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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: 887 | Ratings: 4,924
Photo of nickapalooza86
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours black with a half finger of a dark cream head, looks like a Impy Stout to me!

Smell is bakers chocolate, roast, toffee, espresso

Taste is bitter bakers chocolate, roasted malts, coffee, a bit of booze, latte

Mouthfeel is full with low to medium carbonation, finishes a little hotter then I usually like.

A nice Impy stout here, would I grab it over Expidition, FIS or old raspy? Probably not, will I buy atleast a 4 pack every year when it comes out.... For sure!

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

P: Super black body with a glisten of mahogany at the bottom of the glass. A dollop of creamy espresso froth that dwindles to a bubbly crown. Retention is nice and leaves thick micro bubble lacing that sloshes around the edge. The melted Dutch chocolate ice cream like head never seems to leave.

S: Rich roasty malts, bakers chocolate, burnt molasses, dark coffee beans, sawdust, sweet whisky mash, smoked grain and salted cashews.

T/M: Sweet burnt molasses, milk and bitter chocolate, charred grains, dirty wood, spicy booze with earthy and pine resin hops in the background. Coffee, black pepper, and sweet figs round out the multitude of malty layers. Full creamy but oily body with spicy carbonation.

O: A mystical adventure for your mouth. Super complex and ever changing this brew delivers amazing results. This is a beer of myth and legend that lives up to its magical name. Cheers!

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Photo of Mojo
3.73/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 ounce bottle -> tulip glass

This beer poured up a deep obsidian black with a lucious black appearance, one to one and a half finger foamy head, and lots of spotty lacing left behind. Smell is coffee, roasted nuts, and a bit of alcohol. Taste is pretty much the same as the smell. There is a sweet maltiness that is pretty well balanced by the taste of coffee, roasted nuts, a smoky flavor, and alcohol. The finish is a little too hot for my taste. This is not bad as you'd expect from a Sierra Nevada product, but it is nowhere near as good as Ten Fidy or Ol' Raspy.

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Photo of Sludgeman
3.73/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottled on Sept 22, 2012. A 12 ox bottle poured into a chalice.

A - Black opaque with a one-finger reddish brown head, which quickly disipates.

S - Coffee, whiskey and molasses.

T - Dark coffee, roasted malt, alcohol - too much, whiskey, some slightly smokiness, good bintterness - not excessive.

MF - Starts smooth but finishes a bit hot with lots of alcohol.

O - Balanced. Half a beer would be good for me. The true test is a full pour. Do you like the beer as much at the end as you did at the beginning? This beer did not pass that test.

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Photo of wethorseblanket
3.98/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2012 12oz bottle.

A: Pours black with a thin 1/8th-inch mocha head which fades to the rim and thin cap leaving spotty lace.

N: Baker's chocolate, cacao truffles, roast with some coffee, damp wood, malt, vanilla and caramel.

T: Roasty dark semi-sweet chocolate nibs, malts, faint char and coffee.

M: Full body and light carbonation. Rich, creamy and thick. Some dryness and mildly bitter finish.

O: Flavor is dominated by dark chocolate. Smells much better than it tastes.

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Photo of screamking
3.66/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into snifter. 2012 edition.

Appearance-pours black with a small dark brown head. Lacing is surprisingly absent. 3.75

Aroma-lots of dark chocolate, roasted coffee, some hints of vanilla, plum and dark grapes. All of your typical RIS notes are present. 4

Taste-Bitter chocolate is right up front, then some of that bitter coffee sneaks in. Little bit of sweetness in the after taste but mainly just bitter. It's not bad, but for the style I think there are far greater options available. 3.5

Feel-nice feel, could be thicker. Carbonation is very noticeable as is the abv. 3.75

Overall-I must say this one disappoints me, run of the mill RIS. I don't think I would buy this again, unless there was a hell of a deal. I'm just looking for stronger notes and this isn't the beer for them. 3.5

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Photo of sjverla
3.98/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Nose: Lots of coffee. Alcohol. Burnt sugar. Dark chocolate and a slight hint of vanilla.

Appearance: Black with mahogany highlights at the where light barely seeps in. About .5" of head that rose and fell quickly.

Taste: Enormous. Bitter coffee and semisweet chocolate. Full, viscous and smooth feel is incredibly satisfying. The finish is hot - a tad too much actually. A little age might be a good thing.

Overall: Damn good. A little too boozy young, but some age might do this some good. Also, the cut on the roof of my mouth might be causing issues.

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

2012 bottle
Appearance: Motor oil. Dark, coffee head.
Smell: Hints that this drink is going to be strong, alcoholic, and have a note or two of coffee and chocolate.
Taste: Alcoholic. Strong. Light chocolate and coffee. Maybe some grape.
Mouthfeel: Motor oil.

This is a great example of the Russian Imperial. Watching it pour into the glass is both daunting and tremendously inviting. It really does look like thick, black syrup or motor oil. The smell provides the alcoholic warning that this is going to be a strong drink, yet it doesn't smell like cheap vodka/overly alcoholic. The taste is altogether strong and very powerful. It is chocolate, coffee, and maybe some grapes drowned in delightful and tactful alcohol. I will get this again and I'm aging my other bottle.

2013 bottle
The smell had much more chocolate. Same great brew.

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Photo of Brenden
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pouring motor oil-thick and a mean-looking black, Narwhal's got the look of a big imperial stout. A thick, tight brown head sits at one finger in height on this brew. It recedes after time, leaving a pretty heavy ring of lacing at the top with some legs to follow.
The aroma takes some time to pull out completely, but this beer's full of big, malty goodness with heavy notes of roast, lots of espresso, and unsweetened chocolate. As it warms, a gentle sting of alcohol comes out from underneath.
In the flavor, it's clear the brewers chose to go against the cloying sweetness of some other big stouts; in fact, this one nearly foregoes the sweetness altogether for a different profile entirely. The espresso and very-much-unsweetened baker's chocolate are the flavor highlights, but a touch of something like molasses along with a bit of charcoal make for a stronger, more bitter taste (in a good way). A bit of (very) dark fruits linger underneath if you know where to search.
The feel is thick, rich and robust. Somehow very heavy isn't too heavy for this beer, as it doesn't just sit on the palate or weigh it down. Instead, it moves very nicely, with a downright velvety creaminess on the tongue through every sip. There's a crisp nip that doesn't get too much in the way.

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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

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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.

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Photo of eric5bellies
3.21/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Drank from my Duvel tulip

A - Pours a deep dark ebony colour witha tow fingered coffee caloured head that reduces quickly to a lacing film.

S - Booze, coffee malts with vanilla and small chocolate.

T - Up front some nice molassis malt, followed by combined coffee and chocolate. The finish is rough and boozy and a long sicky finish.

M - Full and low carbonation. Not silky

O - An ok RIS but there are far better examples. Not sure why its "exceptional" Would rather the Sam Smiths or Courage over this one

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Photo of budgood1
3.5/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.5

pours out an opaque onyx black colour. large, thick and frothy light brown coloured head that has a great deal of creamy staying power. about perfect. the nose on this big stout is a bit non-descript...some cocoa and nougat with some NW hopping. taste profile is a straight up combination of creamy sweetened dark chocolate and yeast infused dark roasted malts. none too complex in the malt/yeast interaction, so no real layers of flavours... just char, java and a hint of sour. this imperial stout has a beefy hop attribute to it, enough that the pine and pith flavours are able to fight their way through the dark cauldron and murky depths of black malt madness. a nice, healthy back end bitterness is also obviously detectable...and it all lingers for a blistering finish. the body on this stout is beefy and sturdy, no detractions there. mouthfeel is silky smooth, almost too smooth for an imperial stout of this magnitude. and that leads into the drinkability factor, which is way to easy for an imperial stout, making it dangerously delectable.

overall, i was a bit underwhelmed in the grand scheme of things when sampling this. perhaps a bit of age would benefit this? or maybe i'm just let down with the overall nose and flavour profile. the interaction between malt and yeast leaves me wanting despite the bitter hop blast, which i was expecting. an egnigma...nonetheless, it's a tasty treat that has potential in the cellar.

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Photo of jbertsch
2.97/5  rDev -28.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

6 months old.

Poured into a snifter.

Appearance is jet black. Head was fizzy and off-white, almost tan. Head unfortunately fizzled away fast.

Aroma gives off a mixed sense of char, bonfire, salty brine, booze, and some general roastiness.

Its flavor is not big on chocolate or coffee as one might look for. It's a bit nondescript. Some earthiness and a little wood is noticeable. Salty brine again is noticeable. Some alcohol soaked bittersweet chocolate makes a quick appearance on the finish. The flavor is a little syrupy.

Mouthfeel is oily and slick... it's a little detracting from the overall enjoyment.

Overall, I wouldn't buy this again. It's exemplary of the mediocre rut SN's beers can sometimes fall into. They're capable of better in my eyes. In my needs for an imperial stout, there's no need for me to return to this one. However, it's not terrible and what will save it are the leagues of SN fans.

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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!

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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.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I found a lonely four pack of this when I went to Gary's to pick up 2013 Bigfoot, and brought it home with me. Glad I did.

In a snifter this beer was black, really black, with just a rim of tan head.

Strong roasted malt aroma. Coffee. Charcoal.

The taste was mostly strong coffee, even a little bit on the burned side. There was a little bit of chocolate.

A dry, burned feeling in the mouth. Astringent.

Nice beer.

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Photo of bnes09
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ink black and completely opaque. Shallow tan head with descent retention and blotches of lacing.

Aroma of coffee, chocolate, peet and nuts.

Dense biscuity malt backbone. Aggressive roasted coffee, smooth dark chocolate, smoked meats and roasted almonds. Prune sweetness. Assertive herbal, earthy hop character. Very well balanced.

Full bodied with a rich texture. Solid carbonation for the strength.

Great imperial stout.

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Photo of StJamesGate
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Motor oil in both color and consistency, with a cappuccino-colored head.
Blackberry, roast, charcoal, and caramel sauce on the nose.
Sweet licorice, 70% chocolate, ash, black currant, followed by solid branchy hops.
Cherry cola finish and gently bitter linger.
Full, creamy, round, smooth, no burn.

Big, sweet and velvety. More chocolaty than coffee, overall. No harsh roast, heat or big hops. Easy to like.

An RIS for rookies.

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Photo of neenerzig
4.34/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into one of my snifters, this beer pours a an extremely dark brown, almost black color that lets in no light whatsoever. has a dark tan head that is about 1/4 inch thick when first poured that, despite the fact that I gave this beer a very rough pour, settled very quickly to a medium sized ring lining the inside of the glass along with swirls of foam on the surface of the beer. Okay lacing, but not that good. Aromas of caramel malt, hints of chocolate and vanilla, coffee, some hints of dark fruit that are all rounded out with a bourbon smell. pretty sure this edition of this beer was not aged in bourbon barrels, but it sure smells like it. Weird. The flavors match the aromas almost verbatim, caramel malt, chocolate and vanilla sweetness upfront, followed by some roasted coffee bitterness notes, hints of plum and raisin, rounded out with a touch of bourbon. Oh yeah a hint of alcohol too. The flavors mesh very well together as the beer sits and warms up a bit too. Has a slightly crisp, but mainly smooth, creamy, medium bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. This one really coats the palate. Easy to drink in the way an excellently crafted beer should be.


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Photo of homebrew311
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served on tap at the Falling Rock. Appearance is opaque black with generous finger of head and heavy lacing that leaves layers behind. Smell is dry and roasty with dark fruits, chocolate, coffee, and grain. Taste is deep and roasty with light sweetness, heavy cocoa and coffee character at the end. Nice well rounded stout. Mouthfeel is heavy with medium carbonation. Overall, a very solid offering from Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of Hoptometrist
3.43/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Served from the bottle into a globed glass

A- Poured a vicious vlack with a small dark mocha colored head that dissipated quickly. Some minimal splashy lace was left.

S- Big licorice, toasted coconut, and big whiskey notes. Very strong aroma with lots of booze on it

T- Follows the aroma very closely. Huge licorice notes, big whiskey notes, some toasted coconut, notes and some roastiness. Kind of an odd sour twang on the finish. Incredibly bitter stout, by far the most bitter stout I have ever had.

M Pretty thick mouthfeel, very creamy and smooth, almost velvety, big warming from the alcohol, and some alcohol burn

O- Great mouthfeel, but not one of my favorite imperial stouts. Pretty boozy and the sour finish is odd.

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Photo of far333
3.97/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Dark brown with a low beige head that settles out quickly. Inviting aroma of cocoa and espresso, some raisin. Rich flavors upfront, dark chocolate, espresso, root beer, molasses, smoke and leather, some rough-edged roasty malt, sharp bitterness, interesting mix of flavors. Full mouthfeel, but slightly tannic and warming. Good beer.

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Photo of Darkmagus82
4.13/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into a pint glass

Appearance – Pours a deep-deep brown color with a one finger brown head. The head fades in over a bout a two minute time frame to leave a light level of lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma is big and delicious. It is largest of a sweet caramel and chocolate aroma with nice hints of vanilla and some light pine, dark fruits and coffee smell. Also heavy in the nose is a delicious and warming aroma of a bourbon smell giving mixing with the rest to give a sweet, dark, and warming smell.

Taste – The taste begins with a strong roasted malt, dark chocolate, and coffee taste mixed with the lightest hints of caramel and vanilla. The caramel fades fast from the tongue while the light vanilla remains constant throughout the taste. Toward the middle the coffee flavors grow even stronger in nature and are accompanied by a light earthy and pine hop taste. The pine and earthy flavors grow slightly stronger more toward the end with the roasted flavors that are in the brew also growing more roasted in nature. This darkening and hopping of the brew give a moderately bitter bite on the tongue, and when combined with a nicely concealed, but still detectable, alcohol flavor it creates a bitter cocoa and coffee flavor to be left to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is super thick and syrupy with a body that would be similar to taking maple syrup and diluting by half. The carbonation of the brew is on the very low side accentuating the thick feel of the brew. For a 10.2 % abv beer the body is much thicker then I would have expected (more akin to a 15 % brew). It is rather nice and appropriate for the darker characteristics of the brew, but is almost overwhelming due to the light level of sweetness to balance it out. Even so it is quite a feel and is overall rather nice.

Overall – A nice, big and roasty, stout that is on the drier ad thicker side. When in the mode for a great. not too sweet, sipping Imperial stout, then this is a great one to go to.

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Photo of dirtylou
3.53/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz single

A funny thing happened last night while I was consuming Narwhal - I came to the sad realization that I really have no place in my cellar for a RIS not aged in some sort of barrel. Narwhal brings the heavy roast, chocolate, very dry, roasted and charred malts. It's just been done, and it's boring to me now. This would have been a great addition to the lineup in 2005, but it does nothing for me now.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,924 ratings.
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