Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

BA SCORE
92
outstanding
917 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score
Send samples
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
sierra-nevada.com

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
917
Ratings:
5,002
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
9.66%
 
 
Wants:
325
Gots:
1,441
For Trade:
42
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 917 | Ratings: 5,002
Photo of Rollzroyce21
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%

Poured a 2012 vintage into a stemless wine glass on 22-Sep-14 (aged about 2 years).

Much smoother than fresh and the roasty chocolate flavors are holding up real well.

 168 characters

Photo of samtrillo
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%

Black with no head and minimal lacing.

The nose is of cocoa and coffee and sweet malt.

The taste is much more pronounced. It reminds me of a dark chocolate covered coffee bean! A toasted essence to the malt. The back end of the taste profile brings to mind dark fruits, bittersweet craisin.

The mouthfeel is smooth and a little warm. Low carbonation. Very easy drinking for such a big beer in taste and ABV. Overall an excellent Russian Imperial.

 450 characters

Photo of GrumpyGas
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle poured into a pint glass boasts a dark cherry brown body floating a mocha colored head.
There is a sweet chocolatey aroma, which I think is the baker's cocoa, and a hint of booze. Coffee joins in the flavor to add a subtle bitterness. Booze is nicely hidden in the taste, with some caramel, vanilla, and roasted malt. Deeply complex as it warms.
Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy with just a touch of lingering grit. I blame the baker's chocolate, again.
A well done brew by a well run brewery.

 503 characters

Photo of GreatStoutman
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2015 bottle pours black with lively, deep khaki head. Leaves no lacing.

Smell is sweet malts, cocoa and bitter coffee. Taste follows, in that order, with a thick body. Nice and chewy.

Overall, this is a really smooth drinking RIS with almost perfect balance and an excellent layer of flavors. No heat, but a hint of the booze toward the close.

 345 characters

Photo of HattedClassic
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

The beer pours a decent foamy and tan head that dissipates quickly. The beer leaves some rather nice lacing around the glass. The beer itself is more of a really dark brown that borders on black instead of an actual black color or at least a black color with really dark brown notes.

The beer smell has unusually strong toffee notes for an imperial stouts. The beer has the usual light, bitter hops and roasted malt with dark chocolate smell. However, the roasted malt notes are fairly light and the toffee notes from the malt are front and center, which pulls the other notes together. The smell also has a very light alcohol note and licorice notes.

The beer taste is more roasted and more chocolatey than the smell. The licorice taste is very slight while the toffee taste is still fairly prominent. There is no real alcohol taste. The hops add a very interesting flavor to the mix. The hops give the beer a nice, underlying bitterness but it also enhances the fruitiness of the taste that follows it into the aftertaste.When the beer warms up a little, the beer has a nice toffeeish with dark chooclat taste that comes out very well.

The mouthfeel is heavy bodied with a little carbonation. However, the beer itself is very smooth and goes down very easily compared to other imperial stouts.

Overall, a very good imperial stout and worth getting when it's available. The taste is more complex and certainly different from other stouts because of the greater focus on the toffee flavor as opposed to the roasty and chocolate flavors that most other stouts have. I would definitely recommend picking this up when you can.

 1,627 characters

Photo of DrinkMoreBigBeers
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle has a date of 285

A - Pours out thick deep dark brown, once in the glass it pitch black. Produces a nice finger worth of dark rich mocha head which dissipates rather fast leaving big bubbles along the glasses edge.

S - Right away I get a nice bold-sharp sweet bitter roast with dark chocolate, wood. No alcohol detected. A nice swirl of the beer in the glass really gets the aroma's going and is a must which helps release this beers nice bold nose. I could smell this all night!

T - Right away this one is creamy, with a rich dark roast, cocoa nibs, anise, slight raisins, bitterness in the finish that lingers. A rather nice sipper that delivers a massive flavor profile that keeps giving. Slight alcohol here but blends well with the rich flavors. Once I poured the yeast in it became more bold, and rather bitter. I suggest keep the last bit of yeast in the bottle.

M - This one is a full bodied smooth drinker, that does tingle the tongue from the bitterness. Carbonated well which keeps the flavors going over the palate. Some beers this full bodied leave a sticky residue but this one does not seem to.

O - I love SN and this one delivers. It is a sipper that is great in the cold weather season. It to bad it is hard to get a-hold of at this point in time. I believe this beer will become better with age because it has a pretty bitter aftertaste that kinda distracts from the dark flavors which I believe is from the hops. Also, this beer has some alcohol which will fade with age. It may get a higher rating when cellard for a while, but for now its just excellent. Cheers!

 1,598 characters

Photo of toppoop
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - Aggressive pour into a snifter yielded a mighty head which shrunk down to a thin layer over the top. Slight lacing throughout.
S - Chocolate and booze dominate the nose with a touch of coffee and molasses.
T - Dark chocolate hits first with the booze to follow which clings to the palate for some time after a taste. A touch of bitterness at the end.
M - Very nice. Full and silky, clings to mouth and stays for some time. Very balanced carb as well.
O - Very good RIS. Think I'm really gonna enjoy this a lot more after some time in the cellar.

 549 characters

Photo of JMScowcroft
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Narwhal Imperial Stout, poured into a Fiddlehead snifter.

Look - Pours a medium thickness brown-black oily with a 1" fizzy mocha head that dissipates quickly. Good lacing.

Smell - Roasted malts with baker's cocoa and some coffee notes.

Taste - Full bodied and dark chocolate with roasted malt. Quite good. Finishes roasted. Tasty.

Mouthfeel - Rests chocolate and roasted malt. Dry and slightly bitter. Not overly boozy at all. Good drinkability with low carbonation and a light-heavy body.

Overall - Super solid RIS. Another quality brew from Sierra Nevada!

 590 characters

Photo of templar316
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I knew this would improve with time !! So much better now then when it first came out in nov(?). Pours thick and dark, no light, soft edgy lacing. Smell is slight in my Duval Tulip but the flavor burst's. There's vanilla here, sweet dark malt, and everything I want in a beer. Roasty coffee bitterness, cascade (and maybe willamette) hops. The rest of these will sit in basement till next winter. Perfect for 15 degrees.

 420 characters

Photo of FBarber
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours pitch black. Oily with a one finger khaki head that dissipates leaving a ring of foam around the outside.

Smell has aromas of roasted malts, prunes, raisins, slight boozy character. Slight undertones of milk chocolate.

Taste follows the nose with a savory array of prunes, raisins, roasted malts and chocolate. Slight spice to the beer with a bitter finish. The beer is sweet, but not overly so. There is a slight boozy aftertaste that is reminiscent of a barrel aged beer. Very nice.

Very smooth feel on this one, almost buttery. Bit of carbonation provides an initial tingle on the mouth. Slight boozy tingle at the end. Wee bit thin in the feel, but not distractingly so.

Overall a top notch imperial stout. Love the more savory flavor of this one.

 762 characters

Photo of BriantheBeerGeek
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2013 (Brewed on the 214th day ) poured into DFH tulip glass.

A- Motor oil black like a Russian imperial stout should be.

S- WOW, getting a lot more tropical hoppy notes than I would expect from a RIS. Malt is present though with coffee , bakers cocoa, ripe banana, cherry, tobacco, slight espresso, molasses and leather.

T-Again, WOW. Definitely a SN take on an imperial stout. Everything I look for in a RIS but with lots of hop presence. I imagine that the malt will come out more with age. Definitely one to set back a 4-pack or two for a few years. Coffee, chocolate, fig, tropical fruits, licorice, lots of roasty malts, slight alcohol, very nice.

M-Huge, as it should be.

O-I wish SN would do more malt forward beers like this, one of their best. If you love imperial stouts this is a must have.

 806 characters

Photo of BeerDawgs
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - Pitch black, with little head or lace. No other way to describe it!

S - Chocolate, hops, cocoa, sweet, dark grains

T - Wow..an amazing DStout. Sweet, but not too much, just right. Hidden ABV

M - Full bodied, well balanced.

O - One of the better stouts I have had. Well done Sierra Nevada!

 296 characters

Photo of rodlavers
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Served in a pint glass, Narwhal pours about as black as you can get, with a thick and foamy mocha head, and lots of lacing.

Roasted malt and coffee aromas are dominant, but there is some chocolate in there as well.

Really roasted malt is the winner here, very prominent and present, with roasted coffee beans in there as well, just not too strong, which is a good thing, leaving out some bitterness. Taste is really nice.

Feel is the best part, super smooth and easy to drink, with amazing roast aftertaste.

Overall I am glad I finally had a chance to do a proper review; last time, I gave it a 4/5, but that was based on a 2-3oz pour after hours of drinking IPA's and other stouts, which was an injustice. Narwhal is a good and hearty stout. Cheers.

A few add-on comments. Slightly altering my review based on a my current view of Narwhal, which I justify by my evolving pallet -- no beer ever tastes EXACTLY the same each time

 936 characters

Photo of heygeebee
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Briefly, looks on the money for an RIS, and rich and smooth on nose and taste. Velvety, mellow, luscious. Roasts, coffee, and dark choc to the fore, and less hoppy than we might expect from SN. Dry finish and less alcohol burn than you would think.

Overall, really solid and to style.

 285 characters

Photo of facundoCNB
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

poured a thick black syrupy liquid into a tulip. two fingers of tan head and some nice lacing left behind. excellent retention. looks very nicely carbonated for a RIS.
smells of chocolate, dark roasted grains, dirt, coffee.
the taste is definitely different than most RIS i've had. nicely hopped up front. lots of very dark, rich notes. coffee, dark chocolate, tobacco, dirt.
a rich and creamy full body, slight alcohol warmth, mild carbonation. as the beer warms up, it develops more and more. i love drinks like this because they can last you a good amount of a night, tasting different every 5 minutes. you can barely taste or smell the alcohol. really bitter for a stout, which makes this one right up my alley.

 715 characters

Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2013 vintage.

This one pours a pretty deep and dark black, with a small head, and a bit of lacing.

Smells like deep earthy roasted malt, a bit of booze, coffee grounds, and still a good amount of hops even for this age.

This is an imperial stout that packs a serious punch and doesn't let up. It's still a good level of piney hoppiness, even for a 2013 vintage, with lots of bitter dark chocolate, tons of roasted malt, a coffee flavor that kind of reminds me of used grounds. It's slightly abrasive, but in a good way.

This is pretty thick and chewy, with a normal level of carbonation.

One of the best easy to get Imperial stouts out there, and one that ages extremtly well taboot.

 688 characters

Photo of SebD
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: It has a beautiful jet black color to it. It has a nice thick dark tan head that stays around for ever and leaves lovely lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of sweet roasted malts, coffee, chocolate and dark fruit.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has a some sweet roasted malts, bitter coffee, dark chocolate, some dark fruit and an earthy hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: It has a low carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied with great flavors and aromas.

 548 characters

Photo of jjchristiano
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Maybe the darkest beer I've ever poured. Held it up to a bulb in my desk lamp and the light did not shine through the beer.
S: chocolate, malt.
T: chocolate, malt, sweetness, low in IBU as I don't get any bitter hop. Little dark roasted coffee on the back side.
M: Smooth, lingering, soft carbonation.
O: A nice Imperial Stout in the Sierra Nevada lineup. I would buy again if I see it.

 389 characters

Photo of LambicPentameter
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Reviewing from notes as I continue to catch up on past experiences. I drank this one on 2/22/14. Enjoyed out of a stubby 12 oz brown bottle with the vintage--2013--marked clearly on the neck label. Poured into a large snifter.

Appearance - Pours and inky black hole of color on the body, with no light able to penetrate whatsoever. A head of maybe a finger--probably a little less--of dark ecru colored foam that recedes quickly, leaving a generous film across the surface with slightly more thickness around the edges of the glass. Sparse, almost nonexistent lacing dots the glass intermittently as I drink it down.

Smell - Bittersweet baker's chocolate and roasted char from the malt profile are at the forefront, with a rich sweetness. There is also a slightly different element, with notes of anise, licorice and even black plum providing some complementary characteristics to the chocolate and roast elements.

Taste - The balance of the profiles in the smell have been reversed on the taste, with the fruit--plum, black currant, and prunes--and licorice elements being more overt and lingering on the palate long after I've swallowed. Some heat from the alcohol is faintly present, and the semisweet chocolate and roasted malt is there as well, but seems to provide more of a foundation than come through as the primary flavors.

Mouthfeel - Very full bodied and moderate-to-low carbonation, with a finish that lingers on the palate long after the beer is gone.

Overall, this is a very good imperial stout, and while I'm usually remiss to compare specific beers directly, I can't help myself. The body, look and feel remind me so much of my favorite RIS, Founders' version, that I think it's fair to note that they are cousins from the same family of oppressive (in a good way?) full-bodied stouts, but take different paths when it comes to aroma and taste. Where Founders is a bit drier, with a focus on cocoa, roast and coffee notes, this one leans more towards fruit and anise. My personal preference is towards the former, but this is surely top of the list when it comes to stouts that incorporate those dark fruits.

 2,130 characters

Photo of ESPNman
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served in a The Glenrothes scotch snifter.

A - Pours a deep inky black, producing two fingers of thick mocha head. The head dissipates somewhat quickly, but leaves behind solid lacing. This looks like a thick and chewy Imperial Stout.

S - Lots of coffee and deeply roasted malt. Surprisingly little alcohol on the nose, although there is a hint of brandied fruit present. A bit of oak, leather, and chocolate round out the nose.

T - Much like the nose, but with more malt and chocolate. Not a lot of coffee present in the mouthfeel. It starts out extremely roasty, hits some of the chocolate with a hint of hop in the middle, and then finishes very sweet with a hint of alcohol. This one should age very nicely.

M - Thick, syrupy, chewy, and everything I look for in the style. This one really coats the mouth, and lingers for a while once you've swallowed. It's one of the sweeter stouts I've had recently, and leaves a sticky sugar finish on the palate.

O - This is another solid entry into SN's line of higher-alcohol 4-pack brews. It's a big Imperial Stout that's pretty similar to the 30th Anniversary Stout (I believe it was Ken & Fritz's). Chewy, high-alcohol, sweet, big, sticky... all of those characteristics that make a good Imperial Stout.

 1,256 characters

Photo of stompilator
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a snifter.

A - Pours an opaque, jet black, cinnamon-colored head.

S - Baker's chocolate, olives, coffee, roast.

T - Starts with an explosion of chocolate malt notes, sweet cocoa flavors but not cloying. A slight umami "soy sauce" taste subtly swims underneath. A gentle roastiness finds its home in the mid-palate. The slightest hint of dark berries is present later in the palate, along with a light booziness. Finish is roasty, slightly bitter, and chocolatey.

M - Full-bodied, slightly less thick than many comparable stouts. No bitterness or dryness, but not syrupy or cloying.

O - Sierra Nevada are no doubt the kings of balance. Chocolatey and just sweet enough, and has every nuance of a good imperial stout somewhere.

 762 characters

Photo of rarigney
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 ounce bottle, bottled on 11/3/15. Pours very dark with very little dark tan head. Aroma of roasted malt. Tastes of roasted malt and chocolate. A hint of the alcohol content is also present. A well balanced, very drinkable RIS.

 229 characters

Photo of BigBarley
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Live review! First ever Narwhal and I'm pretty anxious to give it a try.
A - Very dark, not quite as thick as a lot of RIS I've had lately, but still looks formidable. Head was atoundingly big, coming at about 2.5 fingers, and retaining 1.5 worth for quite awhile. (I pour hard, high, straight into the middle of the goblet so these things happen...) Head is deep khaki with good lacing.

S - Well... the first thing I smell is the Sierra Nevada Pineforest Hop Heavy Aroma (I think that's the official name at this point) with a definite roasty undertone. Smells much more like I'd expect a black IPA to smell like, but the black malt character is definitely there. Smells good, just not as RIS as maybe one would expect.

T - Not bad. Different. Exciting. Definitely not bad. You get hops throughout the whole mouth, I'll say that. But underneath is rich dark chocolate, deep bitter coffee and a very mild vanilla wrapping it all up. Sweet and exciting, while maintaining a unique balance between the aggressive hop profile and the black strong flavors of the stout body.

M - Creamy, velvety, thick. Not much carbonation, but works out in this beers favor. Smooth and delicious.

O - I was not let down, and I was definitely given a unique experience. I will drink this beer again!

 1,283 characters

Photo of Tucquan
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had this on 2012-11-17 several other times (see notes) in Columbia, PA from a 2014 bottle. .

A - Opaque black with a brown 1-finger head and mild lacing.

S - Floral, brown bread, chocolate. Moderate level of aroma but very inviting.

T - Dark roasted malt, soy sauce/umami, significant char, smidge of dark chocolate, not too sweet, alcohol, pepper. Kind of brash when fresh but mellows nicely with age.. Finishes roasty and spicy. Good stuff.

M - Medium-heavy body and light-medium carbonation. Somewhat creamy yet dries pretty well.

O - Very enjoyable. Big flavors. Had this side-by-side with a 9-month old Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout and the Narwhal holds up quite well in comparison considering it doesn't have the bourbon influence. The KBS is smoother with more coffee, has a heavier mouthfeel and isn't as brash as the Narwhal - in other words, the KBS is better. I'm going to age some of the Narwhal to see if the brashness mellows out (it does - see notes)

Note: Had an aged one from 2012 on 2013-10-19 and the brashness has mellowed significantly. I like it better with a year on it. Had a 2013 vintage on 2014-11-15 and am finding it's equally delicious this time after aging a year. Had a 2014 vintage on 2015-10-03 and really enjoyed it. Raised my ratings a bit.

 1,290 characters

Photo of alexgash
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle. Served at cellar temp.

Dark, well-used oil. Viscous. Finger and a half of thick, frothy, peanut shell brown head. Nice lacing. Rich nose of roasted malt, coffee, molasses, chocolate-y dark fruit, vanilla, and licorice. Also some herbal, piny, Scotch tape hops.

Roasted malt and coffee bitterness up front. Dark chocolate and figgy fruit sweetness fills in. Becomes more earthy, peaty, and bitter. Herbal, piny, numbing hop bitterness lasts through the finish. Vanilla and licorice around the edges. Warming. Full-bodied with a smooth, satiny feel. Very nicely done.

 583 characters

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 5,002 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.

    Subscribe