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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

YOUR RATING = None |
BA SCORE
92
outstanding
876 Reviews
THE BROS
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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

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:
876
Ratings:
4,878
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
9.66%
 
 
Wants:
307
Gots:
1,376
For Trade:
46
User Reviews
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Reviews: 876 | Ratings: 4,878
Photo of Mdog
3.47/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pitch black with a huge head. Looks great.

Smell: Not much. Mild chocolate shows up eventually.

Taste: Dark chocolate builds in intensity through the glass. Dark fruits hang in the background. Gives a mild dark chocolate bitterness throughout.

Overall: Started out looking like a dream, but didn't deliver excellence in the aroma or taste. Some might be my personal preference in that I like imperial stouts to be a little sweeter than this, but it still didn't give a particularly memorable experience. Kind of middle of the road, not too sweet, not too hoppy.

 576 characters

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.

 1,790 characters

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 mlockman
3.5/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I am disappointed that neither my rating nor review for this brew were saved online. As such, I recall retrospectively that despite its high rating I was not impressed by this beer. While hop-flavor was present it was subdued given the hop-forward flavor profile of many of Sierra Nevada's other beers. Malt flavors were certainly present, but I found them to be one-note and and far from complex. This is a very good basic Russian Imperial Stout, but the flavor was not nuanced, and thus it was no more than that to me: basic. Perhaps with some barrel-aging or cellaring it takes on other characteristics?

 606 characters

Photo of dank203
3.5/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

tulip. this ones quite dark. about a finger of dark head, leaves a nice film on top once it settles. the nose packs an abundance of dark fruits, and a lot of booze. a bit of chocolate, very sweet, like chocolate covered raisins I suppose. Ashy and boozy are the two main adjectives I'd use

 289 characters

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.

 1,435 characters

Photo of harrymel
3.52/5  rDev -15%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Second time with this beast. First time it was good, but I was drunky.
Bottled day 227 of 2012

Pours a dark, deep black with a central dome and accompanying rim of tan foam confluenced by etching about the remainder of the surface. Smells of sweet malts, hints of graham, some bits of cocoa, a good nougat character and a bit of milky character. I like the nose,but it is lacking in the hops I usually associate with a fresh RIS. Taste is more bitter than I recall, and rightfully so, it has a good earthy, spicy authoritative hops charm and then some toasted malts, bits of bitter chocolate, coffee and a hint of graham still. Full bodied with small, sharp and fleeting carb. A thick, wet finish. Nice beer, should be a year round beer, rather than a seasonal - it's nothing special and I like my seasonals to taste and be special.

 833 characters

Photo of tigg924
3.53/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had on tap at New World Tavern, Plymouth--served into a pint glass.

Appearance: black in color, 1/4 inch head, opaque, minimal carbonation

Smell: roasted malt and cocoa

Taste: big time espresso, roasted malt, chocolate, and light traces of nut

Mouthfeel: medium-heavy bodied, low carbonation, sweet with roasty bitterness

Overall: An above average roasty RIS. If you like your RIS to have big coffee flavors, this is the beer for you. I would like to see a bit more creaminess with this. This is not a bad beer, but with so many great RIS, this is just above average for the style.

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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.

 413 characters

Photo of atr2605
3.53/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A-poured black with a tan head with nice lacing
S-roasted coffee, licorice, unsweetened cocoa
T-lots of roasted coffee flavors mixed with licorice and finishes with unsweetened chocolate
M-full bodied and low carbonation
O-Not a bad brew, honestly not my favorite for the style, booze is pretty apparent. Interesting to try

 324 characters

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

L: jet black, mocha head, decent retention and lacing
S: tobacco, leather, coffee, cocoa in that order
T: in line w nose, heavier on leather, then tobacco
M: sticky and thick, nice but less of the thick milkshake feel I like with imperial stouts and more of the thickness you get with syrup
O: decent beer but after having founders imperial stout, bells expedition stout, old raspy, and Fremont darkstar many many times an imperial stout like this is pretty much meh.

 467 characters

Photo of Knapp85
3.53/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured out as a dark black color with a decent tan colored head on top. The retention and lacing was moderate. The smell of the beer was roasted with some chocolate and burnt aromas. The taste of the beer was also a little on the burnt side with a dark chocolate bitterness in there with more roasted malts. The mouthfeel was on the heavier side but not the smoothest of stouts out there, it's carbonation was good and it finished dry. Overall this beer was decent in my opinion. I may need to revisit this beer one day to get a better grasp on it.

 558 characters

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

Look: Dark

Smell: Low on volatiles

T: Light malt with some initial sweetness in the front that is covered by coffee with hints of vanilla. Finishes with a significant hop presence.

O: Flavor profile is dominated by hops at the end. Good product for those who don't like too much sweetness and more hops in their imperial stouts. Easy to drink with the alcohol well disguised. Not a huge imperial stout.

Value: Reasonable price for a quality beer.

 461 characters

Photo of Jwburns75
3.54/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

My first time having a Narwhal, and I don't think this beer hangs with the upper beers of the style. The smell is faint, maybe some roastyness coming thru but not a lot to speak of. The taste seems one dimensional to me for a style that often has so much depth. There isn't a lot of sweetness in the mix which would go a long way. It's drinkable for sure and feels hearty, but it's lacking certain characteristics that I prefer in my imperial stouts.

 454 characters

Photo of mmapes
3.54/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Found 4-pack bottles labeled 2012. Poured into pint glass. Big foamy head with lots of staying power. Smoke (toasty malt? No, smoke.) and "beer" on the nose. Color is deep dark brown as it pours, and black in the glass.

Nice oily coat on the tongue, heavier than some imperial stouts. I like stouts thick (like this one). Smoke is prominent but not overbalanced -- not as strong as the scent suggests. Kind of sweet, smoky finish. Very well balanced. Maybe not so bold-tasting as heavier Russian imperial stouts like Czar or Palo Santo Marron. The flavor is all grain. I don't get notes of spices or fruit, so I'm not sure it's as complex as I might have guessed from other reviews. But it does serve as a good, grainy, pure example of an imperials stout.

Would probably buy again.

 783 characters

Photo of stumac
3.55/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours up black. Great lacing. Dark tan/light brown lacing. Whatevs. Smell booze, shattered dreams, my upper lip, toasted malts. Taste toffee, coffee, and bears. Oh my! Slightly boozy. Thick burnt malts. Big ol body. Smooth carbo. A tastey treat. I dig it

 254 characters

Photo of chocosushi
3.56/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle->CHOC Flute

A ~ Pours black with a mahogany hue toward the bottom of the glass. Light lace clings. Cocoa head.

S ~ Baking Chocolate, Brown Sugar, & Caramel Syrup.

T ~ Chocolate following through with earthy hops (grass/bark) with lots
of caramelized sugar & biscuit. Very full flavored. Imperial for sure.

M ~ Sticky with not too heavy of a feel, but with a great deal of booze. Roasty, but quite sweet, akin to espresso with sugar in it.

D ~ Drinkable & solid, but I probably wouldn't purchase again. Check it out
if you see it, what a deal. Great alternative to Old Raspy if that's yer bag.

 614 characters

Photo of Michael_R_Gurdineer
3.56/5  rDev -14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

As always, I find barrel aged to be TOO much flavor in the wrong direction. As this special brew breathed the barrel aged flavor became too overpowering. Not my cup of tea!

 172 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 Furlinator
3.56/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours near black with very little head and decent lacing.

Smell is alcohol and cocoa up front. A faint scent of raisins and plums with a bready
finish on the back end.

Taste is bitter coffee up front. Faint nut flavor and some dark fruit bring up the rear.

Medium bodied for a stout. Slightly creamy with medium carbonation.

As stated in previous reviews, the alcohol presence is obvious and certainly detracts from this stout's potential. A bit of a disappointment.

 471 characters

Photo of zac16125
3.57/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into a tulip
vintage 2013

A: Pours an opaque jet black with 1.5 fingers width of light mocha colored head. Decent retention, and leaves a good amount of lacing.

S: Tons of roasted malt, stale black coffee, bakers chocolate, an almost bourbon-ish booziness, some herbaceous notes.

T: Heavy on the roasted malt flavors, which are accompanied by floral hop notes and a hoppy bitterness. Wasnt expecting that. I also get anise, stale coffee, and an almost sour dark fruit character.

M/D: Full bodied, carbonation non the heavier side for the style, ABV very well masked. Drinkability is average.

O: I dont love this one, kind of a weird flavor profile. I expect it to get much better with age and will revisit this in a few months.

 748 characters

Photo of oline73
3.58/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I had this on-tap at Max's during Baltimore Beer Week. Served in a sample glass.

Appearance: The beer is black with a layer of tan head. The head fades to a ring around the glass.

Smell: I'm getting a dark fruit sweetness along with some mild roasted malt. There is some dark chocolate in there as well. There is a slightly off note that reminds me of sweaty socks, but not enough to ruin the whole smell.

Taste: Sweet up front along with the roasted malt and dark chocolate flavors. I'm getting some dark fruit sweetness behind the roasty flavor. The finish is quite smooth, but there is some roast to counter that. The off smell doesn't show up in the flavor.

Mouthfeel: The body is just on the syrupy side of medium with lots of carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: The finish had enough bitterness but the rest of the sip could have used more. The smell was a bit off but the rest of the beer was pretty good. Not sure I need more.

 942 characters

Photo of avalon07
3.58/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a black color and a thick texture. There was a half inch of tan-colored, foamy, long-lasting head. Pretty good lacing.

S: Definitely an underplayed aroma of coffee, chocolate and malt. Decent.

T: Tasted of light coffee notes, some dark chocolate, roasted malt, and maybe some dark fruit. There's also a very pronounced burnt quality as well. Not a bad flavor, but it could have used a bit more punch.

M: A very well-carbonated beer with a smooth finish. Medium-bodied.

O: This isn't too bad of a beer, but it doesn't necessarily reside among the top tier Russian Imperial Stouts. Still, worth a look.

 649 characters

Photo of ArrogantB
3.58/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Ok, this review is for the 2013 batch as I forgot to review the 2012 which I actually thought was better. Dark black, brown healthy head. Aroma is alcohol, roast malt, not bad at all. Flavor is alcohol, dark malts, fruit, mild notes of chocolate. Overall pretty good but a little astringent for my liking,

 305 characters

Photo of DocJitsu
3.59/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque, nearly black with a short, quickly fading head. The color of the head is caramel with shades of mocha. A very nice looking beer. A shame the head dissipates so quickly. Usual dark roast malt and coffee aromas. Nothing remarkable or unique. Mouthfeel is viscous and creamy, helping the whole experience of the beer venture a little north of mediocrity. Flavors of coffee, dark chocolate, caramelized sugar, and plastic.

Addendum: as the beer warms it improves. Boldness emerges and becomes much more like a Russian Imperial Stout. A bit of a sour character that seems to accentuate the experience, but I wouldn't miss it if it weren't there. I feel the alcohol, so it must be there. I certainly don't taste it.

 727 characters

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 876 ratings.
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