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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: 4,927
Photo of OldRickSputin
4.04/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pleasantly surprised by this RIS! I know it's popular and has a good rating score, but I was skeptical.

It's extremely tasty and the carbonation and mouthfeel are just right.

If I had to pick something negative, it would be the dry, bitter/lingering after taste. But that's nitpicking.

Overall- outstanding offering, especially from Sierra Nevada, which doesn't have many offerings that appeal to me.

 403 characters

Photo of SteveMcQueen36
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Narwhal is one of the thickest and gnarliest beers I have gotten through. It was well worth it but boy was it heavy. It looked beautiful like black coffee in my glass. It tasted bitter as all hell. Very nice.

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Photo of happy4hoppybeer
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pitch black with beautiful tan head, leaving considerable lacing on the glass. This looks like an Imperial Stout all right.

Very strong aromas of coffee, alcohol, chocolate etc. Very big on the alcohol.

Roasted/toasted barley, cocoa and coffee beans hit the tongue. Very creamy, fairly big body, medium carbonation.

As far as imperial stouts go, this stands among the finest.

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Photo of teromous
3.68/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

A: Black body with a tan head. It takes a bit of agitation to get the head up, but it stays up surprisingly well. Mild lacing on the glass.

S: Alcohol comes through immediately, followed by a spicy note...a bit woody. It has a slight scent of coffee but mostly the alcohol comes through.

T: Oh holy alcohol. This thing is strong. There's a bold, very robust roasted bitterness. It's followed by what I can only describe as a coffee sweetness. Most people would sweeten coffee with sugar, but this beer is so robust that coffee makes it sweet. That alcohol adds a bit of sweetness as well. It finishes with a bit of cocoa and coffee on the tongue. The finish is probably what really makes this beer.

M: I feel that the mouthfeel on this beer is perfect. It's full feeling without being syrupy, the roasted bitterness wakes up the mouth and the alcohol seems to coat it momentarily. It has just enough carbonation for a stout this size without making it too flat or too "poppy." It's very enjoyable to drink. It finishes quite nicely.

O: I think that the alcohol comes through strongly, so if you either don't like the flavor of alcohol or can't get past it, you'll have a hard time enjoying the beer. It has a lot to offer and what I really appreciate is how it has a roasted flavor without being overly bitter. It has a nice balance of flavors without pushing anything over the top. Unfortunately this balance could be considered a downfall if looking for something outside of the box. While it is a great example of a RIS, it doesn't feel as unique as its namesake suggests.

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Photo of Jeffo
3.48/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A case of this actually made it to Amsterdam. Picked it up at De Bierkoning.

From a bottle into a snifter
Vintage: 2013

APPEARANCE: A dark brown, opaque pour yields a three finger, medium looking, creamy, tan head with excellent retention. Black body with no carbonation evident. Head fades to a full wisp and sticks to the sides of the glass. A faint wisp and ring remain until the end leaving some nice lacing down the glass. Pretty good looking stout. Needs to be even blacker for top marks.

SMELL: Dark baker's chocolate, light coffee, cream, some caramel notes and roasted aromas on the nose. Tobacco in there, as well as some leather too. Could be bolder, but complex and interesting enough.

TASTE: Baker's chocolate again, caramel and leather up front, then a big, roasted coffee finish with some burnt and charred malts at the swallow. Bolder and lingering finish of roasted coffee bitterness, burnt and charred malts, leather, tobacco, and some light vanilla cream. Quite burnt and roasted, with lots of other complex flavors as well.

PALATE: Medium body and medium levels of carbonation. A little light on the palate and too prickly for the style, but goes down okay and finishes somewhat mouth-coating. A bit of a burn at the swallow and a touch of heat lingers.

OVERALL: Pretty good stuff. Lots of burnt and charred notes with tobacco definitely give it a European tough. If you like this one, you'll probably like the stuff coming out of De Molen in Holland and various Danish breweries that deserve some praise. The feel is slightly lighter on this, which holds it back a bit. Fill that out and it would support the flavors that much more. Still, this is a solid effort worth checking out if you get the chance. If it were reasonably priced, I'd go back for seconds.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle, a nice snag from doktorzee on his recent jaunt through Vegas. Cheers, man!

This beer pours a solid black, with noticeable cola-tinted basal highlights, and three fingers of puffy, tightly foamy, and fairly creamy light brown head, which leaves some awesome craggy sea cliff lace around the glass as it slowly and evenly recedes.

It smells of well-toasted, almost meaty caramel malt, wet rye bread, powdered cocoa, stale ashes, dark-roast coffee beans, a hint of black licorice, earthy, leafy hops, and a subtly burbling alcohol astringency. The taste is semi-sweet chocolate, a consequentially reduced caramel malt, some persistent dark bready notes, edgy and earthy anise, gritty wet ash, well-roasted day-old coffee, the kind with too much nut flavourings added to it, and surprisingly (really?) bitter leafy, earthy, and dry citrus hops. A wee twinge of metallic alcohol sort of turtles as things barely warm.

The carbonation is pretty low-key, but hardly absent, a subtle bubbly edginess wafting about, the body a solid medium weight, dead smooth, and agreeably creamy, in a sort of milk-chocolate sense. It finishes well off-dry, the cocoa, caramel, roast, and hops forming one swell collection of lingering party goers.

A pleasurable and enjoyable RIS, the initially apparent unchecked sweetness duly run off at the pass in the typical Sierra Nevada way - mo' hops! It all seems to work - full-bodied, tasty and with the north of 10 points of booze doing its best shark impression by keeping its head under the surface (fin-free!*), I can just sit back and appreciate this hefty, well-made brew.

* This is a pun that only (especially new) dads will appreciate, so Imma just gonna keep it to myself for now.

 1,730 characters

Photo of Swettenham_Shire
3.83/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured into pint glass...

Appearance: pours a dark brown/black color with 1 finger tan head; lacing doesn't stick around
Smell: amazing malt, chocolate, and coffee scent mixed with alcohol
Taste: follows the nose; getting a sweet and bitter aftertaste
Mouthfeel: heavy; can feel the booze
Overall: I was happy to try this stout from Sierra Nevada, but probably won't seek it out anymore. I prefer others in this beer style

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Photo of NathanJoyce
2.12/5  rDev -48.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

This was my first Imperial Stout and I feel like I have diabetes.

Are they all this sweet and sickly?

Sure, coffee, chocolate, etc, etc. Thick and no sense of humour.

I'm willing to consider my lack of inexperience as a huge mark against my review, but honestly—this is strong and heavy and SWEET. I love strong, I love heavy, I just can't understand the attraction to the sweet...

 386 characters

Photo of larryarms847
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours pitch black and sticky, but looks a bit thin with a thin layer of light khaki foam.

Dark chocolate, vanilla, espresso, and earthy hops.

Huge roasty character, vanilla, espresso beans, and chocolate.

Heavy-bodied, light carbonation, sticky, leans thinner than I was hoping.

Overall, while outstanding in flavor and aroma, the mouthfeel was a bit thin for my taste.

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Photo of SteveB24
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%

just tried this beer for the first time since my earliest days of craft beer drinking.
color is black as night with a finger of frothy brown head. lots of lacing on the side of the glass.
aroma is sweet and malty, with notes of molasses, coffee, dark fruit, with a mildly boozy finish.
lots of rich malt flavor, biscuit, slight maple syrupy taste, coffee in there too, with some deep woody notes. not too sweet. texture is full bodied, slightly oily, surprisingly carbonated.
overall this is an excellent representative of the style. delicious. perfect for cold nights.
the ten percent abv is barely noticeable, drinks dangerously smooth.

 638 characters

Photo of MartzMimic
4.19/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark, dark black with a bubbly dark brown head that leaves quickly. Aroma of coffee, malt and plum. Big dark chocolate and coffee taste, along with touches of malt and alcohol. Mouth is thick, but incredibly smooth. This is a very nice stout.

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Photo of ronniebruner
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Easily one of the darkest stouts I have seen in a while. Beer pours a DARK black molasses color, making light impossible to penetrate this brew. The beer has a beautiful, smooth aroma, topped off with a nice amount of lace and head when poured into a glass. A slight hint of chocolate is abundant and the beer is extraordinarily smooth. Sierra Nevada never let me down and in my opinion it is a toss up between them and Widmer as the best American brewers. An absolute must have, so far the best new beer I've tried in the last 6 months or so.

 543 characters

Photo of rjp217
4.02/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

2013 edition bottle poured...

A - Solid black with a 1 finger brown head that dissipates rather quickly. Nice sticky lace retention

S - Milk chocolate, nuts, campfire

T - All kinds of chocolate, some smoke, oak, hops, caramel, boozy

M - Exceptionally soft and pillowy, medium body, low carbonation

O - An excellent, fairly easy to find RIS. It's big and boozy with a lot of complexity. I really like this one though it's just a step below that next level.

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Photo of ranger7
3.74/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from the bomber into a pint glass.
Review from notes: January 28th, 2014.

A: Nice. Black and cloudy, can't see through. Tan head which sticks to the glass.

S: Chocolate and malt. More malt than chocolate, almost bitter.

T: Bitter front and end with smooth middle, can't pinpoint the bitterness.

M: Some carbonation, but smooth overall.

O: Good. This is a nice example of a Russian Imperial Stout with plenty of ABV bite. A bit too roasty for my tastes, but still good.

 480 characters

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

Serving: Bottle into snifter
Served: 27 February 2014

Appearance: Pitch black, with literally no light penetrating this brew. The dark brown head quickly disappears and leaves just a ring of bubbles around the edges. Looks impressive and daunting.

Smell: Roasted malts, black, dark-roast coffee, and unsweetened cocoa.

Taste: Wow, is this one complex. An initial burst of hop bitterness is followed by a strong assertion of roasted malts, dark roast coffee, espresso, and cocoa flavors. Finishes very dry.

Mouthfeel: Think and smooth, just as one would expect.

Overall: A great beer, and I was surprised to taste as much bittering hop as I did. When I burped, you could definitely re-taste the hoppiness (gross, I know). While hops aren't the dominant profile here, they are certainly assertive in their bittering qualities. But we wouldn't expect anything less from Sierra Nevada, would we? A great brew, and one I recommend. Definitely a sipper, and definitely a once-in-a-while beer, not something I could stomach any time any day.

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Photo of heygeebee
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Briefly, looks on the money for an RIS, and rich and smooth on nose and taste. Velvety, mellow, luscious. Roasts, coffee, and dark choc to the fore, and less hoppy than we might expect from SN. Dry finish and less alcohol burn than you would think.

Overall, really solid and to style.

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Photo of whoahwhat
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Had this on-tap, 10 ounces. One word: delicious. Have since had it from the bottle and it's just not the same. On tap, it was syrupy, complex, wonderful. beautiful espresso head. I'm really sad that I didn't get another glass of it, but, ya know, driving... Strong coffee flavors, plum, chocolate, just rich and tasty.

 318 characters

Photo of kdahnke123
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a snifter at room temperature. 2013 Vintage.
A - Poured a nice dark color with a medium brown, quickly dissipating 1/4" head.
S - Chocolate and coffee upfront with a balanced hop and malt finish.
T - A little bite from the hops at first, followed by medium roast coffee/chocolate with a bite of the alcohol at the end. The malt is somewhat subdued with the rest of the flavors going on.
M - Very smooth, medium viscosity mouthfeel. Very little carbonation.
O - A very good example of an imperial stout. The incorporation of 10% alcohol and 60 IBU into a beer with this kind of balance is well done. Everything is in good proportion to one another.

 660 characters

Photo of Nostrajonus
3.84/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A-This pours pitch black with a two finger brown head that dissipates slowly and leaves faint lacing.

S-The smell is wonderful. Rich roasted barley, faint coffee notes with background sweetness..no hops.

T-The taste was not as full bodied as the nose, I am missing the malt and getting too much sweetness....no hops.

M-The texture is not what I am accustomed to with this style. The carbonation was good, but I needed it to be a bit more heavy.

O-Overall this is a good beer. I have not been big on Sierra Nevada in the past, I will sample their newer offerings.

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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.

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

A: Black as midnight.

S: I get those familiar Sierra Nevada hops, chocolate, spice, rum.

T: Sweet chocolate, bitter hops, rum soaked raisins, pretzel, salt, burnt toast, roasty malt, nutmeg, gingerbread, and some caramel.

M: Thick but not super viscous. Nice though, no doubt.

O: I have had this beer before and forgot about it. Good thing I decided to pick another one up again, because the flavor is complex and it's an overall pleasant beer. I love the RIS's and this beer does the style good.

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

2013 vintage. 12-oz poured to tulip. Consumed 2-20-2014.

Thick and viscous. Opaque black; large, frothy, 3-finger mocha head. Decent alcohol legs coating the glass. There's a cap holding out.

dark roast coffee; grassy hops; baker's chocolate. wish there was more dark fruit here

one dimensional - dark chocolate-hops roastiness. alcohol less noticeable than ten fidy

well-carbonated. medium mouthfeel.

 405 characters

Photo of Beejay
3.26/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

A: Dark black with a massive full dark tan head.

S: Sweet dark chocolate, with toffee and notes of dried fruit. A little bit of earthiness in the finish.

T: The first taste is caramel sweet, with a touch of dried fruit. The sweet flavor is followed by dark chocolate and espresso, and the brew finishes out with a hit of bitter earthiness.

M: Fairly thick body, the carbonation is medium, the finish slightly drying and there is a lingering hop bitterness.

O: Overall I like this beer, but the finish is a little harsh for me.. The lingering bitterness doesn't quite round out the finish like I would like it to.

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Photo of Hop-Droppen-Roll
4.42/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Imperial stouts are hard to come by in my neck of the woods, so when I saw this late in its season sitting on a shelf, I had to grab 2 four packs.

Pours a gorgeous deep coffee and molasses brown into a black body with a delicious looking 1.5 finger mocha colored head that quickly thins out to a fine film with great looking lacing. My wife is cooking nearby and the smell is still cutting through at the occasional moment, smells great, but not too powerful.

Rich, full bodied malt flavor with a bitter coffee finish. Nuts and coffee? Maybe a little - but this one's pretty much a massive malt monster - I'm loving this!

Thick, creamy mouthfeel, very nice. This is a top notch brew.

I will definitely be picking up a few of these every year and hanging on to a few from each batch!

Edit: Wow. 10.20%? VERY well hidden.

 824 characters

Photo of Ieatlambfries
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured a viscous black. Thick head of dense brown bubbles. Moderately sticky lace.

Smells of milk chocolate, baking coco, cherry cordials, and roasted malt.

Big flavors of dark chocolate, dark fruits, raisins, figs, brandied cherries, and dark roasted coffee. Lactic sweetness, and smokey roasted malts. Bitter hop twang on the back end, with a slightly boozy finish.

Thick chewy mouthfeel. Leaves an oily feel on my tongue.

Overall and excellent Impy stout. Some nice complex flavors, especially as it warms.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,927 ratings.
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