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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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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
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Reviews: 889 | Ratings: 4,928
Photo of yamar68
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Classic imperial stout appearance... near pitch black, an edge of copper clarity, a finger of khaki head that recedes to a dense collar.

Fresh coffee notes, burnt chocolate... quite impressive actually.

I was a bit skeptical of this beer but Sierra Nevada nailed it - it's a textbook example of the style. Smooth chocolate and a hint of coffee, slight vanilla notes, entirely delicious.

Very, very good.

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

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter. Bottled November 2nd 2012.

A: Pours a real dark black with a 1 very dense finger khaki head. Dissipates over a minute or two leaving a thin film. No real lacing. Light barely gets through the edges.

S: Real nice dark chocolaty malt along with a sweet dark fruitiness. Can get some booze.

T: Real nice blend of chocolate malts, vanilla and a great roastiness. Little bit of bite from the alcohol but works. Raisin and fig from the malts also a coffeeish taste.

M: Smooth and velvety with a nice full body. Appropriate carbonation for the style. Could enjoy sipping on these all night.

Overall great bold stout from Sierra Nevada. Glad they are offering another stout as I've always enjoyed their other one. Hopefully I can manage to save one of these for a year.

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Photo of beeragent
4.36/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from a 2012 bottle. Poured into a glass.

A - Pours a deep brown with ruby highlights. Appears black as motor oil once in the glass. Thin mocha head with no lace.

S - Strong roasted malts, chocolate, and espresso.

T - Roasted malt and bitter chocolate coat the palate. A slight hop bitterness in the finish. The alcohol is very well hidden.

M - Heavy bodied, thick and very smooth. Low carbonation.

O - Just like most of what Sierra Nevada does, they have set a standard for the style. When I think of an RIS, this is exactly what I expect it to look, smell, and taste like. Just a perfect example of the style.

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

2012 12 oz. bottle that pours a deep, black body with a two-finger dark tan head. The head settles into a nice cap and leaves streaky lacing on the glass.

The aroma is typical of a RIS, but a bit on the light side. Some roasted malt, a bit of chocolate, some dark fruit. Nice, but not complex.

The flavor steps it up a notch. Very nice blend of flavors: roasted malt, dark fruit - especially raisin, chocoalte, light coffee, and licorice. Excellent flavor balance.

Very smooth mouthfeel, medium to thick in texture. Nearly no notice of the alcohol. This is a top-notch RIS. Highly recommend.

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

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout is a dark and tasty imperial stout.

A: Black colour and a 3 mm head that lasts pretty well. 4

S: Malty with some dark, burnt flavours. Some fresh hoppiness too. 4

T: Sharp burnt malt and dark fruit. Definitely a full-on start. The finish has some sweetness and ash flavour. 4.

M: Thick. Pretty low carbonation. 4

O: 4

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Photo of Jonada
3.67/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2012 vintage served in a snifter

Appearance: Pours black with less than a finger of a dark tan head. Body is opaque.

Smell: Dark chocolate, roasted malt, black licorice, booze, fudge.

Taste: More of the same. Roasted malt, coffee, bitter dark chocolate, hint of dark fruit.

Mouthfeel: Lighter end of full bodied with medium prickly carbonation. Not super boozy, but the alcohol isn't exactly hidden well either.

Overall: A bit boozy, which holds this back from being great. I've had higher ABV beers that have hidden their ABV much better. Still decent, but with all of the other great imperial stouts out there, I probably won't get this again.

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Photo of themind
4.43/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

This is a very well crafted Imperial Stout. The beers pours a near perfect head with its rich dark color. The aroma is roasty with slight coffee coming thru. The taste was excellent! cocoa and roasted coffee make up this potion of love from SN. The mouth feel was awesome and the 10% ABV was hidden well. Overall this was a great beer that I would purchase again for sure.

Bottom Line: if its on the shelf....grab it!

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Photo of WunderLlama
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottle poured into a glass

Black liquid capped by brown bubbly lid

Aroma of sweet coffee malt

Taste off roast coffee, bittersweet on the tip and sides of the tongue

Smooth, roast coffee aftertaste

Nice beer

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Photo of fmccormi
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Straight pour from 12oz pry-off bottle to a 25cl Duvel Single tulip; bottling date of October 5, 2012 (“2279209 : 46”) printed in white ink on the shoulder of the bottle, making this beer just over six weeks old on the date of consumption.

Appearance (4.0): Body is black as night—no surprise there, but there’s just absolutely no light passing through. The head is a dense two fingers of dark tan-colored foam, which dies down at a reasonable pace. “Dark tan” doesn’t do it justice, though—there’s milk chocolate out there lighter than this shade of brown. Modest lacing and moderate head retention, but both decent for the style.

Smell (4.0): Just roasty as hell—not in a charred wood kind of way, but in a French Roast coffee kind of way, or like dark chocolate-covered espresso beans. Picking up notes of molasses, anise, bitter, dark chocolate, some alcohol vapor, some smooth oat character (seems to me, anyway). Really nice nose on this bastard.

Taste (4.5): Not as bitter or charred as the nose might indicate—but not overly sweet in any way, either. Very satisfying chocolate and coffee notes, mainly a drying bitterness that accompanies very dark chocolate along with the modestly charred, very bitter but deeply flavorful character of espresso beans. Some burnt multigrain toast fleshes out the malt body, leading into a somewhat bitter finish that hangs on and continues for a while. The hops add a surprisingly clear citrus pith-type bitterness along with a somewhat bright citrus fruit (think mixed orange and grapefruit juice) flavor under the roasty malt body. Huh. Was not expecting that, but it’s quite nice. Damn, this is really, really good.

Mouthfeel (5.0): Very full-feeling with a thick, oily body that coats and paints every surface of your mouth and throat. Has that drying, vaporous feel on the finish that comes from the high ABV, but it’s not unpleasant. This kind of forces you to sip—it makes me want to exhale and take a couple of breaths after each sip before I take another, which for this size and style of beer, I really appreciate. Carbonation fits the style very well, never prickly but full and lush with a filling, foaming character on the way down. Holy hell.

Overall (4.5): To be honest, this is quite a bit better than I was expecting, and I was already expecting that Sierra Nevada would do a pretty good job. Turns out, they did an excellent job. This is a full-bodied, full-flavored, but attractive and pleasant-drinking imperial stout with a couple of unexpected and very welcome turns here and there. I’m not into most aged beers, but I’d be willing to bet this would be a good candidate. Outstanding, and a job well done by Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of TheDoctor
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottled: 2013

Pours a murky black (opaque) with ruby edges in the light, skiff of brown head evaporates to nothing but an anemic ring. Little retention; minimal arcs of lacing. (3.5)

Chocolate and molasses. Baker's chocolate, coffee, molasses, figs, woodsy leather, subtle alcohol. (4.25)

Chocolate and coffee. Bitter chocolate on top of cocoa, with some baker's chocolate for good measure, dried dark fruits, coffee, roasty malt husks. (4)

Medium-full bodied, with well-hidden alcohol, low carbonation, a little less sludgy than some. Fairly clean finish (4)

Very good RIS.
Tons of bitter chocolate with some oak and leathery characteristics pretty evely distributed as well.
Pours about like a boozy beer does (not all of them, though, hence my lowered score) with a bittersweet nose. The port-black liquid isn't super thick but tastes about like the aroma, but with a creamy sweetness in the finish and a pretty drinkable presence on the ol' palate. Big, but not needlessly so.
Would have again; well-worth a try. (4.25)

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

A cellar temperature bottle poured into a small snifter.

It is a black beer with a small brown foam head. Lots of foam and film left behind when I swirl my glass.

It is has a big roasted malt aroma with some hints of chocolate. There is a s lightly boozy quality to the nose, but it isn't off-putting.

This is a very roasty beer! Lots of roasted, nearly burnt malts. A good amount of alcohol in the finish helps this beer feel very warm. There are some cocoa flavors that can be tasted once you get past the roasted malts.

As I said above, the beer is very warming. It has a small but sticky film that retains a small amount of sweetness. and a touch of burnt malts. The body is thick and carbonation is low.

This is a great winter Imperial stout. It's strong and warming and not too sweet. the roasted flavors make me want to drink this in front of an open fire. I'll get more of this beer.

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Photo of Arithmeticus
4.43/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured chilled in ribbed ale glass

A: solid black; thin head; good lacing;
S: good classic stout aroma: dark malt, anise
T: amazingly more sophisticated than the straightforward aroma; very boozy, complex; cocoa; smooth and sweet; licorice; dark chocolate

Really amazing imperial stout; quite different from other stouts I've had

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Photo of maxcoinage
4.44/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12oz bottle (2013 Vintage) into oversized snifter with a solid inch head that was mocha colored and took it's time to settle down. Color of the beer is pitch black.

The aroma consists of dark chocolate, coffee, dark fruits.

Taste includes dark roasted malt, coffee, caramel, very noticeable booze, some hoppy bitterness

Mouthfeel is rather thick, but not as much as you'd think at over 10%, medium carbonation, leaves a nice coating on your mouth and throat.

Overall it's a very enjoyable RIS, as I like boozy stouts, though I could see how some might think this is too hot. Looking forward to see how this changes with some age on it.

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

$20 for a growl fill on this ? mad props to Copper Mine Pub in N Arlington NJ

devilishly black, totally opaque, lacing ? legs? yeah... got that, the head retreats pretty quickly but easily comes back with a quick swirl-o-rama, the head itself is a nice dark cocoa tone, this looks impy...

burnt wood left outside, the spicy note of licorice, bitter chocolate, hints of smoke and molasses,
hints of mint like toothpaste

taste etc...
initially pretty smooth but man this sucker is heavy, like drinking a cannon ball, woah this thing is thick and weighty, this is big boy territory right here... the first blast is sort of the sweet end of things with the malts parading the molasses across the mouth, then the after bomb drops... we're taking a trip to flavortown folks (can I say that without comping Guy Fierri ?).. anyhoo, the aftertaste slapped me so hard (insert one liner here but it probably involves my mom), you get some deep dark euro chocolate that teeters on barelywine-ish flavors but never loses the RIP style, the booze is there but really lends itself to the mix here.

luckily I have my bro and his current girl to help me out with this growldog, cause otherwise I am taking a trip to passoutville. damn, this is one deep dark sucker, maybe not my fave RIS but it is bold, any RIS fan needs to check this out, it might be the spanish fly to your.. well..

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Photo of JLaw55
2/5  rDev -51.7%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

The booziness of this one was unpleasant. It ruined what else it had going for it, which started out nice enough with layers of cocoa, coffee, and vanilla.

Would Drink Again: No
Would Purchase Again: No

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

pours an oil slick dark brown with a medium tan head that quickly rolls down to a bubbly film. nose; i can't stop drinking it long enough to discern... milk chocolate, fudge, espresso and hops. taste; dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, bitter coffee bean, bitter leafy hops, espresso, plum, light fudge & some slight wood notes. very highly carbonated with a silky, heavy mouthfeel. the hops, malt, abv and darkness are pretty much perfectly balanced to my palate. an expertly crafted russian imperial stout that brings a wallop on the roasted profile, and still has the hop to be a big beer. sierra neveda pulled no punches on this one!

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

A: Jet black with a creamy, express colored head that has a good long retention period.

S: A solid roast with some licorice, moderate coffee and light citrus hop aroma. There is a low caramel malt sweetness and a light alcohol sweetness as well.

T: A huge malty flavor with rich dark flavors of roast, coffee and caramel along with a moderate sweetness. There are some underling burnt sugar and slight charcoal in there as well. The citrus hops flavors and bitterness are at a medium level. The balance is about equal between the bitterness and sweetness and almost out to a medium finish. The hops bitterness lingers a bit an edges out the dark roast flavors.

M: A full bodied beer with a moderately-strong level of carbonation.

O: Rich and full with equally strong malt and hops character; simply an excellent beer. I'm hoping this will be easy to find than Night Stalker where I live because Narwhal is running neck and neck with it as my favorite Imperial Stout. There will have to be a side by side tasting to for me to call a winner though.

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Photo of minterro
3.72/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bought from Little's wine and liquor

A&S: Pours about a finger of milk chocolate colored head, which dies very quickly to nothing more than a small ring. Solid black colored beer that poured. Sweet dark fruits present complemented by some black coffee. alcohol is pretty hot when it warms.

T&M: Dark roasty coffee is pretty much all I'm getting in the taste. Even as it warms, not much as far a chocolate or other classic imperial stout characteristics. Surprisingly pleasant bitter finish. Not super creamy, but smooth.

Overall: About what I expected, nothing special, but nothing bad. Won't buy again, just really wanted to check it off my list.

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Photo of davey101
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage, bottled October 12, 2012. 12 oz bottle into a DFH signature glass.

A - Pours a dark black body with two finger mocha/red head. Settles into some thin edging. Solid amount of lacing and retention but nothing too impressive.

S - Roasted malt, coffee beans, cocoa powder and anise. Incredibly balanced. Just a great aroma.

T - Roasted malts lead into that signature SN grapefruit and pine hop profile. Finishes with bitter coffee beans and smooth milk chocolate. Just a touch of anise.

M - Smooth and creamy with nice carbonation. Alcohol is hardly noticeable and the beer really opens up as it warms.

O - This beer gets everything right, even as a fresh beer. Plus its SN so its at an amazing price and distribution. It seems less hoppy and intense than the the 30th Anny stout, but I really like this beer a lot.

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

Inky black and voluptous in the glass, with roasted coffee beans and malt notes. Sip this one and let the layers unfold. Well done, a yearly "must have" and readily available.

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

Tasted Blind against Old Rasputin. This was my preferred beer.

A - Light-swallowing black, accented by a bracelet of mocha coloured foam. Very thin head but what a gorgeous colour!

S - Not quite as forceful as implied by the colour but tantalising due to its subtlety nonetheless. Dundee cake (it's like Christmas cake) and treacle were the main characteristics I picked up. A murmur of coca cola once it warms up a little followed by a sweet, rich rum booziness.

T - Surprisingly sweet. Leads with treacle and follows with a booziness reminscent of a good single malt. By this I mean that it had that sort of smokiness or peatiness in its bite. To me it tastes like dark dried fruits soaked in whisky.

M - Creamy, thick like treacle or molasses. Chewy and pliable.

O - What a cracking beer for the price. Took Old Rasputin to the cleaners. Did a good job of civilising its 10% Abv which always wins brownie points with me. I was concerned I might be overpowered by this beer a I was recently by Rochefort 10 but this was not the case. Underrated.

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Photo of Mikus
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%

Cold into the snifter, poured midnight black with a cocoa-tinged head w/small bubbles. Can't see the letters on the glass... nice. Aromas of roasted malts, coffee, some chocolate, and the clean SN bitter note. Deep, complex flavors. Some nice coffee on the end, and excellent balance, not afraid to have so E bitterness. Smooth mouthfeel, not chewy like other big stouts. Nice and crisp. I have waited a long time for this beer, and I was definitely not disappointed. Did anyone else notice, though, that this didn't necessarily get smoother, more complex as it warmed up? My only small concern. Would recommend.

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Photo of timontheroad
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a dark black, only a little foam that faded to a light film, left no lacing. The aroma was of dark chocolate, slight coffee, sweet malt, and just a hint of dark fruit. Taste was of sweet chocolate and coffee, with some bitter hoppiness and alcohol burn. Mouthfeel was medium bodied, with some alcohol, but not too much. Just right. Overall, this beer is super tasty, can't wait to see what a year of cellaring has done to it.

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Photo of Gregaroo
3.85/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

I've had this one before and lived it. Now on tap at City Taphouse in Philly. Still a knockout, but not as much as I remember it to be. Maybe because three are so many others like it. Still, oh so dark and coffee-y. Awesome IRS from these guys that I will continues to seek out. Had a couple with Keith after he bound some new biz.

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Photo of MacMalt
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into snifter glass. The color is jet black with a rather thin, light tan head and minimal lacing. The smell features dark chocolate with a hint of dark fruit. The taste includes abundant dark fruit with burnt coffee, dark chocolate, and caramel. It's like a rich dessert. This stout has a rich, creamy mouthfeel and is very easy drinking notwithstanding its 10.2% ABV. Overall, it's a very good imperial stout. I particularly like the prevalent raisin and dark fruit. I'm a big fan of the barrel-aged version of Narwhal but the base stout does not disappoint. I don't think it's quite as good as Founders Imperial Stout, but it's excellent

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,928 ratings.
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