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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

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User Reviews
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Reviews: 887 | Ratings: 4,920
Reviews by natescape:
Photo of natescape
4.75/5  rDev +14.7%

More User Reviews:
Photo of Redneckwine
4.39/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle into tulip

Appearance - Pitch black and not a ray of light makes it through the abyss. One finger dark beige head sticks around as a wispy cap and leaves nice lazing.

Smell - Roasty, earthy malts, mild spicy licorice, touch of bittersweet cocoa, a whiff of alcohol is definitely pulling through

Taste - Dark roasted malts kick it off with ample vinous fruitiness and charred grain, an estery, spicy alcoholic note complements the malts and warms the throat, bittersweet cocoa, anise/licorice notes, and a bit of grassy/earthy hops round it all out. Starts fairly sweet but finishes fairly dry with a restrained bitterness and last flavor that coats the mouth. Flavor really pops as it warms and opens up.

Feel - This is pretty much a monster beer: full bodied and creamy smooth, yet doesn't feel too heavy (like you're drinking an entire meal), and I like that. Carbonation is gentle yet prevalent, carrying the big body along nicely.

Overall - Awesome stout. It has some very interesting fruity and notes that you don't see in a lot of other imperial stouts, and is really dangerously drinkable. It just doesn't feel all that heavy and "chewy", like drinking your dinner, which, while some may disapprove of, I enjoy.

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Photo of tectactoe
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an inky black color, thick as can be - honestly, one of the thickest looking beers I've ever seen. Tan head, decent retention. Aroma hits with a handful of roasted malts, as expected; the bottom comes up with some bittersweet chocolates and deep, warming alcohol notes in the background. A light leathery and mild tobacco aroma as it warms, too. The taste comes through with a canvas of roasted malts upon which a painting of mild charring, smoke, deep cocoa, light black licorice, faint dark fruit sweetness, and bitterness almost resembling espresso is displayed. The sweetness comes in hardest in the form of licorice, but is met diligently with a bitterness that is present from nearly start to finish; slightly ashy and mildly floral and spicy - I'm assuming this bitterness is from the hop character, although some of it tastes like that old bitter espresso bean flavor, too. Burnt, smoked wood in the aftertaste with some ashy and leafy bitter notes. Slightly sweet, but bitterness rules the aftertaste when all is said and done. Silky as hell, super creamy and thick.

I was shocked at how delicious this was, but at the same time, I should have expected it. Sierra Nevada puts out a damn good product, no matter what it is, and Narwhal is no exception. For this price, this is a steal. Great flavors, huge body, amazing mouthfeel - if you like RISs, give this one a shot.

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Photo of Jjski
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Opened a 2013 this evening.
RIS perfection in the non-barreled category. deep, rich chocolate malts. Smoky hints, velvet mouth feel. Black as my leather pants.

Last week, after horseshoes, The Czar said to me: "[email protected] all that happy horse crap, hops, flavors, chiles, etc.... Get me a Narwhal"

It was a beautiful moment with the Czar. I'm all tingly thinking about it.

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Photo of BoljaBoy52
4.86/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

This beer is outstanding. Period.

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Photo of beercam
4.62/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Visually I find this beer very engaging. To me, the Narwhal Imperial Stout aesthetic is incredibly personal, pleasing, and successful, with its exciting cetacean depiction and stylish black and white font and design. The charcoal-black pallor of this beer, when poured, proudly champions its own incomprehensibly deep, immutable, inner nature of modified sugars and transported starches, borrowed flavors and inherited tannins, all warped in a working world of yeast, a classic look for the strongest stout-porters of yore. A 12 oz bottle, capped in Nov. 15, yields an oceanic inch of sluffy, even brown foam as it's swiftly poured into a weathered 16 oz Fremont can-glass. The aroma is incredible, and will be described out of order shortly. Moving to taste, there is a harmonious fruitiness in this imperial stout; something many in the imperial category contend for yet very few achieve. Yet in addition to this dark, syrupy, imperious figginess comes an extremely defined and refined hop topography; a loud statement of aromatic, piney bitterness, potentially a result of the bold addition of Challenger hops, reportedly added late in the boil. The flavor here is really far out there, and especially the smell. But it truly comes as no surprise nor small victory that Sierra Nevada can offer such a triumphant brew. I'd like to add as an aside that flavor wise, what comes to mind as a rival could very well be Old Rasputin from North Coast. I'd love to see these two compared neck and neck. These are some top beers here folks. But, anyway, to get back on track, the secret method to the Narwhal's supreme taste here, in my opinion, is its enlightened, sleepy windows into flavors of coffee and chocolate, which themselves play back into and throughout the beer remarkably and extensively, finishing with whispers of smoke. Super masterful flavors, definitely buoyed by the look and smell. If someone were to mistake this for a Russian, I would pardon them. The feel here is good. It's not absolutely amazing, It's pretty good, solid. More descriptively, the feel itself is kind of sour, in a way, and has more of a tartness than oatmeal. With that said, wow, it's sturdy from tip to tummy, it's feel only improves with time elapsed from the sip. In other words, it has an exceptional aftertaste.

This is a successfully fruity Imperial Stout.With it's high abv and sweetness, one could fairly get away with calling it Russian. This beer is not hard to drink. Good people make this beer. Try it with an open heart, and see if it's for you. I am very impressed.

Overall: Pour this one stiff, folks, and enjoy.

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Photo of RexBanner
4.7/5  rDev +13.5%

Pours a deep dark brown, almost black. No light penetrated through this dark concoction. 1/2 finger head that dissipated fairly quick. Velvety smooth appearance.

Its aroma was of bready yeast, dark roast grains, alcoholic esters, bitter dark chocolate. Faint banana smell was also present.

The taste was of robust roasted grains and dark bitter 80% cacao. Very faint taste of hops was noticeable before everything was washed away by the alcoholic burn that permeated the mouth. Smooth mouth feel. Not as heavy as one might imagine for an imperial stout. As it reached room temperature it began to develop the flavor profile of a strong dark Belgian ale. Even the aftertaste was more akin to a SDB as oppose to a stout.

Overall, I would recommend this beer to others. It's definitely a sipper. I missed that characteristic smokey aftertaste common to stouts as well as the creamy, chewy mouth feel, but all in all, this is a superb beer worth trying.

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Photo of chinchill
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12 oz 2012 bottle.

Unlike most people, I've had the barrel aged version of this prior to trying the regular version which I've cellared for a good while. Well, I'm happy to find that this regular RIS is exceptional if not quite as tasty as the barrel aged version. It certainly looks great: opaque black with a durable light brown head and lovely lacing. The high ABV is evident in the nose but otherwise fairly well hidden. Plenty of dark roasted grain flavor with minimal char and very light smoke -- just right IMO. Excellent bitter-sweet balance and mix. Some licorice. Pleasing and lasting aftertaste.

Feel: Full but not thick body. Near medium, soft carbonation.

O: Excellent and delicious. I haven't tried a fresh sample yet but I'd bet waiting until this is about 2 years old is a wise move. (High rating confirmed in June 2015 with a now older bottle0.

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Photo of Futbolmanby
4.09/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Look: dark brown with a thin khaki head
Smell: roasted malts with a hint of vanilla
Taste: roasted malts, bitter chocolate with a small amount of vanilla
Feel: smooth finish, light carbonation.

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Photo of BrownAleBollocks
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a deep black with a two finger fluffy mocha color head. Aroma is dark roasted malt and alcohol. Taste is dark roasted malts, booze, some smokiness throughout, and licorice, with a somewhat hoppy finish that compliments the other aspects. Mouthfeel is medium, a bit thin for an imperial stout. Overall a very good IS and one I'm happy I tried. Another feather in the cap of SN.

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Photo of KarmicSkrambl8
4.76/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

neck and neck with Old Rasputin

viscosity heavy in feel...love the chocolate as it rolls across...smoother than Ol Raspy...and, on some days....better

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Photo of beerthulhu
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

- 2014. pkgd. 11.06.14. consumed 04.01.15.

A: Pitch jet black exit from the bottle with a tan rawhide colored, creamy topping. Moderate retention.

S: Nose of scotchy licorice, burnt chocolate, earthy bitterness, moderate awareness. No alcohol with a touch of dry vanilla bean.

T: Flavor was deep roasted chocolate malt with an earthy bitterness. Dry vanilla bean, roasty espresso notes, flashes of burnt toffee sweetness with licorice. Smooth scotchy alcohol, hints of banana bread yeastiness underneath, creamer with smoky pine hops.

M: Full bodied, creamy, earthy bitterness, burnt warmth, dry alcohol fade.

O: Drinks like a B.A. stout, burnt roasted flavor, soothing scotchy pine alcohol. Nice flavor.

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Photo of drunkenmess
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Poured a dark charcoal black.
Dark tan frothy head.
Spider web lacing, lasting as well.
Smell of sweetness and strong booze.
Taste is superb, hints of vanilla. Sugar. Burnt malts/toast.
Strong alcohol after taste.
Very nicely done.
Especially for a year old :)
Nailed it!

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Photo of Lard_City
4.71/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Molasses and chocolate. Alcohol seems a little more forward in this than in the BA Narwhal. Sweet and mildly bitter. Good to drink anytime but great in the winter.

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Photo of fscottkey
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: [4.00] Pours a jet black. Aggressive pour forms a 1/4 finger tan head. The head recedes quickly leaving only wisps of foam on the surface. The bottle lists the ABV (10.2%) and the born on date (8/13/14). The born on date is white print on the black label (+1 guys!)

S: [3.00] On the nose I get mostly dark fruits. There are hints of the 10% alcohol too.

T: [4.50] I am hit with nicely charred malts. The taste is mellow all the way across. There is no hint of any alcohol. The front is smooth and sweet and it finishes with the bitter chocolate taste. The dark fruits from the nose are also there.

M: [4.50] I was struck by how smooth the first sip was. Mice creamy body with light carbonation.

O: [4.25] This beer has a lot going on in the taste. Coffee, chocolate, malty sweetness - some bitterness. It is a great melding of flavors. The nose wasn't that pronounced - which surprised me. However, the taste and the smooth body made up for it.

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Photo of superspak
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle into snifter, bottled on 10/5/2012. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1 finger dense dark tan head with great retention, that reduces to a small thin cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass. Aromas of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, dark bread, licorice, leather, tobacco, light pine, light smoke/char, and roasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roast/bready malt and light-moderate earthy hop notes; with good strength. Taste of huge dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, dark bread, licorice, leather, char, tobacco, herbal, light pine, light smoke, and roasted earthiness. Good amount of roast/char and herbal hop bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, toast, dark bread, char, leather, tobacco, light smoke, and roasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible balance and complexity of dark/roasted/bready malt and earthy hop flavors; with a great roasted bitterness/sweetness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and fairly full bodied; with a very creamy and lightly sticky/chalky mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a slight warming present after the finish. Overall this is an awesome Russian imperial stout. All around great balance, robustness, and complexity of dark/roasted/bready malt and earthy hop flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the ABV. A highly enjoyable offering.

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Photo of DuffmanCanNeverDie
5/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

One of the finest imperial stouts money can buy...

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Photo of LT2
4.07/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

I think you either love or hate this beer. Personally, I think it is good and the bottle art is great. If you like Sierra Nevada and stouts, dive in.

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Photo of Mike_Aguirre
5/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Amazing beer, bottle aged for two years it was sublime. Perfect score. Aging did wonders for the alcoholic perception of this beer, it was perfectly balanced and smooth.

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Photo of hopflyer
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 7/31/14
Pours deep black with light tan head. Has almost an orange tint.

Nothing prominent in the nose. Maybe some faint chocolate and coffee. A little alcohol detected.

Taste is some bitterness mixed with semi sweet chocolate. A little bit of roasted coffee and maybe a touch of some burnt wood. A bit of hop bitterness on the finish.

Feel initially is a bit thin. Carb is low to medium. Maybe a little stickiness but it doesn't feel all that viscous.

Its a good stout but nothing over the top. Flavors are there but don't pop or hit very hard and the aroma was nearly non-existent compared to what you'd expect in a big RIS.

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Photo of doktorhops
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Now that I’m back in BNE, QLD (Brisbane, Queensland for my non-Australian readers) I paid a visit to The Archive cellars and had a squiz at their finest American brews, and there are indeed ample new and delightful things that I have yet to try so here is one: Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Imperial Stout. At 10.2% [DON’T FORGET THE .2!!!] ABV, I would consider anything over 10% to be a decent bold beer and SN are champs when it comes to slapping the tongue (with flavour!), so I will tread lightly here my friends, there is a label-conjured sea monster awaiting me.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: I’ve become bored of describing Imperial Stouts as they all look the same if done well (opaque black, caramel brown head, 9/10) so instead I decided to do it in Haiku:

Blackest beer boldness
Nothing can penetrate it
A happy man died here.

S: BIG vanilla scent pervades the entire cacao nib chocolate aroma of this brew - I dig it man! Aside from that we have a nice (cakey) biscuit base, coffee hints and brown sugar. The TL;DR here is: vanilla & chocolate, NOM-NOM-NOM. 9/10.

T: Flavour comes on all the more sinister than the aroma with some oily smoke notes, roasted espresso and a hard wooded character. Although the above vanilla and chocolate notes are there they do end up taking a backseat to the big-talking bold flavours. Granted at 10.don’tforgetthe2% ABV this is a brew not to be trifled with, unless you’re making a trifle with it, in which case: trifle away! Aftertaste has a weirdly (for a Stout at least) sneaky bitterness that creeps up and surprises you jump scare style. 9/10.

M: Not that I’ve drunk engine oil before (at least not intentionally) but this fine brew has the viscosity of a decent 10W-40, one of the most viscous multi-grade oils. Carbonation in this case is negligible as with a brew this heavy it’s hard to tell. 9/10.

D: So where does it land on the olde “stout-o-meter”? For better or worse it is right up there with Old Raspy, though Old Rasputin was had at a time when I was entranced by the bolder of Imperial Stouts, I wonder if I would rate it so highly today? A question for another time - all you need to know is if Narwhal is worth your time, a big “yes” and a hearty “cheers!” is my answer. 9/10.

Food match: Cubans... the people... nah, the cigars.

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Photo of seedyone
4.59/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From bottle at home. 2014 on bottle. Now this is what I call a stout. Look, smell, taste & feel are all very rich & full. This stuff makes no apologies, it just stands up straight & says "take it or leave it." I thought I caught the slightest hint of licorice/anise under my nose but it dissipated like a wisp, then came back again in the finish.

Alcohol taste but little of the burn. The chocolateness is of the bittersweet kind.

Every taste keeps saying to me "no kidding around". A real swashbuckler & I'm really enjoying it.

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Photo of BoldRulerVT
4.19/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the 12 oz bottle into a snifter.
Pours squid ink black with a small smidgen of deep dark caramel head.
Smells a bit light, but certainly elements of roasted malt and coffee.
Taste is glorious. Deep roast, deep coffee bitterness.
A nice mouthfeel not too thin which I appreciated since there was no barrel aging.
Overall, this beer is delicious. Now on to BA Narwhal!!!

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Photo of genesisgrunge
4.24/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

A: Beautiful black. No light shines through. No head (although I worry it may have been my specific bottle).
S: Chocolate and molasses with a strong roasted (but not coffee) scent. It has a wood scent to cap it off. Must be those bourbon barrels used to age it.
T: Dark chocolate and earthy with an alcohol hit that comes with a 10.20 abv, but it's still smooth.
M: I imagine the mouthfeel must be much better than I experienced since the head was very thin to nonexistent on my pour. Yet it is still smooth and velvety. Reminds me of a Rasputin, but slightly more harsh due to the more pronounced alcohol taste.
O: Excellent beer. I will need to try this again with a proper pour from a good tap or bottle. This beer is a truly dark monster of complexity and challenge, but in all good ways. For those who like Rasputin for its sweeter malts, this is not the beer for you, but if you like Rasputin Imperial for everything else, then Narwhal is a must have.

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Photo of Myotus
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2015 bottle
Poured at 50°F from a 12oz bottle (packaged 10Aug15) into a snifter.
LOOK: Pours with a half finger's worth of khaki foam that shrivels into a line after 20 seconds. There is a subtle amount of very small rising bubbles. Black in color with an orange tint. Lacing is thin and subtle.
SMELL: A strong, smokey bitterness from the roasted malt aromas is noticeable right up front. Mild aromas of figs, raisins, prunes, molasses, and subtle aromas of sweet coffee, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate, and alcohol lie beneath the heavy smokiness.
TASTE: The intial taste is composed of strong bitter, smokey flavors that almost lean towards the smoked bacon flavors that would be found in a Rauchbier or a Smoked Beer. Mild flavors of molasses, figs, prunes, raisins, and subtle bittersweet chocolate and vanilla flavors follow immediately as the smokey flavors fade to mild, but the bitterness remains. Subtle flavors of sweet coffee enter lastly, as all previous flavors maintain except for vanilla, which fade away completely.
FEEL: Full-bodied and subtly carbonated. Goes down very smooth and creamy. Ends with a moderate dryness.
NOTE: As beer warms, the perception of alcohol in the aromas grow stronger, but is not effected in the taste. In fact, I could not taste any alcohol, which is always a plus for me. This was slightly too bitter for my taste, but thankfully the smokey flavors (which I do love) balanced out the bitterness very well. An interesting Imperial Stout. If you love heavy stouts and also Rauchbiers, I would encourage anyone to try this.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,920 ratings.
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