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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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BA SCORE
92
outstanding
901 Reviews
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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:
901
Ratings:
4,964
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
22.46%
 
 
Wants:
320
Gots:
1,419
For Trade:
41
User Reviews
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Reviews: 901 | Ratings: 4,964
Photo of SerialTicker
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I'm surprised that this beer "only" scores a 92... what in the. Poured into a shaker pint.

Appearance: Pitch black. Tan head. Poured nicely. A bit of lacing, but not much.

Smell: Chocolate. Some smoke. A lot of roast. Not much in terms of dark fruits.

Taste/feel: Well, that's some damn good stuff. Chocolate and roastiness, as you'd expect. Some smoke. Dark fruits in there a little bit (mostly as it warms), but not too much. Alcohol is hidden well as far as flavor goes, but there's a definite warmth there. A bit more "harsh" than some other RIS's, I suppose. The feel isn't quite as full bodied as some others I've had, which is a slight knock, but still excellent. Drinks a bit too easily.

Fantastic beer. Not much else to say about that. Underrated, in my opinion. Stands up well to some other, perhaps more popular, RIS's.

 834 characters

Photo of vkv822
3.84/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

12oz : tulip

Black, with a thick, foamy brown head. Minimal lacing.

Cocoa predominantly, some dark fruit and roast in the finish.

Medium body, bubbly, average carbonation.

A well crafted RIS. While it has a very enjoyable flavor profile, I can't help but feel there is nothing particularly memorable overall in the big picture of Imperial Stous.

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Photo of MattSweatshirt
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a black body with a finger of brown mocha head.
Coffee and chocolate notes. The sweetness and the bitter coffee roastiness mixes so well with the chocolate making milk and darker bakers chocolate aromas. Some earthy hop and a kiss of booze.
Lots of sweet and bitter chocolate in here as well as coffee. Even with as hoppy as it is it doesn't get too bitter. Like in the nose a little alcohol is here but it doesn't hamper easy drink ability this stout has.
The body and mouthfeel is great on this. Subtle carbonation. It is pretty creamy like an oatmeal stout.
This is a pretty darn good stout. I was hoping it was going to be good enough to compliment that awesome label and it did. No extreme to it to separate it from the pack, but it goes on the list of super solid imperial stouts.

 794 characters

Photo of brewskifan55
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter

A: Dark chocolate brown with ruby highlights. Not much head; a few bubbles. Great lacing.

S: Chocolate and licorice

T: Pile driving, hard core chocolate. malty, smooth. Robust as hell. A coffee aftertaste. Fantastic.

M: Heavy with medium carbonation. Thick, chewy.

O: Glad to have caught this big fish. A great imperial stout. Another winner from Sierra Nevada.

 389 characters

Photo of gillagorilla
3.61/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a Burley Oak snifter.

A: Pours a thick 3 finger head with nice lacing. Quite dark, but I wouldn't say pitch black.

S: Roasted malts. There is a bit of sweetness in there once you swirl it real nice.

T: Lots of roasty flavors with a bunch of malt in there for good measure. Not too sweet. Eh.

M: Quite carbonated. Prickly. Much smoother once it warms up.

O: Not a big fan of the mouthfeel on this one. I don't know what to say about this one. It's not really appealing to me. Not a big fan of the flavors here. Nothing compared to the BA version. Good.

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Photo of brother_kenneth
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Deeply black and fairly thick, with a nice amount of tan colored head. This dissipates rather quickly, although a minimal amount remains through the end.

S- Right up front are big notes of dark roasted malt, coffee, and dark chocolate. There is even a bit of caramel or toffee in the nose, along with the barely noticeable alcohol.

T- Wow, super roasty! This is not a sweet imperial stout by any means. Main thing here is bitter, dark chocolate (really, really dark) and plenty of roasted, burnt malt character. There is also a hint of booze on the back end. Medium body, creamy, and just barely carbonated -- excellent mouth feel.

O- This is an impressive effort from one of my favorite "go-to" breweries. It is a huge imperial stout that I suspect would even do well in the cellar. I won't be able to find out though, because I drank all of mine!

 855 characters

Photo of drdiesel9483
4.09/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Look - very dark brown color. Great brownish head that last for a good amount of time.
Smell - I can smell the alcohol, chocolate, and lots of coffee.
Taste - coffee taste with some alcohol. Sweet chocolate taste as well.
Feel - smooth, with great medium carbonation.
Overall - I let this beer sit for about 6-9 months and it was fantastic.

 340 characters

Photo of Bosoxfan20
3.77/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A- 12 oz bottle pours pitch black. Caramel head of 1.5 fingers. Quickly dissipates . Decent lacing, but not up to par with what i usually see from Sierra Nevada.

S- Wow. What a fantastic highlight of this beer. Supreme notes of chocolate and coffee. Powerful.

T- Coffee flavor is the most prevalent with a touch of coco and caramel. I would have loved it if the flavor would have followed the nose much closer. I felt like some of the chocolate notes were lost in the overpowering phenolic flavors of the alcohol. A touch of hops. Warm, dry finish.

M- Full bodied, good carbonation. A little dry, but still fairly smooth. Alcohol quite present.

O- Maybe the best smelling beer i have ever had. I really had high hopes for it based on the aroma. Unfortunately, the beer took a step back in the flavor. Maybe my expectations were that this would be on the same level with other imperial stouts as Old Rasputin from North Coast, but it is a step or two below that in my opinion. I can expect some alcohol presence with an abv of 10%, but it was a little too boozy for my taste. None the less, still a good beer, but just a little underachieving in my mind.

 1,159 characters

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

A-black with no highlights visible with a fingers worth of tan head

S-Roasted malt, molasses, coffee, mild dark fruit, and some bitter hops

T-taste matches the aroma but is a little heavier on the hops. Still lots of roasted malts, coffee, light burnt flavor, and alcohol warming

M-full body, light to medium carbonation, a dry burnt flavor is left on the tongue

Overall I really like this beer, great combination of flavors, and even though the alcohol is noticeable it is not overbearing

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Photo of Proteus93
4.45/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Damn, this is a dark beer, and the nice brown head gives credence to that. I got distracted, left the room for a good ten minutes or more, and when I returned, it was still laced around the top. I would say that's pretty close to perfect... no lacing.

S + T: The nice, standard imperial stout profile in both the nose and flavor-wise: roasted malts, coffee, some cocoa notes, a nice hop presence. Some anise comes out in the flavor as it warms. It's not brewed with any added ingredients, but the balance is excellent--'complexity in simplicity.'

M + D: The body is on the heavier side of medium, but just a hair shy of that chewiness that I would have liked. Granted, this is purely subjective, so to anyone who reads the review: please treat it as such. The overall experience is excellent, and I am very pleased to have finally picked up a bottle of this beer. The fact that it's named what it is acts as an added bonus!

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Photo of Jimmys
3.83/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2012 bottle into SAVOR tulip.

A: pretty dark body, just a shade under black. head is coffee hued and forthy. residual head is average as is the lacing.

S: chocolate, tobacco, and coffee. the sugary sweetness has a roundness to it.

T: some black licorice is in there. a little bit of vanilla. finish is a blend of coco and coffee. lingering sweetness is pretty close to a dry chocolate.

M: the carbonation is a bit lively. more-so than i expected. full bodied.

D: a good stout for sure, unfortunately for myself i expected a little more. maybe an additional dimension of flavor that i couldnt find. however i do appreciate the lack of alcohol heat on such a recent, high abv stout. good, definitely worth grabbing for a solid stout experience.

 751 characters

Photo of RickS95
4.81/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Beers don't look any better than this. The pour resembles used oil. Next time you're getting your oil changed, ask the guy for a look...that's what this looks like. Thick and coal black pour. The head is dark mocha and a thing of beauty. It starts off about a finger thick, then it starts to cascade and it's a stunner to watch. Eventually it's a couple fingers thick, frothy, with good retention. Squigly lines of lace throughout.

The smell means business. Cocoa up front before a splash of booze takes over. All the while, licorice is making an attempt at some attention.

As good as it comes. Chocolate and expresso dazzle the taste buds all the way down. The alcohol builds momentum but doesn't interfere til near the swallow. It tastes like there might be some lactose hiding in there somewhere. It's exceptional.

Sweet and creamy up front. Heat from the alcohol begins mid sip and lasts with a lingering warmth. Bitterness doesn't start til near the finale. Full bodied and rich. With a kick of carbonation just before the sip says adios.

The only reason I didn't give it 5s across the board is because the smell, while good, wasn't as aggressive as it should have been. This is as good a beer as I've had in a good, long time.

 1,237 characters

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

From: Binny's, Champaign, IL
Date: None on bottle, released late fall 2012
Glass: New Belgium globe glass

Pours a 2cm tall head of tan foam, with above average retention for the 10.2% ABV (lasts about 2-5 minutes). Head fades to a thin film atop the beer, leaving moderate lacing, though not extreme. Body is a very dark brown to black, opaque, with carbonation not visible.

Aroma of smooth, sweetish roasted malt, a bit of vanilla, a hint of old coffee, and mild smoke. Altogether, not very inspiring, somewhat boring.

Opens with sweet, roasty malts with a bit of vanilla and marshmallow, smooth in flavor. The mid-palate finds roasted malt, burnt toast, smoke, and ethanol, which renders the flavor slightly sharp. Back of the palate notices continued roasted malt, marshmallow, vanilla, ethanol, slight bitterness from hops, and sharpness from the ethanol. Aftertaste is of roasted malt, burnt marshmallow, and mild lingering bitterness. While for a 10.2% ABV beer, the ethanol isn't as prominent as it could be,

The beer is heavy to medium heavy in body, with carbonation of medium-low intensity, leading to a slightly foamy, creamy, and smooth mouthfeel. Only minor ethanol is felt in the nostrils and back of throat. Closes fairly dry, with modest stickiness across the palate.

 1,288 characters

Photo of scotorum
3.94/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 on the label, if I'm reading the code correctly it was bottled November 4th 2012.

Poured from the 12 oz. bottle into a Samuel Adams nonick.

a: Pitch black, finger thick tan head receded quickly to even surface foam and some clingy lacing.

s: Overripe fruit, alcohol.

t: Heavy dark malt with quite a bit of hop bite, smoky finish. Significant alcohol throat burn.

m: Medium to heavy. Quite smooth with plenty enough carbonation tingle on the tongue.

o: A flavorful imperial stout with a lot of not entirely pleasant punch. Perhaps the year of aging did not serve it as well as could be hoped. Tough to do more than sip, although few imperial stouts aren't.

UPDATE 2/4/14: Had another from the same fourpack and it was very smooth with more dark chocolate and less smoky taste, Some chocolate also in the aroma. The more I do these comparisons bottle to bottle of the same aged beer, the more I am convinced that it is difficult to predict how some will react to aging, and in fact they may react differently from one bottle to another. Doesn't seem to make much sense, and perhaps it's my own senses that are varying, but I find quite a difference sometimes among bottles in the same pack. (Lagunitas Brown Shugga and Brooklyn's now discontinued Monster come most immediately to mind). In any case I'm raising my ratings based on this second bottle. a: from 4-4.25; s from 3.5-4; mouthfeel from 4-4.25. And overall from 3.75-4.

 1,438 characters

Photo of Andrewharemza
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle, Black color with beige head. Aroma is roasted malty, chocolate and coffee, caramel, light dark fruits. Sweet and bitter taste like aroma. Medium oily body with soft carbonation.

 185 characters

Photo of starrdogg
3.8/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer pours black with a fluffy brown head. Smell is quite nice, a mostly chocolate and cocoa with hints of roast. Flavor doesn't come together as well as I'd hoped after the nice nose. It's got a lot of flavor with a lot more roast than I had expected. It starts out smooth and chocolatey, but halfway through it punches you with a bitter roastiness that overwhelms the flavor. Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied with nice carbonation. This is a nice stout, but the balance could be better, and the overwhelming roastiness in the finish is a bit much. It leaves a not-so-great flavor lingering on the palate as well.

 613 characters

Photo of kawilliams81
3.88/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a 8 oz snifter.

A- pours jet black with a 1 finger beige head. Some blotches of lacing remain.

S- dark chocolate, coffee, roast and an herbal tone (not mint).

T- bitter coffee, dark chocolate, again herbal something, and bitter pine.

M- medium body and carbonation. Slick, chalky and slightly dry.

O- this is a hoppy RIS for sure. Almost reminds me more of a imperial black ale, but where do you draw the line? Still a very good and enjoyable beer.

 485 characters

Photo of BlurryVisi0n
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Served in a snifter glass.

Appearance: Medium bodied that looks thin but still thick in a sense , tan head which rose to maybe a notch or two below a finger's length.

Smell: Wow, a beautiful mocha scent. You feel a chocolate aroma hitting you immediately. Strong but still subtle.

Taste: A nice complexity of cocoa and coffee, very deep and smooth.

Mouth: Stick as it gets and honestly putting the glass down is the worst part about this brew.

Overall: Awesome beer, would recommend to anyone who appreciates what quality truly is. Snifter glass preferred, salud!

 572 characters

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

A - A thick, dark, opaque black beer which generates a dark tan head with an aggressive pour.

S - There is, not surprisingly, a strong alcohol note, with a big malty blast. Coffee and chocolate notes are secondary. The booze overwhelms here.

T - This is a big beer, delivering on the smell. Beneath a complex combination of malts, caramel, coffee and chocolate is a build of booziness that comes in big for the finish. Surprisingly, the brew is not particularly bitter, nor overwhelmingly sweet, even though every flavor here seems to be turned up to 11.

M - Heavy enough to coat, but with carbonation sufficient to keep it from getting cloying.

O - A drinkable brew that does not hide its 10%, but still manages to be quite drinkable. Suggests many of the qualities of a barrel aged imperial stout, which is a real trick since it was not. The alcohol does cloud somewhat the complexity below, so I cannot say it is the best imperial stout I've had, but it is a good one. A very good one.

 992 characters

Photo of ocelot2500
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a jet black color with a tight, light brown head that leaves little bits of lacing.

Smells of deep roasted notes with some dark fruits.

Tastes of the full roasted notes with a touch of bitterness on the backend. Leads off with coffee and semi-sweet chocolate. A bit of roasted bitterness comes through in the middle. Licorice also comes through near the end and is complemented by some dark fruit notes. Finishes with a slight molasses note.

Mouthfeel is full with a creamy amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is a very good stout that is definitely worth checking out.

 580 characters

Photo of zac16125
3.57/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into a tulip
vintage 2013

A: Pours an opaque jet black with 1.5 fingers width of light mocha colored head. Decent retention, and leaves a good amount of lacing.

S: Tons of roasted malt, stale black coffee, bakers chocolate, an almost bourbon-ish booziness, some herbaceous notes.

T: Heavy on the roasted malt flavors, which are accompanied by floral hop notes and a hoppy bitterness. Wasnt expecting that. I also get anise, stale coffee, and an almost sour dark fruit character.

M/D: Full bodied, carbonation non the heavier side for the style, ABV very well masked. Drinkability is average.

O: I dont love this one, kind of a weird flavor profile. I expect it to get much better with age and will revisit this in a few months.

 748 characters

Photo of neenerzig
4.34/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into one of my snifters, this beer pours a an extremely dark brown, almost black color that lets in no light whatsoever. has a dark tan head that is about 1/4 inch thick when first poured that, despite the fact that I gave this beer a very rough pour, settled very quickly to a medium sized ring lining the inside of the glass along with swirls of foam on the surface of the beer. Okay lacing, but not that good. Aromas of caramel malt, hints of chocolate and vanilla, coffee, some hints of dark fruit that are all rounded out with a bourbon smell. pretty sure this edition of this beer was not aged in bourbon barrels, but it sure smells like it. Weird. The flavors match the aromas almost verbatim, caramel malt, chocolate and vanilla sweetness upfront, followed by some roasted coffee bitterness notes, hints of plum and raisin, rounded out with a touch of bourbon. Oh yeah a hint of alcohol too. The flavors mesh very well together as the beer sits and warms up a bit too. Has a slightly crisp, but mainly smooth, creamy, medium bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. This one really coats the palate. Easy to drink in the way an excellently crafted beer should be.

Eric

 1,187 characters

Photo of jjanega08
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 Edition
Bottle Stamped
2279207 : 47

A= Pours a deep black color with a nice half finger of dep brown head on it that holds great retention and lacing on the side of the glass.

S= Smells of liqorice and dark roasted malt. Tons of liqorice. A little hoppy aroma comes through as well.

T= The taste is a nice mix of imperial stout styles. It starts as a nice liqorice taste before being swallowed by a nice bitterness. Dark chocolate and a bit of a hop bittereness. Nice roast and coffee character.

M= Nice mouthfeel

O= This is a solid imperial stout. Not the most amazing thing in the world but worth trying and

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Photo of Act25
4.53/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Massive. Up there with all the best. Right now my favorite, and you could not know which 2x stout is best until you taste test.

Appearance: Pours an energetic black, with a tan head they mounds and then lasts and leaves rills and contours as it falls, leaving also behind spidery rings of lace. Best looking.

Smell: Dark pit fruit soaked in coffee and liquore, skewered on top of charcoal fire.

Taste: Follows the smell, so that the roast and plum/cherry flavors emerge after a chocolate coating. Much complexity and ancient church like flavors, incense, old wool, old wood, wet wool. Lovely bitterness paints the tongue keeping it an unsugared coffee like experience, along with some licorice and alcohol - but like an ancient after dinner drink. Chartreuse like.

Mouthfeel: Warm, full, bitter, great bitter roasty finish, leaves you in a kissy place. Warming.

Overall: My current favorite 2x stout. A must try. Accessible. Sierra scores.

 948 characters

Photo of jasonpeckins32
4.76/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Look: Black as the darkest night. Thick, foamy, brown colored head sits atop of the beer. Very nice.

Smell: Rich, roasted, dark malts. Sweet. Some chocolate. Tobacco. Black licorice.

Taste: One of the better tasting russian imperial stouts I've had in recent memory (and most are usually quite tasty). A big roasted backbone is flanked with flavors of caramel, brown sugar, coffee, chocolate, cola, and black licorice.

For a stout this heavy bodied, it sure is as smooth as can be. It's an impressive beer. This will likely become my go-to stout, providing I'm able to get more of it while it's in season.

 624 characters

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,964 ratings.
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