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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:
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Reviews: 888 | Ratings: 4,926
Photo of LiquidAmber
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Maudite snifter. Pours pitch black with a thin medium brown head with good retention and slippery lacing. Mild aroma of toasted malt, chocolate and a hint of coffee and anise. Flavor is much more intense, very toasty and slightly charred malt, bitter chocolate, licorice and burnt coffee, especially in the finish. Nice medium to heavy, creamy body. Flavor tends more towards the charred spectrum, but the the other flavors support it. Not quite a smoked beer, but leaning in that direction. Wow, this one will be on my regular list, delicious

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

12oz. Bottle

Pours a very nice black color, very nice carbonation, with a fizzy tan head, which leaves some sticky lacing behind. The nose is malty, with some chocolate, toffee notes, slightly roasty. The taste is very nice malty, with lots of dark stuff, slight vanilla, some roastyness. Medium body, with a nice bitter finish, ABV hidden pretty well with this one. Overall a very tasty brew, glad to see it here in UT.

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Photo of BillRoth
4.4/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Have had the 2012 fresh and the now just opened the 2013 @ I year after cellaring.
In both cases found a rich well crafted RIS with very good appearances and excellent carbonation and mouth feel. It drinks perfectly despite the 10+% ABV. On the merits of its brewing it is a top notch RIS and holds it's own against many of the very best RIS available.
What separates it is a distinct rich coffee/espresso like coffee quality that doesn't so much dominate as it is the singular flavor in the midst of a blend of anise/licorice, roasted grains, dark molasses flavors. Like Alesmith Speedway it just has a personal flavor of its own. Seems to be a combination of the brewer's art and the coffee chosen in the blend.
Just a great coffee RIS. Flavor profile is different of course, but I would buy this the way I look forward to Founder's IS, Bell's Expedition Stout and the much more common but still extraordinary Oskar Blues Ten Fidy.

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

12oz bottle into a Sierra Nevada tulip style glass.

Narwhal poured out thick, a stout is a stout, this one has a very dark black color and a sturdy inch of dense dark tan bubbles like chocolate milk. It fades away into a small cap up top leaving minor splotches on the glass. Smell is pretty balls deep, scents include bakers chocolate, earthy hop tones, licorice, roasted malt, smores, and some minor dark fruit. It smells great. Taste is superb, just a big RIS, no bells or whistles. With so many RIS out there they kind of run in circles with one another. Narwhal does the same. Taste includes most of the scents up above, but the two characteristics that stand out to me in this specific RIS is licorice and dark fruit. Body is full and carbonation keeps the beer going after some warming, while this indeed does warm up to me. A one and done beer in a sitting with the body and alcohol. This is another RIS that I will be keeping in touch with during the cold months and possibly building a vertical down the line, which seems like the right thing to do.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Narwhal was brought over tonight as part of the "we are not at the GABF tasting"... Not sure that this bottle makes up for it, but it helps... Thanks my amigo.

12oz bottle.. pitch black brew... the head is dark, darker brown.. nice retention...

Big roasty elements... dark malts and some background cocoa... cold brewed beans... very nice.

The flavor is rich and unrelenting... dark roast coffee... plenty of roasted malt.. dark chocolate... just enough sweetness to bring out the malty flavors... a bit of dark currant and maybe fermented out raisin..

Body is about right... carbonation is square....

Pretty damn good... seriously.

All 4's

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Photo of Stinkypuss
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a dark and oily tar black with a brown head that laces the snifter well.

The aroma is roasted, smokey and perhaps a bit meaty. Some alcohol lofts above the darkness.

In the taste, dark chocolates, charcoal, tobacco and a firm hoppyness. Not to boozy though very strong. There's a subtle note of dark fruit. Earthy, light herb, big malt. Right about what you would expect for the style with perhaps more emphasis on his than many. Quite good.

The mouthfeel is full bodied, smooth and well carbonated.

Overall this is a nice big stout from Sierra Nevada. Totally drinkable and something I would have again.

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

12 oz. bottle,

A: Pours a pitch black, with a medium light tan head, some solid spotty lace.

S: Roasted malt, hint of dark fruit, charcoal, licorice, dark chocolate.

T: Dark chocolate and a lot of licorice. Light residual sugar, with a hint of hops in the finish.

M: Medium to full-bodied, soft carbonation, creamy, long aftertaste for the style.

O: A solid RIS, it reminds me a lot of Old Rasputin with a bit more licorice in there. The price is great, well made, well worth a try.

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Photo of Zorro
3.75/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Thick black pour. Black colored beer with a thin brown colored head.

Smells sweet with lots of coffee molasses and candied holiday fruit.

Starts out dry and bitter with a strong charred malt bite. Gets a little sweeter as you drink it but not by much. Chocolate and coffee flavors with a little bit of ash taste.

Thick and oily mouthfeel.

Overall an OK beer, but they didn't balance out the Patent malt enough so it ends up a little unbalanced.

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Photo of tobelerone
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very nice imperial from Sierra Nevada, well worth the wait. A quality effort that’s affordable and easily accessible to boot. Pours deep black with a smallish cream colored head; decent retention and a bit of patchy lace. Not the best looking example of the style but that’s nitpicking I suppose. Aroma of roasted, nearly charred malt, espresso, black licorice, baker’s chocolate. The flavor mirrors the nose closely; the roastiness is the prevalent note here, again black licorice or anise is present, but integrates well and isn’t overbearing; booze is well-hidden, sweetness is average for the style, some piney hops tidy things up in a fairly subtle way underneath. Far from cloying; in fact I would have enjoyed a bit more caramel, brown sugar and chocolate here. But it’s a well-meshed flavor, not too big, hits all the right notes while taking a bit of a middle of the road approach. Very drinkable and very appealing.

The body is moderately full and carbonation is medium; the feel has just a touch of creamy smoothness. Again, it’s not particularly massive, but it drinks like a charm. Overall a real winner. Not going to make anyone forget the heavy hitters but you could do a lot worse than grab a four pack of this for your stout fix.

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

On tap at max's the other day, during Baltimore Beer Week.

The beer pours a blackish brown color with good head retention and lacing. The nose is likewise attraactive, showcasing considerable coffee, licorice and vanilla. The flavor profile replicates the nose pretty closely, but is clearly dominated by the licorice and vanilla (which I'm not entirely liking, but it's OK). There's also a hint of hoppy bitterness in the finish which further helps to buoy the modest sweetness in this beer. Mouthfeel is medium bodied to full, with a finish that is dominated by licorice and has a hint of alcoholic bite. Alcohol is well integrated into the flavor profile, but there's just too much licorice in the flavor profile for me to fall in love with this beer.

A solid beer, and possibly one that will benefit from some age. For now however, not among my favorite impy stouts.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2013 vintage.

This one pours a pretty deep and dark black, with a small head, and a bit of lacing.

Smells like deep earthy roasted malt, a bit of booze, coffee grounds, and still a good amount of hops even for this age.

This is an imperial stout that packs a serious punch and doesn't let up. It's still a good level of piney hoppiness, even for a 2013 vintage, with lots of bitter dark chocolate, tons of roasted malt, a coffee flavor that kind of reminds me of used grounds. It's slightly abrasive, but in a good way.

This is pretty thick and chewy, with a normal level of carbonation.

One of the best easy to get Imperial stouts out there, and one that ages extremtly well taboot.

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

From the 12 fl. oz. bottle, 2012 batch with a stamp of 2279210:52. Sampled on December 29, 2012.

The pour is very dark brown to black but under the light there is this kind of maroon tint. The moderate tan head is silky and soft and settles down after a few moments. There is a lot of lacing on the glass.

The aroma is of dark malts with coffee esters and a vague hop bitterness hanging around in the background.

The body is bold and smooth.

The taste begins with dark malts and yeast with a resounding bitterness balancing it off at the end. The bitterness lingers and burns slightly but the alcohol is well-integrated. This is a highly recommended stout.

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Photo of dar482
3.81/5  rDev -8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

This is a 2013 bottle with about 9 months on it.

The beer pours black with a light brown creamy head.

The aroma has dense roasted malt, sweet chocolate, mocha coffee, a touch of dark fruit of cherries and dried plums.

The beer has a medium plus luscious mouthfeel. However, there is still an aggressive kick of alcohol, as with the beer fresh. Lots of deeply roasted coffee and malt, bitter chocolate, with a spike of alcoholic dark fruit on the finish.

The beer is certainly helped with age, but it still very alcoholic, which detracts from the palate.

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

Pours a four finger tan head that slowly fades leaving a good lace. Black color, no highlights. Medium carbonation and medium-heavy bodied. Roasted coffee nose and flavor is roasted coffee, higher ABV is hidden. $2.60 for a 12oz bottle from a Tully’s Beer & Wine Wells, ME.

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.47/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.

Pours a deep black colour, with a fine, slightly inconsistent pale brown head. Carbonation is fine, but the body itself looks surprisingly light and fluid. Some patchy carbonation. Looks fine except for the body—this is the beer you can really make thick, oily and chewy, and it seems this hasn't happened here.

Nose is wonderful. Big sweet nutty characters with deep chocolate hints and a lilt of buttered popcorn. Slight hint of liquorice on the back, perhaps more like liquorice ice cream. It's all really quite sweet and fragrant, and very pleasant.

Taste is also very good: here the sweetness is tamed somewhat (perhaps due to the slightly lighter body), and the liquorice comes through a little bit more. This leaves the roasted characters to make a bit more of an entrance, with some mild coffee and toasted grain overtones. Perhaps I was unfair on the lightness in the body: it's perhaps a purposeful (and rather clever) stroke to enliven the palate and keep the sweet richness from overpowering everything.

The feel is very smooth, even despite the lightness, and matches very nicely with the rest of the beer.

Yep. Pretty exceptional stuff here, although the mastery and skill of Sierra Nevada should have stopped surprising me years ago. This beer gives the impression that it was designed exactly this way—it perhaps doesn't take the risks that could make it superlative, but you understand that this beer from the moment of its conception was going to be very good indeed.

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Photo of corby112
3.49/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours viscous, pitch black and completely opaque with a two finger mocha head that slowly settles into a lasting ring. Decent retention with streaks of soapy lacing left behind.

Roasted malt aroma with a stronger hop presence than I expected. Floral and earthy with resinous, grassy pine character countering the burnt malt, coffee bean and oatmeal notes. I shouldn't be too surprised coming from SN but the hops are a bit too prominent for this style, in my opinion, taking away from the robust malt profile a bit too much. Even after warming up considerably, the nose is still pretty tame on this beer.

Medium bodied with a deeply roasted dark malt flavor that's complimented by a bitter, earthy hop presence that lingers into a slightly boozy finish. The hops aren't as strong as the nose hints at but there's still prominent in the flavor with sticky pine needle bitterness and subtle citrus. The dryness of the hops compliment the bitterness of the roasted malts. Hints of burnt toast, oatmeal, bitter dark chocolate and espressoo/coffee bean followed by lighter chocolate and alcohol sweetness. The high is relatively well masked but there's definitely some warmth lingering in the finish. Overall, this is a pretty good stout but the strong hop character hinders the malt flavors a bit too much for my preference. Decent but nothing out of the ordinary. Great value for the price of the four pack though.

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Photo of JohnParadee
3.94/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from bottle into chilled pint glass. Deep, dark, black color, with very thick tan head which dissipated to thin veil. Excellent, consistent lacing. Smell is incredibly rich aura of burnt/roasted chocolate malt and coffee/vanilla hints. Unfortunately, the palate was not quite as impressive (to me). A little too much dank hoppiness, with the result that the balance was out of kilter. Carbonation and mouthfeel was good, but I could not get past the uneven bite and apparent conflict between the hops and the flavors trying to compete. Maybe I had a bad bottle, or just need to let it sit and warm up a bit more. Willing to try again, as I love so much of what SN does.

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

A: Poured a jet black, some carbonation, one finger brown head, some lacing

S: Roasted malt, slight chocolate, coffee. Good but standard.

T: Big hearty backbone with dark chocolate, coffee, some burnt notes. Mild Bitterness in the finish.I laso deteced some black liquorice.

M: Heavy bodied, some carbonation, smooth.

O: Good. This should age very well as most SN offerings do.

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Photo of beerthulhu
4.06/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

- 2014. pkgd. 11.06.14. consumed 04.01.15.

A: Pitch jet black exit from the bottle with a tan rawhide colored, creamy topping. Moderate retention.

S: Nose of scotchy licorice, burnt chocolate, earthy bitterness, moderate awareness. No alcohol with a touch of dry vanilla bean.

T: Flavor was deep roasted chocolate malt with an earthy bitterness. Dry vanilla bean, roasty espresso notes, flashes of burnt toffee sweetness with licorice. Smooth scotchy alcohol, hints of banana bread yeastiness underneath, creamer with smoky pine hops.

M: Full bodied, creamy, earthy bitterness, burnt warmth, dry alcohol fade.

O: Drinks like a B.A. stout, burnt roasted flavor, soothing scotchy pine alcohol. Nice flavor.

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Photo of clayrock81
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured a blackish body with almost brown head that is one-finger high and leaves a little ring as it goes down. First thing that hits my nose is coffee, then a bunch of roasted (I won't say toasted or smoked) malts and some bitter chocolate (or dark). The body is heavy, and while I would not list heavy/stoutish beers as some of my faves, I really like this one b/c while heavy it still passes easy (slightly chewey as well). I get mostly a roasted, coffeeish malt experience but the addition, and then due to addition great balance, of some dark chocolate makes this a dry and sweet experience and thanks to the easy passing this beer is by no means a chore to continually sip on. This is a great stout that even not-stout fans should try.

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

(Served in a tulip glass)

A- This beer pours an inky jet black body with a dark coco tan head of cream that last as a thick foam and sticks to the glass with each sip. There is a few random bubbles that can be spotted in that abyss.

S- The inky but mellow deep charcoal aroma blends with black roasted malt and some brewer’s licorice note blend in the finish. It is a full aroma even during the pour.

T- The green wood taste gives way to a much larger black roasted malt flavor that is full and creamy. There is a slightly dry finish with a nice balance of black malt bitterness and perhaps some minty woody hops bitterness as part of that. The rich mellow but deep dark malt flavors linger in the dry finish along with the softer bitterness. As the beer opens up there are some dark graham malt flavors and brewer’s licorice flavors that come through aswell.

M- The medium-full mouthfeel has a nice creamy texture and an alcohol warmth that compliments the big beer.

O- This beer has a big complex rich flavor but it is very well blended. The alcohol offers a nice support to the big flavors and texture. It taste great now and I can’t think of a reason it would need any age. Delicious.

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Photo of beertunes
2.99/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

This bottle's been kicking around the back of the fridge since I got it, at the release time. About time to hit it. Poured into 10oz goblet. Poured a solid black color, as expected, with less than 1/4 inch of brown head that quickly dissipated to a thin ring, that left surprisingly good lacing.

The aroma was average for the style, perhaps even a bit too roast forward. The flavors were the same mostly bitter roast and alcohol, and the beer was sharp, in a harsh way, not a crisp way. The alcohol wasn't the least bit hidden, and the finish was very harsh.

That overall harshness hurt drinkability a great deal. I had a tough time finishing my 12oz. Overall, while a decent brew, this isn't the Old Rasputin killer SN has seemed to position it as. I won't be having it again, I'll just buy a 4pack of the smooth, even, nearly flawless Raspy.

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

$9.50 for the 4 pack, bought locally.

it pours black with a 2 finger head of tannish foam and leaves the usual excellence with the lacing.

The smell is of cocoa and roasted malt with some light notes of coffee. Err...maybe not so light notes of coffee. Good either way.

First sip in and it starts off, for me, as being very sweet soon overtaken by roasted malt and coffee that add a nice bitterness. There's plenty of the ample alcohol in the taste as well meaning a lot of warming. It finishes on the bitter side thanks to all that roasty goodness.

Full bodied, lightish carbonation, very smooth mouthfeel. On a day with the temps in the 60sF, not so drinkable but when the temps drop, the drinkability of this IS will rise. I'm bloody sure of that.

A big thumbs up to SN's bold new Imperial Stout!

Edit Nov 8, 2012:

I'm now on my 3rd bottle and my like for it grows and grows. There's really nothing I'd change with my review *other than* the scores. Onward and upward!

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Photo of spinrsx
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12oz Bottle from Total Wine Tampa FL for $3

Appearance - Dark brown colour with a large size frothy light brown head. I can't make out the amount of carbonation showing and there is some good lacing. The head lasted for around 5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, chocolate, vanilla, coffee

Taste & Mouth - There is a below average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, chocolate, and vanilla. There is also quite a bit of a charred coffee type flavour and a light hoppiness.

Overall - Wow, a great mix of smooth flavours with a lingering bitter finish. A really satisfying beer that is a great sipper. Once again Sierra Nevada impresses.

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Photo of pat61
4.75/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Had on tap at the Bryant Lake Bowl. L: Pours brilliant deep brown under a 1/2” very soft tan foam collar that grips the side of the glass. S: Coffee, dark dried fruit, roast, alcohol. T: Espresso, alcohol, dark dried fruit, suggestion of chocolate with a light caramel sweetness in the middle. The finish is long and dry with espresso overtones. F: Very creamy O: Beer stands out for creaminess and texture.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,926 ratings.
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