carbonation. Dry finish. Taste of coffee, dried fruits, chocolate, molasses, roasted bread. Very good.

Aug 06, 2020
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GRG1313 from California

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

Dark, deep, bold and roasty with rich stout coffee/chocolate/roasted tones. This is much more of a true stout than the current pastry craze and is more roasted grain with finesse than vanilla/chcolate/malty/sugary pastry that has become the rage. Much more traditional in style but also more of a "beer drinker's stout" than a dessert or syrup for ice cream!

Jul 24, 2020
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showell from Arizona

4.78/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a jet black. Smell and taste of cocoa and coffee primarily, with a distinct alcohol taste. Overall a really great imperial stout. I’ve yet to find better in this style.

Jul 11, 2020
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misteil from Ireland

4.45/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

look: one finger tan coloured head with good retention for its strength, dissipates eventually to a wafer thin layer of bubbles, not much lacing, jet black beer, looks lovely.

smell: an inviting aroma indeed, lots of malt, lots of smoke, tobacco, peaty, lots of dark fruits, prune and raisin and fig, maybe even some cherry, nicely mildly sweet, some molasses, cocoa, touch of coffee, scotch whiskey, exciting.

taste: it doesn’t disappoint, incredibly malty throughout, massive malt flavour, really rich, it’s smokey, earthy, oaky, there’s a certain vinous quality to it, some really nice sweet dark fruit flavour also, mainly raisin, some fig, the finish is delightful, dark chocolate bitterness that resonates, along with a long lasting malty smokey aftertaste, delightful.

feel: medium to full bodied, light to medium carbonation, perhaps not as full in body as i would like an imperial stout to be but that’s being harsh, sticky and creamy.

overall: an impactful beer, with a great balance of flavours and long lasting flavour, great beer.

Jun 21, 2020
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cwm51662 from Indiana

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.

May 24, 2020
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Whyteboar from Michigan

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.

May 11, 2020
Narwhal from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 93 out of 100 with 5440 ratings