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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BA SCORE
4.16/5
Exceptional
5,133 Ratings
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BEER INFO

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

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

BEER STATS
Ranking:
#1,352
Reviews:
962
Ratings:
5,133
pDev:
9.62%
Bros Score:
0
 
 
Wants:
336
Gots:
1,483
Trade:
36
HISTOGRAM
 
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 5,133 |  Reviews: 962
Photo of Knapp85
3.53/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured out as a dark black color with a decent tan colored head on top. The retention and lacing was moderate. The smell of the beer was roasted with some chocolate and burnt aromas. The taste of the beer was also a little on the burnt side with a dark chocolate bitterness in there with more roasted malts. The mouthfeel was on the heavier side but not the smoothest of stouts out there, it's carbonation was good and it finished dry. Overall this beer was decent in my opinion. I may need to revisit this beer one day to get a better grasp on it.

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Photo of nmann08
4.02/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Vintage

Pours a dark black, soft brown head, very still and calm appearance.

Huge malty nose, sweet, smells like licorice. Chocolate and coffee fight to come through, but are muted.

Tastes are dominated by dark fruits, sweet flavors. The roasted barley taste shows up and it finishes with bitterness.

Mouthfeel is good. Creamy and rich.

Overall this is good. Personally, I enjoyed it more fresh, but could also be better with more time on it as well.

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Photo of oriolesfan4
4/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
4.25/5  rDev +2.2%

Photo of metter98
4.05/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: The beer is jet black in color. It poured with a thin dark tan head that died down but consistently left a thin layer of bubbles around the edge if the glass and bits of lacing down the sides.
S: Moderate aromas of licorice are present in the nose along with hints of roasted malts.
T: The taste starts off like the smell with flavors of licorice after which strong flavors of roasted malts and a moderate amount of bitterness kicks in. The bitterness and roasted malts linger through the finish.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is quite roasty and bitter. Little if any alcohol is perceptible in the smell so it is quite drinkable considering its strength.

Note: 2013 vintage

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.12/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

With incredible power and the balance of flavor to boot, Sierra Nevada continues to advance beyond the stalwart taste of their flagship prominence and into the sadistic darker, mysterious, and imperial realms.

Narwhal pours with a creamy viscous character and inky nearest black coloration that's imaginable. The stratification of foam pulls from the beer underneath and tops the beer with a whipped topping-like blanket of foam that retains in lumbered fashion and with intermittent pockets of lace.

Bold roasted notes rise from the snifter and floods the nose with the memories of espresso, cocoa, campfire smoke, dark fruit, and slightly scorched molasses. Complex alcohols give a tinge of spice and ethanol and foreshadows the power of the taste and textures to come.

Again, "powerful" becomes the operative descriptor in taste as the most supple of sips explode on the tongue with robust sweetness of molasses laden roast. Espresso, cocoa, heavy toast, and burnt embers converge at mid palate of sweetness and char. Shortly after, the sweetness breaks apart and allows for the fruity taste of black licorice, cherry, and currant.

Calling this stout "full bodied" seems to undersell it entirely. this is a massively creamy and heavy handed ale that envelops the mouth with heavy coats of malt, roast, and seeping alcohols. Its larger than life "charred" persona extends well beyond middle palate and only recedes as the roast-derived bitterness and heated alcohols supplant it. A lingering finish of roast and fruit extend well into the next luscious sip.

Narwal is a decedent ale that's sure to be a staple all winter long in the cabinet of all lovers of stout. With its taste that should be reserved for those special occasions, there's the price of the ale that makes it somewhat "everyday". It's simply a low-guilt, guilty pleasure.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.21/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle, a nice snag from doktorzee on his recent jaunt through Vegas. Cheers, man!

This beer pours a solid black, with noticeable cola-tinted basal highlights, and three fingers of puffy, tightly foamy, and fairly creamy light brown head, which leaves some awesome craggy sea cliff lace around the glass as it slowly and evenly recedes.

It smells of well-toasted, almost meaty caramel malt, wet rye bread, powdered cocoa, stale ashes, dark-roast coffee beans, a hint of black licorice, earthy, leafy hops, and a subtly burbling alcohol astringency. The taste is semi-sweet chocolate, a consequentially reduced caramel malt, some persistent dark bready notes, edgy and earthy anise, gritty wet ash, well-roasted day-old coffee, the kind with too much nut flavourings added to it, and surprisingly (really?) bitter leafy, earthy, and dry citrus hops. A wee twinge of metallic alcohol sort of turtles as things barely warm.

The carbonation is pretty low-key, but hardly absent, a subtle bubbly edginess wafting about, the body a solid medium weight, dead smooth, and agreeably creamy, in a sort of milk-chocolate sense. It finishes well off-dry, the cocoa, caramel, roast, and hops forming one swell collection of lingering party goers.

A pleasurable and enjoyable RIS, the initially apparent unchecked sweetness duly run off at the pass in the typical Sierra Nevada way - mo' hops! It all seems to work - full-bodied, tasty and with the north of 10 points of booze doing its best shark impression by keeping its head under the surface (fin-free!*), I can just sit back and appreciate this hefty, well-made brew.

* This is a pun that only (especially new) dads will appreciate, so Imma just gonna keep it to myself for now.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.3/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Heard the hype so I picked this one up. I'm not a big Sierra Nevada fan but I'm hoping this will change my mind. 10.20% ABV confirmed. 12 fl oz brown glass bottle (2012 vintage) with standard pressure cap and an appealing sleek label acquired at Cap N Cork Junior Market earlier today and served into a New Belgium stem-goblet in me gaff in low altitude Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California. Cost for a four pack was $10.99; it seemed a bit steep seeing as Old Rasputin was on the shelf below it for $8.99 per four pack.

Served slightly chilled; I'm trying to be better about serving my imperial stouts at a warmer temperature. Allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

Opened without issue; no upsurging or other problems.

A: Pours a one finger attractive tan-gold colour head of nice thickness and cream. Retention is fairly good (~one and half minutes) for the ABV and style. Body colour is a nontransparent solid dark black; yet it's weak. This is not the jet black of Speedway Stout, it's a bit grey actually. Hrm. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show. Carbonation appears fine based on the appearance. Pretty predictable for the style; there's nothing unique or special here that jumps out at me.

Sm: A bit of roast but not enough to suggest a strong roasty backbone. Hints of coffee and chocolate. Dark malts. Minimal hopping. Caramel, cream. It's a bit musty. Not at all assertive or bold like I'd expect from a beer in this style. Comes off quite tame, actually; I get more complex aromas from other imperial stouts even at much colder serving temperatures. No yeast or alcohol comes through. The coffee note is refined and milky; it reminds me of Founder's Breakfast Stout in that regard - which is always a good thing. An average to moderate strength aroma. I'm excited to try it.

T: Okay. Dark malts form the foundation, with emergent sleek coffee nearer the climax. Some roast in the late second act, but as predicted there's not enough. Minimal hopping if any. No yeast comes through. Alcohol is surprisingly well hidden - a highlight of this beer. Caramel, pleasant cream. The coffee is particularly well handled and blends in with the other flavours subtly. I do get some soy sauce character, but it's minimal. Some coffee grains lend it a pleasant near earthiness that pairs well with the sweeter malt characteristics. It lacks bold complexity or refined subtlety, but it's a nice little imperial stout in terms of flavour.

Mf: Unfortunately, the mouthfeel is strange. Entirely too slick and smooth and wet, which is nice for the smooth subtle coffee in the second act but is terrible for the style. Amping up the roast would lend it needed coarseness and dryness. It's also quite heavy on the palate without much reason to be. Too thick and even overbearing. Luckily, carbonation is adequate - which is to say it's bit less than you'd expect of most middle of the road more pedestrian styles. It's a bit chewy, but all around pleasant. Though it's a bit scratchy right on the finish (coffee grains, maybe?); I don't know what's going on there. Suits the flavours alright, but certainly doesn't feel custom tailored to them.

Dr: Hides its ABV pretty well, but it's still far from highly drinkable. More of a sipper that lacks enough flavour to justify its low drinkability. At this price point, I'm not disappointed with it. That said, I wouldn't buy it again. I'd much sooner reach for Old Rasputin or Ten Fidy if I'm looking for a budget imperial stout. This is one that fans of the style should try, and it's a good beer in the style for getting drunk. I'd try it on nitro, but otherwise it's rather forgettable. Sorry, Sierra Nevada, it'll take more than this to make me a fan.

High C+

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Photo of dmorgan310
4.14/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of emerge077
4.05/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a goblet, there was a brief crest of mocha tinged dark tan foam that receded after a few minutes down to a creamy collar at the edge of the glass.

Deep roastiness in the aroma, slight ashy char, mild dry bakers chocolate, coffee.
Flavors follow suit, huge roasted malt, blackened and ashy. Bitter dark chocolate and mild coffee notes dominate. Long lasting flavors of roast and chocolate that linger into the aftertaste. As it warms, some hop greenery comes into the picture. Reminds me of new green shoots extending skyward post-forest fire. For being 10% it's fairly approachable for the style, though still a slow sipper. Very tasty and palate coating.

As with most Imperial Stouts, allow to warm up as much as possible to get the full range out of it.

Review #2700

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Photo of brentk56
4.13/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Arrives with an impressive khaki head perched atop the inky black liquid; sheets of lacing are left behind

Smell: Surprisingly fruity, with plum and cherry aromatics; roast and chocolate underneath

Taste: Though the roast and chocolate flavors jut out, the plum and cherry elements really build through the middle along with some licorice; after the swallow, both the fruit and licorice elements dominate the finish; alcohol is detectable as well

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation; some warmth in the gullet

Overall: There are a lot of really nice elements in this beer; I would prefer more chocolate and a fuller mouthfeel but those are minor issues

 689 characters

Photo of WillieThreebiers
4.25/5  rDev +2.2%

Photo of oline73
3.58/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I had this on-tap at Max's during Baltimore Beer Week. Served in a sample glass.

Appearance: The beer is black with a layer of tan head. The head fades to a ring around the glass.

Smell: I'm getting a dark fruit sweetness along with some mild roasted malt. There is some dark chocolate in there as well. There is a slightly off note that reminds me of sweaty socks, but not enough to ruin the whole smell.

Taste: Sweet up front along with the roasted malt and dark chocolate flavors. I'm getting some dark fruit sweetness behind the roasty flavor. The finish is quite smooth, but there is some roast to counter that. The off smell doesn't show up in the flavor.

Mouthfeel: The body is just on the syrupy side of medium with lots of carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: The finish had enough bitterness but the rest of the sip could have used more. The smell was a bit off but the rest of the beer was pretty good. Not sure I need more.

 942 characters

Photo of zeff80
4/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an opaque, jet-black color with a one-finger, light brown head of bubbly foam. It left thin rings of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of dark chocolate and roasted malt. There was a touch of pine.

T - Great blend of dark chocolate, burnt molasses, toffee and roasted malt. A slight piney bitterness added balance.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium to full bodied ale with a dry finish.

O - This is a really nice Russian Imperial Stout.

 466 characters

Photo of Phyl21ca
4/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a large brown foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of roasted malt with black chocolate notes is quite interesting. Taste is a nice mix of roasted malt with some black chocolate notes. Body is pretty full with nice creamy touch with good carbonation and no apparent alcohol. Well brewed overall with good mix of complexity and good drinkability.

 408 characters

Photo of SocalKicks
4/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of LXIXME
4/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of superspak
4.25/5  rDev +2.2%
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.

 1,527 characters

Photo of largadeer
4/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of Boone757
4/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of zestar
4/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of Kurmaraja
4.25/5  rDev +2.2%

Photo of mothman
4.25/5  rDev +2.2%

Photo of DrBier
4/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.46/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout
12 oz. brown glass bottle, "072414C120:16"

Appearance: Typical black/dark tan. Excellent head retention. Very good lacing.
Aroma: Golden caramel, light toffee, licorice, subtle fruit (black cherry), some piney/grassiness, chocolate, cold black coffee.
Flavor: As the aroma suggests, with additional espresso that's rich and creamy; and a subtle touch of orange-like citrus. It's a little spicy (hops? alcohol? both?), and a light touch of pine helps to balance it alongside a median bitterness. As you progress the black cherry note seems to step forward a bit. Dry, gently roasty and chocolatey lingering finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a very fine-bubbled moderate carbonation that at first gently bristles and then softens to become smoother.
Overall: Quite unique in its fruity component; and toned-down a bit in its chocolate and roast as compared to many examples of the style. It has finesse! Balanced, rounded, and satisfying. Without question, one of the best Imperial Stouts out there.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.16 out of 5 with 5,133 ratings
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