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:
5,004
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: 5,004
Photo of magictacosinus
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

SN, you are incredible. You know that I'd for sure drink something called a "narwhal imperial stout." Poured out of a 12oz bottle into a snifter.

The color is expected - a impenetrable, dark slick that smoothly pours out into the glass and produces a surprisingly huge head that carries its way all the way to the top of the glass. My God are the alcohol leggings large on this one. They're literally climbing to the top in long strings of carbonation! This is extremely thick and filling in appearance. Nothing could slice through this, and the generous carbonation definitely shines here - no matter how long I let this sit, it never lost its head completely. Simply a stunning take on the RIS style. It definitely made my stomach slightly retreat in fear looking at it.

The smell is predictably boozy, but there's a lot more going on for it than that. There are big bold, baker's chocolate aromas, combined with deep coffee grounds (resembling French roasted beans), and a combination of dark fruits and grassy zest. A best way to describe it is a combo of coffee, cocoa, buckwheat, dark cherries, and tamarind. All coated with insanely strong alcohol. Definitely good, but that alcohol kinda makes me a bit dizzy after whiffing at it long enough.

The flavor is a bit different though - just like Mission Dark Seas, this is an example of a West Coast RIS where the alcohol is not as present in the flavor than in the aroma. That is NOT to say that it isn't - this is a 20.8 proof beer after all - but it only shows up way at the finish. Instead, there are strong, dark malty flavors that get to the palate, combined with more coffee that chocolate, and topped with a unique yet vicious hop zest. This is definitely not for the faint of heart. I had to go really slow with this thing. The alcohol finish was ridiculous as it warmed up, but thankfully none of the flavors were thrown off. The mouthfeel as pretty much as perfect as its appearance. Lots of surprising carbonation, but also a near syrupy, bready thickness that never let itself go.

Of these latest "extreme" offerings from SN, this is one that I preferred a hundred times over Hoptimum. There's an incredible amount of balance going on here, which is saying something as this one of the most intense takes on this style I've had since Old Rasputin. However, it is quite easy to finish, but it requires patience. That alcohol will get to your head if you're not careful, and it's dry enough to be taken slowly but never gets astringent so that it will left alone. Even though I definitely won't be having this every day, it's truly fantastic one from SN!

 2,623 characters

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.

 195 characters

Photo of adam42381
4.02/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a Cigar City snifter. Bottled on October 6, 2012 per Julian dating code printed on bottle.

Appearance: Pours a motor oil black with a 1 finger creamy medium brown head which dissipates to a chocolate milk-like bubbly foam. Solid lacing for such a big beer.

Smell: Sweet milk chocolate, dark roasted malt, a touch of molasses, a hint of hops and a bit of alcohol coming through in the background.

Taste: Very dark roasted malt up front with a bit of bittersweet chocolate in the middle before ending with a nice amount of hoppy bitterness and more dark roasted malt. The alcohol definitely makes an appearance, but is not terribly overpowering. Aftertaste is bitter, roasted and long-lasting.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and a good amount of carbonation.

Drinkability: Good drinkability. This one would be great on a cold winter's night. For me, it's still pretty damn good on a 75 degree late January afternoon in southwest Florida.

Overall: Very good beer overall. While I don't think it compares to some of the more heralded Imperial Stouts out there, I don't think Sierra Nevada set out to blow you away with complex additions. This is a straightforward take on the Russian Imperial Stout style. I would definitely recommend this one and look forward to trying it next year (assuming they bring it back).

 1,343 characters

Photo of jtierney89
3.3/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Incredibly deep brown color, almost black, from what i can tell good clarity and about two fingers of mocha colored head. Charcoal heavily roasted grains, bit of asphalt, mocha and dark cocoa.

Not as heavily bodied as I thought it would be but a pretty good beer. I expected a bit more from sierra, but it's a pretty standard imp stout. Faintly creamy, bitter black chocolate, dark roast coffee, herbal hop, low astringency, bitter malts and bitter hops finishes dry. Overall good, clean tasting, on the heavier side of medium bodied, lingering burnt coffee, black chocolate and earthy hop flavors. A touch soapy and minty.

 625 characters

Photo of boilermakerbrew
4.46/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours black as night with a rather large, chocolately brown head. Head retention and lacing is pretty awesome. Head is amazingly frothy and persistent. Lots of rising carbonation.

S- Lots of deep, dark chocolately roasts. Next come the coffee flavors. Coffee is pretty dominant right after the chocolate hits. Bitterness at the end suggests some hop profile, but most bitterness is from the dark chocolate.

T- Big chocolates right off the bat, just like the scent. Chocolate is very dark and pretty bitter. Coffee is not as strong in the taste as in the scent, but still present. Slightly warming alcohol heat is also present with a dull bitterness in the flavor. Slightest bit of hop bitterness intermingles with the chocolate and coffee bitterness at the end. Flavor finishes very clean with only a little lingering bite.

M- Thick and creamy and a little slick on the palate. Only slight alcohol heat as previously mentioned. Lower levels of carbonation add to the thick and creamy effect. Easily sessionable because of the thickness and its tendency to lend itself to sipping.

Overall, another stellar beer from SN. I haven't had the regular stout, but I imagine they built off of it for this one, and it makes me excited to try some.

 1,244 characters

Photo of CNoj012
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This beer pours an opaque jet black with 2 fingers of a brown head colored head that reminds me of chocolate milk with a dab of caramel. There is not much retention and no lacing.

The smell is chocolate, coffee, roasted grainy malt and sweet rasins.

Taste is very similar to the nose with the addition of a bit of smokiness and some bitterness on the finish.

Feel is oily, slick and there is not even a hint of alcohol.

Overall this is a great stout. One of my favorite seasonals, and something I will definitely go out of my way to get each year.

 551 characters

Photo of webmanspidey
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter, this is very dark, thick, and viscous. The smell is powerful with some traces of roasted grain, graham cracker, dark chocolate, alcohol, and piney hops. Initial taste is very sweet with some dark chocolate and molasses. More graham cracker and roasted malts round it out with a slight bitterness is left at the end. The alcohol is masked very well, keeping this very drinkable. I'm pretty happy with this one, it's definitely a very solid RIS.

 466 characters

Photo of JRed
3.56/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Dark black in body with creamy tan head that floats on top for the duration of the drink. Aroma of roast, dark chocolate, dirt, and cocoa powdered mint leaves. Flavors aren't as aggressive as I thought they'd be: fluffy chocolate mousse, roasted malt leads to dirt, some tobacco towards the end. Milky body with light carbonation. A smooth stout that masks the big booze well behind layers of cocoa and crushed autumn leaves. Dangerously easy to keep picking up over and over again.

 482 characters

Photo of martyl1000
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Black. Oily. Chewy brown head but the lacing slides off the glass too readily, via some obvious alcohol solvency.

Boozy aroma, w/ coffee, barely detectable chocolate. Nice, but fairly one-dimensional.

Booze first on the tongue. Then tart stone fruit, cherry, prune, or is it fig. Cocoa's next, along with burnt toast. Then more booze, which is an issue.

Thick, oily, despite the significant carbonation.

Very much like Old Rasputin, which isn't my favorite RIS. I like them sweeter than this. The simplistic aroma is the weak spot, here. But at this price point, I'll drink this regularly. Wish there were more chocolate and/or vanilla involved.

 650 characters

Photo of JackieTH
4.23/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Review is from written notes. Dark aggressively black-brown pour with mocha foam. Smells loaded with semi-sweet chocolate, crispy toast, lightly burnt coffee. Very nice. Taste follows with thick dense toast and biscuit, char, heavily roasted coffee, baker's chocolate, dark dried cherries. Medium heavy body, creamy mouthfeel. Enjoyable and a nice RIS from Sierra Nevada.

 371 characters

Photo of elgiacomo
3.91/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottled October 6, 2012. Served at around 55F.

Pours black with a three finger light brown head that leaves impressive lacing and recedes to a small cap.

Aroma is coffee, dark roasted malts, some chocolate and dark fruits, a bit of herbal hops, some alcohol. Good, but not great strength.

Flavor starts with chocolate, coffee, dark fruits such as figs, plums and raisins, dark roasted malts, fairly sweet, minimal bitterness, some alcohol on the finish but not too bad.

Mouthfeel is nearly full bodied, sticky, good carbonation.

Very tasty and rich Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada. Drinking very good in its fresh state, will put some back to age as well.

 667 characters

Photo of nodder
3.93/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A- Black with a one finger light tan head. Fades quickly leaving slight lacing and alcohol legs on glass.

S- Dark roasted malts, coffee, dark chocolate, slight dark fruity notes. Slightly boozy smell also.

T- Standard RIS flavors. Coffee, dark chocolate, an earthy/fruitiness there also. A bit more alcohol taste than expected but this is still very good.

M- Medium mouth with slightly more carbonation than expected. Finish is bitter but nice. There is a definite alcohol burn on this one but not overpowering.

O- A bit boozy but still good. Gonna throw a bottle in the cellar for a year and see if it mellows.

12 oz. bottle

 630 characters

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

Velvety black in color. Poured with a short dark tan foam that quickly reduced to a soapy cap. Dark roasted malt and powdery dark chocolate aromas with ripe dark fruit and delicate hop notes. Thick, rich, viscous feel with subdued carbonation through the middle. Dark roasted malt flavors first followed by dark chocolate. Sweetness malt and chocolate is quickly overcome by bitter dark roasted coffee and pine hop bitterness. Finishes with a tangy, bitter, pine hip aftertaste with u.derlying dark roasted malt. Beautiful color, delicate aromas, and a rollercoaster of sweet and bitter flavors. 

 597 characters

Photo of gcamparone
4.02/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a snifter. Purchased in Providence, RI.

Pours a deep brown nearly black body with a small off white head that leaves no lacing and a little retention.

Chocolate, coffee, dark fruits, toffee, caramel come through on the aroma. Tongue matches the nose with an added roasty note, coffee and dark chocolate, finishes lightly bitter and charred. Medium body with medium low carbonation.

Solid for a stout thats always available. Love the roastyness on the aftertaste.

 499 characters

Photo of beerdrifter
4.57/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pitch Black pour with a creamy two finger caramel-colored head with nice retention and lacing. Unique, sweet, roasty nose with hints of espresso, licorice, toffee, cocoa, and a fair amount of hops, almost like a Black IPA. The taste is quite unique as well. Rich, roasty espresso and dark chocolate fudge dominate along with hints of piney hops, licorice, toffee, cocoa, sweet caramel malts, and some subtle soy sauce. The mouthfeel is smooth and somewhat creamy with absolutely perfect balance. Overall, I am totally amazed at how good this beer is. It's absolutely right up there with any Imperial Stout. Probably has taken over Ten Fidy's spot as the best readily available Imperial Stout out there!

 702 characters

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

A: Black with a solid but fairly quickly dissipating head; beautiful lacing

S: Big roasty coffee beans; some dark fruits; hoppy bitter up front with a sweet chocolatey malt undertone; this is a big beautiful and delicious spelling beer

T: Deliciously bitter and roasty; quite a bit of booze but the coffee and chocolate come rushing in afterwards; I wish it had more sweet balance--quite bitter in the finish (though I imagine this will improve with some age)

F: Creamy and viscous

O: A nice, thick, boozy stout; I wish it had more balance though; like I said, this will get better with age

 594 characters

Photo of Gajo74
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very interesting and unique appearance; on the surface, a semi viscous dark brown and nearly black color. However, when held up to the light, there is a saucer like ring of red. A thin ringlike and broken lace orbits around 3/4 of the glass, and, eventually dissipates completely.
The aroma really picks up after the drink warms. At first, a subtle whiff of dark roasted grains. This is followed by a medicinal quality. Soon enough, a really pleasant dark and sweet chocolate aroma takes over. At the end of each sniff, there is a strong alcohol component.
The taste is biter sweet. The roasted malts add a sweet chocolate and dark fruit presence, as well as bitter coffee. Similarly, the finish is both sweet on the back of the throat and very dry and bitter. In the finish, you get a modest but significant hops presence.
Full mouthfeel and robust body. Soft carbonation brings out the flavors. Well balanced. At 10.20% ABV, this one is a sipper, yet, I finished it fast because it is, after all, pretty tasty and drinkable. Better to let it sit as it gets better and better as it warms.

 1,089 characters

Photo of Fcolle2
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours solid dark black in color with a thick body like molasses. Head is about one and a half fingers and tan in color. Head retains nicely and leaves some good sticky lacing all over the glass.

Smell is great. Rich roasted dark chocolate malt is forward along with a very clean scent and a faint strawberry like fruity ester. There is a big note able alcohol present one the back end, this does not bother me whatsoever though.

Taste is awesome and follows the nose. There is a rich dark chocolate flavor forward followed by roasted malt and a very light crisp ripe fruity tartness. More chocolate malt and booze come in on the back end.

Mouthfeel is good. Thick but not quite as thick as expected and carbonation is moderate. This keeps it highly drinkable at such a high abv.

Overall this was an awesome imperial stout I see why it rated so highly. Very boozy but it has some great flavors and aromas. I feel like this would be perfect to age, definitely putting some away.

 980 characters

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

On draft in a tulip at SNBC.
Pours a deep dark black with 1/8" golden head which fades slowly.
Aromas of roasted coffee and chocolate which get deeper as the stout warms and the glass level lowers.
Super smooth and easy, almost chewy mouthfeel and a chocolatey aftertaste which lingers nice and long.
A step outside of Sierra's norm but a damn good beer all around!
I loved it in the bottle and have been picking the four-packs up as I see them. Great now...only time will tell for later.

 492 characters

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

a - poured a one finger thick creamy coffee-colored head into a snifter that left great lacing throughout. the body was dark black.
s - chocolate, coffee with a hint of piney hops.
t - roasted coffee, burnt chocolate, piney hops.
m - thick and viscous.
o - another terrific west coast take on the RIS. really loved this beer.

 325 characters

Photo of StoutElk_92
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 8/05/15

Pours black with a light tan head. Smells lightly of dark chocolate and boozy fruit. Taste is like bitter dark chocolate baker's cocoa, dark stone fruit, and bittersweet dark roast coffee, with a slightly licorice and herbal hop note. Feels pretty light, almost sticky and chewy, with very little carbonation. The alcohol is covered up well. Overall, a really nice imperial stout.

 397 characters

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.

 1,569 characters

Photo of Powderhornphil
3.92/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer pours completely black with a nice head that recedes leaving a nice lacing.

The nose seems subtle coffee and chocolate.

Taste is coffee and chocolate a bit of alcohol on the end. A very nice tasting stout. I really enjoy the coffee notes on this one. Not too much roast.

Mouthfeel is nice and makes for easy drinking considering the abv.

Overall I like this stout; it's big but also subtle. I will put a couple of these away and will be interested to see how it ages.

 481 characters

Photo of OBeerMeGreatOne
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2012 bottle into a Chimay goblet. Pours out pitch black with a nice tan head. Lovely dotted lace sticks around for a bit.

Dark chocolate and plum don't mingle with much else in the smell, just a hint of anise and booze.

Chocolate, cherry, booze, anise, earth and citrus mingle brilliantly at the front of this beer. Molasses, coffee and plum round out the middle, sweet finish. Very thick and smooth going down!

Can't believe I've never had this before. Need to grab a few for the cellar!

 491 characters

Photo of SmashPants
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle: solid dark brown 355mL stubby with a funky label. A good package.

Appearance: pours incredibly dark- almost an impenetrable black. A huge tan head pops up to over two-fingers before slowly settling to a thin, creamy cap. Looks good.

Aroma: roast coffee, dark cocoa chocolate, a touch of dark fruits and anise, and a wonderful smokiness

Taste: roast coffee, dark cocoa chocolate, a touch of dark fruits and anise, and a wonderful smokiness round out this beer.

Aftertaste: hangs around for quite a while, with a slight warming alcohol feeling at the back.

Mouth feel: very full-bodied with a creamy, silky texture. Though I can't see through the beer, I am sure it must have plenty of fine sediment to make it this smooth. Very drinkable.

Overall: if any United States-based brewery was going to produce an exceptional Russian Imperial Stout, I would have put my money on Sierra Nevada. The outcome is a rousing success - rich and complex in flavour, full in body and with a fantastic drinkability. One of the best Russian Imps I have had to date.

 1,060 characters

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 5,004 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