Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
886 Reviews
no score
Send samples
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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 886 | Ratings: 4,916
Photo of dacrza1
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

DATE TASTED: January 8, 2016... GLASSWARE: Mad Elf tulip... OCCASION... enjoying another Friday night of Shark Tank... APPEARANCE: midnight black body that is as dark as its label... brown, creamy head rings well and holds steady despite the 10+% ABV strength ... AROMA: mocha, cappuccino, peat, sugary sweets, and chocolate... roasted malts mix with some woody scents and leafy accents... PALATE: smooth, smoky and full-bodied... the weight is palpable but incredibly light on the tongue... the aftertaste is slightly alcoholic, but also malty and weighty... TASTE: chocolate and peat are rapt in holy Arctic wedlock here, with coffee, toasted malts and some hidden citric elements make for a beer worth sipping... big, bold and flavorful.... OVERALL: another Sierra Nevada winner? Indeed...the strength and life of this imperial stout challenges other 12 oz. and some cork and cagers too....maltier than the usual imperial, and a dessert in itself...

 952 characters

3.79/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

$4.50 for the 12oz bottle, served in a tulip
Bottle code 2279213:35
Sampled 03MAR13

[A] A swift pour produces a slim head of medium-dark brown color, foamy and quick to diminish. A small ring of foam around the glass is all that is left 30 seconds after the pour. The body is completely black with no transparency at any point. Short, drooping strands of lace stick to 1/3rd of the glass. No lacing.

[S] The least impressive part of the beer. Semi-sweet chocolate, fudge and cocoa powder. Neutral yeast, maybe a few berry-like esters and evident alcohol. Nothing special.

[T] General chocolate and roast - neither are overpowering. Midpalate the bitterness comes forward in the form of fresh pine and rich soil. Deep chocolate notes return after the smooth bitterness fades. Long lasting flavor.

[M] Medium body with a silky smooth texture at first, but a semi coarse, long lasting effervescence later. The latter part is not exactly complimentary to the style in my opinion.

[O] For whatever reason, Narwhal performs a little better out of the bottle than it did on draft two months ago. It was really underwhelming at that point. Today, while a bit better, it still isn't as good as some regularly available high gravity stouts, like Yeti, for example.

 1,259 characters

Photo of brewskis
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Has a jet black appearance with a finger length dark mocha head that dissipates slowly and leaves a thick lacing. Smells of lots of bittersweet chocolate, good amount of coffee, nice roasted element to it, some oak, molasses, maybe some dark fruit as it warms. Taste starts with the bittersweet chocolate and molasses. Then in the middle, a huge dose of roastiness comes through from the roasted barley, along with more molasses. Then the finish is more of the roasted flavors, almost like a smokiness, along with lots of bittersweet chocolate, more molasses, some coffee or expresso, a tiny bit of hop presence, get some fig as well. Definite alcohol presence on the finish as well, but does not detract from the other flavors. Pretty full body with a sticky and creamy mouthfeel. Decent amount of carbonation that livens up the body of the beer. This will age nicely. Nothing too flashy, but a solid imperial stout at an affordable price.

 940 characters

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

2012 version that has been sitting in my fridge since November. Poured into a snifter this brew comes out of the bottle looking like motor oil topped with a dark tan thick head 1 finger wide with good lacing. Aromas of chocolate and roasted malt. Fairly simple but delicious. Taste is also chocolately with some nice roasted slightly bitter malt. A rather thick yet smooth mouthfeel. Really clean for a 10%+ beer. This is a fantastic RIS. Favorite beer from Sierra Nevada

 471 characters

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

Fresh 2016 bottle served cold in a tulip glass.

Appearance: black, black, black, no light escaping, creamy tan head, poured out very creamy

Nose: coffee, chocolate, very muted nose while cold

Taste: alcohol, dark coffee, slightly acrid, not as smooth as I would have thought. Kinda harsh

Overall: pretty typical RIS here. I'm looking forward to doing a 3 year vertical in the next few weeks.

 395 characters

Photo of ExaltedNecrosis
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into snifter.

A - Pitch black with one finger of creamy dark mocha / chocolate head. Leaves a good amount of lacing on the glass.

S - A somewhat subdued aroma of roasted coffee and chocolate.

T - Roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and a slight hint of vanilla. There is a also a bit of booziness, though not very pronounced for a 10.2%

M - Super smooth and creamy. Thick bodied and somewhat syrupy with low carbonation; this goes down easy.

O - A fantastic stout from SN with the standard roasted coffee and chocolate flavors, with a velvety smooth mouthfeel. Nice bit of alcohol warmth as well despite it being quite drinkable.

 650 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 damndirtyape
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle (2013 bottling - 3284205:07 date stamp) poured into a snifter.

Appearance: Totally black ale - no light even coming in at the edges. 1/4" dark tan head upon pouring died back to a thin skin across the top with lots of persistent strands, sheets, and islands of lacing noted.

Smell: Mild roasted grain, hints of alcohol, chocolate liquor. With a swirl there are some hops trying to get out but I still can't make them out in regards to their aroma. Maybe a mild citrus and pine. Not as rich as I thought I would be.

Taste: Bittersweet baker's chocolate, roasted malt, hints of coffee toward the end - approaching espresso coffee bitter finish, but with some pine notes as well. Hops in the finish complement all the chocolate and other sweetness up at the front.

Mouthfeel: Very thick and creamy up front with the carbonation coming out late in the swallow. Definitely some stickiness on the teeth after the swallow.

Overall / Drinkability: Definitely a sipping and savoring beer, but also appealing enough that I could drink it faster and not mind, but I would probably pay for it later. A good imperial stout, and was good with butter/sugar cookies - probably would be great with a steak.

 1,210 characters

Photo of chugalug06
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Kick ass three-finger foamy tan head. Brew is medium viscosity and burnt black color. Decent lacing, not great, but still nice.

Light, creamy, milk chocolate, coca, stiff.

Wet flavors for a RIS. Earthy mild dryness. Well put together and exposed. Great creamy milk chocolate flavors. Light and highly drinkable. Carbonation is medium and way smooth. Sweetness is tamed and even; well balanced. Bitterness is also balanced and well done.

Another fantastic brew from SN. Complex and very well put together. Highly recommended.

 528 characters

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

2012 bottling. Poured from a bottle into a Brooklyn Brewery snifter. There's a ton of carbonation here. I get a massive head about 3-4 fingers thick without even pouring it very harshly. Nice lacing as the head dies down. It's hard to nose this beer with all that foam, but I do get some nice roasted notes, espresso, and a touch of dark fruit.

The beer has a full body, creamy feel, and a very traditional RIS flavor profile. Big bready malt notes up front that quickly get bitter as roasty, burnt toast and fruit flavors join in. Lots of bitter coffee and chocolate in this one and very little sweetness, save for the front of the palate. The finish is quite long and satisfying and leaves a lingering roasty flavor.

Overall, I expected this beer to be average and I was pleasantly surprised. It is a well-constructed RIS, though just a little bitter for my taste.

 868 characters

Photo of DenverHopHead
4.49/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.
Appearance - black as motor oil; creamy, tan head; ring upon ring of lacing!
Smell - cocoa and dark chocolate; hint of espresso.
Taste - complex flavors! Starts off creamy, but a surprise rush of hops mixed with a hint of alcohol, follows with malts and coffee flavors.
Feel - a very complex RIS! I was taken back by the very noticeable hop presence, it almost comes off as a hardcore Black IPA! More medium body, not too heavy and very drinkable at 10.2% ABV!
Overall - terrific offering from Sierra Nevada! To me this is a cross between an RIS and a Black IPA! The price point gives this one the nod over many other stouts! I'm anxious to try this alongside a few of my favorite Black IPA's, like Wookey Jack, Sublimely, and Mountain Standard.

 785 characters

Photo of mscudder
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sierra Nevada, RIS you say? Totally in. Served in a snifter.

A - Nice deep black hue with a big two+ finger khaki head. Leaves some nice lacing behind.

S - Nice aroma filled with sweet chocolate, roasted malts, light espresso and perhaps a touch of vanilla. Robust as I desire.

T - Dark chocolate hits the palette first, and it hits heavy. Bit of espresso behind adding some bitterness to the brew. It carries some earthy tones which I failed to detect on the nose. Roasted smoothness throughout.

M - Large medium body with fair carbonation. Chewy feel with a relatively dry finish.

O - I prefer a bit more sweetness and less bitterness for an RIS that chooses chocolate as its most prominent ingredient. That said, this is an enjoyable RIS I would not mind having again. Good job Sierra.

 793 characters

Photo of BeerManDan
4.6/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured a thick black brew, with a little dark tan foam and no lace.

The smell of deep roasted malts and dark roasted sweet coffee, with a hint of alcoholic chocolate, filled the nose with a pleasant alcoholic aroma.

The flavor was of a slightly bitter coffee and roasted malts taste, with a hint of dark chocolate on the finish. This Russian Imperial Stout has a long pleasant aftertaste. Not overly bitter and the high alcohol and flavors have a very pleasant taste.

I'm back for a case next time out to BEVMO.

 516 characters

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

<< Review #700 >>

Aroma: Coffee, dry cocoa, and roasty malt characteristics up front. No fruity esters that tend to be more common in English versions. I get a bit of pleasant graininess that reminds me of oatmeal and maris otter malt.

Appearance: Inky black pour with a large tan batter-like head.

Flavor: Follows the aroma but there is more of a dark fruity flavor that reminds me of fig and raisins to match the coffee and cocoa character. Slight earthy bitterness that helps offset some of the malty character and just a touch of chocolate sweetness. Finish is pleasant and dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation. Slight dark grain roasted astringency which is pleasant and appropriate for the style. No alcohol heat which is surprising given the ABV.

Overall impression: Immensely drinkable given the style and size of this beer. A perfect 700th review. One of my favorite styles and one of my favorite breweries so this was appropriate. I hope they make more of this.

 1,006 characters

Photo of daledeee
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Some more of this showed up. Got a 4 pack for a reasonable price.

Pours black with a medium brown head and great lacing.

Smell is charcoal, malt.

Wow, this one hits you in the face. This is the bitterest stout I have had. Loads of malt bitterness. Charcoal, oak, chocolate and sweetness as well.

The mouth feel is very creamy and I don't notice too much alcohol warmth. Overall this is a great example and unique as well.

 426 characters

Photo of tastybeer
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Deep dark black and big fluffy head. All sorts of stringy patches cover the glass once it recedes. Aroma initially brings creamy sweetness. Then digging deeper there's caramel, tobacco, coffee, toffee, and a touch of something like black raspberry. Pretty straight forward Russian imperial style. Taste is milky caramel, chocolatey, a bit smokey, and bitter only subtly through the finish. Mouthfeel is key. Very velvety smooth. Like hot cocoa in beer form and cool of course. The higher ABV is totally hidden as well. I haven't been in a stout-porter/dark beer mood for awhile however this beer might be changing that.

 619 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 SHODriver
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: poured into a sifter black as night with a slightly frothy deep tan head with excellent retention. it pours like a whale of a beer
S: smells of dark roast malt, coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, and anise. smells incredible
T: flavors of charred wood, dark chocolate, a bit of coffee, burnt sugars, dark roasted malt, slight oily hop presence. swallow brings more huge flavors of roast malt, a bit of anise and an espresso finish
M: thick and nearly chewy with a soft carbonation that struggles against the viscosity of the beer
O: It's enornous, it's velvety smooth and it doesn't punch you in the mouth but it can probably put you down after a few. alcohol is very well hidden. This beer is absolutely phenomenal and a steal at the price point it sells for. Buy it and then buy some more to keep in the back of the fridge for a few years. I want this beer in a bourbon barrel!

 881 characters

Photo of Scotchboy
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

SN Imperial Stout? Yes please. 12oz bottle split three ways into snifters...

A: A very dark opaque pour yields a very dark brown head with great lacing.

S: Tons of bitter roasted coffee on the nose, and an ever-present leafy hop bitterness (hey, this is SN)...bakers chocolate and deep dark roasted malt. RIS to a 'T'.

T: Follows the nose perfectly, roasty and bitter with copious amounts of coffee notes, dark chocolate notes, hints of darker fruit and licorice, dark roasted malt, almost burnt to the point of being a touch smoky? Light lingering herbal hop notes as well.

MF: Creamy with pretty good carbonation...a touch viscous with a bit of an alcohol burn (hey, at 10.2% its really buried, which is nice).

O: Impressed. Toss this thing in some harsh rye whiskey barrels and I'd say you have an all-time great RIS. As it stands its a great drinker now, and the alcohol is well-hidden.

 895 characters

Photo of Beer-A-Lot
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

An outstanding and delicious imperial stout. Superb chocolaty and coffee flavors. a smell that doesn't disappoint. Rich and smooth. Perhaps my favorite beer from SN. What can I say? I love this style, and Sierra Nevada delivers on my high standards for stouts. Will make this a regular in my rotation, along with Ten Fidy, FBS, FIS, and others. Well done.

 355 characters

Photo of Shaw
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black, black, black with a short tan head. Looked like oil going into my glass.

Aroma of chocolate, coffee and alcohol.

Big roasted flavors mix with a bit of alcohol. Chocolate and molasses come to mind.

Great body, but then what imperial stout is thin and watery?

A good imperial stout. World class? No, but worth trying.

 329 characters

Photo of Dave1999
3.8/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours pitch black with a small tan colored head.

The smell is dark malts, alcohol, coffee and chocolate.

The taste is sweet and malty with a fair bit of alcohol.

The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy but just a little lighter bodied than I'd like for the style.

I really enjoyed this and it is available at a decent price. I don't think I'd pick this over ten fidy or stone RIS though .

 387 characters

Photo of TreyIsWilson
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Pours a motor oil black with a one-finger tan head. Light amount of lacing.

S - Roasted malts and dark chocolate. Also picking up a hint of dark fruits.

T - Lots of big roasted malts. Coffee and dark chocolate are also well represented. Nice alcohol burn in the finish.

M - Heavy body with medium carbonation. Thick creamy mouthfeel. Leaves a stickiness on the tongue.

O - I really enjoy this stout. For the price this is hard to beat. Lots of big flavors going on.

 473 characters

Photo of BigGold
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Still not available in central Mississippi, finally had Narwhal at the Beerhive Pub, Salt Lake City, Utah, poured from 12-oz. bottle, stamped "PKGD 08/10/2015," into thick-walled tumbler. It was not worth the wait, but only because I hate waiting for beer.

 257 characters

Photo of Wer34truh
4.32/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A rather small head which dissipates quickly. Large dark body with minimal activity. Looks like the depths of the ocean.

As far as the smell goes, it's mostly chocolate, with some coffee on the side. A subtle booze scent is also emanating from this. Otherwise a rather subtle smell.

Quite complex flavor. With coffee beans, chocolate,cola and a smokey sort of taste towards the end. Also noted some licorice. The taste is phenomenal, with a rather hefty body as well.

 470 characters

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,916 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.
  • Extreme Beer FestĀ® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!