Dismiss Notice
Subscribe to BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99! (Limited time offer, US delivery only)

Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Your Rating: None

Want it   Got it 
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BA SCORE
4.16/5
Exceptional
5,155 Ratings
Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
sierranevada.com

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
A malt-forward monster, highlighting the depths of malt flavor.

Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come.

Added by JohnGalt1 on 10-14-2012

BEER STATS
Ranking:
#1,354
Reviews:
970
Ratings:
5,155
pDev:
9.62%
Bros Score:
0
 
 
Wants:
341
Gots:
1,485
Trade:
35
HISTOGRAM
 
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 5,155 |  Reviews: 970
Photo of sia478
3.68/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Photo of teromous
3.68/5  rDev -11.5%
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.

 1,579 characters

Photo of thegodfather2701
3.68/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-Pitch black, with one of the thickest and creamiest looking heads I have ever laid eyes on. The head looks like a mocha milkshake. The head dissipates slowly and leaves on minimal lacing.

S-Smells of dark chocolate, strong black coffee, booze, and roasted malt.

T-Dark chocolate, espresso, booze, roasted malts, slightly smoky. It is somewhat hot and the alcohol is much more pronounced than I expected it to be. It has a lingering burnt aftertaste.

M-Slick and creamy, not as thick as I expected. Not a lot of carbonation, which is nice.

D-I really believe the alcohol negatively impacts the drinkability of this beer. It also is a little more on the espresso side of imperial stouts, where as I prefer a more dark fruit forward imperial stout. However, one could easily drink a couple in a sitting.

Overall, this is a nice imperial stout but I think it needs to sit a while. Its somewhat boozy and abrasive. With some time I think it will mellow out and become much smoother and easier to drink. I will say this, I thought it would be a more hop forward imperial stout given Sierra Nevada's history of producing excellent IPAs, but it is very malty which is nice. I don't want my review to sound to negative, this is a good beer and I would recommend it, I just think it needs to age a little.

 1,302 characters

Photo of MikeWard
3.68/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. 2013 batch.

Poured a thick oily black. No light comes through the body. Head was about a finger, tan colored. The head dissipated quickly to a full covering, before completely disappearing about halfway through the drink. No lacing to speak of.

Wasn't getting too much from the nose, pretty subtle, some alcohol, coffee, a little toasted malt.

Taste was also very subtle, with the above flavors coming through, but no strength to any of them. None of them lingered on the tongue very long.

Mouth was around medium, a little dry at the end.

I've only had this beer once before, last fall. Remember enjoying it a lot more then than now. This seemed a bit uninspired. Nothing offensive about it, just a bit bland really. A bit disappointing. Does go down easy for a 10.2abv.

 825 characters

Photo of seand
3.68/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours an opaque black with a fair amount of tan head. Most of it dissipates except for a little surface film and a ring around the edge of the glass, which is enough to leave a few bubbles of lacing.

S: Bitter sweet coffee and malt.

T: Bitter sweet malt, and a bit boozy. Aftertaste is coffee-like and a little astringent.

M: Full body, medium carbonation.

Overall, a pretty good beer, but definitely on the less sweet side of imperial stouts. It's still quite drinkable if that's what you like.

 502 characters

Photo of Brewsephus
3.69/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

16 oz bottle, poured into a Duvel Tulip.

A-Black, completely opaque, viscous pour. Head is dark caramel color, about quarter inch of head, retains for approx 1 min. Thumb-tack sized bubbles appear on surface, small pinpoint carbonation bubbles collect around rim of glass.
S-Chocolate is the first smell I get, followed by some slight fruity esters, raspberry, plum.
T-Big robust dark chocolate flavor, which gives way quickly to the intense warmth from the 10.2% abv. On the finish a little roast malt lingers. There is a slight cherry flavor on the middle of the tongue, until the alcohol warm kicks it away, only to be dominated by the dark chocolate barrage.
M-This is actually a lot more carbonated than I thought it would taste. The carbonation is enough to tingle your tongue, but wouldn't be described as effervescent. It is actually quite refreshing. The beer has a great amount of body to it, and I think without the carbonation it could come across as very motor-oil-esque to some.
O-This is a very OK version of an Imperial Stout. I feel that Sierra opted to side more with the Chocolate Malt than with the Roast Malt, which is fine, but just not my preference. Still, this beer has a ton of character and only intensifies as it warms. There are zero flaws in this beer. I was hoping for a little more excitement in the flavor. If you name a beer 'Narwhal', to unicorn of the ocean, it should have a little more pizzazz. I would have liked to seen a more estery yeast, maybe a little less baker's chocolate or chocolate malt, and a touch more roast malt. After your first or second sip the flavors don't change, which is something I look for in a beer capable of being so nuanced and complex.

 1,708 characters

Photo of walkinginplace
3.69/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Photo of alphagnome
3.7/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Appearance:
Pitch black body wears a finger-thick medium-brown head. Respectable retention and a fair amount of carbonation.

Aroma:
Potent vanilla and oak aroma. Heavy, roasted dark malt and cocoa notes. Hints of coffee and cherry shine through.

Taste:
Considerable amount of hoppiness for the style, but I like it. Heavy roasted coffee and a bit too much vanilla. Quite boozy.

Mouthfeel:
Thick - a slow sipper. Moderate carbonation for the style. Semi-sweet finish.

Overall:
Not a bad Imperial Stout by any stretch of the imagination, but there are better, more enjoyable options available. Worth picking up though. Try Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer if you want to know just how good an Imperial can be.

 708 characters

Photo of craftaholic
3.7/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Absolutely pitch black. Even with a flashlight held against it there is no light getting through that barren void. Had a layer of creamy tan head that left a little lacing and had subtle legs.

S - There's a lot of alcohol in the nose. With that there is hints of rich chocolate, hops and dark grains

T - There's a very strong coffee flavoring and after that it's a true melting pot of nuances. There is vanilla, grape, chocolate, grain, even a touch of citrus. Alcohol is present especially in the aftertaste but the malt is there to help mellow it somewhat.

M - Creamy and rich. Surprisingly more carbonated than expected.

O - It's definitely bold in both a flavor way as well as in the booze. It's a good sipper for sure.

 731 characters

Photo of gibgink
3.71/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of TerryMills
3.71/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Nice example of a stout.. Medium body body,some roasted flavor but heavy malt sweetness to back it up.. Smooth easy drinker .

125 characters

Photo of minterro
3.72/5  rDev -10.6%
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.

 652 characters

Photo of Birmz
3.72/5  rDev -10.6%

Photo of Duane_Opfer
3.72/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass. Bottled on 10/17. Consumed on 11/18. Written from notes.

A - Brown approaching black. Less than a half finger of light brown head which dissipated quickly. No lacing.

S - Not very fragrant. Dark chocolate with a hint of lemon.

T - Dark chocolate with a hint of espresso and citrus/lemon. Very warming. Does not hide ABV well.

M - Higher than normal carbonation and also lighter bodied. Not appropriate for style.

O - Not unpleasant in any way, but left room for improvement. Felt like I was drinking a cross between a black ale and a porter.

 585 characters

Photo of Chris_Huston
3.72/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2014 bottle. Dark brown-black, darkly roasted brown sugar/cinnamon colored head that piles high. Not much in the way of defining flavors -- e.g. coffee, cocoa; just a basic malt-forward adorned with general smokiness that gives the impression of a smoked porter. Pleasant, but not compelling. Same on the taste, but with even more smoke -- not too much, though; in fact, pitched better than some smoked porters I've had (e.g. Stone's regular one). Slight bit of creaminess to the feel, but also smooth without seeming watery. Nice weighted body.

Overall, this is dominated by smoke. That makes it disappointing as a stout, when compared to rivals such as Breakfast Stout, Vanilla Noir, Bomb!, etc., but if you blind tasted this without any expectations, it's a well done smoked imperial porter or stout, even if not amazing.

 825 characters

Photo of szarom1992
3.72/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Narwhal (2014), Poured form 12oz bottle into snifter glass

Appearance
Dark, brown-black beer. No head, or lacing on the beer. Very opaque.

Smell
You can smell the booze on the nose immediately. This beer smells sweet, almost milky. You’ve got a lot of cocoa nibs present, and I think there’s some nice roasted malt. I don’t really get too many distinct flavours from the nose, which is surprising considering that this is a ‘big’ beer.

Taste
This beer has a little too much lactic sweetness up front, in my opinion. It’s not like it’s a sweet beer, but it just has a milky (almost yogurty) tinge on the tongue at the front of the sip. Afterwards, you start to see some of the other darker flavours come through. There’s a little bit of chocolate, but its mellow. Some dark, roasted flavours are on the end of the sip, and linger on the aftertaste. Its coffee, but it seems rather nutty. The alcohol content (10.2%) really shows on this beer, but certainly doesn’t take away from the flavour. Narwhal has minimal carbonation, has a medium body and is rather smooth.

Overall
I’m a little let down. I thought this beer was too sweet, and that its important flavours (ie, the coffee and baker’s cocoa) were too timid. I have another 3 of these beers that I put away, so I’ll see if age provides any benefit, but I’m not anxiously awaiting another.

Score
8.6

 1,385 characters

Photo of NCStateAE
3.72/5  rDev -10.6%

Photo of Tbulling
3.72/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Photo of Mojo
3.73/5  rDev -10.3%
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.

 573 characters

Photo of Kennethzelljr
3.73/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A good stout,the mouthfeel was a lot lighter than I was hoping for though.

74 characters

Photo of DaveAnderson
3.73/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Photo of Sludgeman
3.73/5  rDev -10.3%
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.

 546 characters

Photo of jrs3994243
3.73/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Photo of Bugs318
3.74/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Photo of snowmageddon
3.74/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.16 out of 5 with 5,155 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.