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

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Reviews: 886 | Ratings: 4,916
Photo of Kuaff
4.65/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I enjoyed this RIS in my snifter at cellar temperature.

A full, bulging two fingers of light cocoa-colored foam form the head. The body is black, to put it simply.

Smells surprisingly fruity! I think I'm getting raspberries and, incredibly, freshly-picked blueberries. It's fantastic, as well as something I never imagined I'd smell in a stout. Moving on... there are also raisins, a rich semi-sweet chocolate scent, and a bit of molasses. A really awesome blend of aromas.

The berries are in the flavor a little too! It's like brownies with a strawberry or raspberry topping at first. That's what it's like early on... pretty sweet like chocolate milk, but also with a subtle, complementary fruity tartness. The back end brings a ponderous roastiness of coffee and dark chocolate that contrasts the initial sweeter flavors superbly.

The feel is thick and heavy as a narwhal (durhurhur), and the carbonation is calm like the sea at slack tide.

This isn't "just another" Russian imperial stout to me. It has some of the aroma notes and flavors of a Belgian strong dark ale, but still retains all the essential requirements for retaining stout status. And all of it's distinctive qualities mesh together beautifully. Not to mention it kind of has the consistency and taste of a chocolate milkshake, to my delight. Just as a Narwhal is a unique whale, but still a whale, this is a unique stout, but still very much a stout... and a very nice one.

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Photo of Flounder57
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle was poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: This beer poured a one finger mocha head that reduced to a thin layer. It is a pitch black color with no clarity or bubbles seen coming up through the glass.

Smell: sweet chocolate, molasses, roasted coffee, a little warm alcohol, and dark fruits.

Taste: Chocolate, roasted coffee, tobacco, molasses, a little smoke, and dark fruits.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, warm alcohol, full bodied, medium carbonation, and delicious.

Overall: Pretty solid RIS by the boys from Stone. Might have to move up to their 22 RIS and the espresso version as well. This beer definitely got better as it warmed up too.

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Photo of Thelonious_Mahler_Crate
4.72/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2013 Narwhal

Appearance: Black as it should be. Narwhal resembles a textbook imperial stout.

Smell: Deep, rich, malty greatness.

Taste: See 'smell.' This beer packs a flavorful punch, especially after warming a bit. Coffee, malt, maybe some nuttiness. I haven't been to beer school. I just know it's awesome.

Mouthfeel: If one aspect of his beer hits the 'perfect' mark, it's this one. Narwhal's a nice creamy, chewy number, and the alcohol content bites your mouth at the end. To me, that's pleasant, and reminds me what sort of fine genre beer I'm drinking.

Overall: Narwhal, while not particularly rare, was somewhat of a whale for me. It's been hyped quite a bit by both the internet, and a few friends of mine, and it did not disappoint. I'd really like to taste it back to back with Old Rasputin and Stone Imperial Stout. Regardless, it's a fantastic brew I'd recommend to any fan of the genre.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.44/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured pitch black into generic snifter with small brown head. Aroma is roasty chocolate, and more roasted chocolate. Flavor follows with bittersweet chocolate and a very nice roasted finish. Extremely smooth with just the right carbonation. Thick but easy drinking. Like velvet. I would compare this closely with Oaked Yeti, with less sweetness and more bittersweet. This is a phenomenal brew feom SN. Easily rank this above some of the more hyped impies. I really can’t find anything wrong with this one.

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Photo of mashedpotatoes
4.83/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A supremely righteous Russian Imperial Stout. Chewy, STRONG, and delicious. Tons of coffee and chocolate right up front. Complex, multi-blend of 6 different malts. The only con would be the strength of the alcohol coming through but that is forgivable given the greatness of this brew. You will be hard-pressed to find a better example of this beer. Enjoy and cheers!

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Photo of Glennlawless
3.78/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured into a 16 oz Tulip

A - pretty much 2 finger beige/ hazel head and poured just about jet black. almost a reddish tint to the head at times in the right light haha...a really good looking beer. after head dies down a half a centimeter puck of foam remains slicing over the top of the beer.

S - Getting dark chocolate at first/and a little bit of strong espresso coffee like too... and when i really get into it i get hints of very dark fruits and a little booze. Has almost a roasted smokey feel to it as well.

T - when swishing i can definetley taste the booze...but in the finish it dies in a matter of seconds and is taken over by sweet cherry and plums and subtle hints of chocolate. not getting much coffee at all. more of a porter feel to it actually. warms your chest as it goes down....a nice sipper type beer.

M - definetley a porter type feel, creamy and medium carbonation...but not getting that thick charachteristic most R.I Stouts tend to have.

Overall, the high abv kind of scared me away....and at first your like wow this is boozy but im loving how that is taken over in the end for a really smooth finish.take your time drinking this and enjoy it... this is a big, deep beer.

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Photo of Mongrel
3.94/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had on tap in a little 9 oz snifter. I swear there was no smell whatsoever coming off this beer. Maybe it was served too cold.

Drinks more like a porter than a stout - supremely roasty with coffee and hop bitterness and a little roasty tang. Creamy center and mouthfeel that's really the star of the show. Like any good stout/porter, it grows in complexity as it warms, bringing out a little vanilla, caramel, anise and chocolate syrup. Despite the sweet flavors, this beer still finishes extremely dry.

Don't get me wrong, this is a very solid stout/porter, but not quite up to the level of luxury and complexity of something like an Expedition Stout.

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Photo of maxcoinage
4.44/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12oz bottle (2013 Vintage) into oversized snifter with a solid inch head that was mocha colored and took it's time to settle down. Color of the beer is pitch black.

The aroma consists of dark chocolate, coffee, dark fruits.

Taste includes dark roasted malt, coffee, caramel, very noticeable booze, some hoppy bitterness

Mouthfeel is rather thick, but not as much as you'd think at over 10%, medium carbonation, leaves a nice coating on your mouth and throat.

Overall it's a very enjoyable RIS, as I like boozy stouts, though I could see how some might think this is too hot. Looking forward to see how this changes with some age on it.

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Photo of wedge
3.6/5  rDev -13%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5


Deep, dark black color with a lean tan head that drops to a luscious, creamy covering. Smells dark and malty...spicy fruit, licorice, molasses, and a slight oxidized/aged aroma in back. Somewhat rich, but definitely big and roasty malt flavor. Char, cocoa, espresso, and dark fruity esters. Again, a particular spiciness permeates the flavor along with a heavy bitterness in the finish. Booze is thankfully low, though there is an expected warming deep down in the throat. Big bodied and creamy, but dry. I liked this a bit more during the first half, but the bitterness is becoming a little distracting. A solid RIS that I think is worthy of aging a couple more bottles for longer to see what happens.

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Photo of jtierney89
3.3/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Incredibly deep brown color, almost black, from what i can tell good clarity and about two fingers of mocha colored head. Charcoal heavily roasted grains, bit of asphalt, mocha and dark cocoa.

Not as heavily bodied as I thought it would be but a pretty good beer. I expected a bit more from sierra, but it's a pretty standard imp stout. Faintly creamy, bitter black chocolate, dark roast coffee, herbal hop, low astringency, bitter malts and bitter hops finishes dry. Overall good, clean tasting, on the heavier side of medium bodied, lingering burnt coffee, black chocolate and earthy hop flavors. A touch soapy and minty.

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Photo of gr0g
4.16/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Opaque, black appearance, capped with a finger's worth of dark tan foam. Head retention is good, while lacing is minimal. Has the rich, imposing look that an imperial stout should have. Char, molasses, and dark chocolate feature prominently on the nose. Some fusel presence on the back-end of the aroma, though not much (and not uncommon for an unaged imperial stout). Base aroma is very nice, just needs more "pop" to merit a higher score.

Narwhal has a very nicely balanced flavor profile. Upfront sweetness is tamed by bitterness on the mid-palate through to the finish. I wouldn't mind a little less bitterness to let the rich, chocolatey flavors to stand out more. Flavors of cacao nibs and black coffee astringency. Mouthfeel has a nice weightiness to it, while there's an appropriate level of carbonation. Alcohol heat is present but doesn't jump out and become distracting.

Narwhal is destined to become a top value imperial stout, widely available and of high quality. Compares very favorably with Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout in that regard. Another great beer by Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of dc87
3.93/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A - Not as attractive as other imperial stouts I've seen. As expected, a tar like dark brown-black body. Dirty white-brown head which disappears disappointingly quickly.

S - Predominantly fruity chocolate sweetness. A little coffee, and roasted malts and smokiness.

T - Complex and wonderfully balanced. Sweet dark fruits, berries, raisins and chocolate. Finishes with some perfectly complementary bitterness and charred. Delicious and drinkable.

M - Medium-full bodied. Some pleasantly nippy carbonation too.

O - A very tasty, well balanced and enjoyable imperial stout. Would definitely drink again.

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Photo of seand
3.68/5  rDev -11.1%
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.

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Photo of whatthehull
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Narwhal Imperial Stout

A - DEEP, DARK, muddy black, one finger very tan/almost brown head and some sugar legs

S - Nutty, huge vanilla, molasses, COCA, beast of roasted toasted grains, sexy smooth, deep chocolate dipped ripe berries, OAK, Charred OAK, BOOZE, sexy sweet molasses, bourbon vanilla, cinnamon, beautiful earthy hops and wow

T - DUDE, WTF, such a huge robust beast of a stout. Much love SN. Love my RIS and High octane and sugary stouts, but this is on another spectrum. Booze note kicks ass, The deer dark ripe berries are all dipped in sugarless coca, the roastedess and toastedess grains, deepest of darkest chocolates, molasses, bourbon vanilla, oak, nutty, charred anything and AWESOMENESS

M - Full bodied, overwhelmingly awesome robustness, medium plus acidity, well balanced, awesome complexity and the best robust imperial stoutness I have had in YEARS!

D/O - Robust is the name of this stouts game. DAMN. Not DAMN I need something less robust. Just DAMN, they did the robust and less sweet/boozey style WELL! Stoked on this beast for sure. Refreshing isnt a word used in this description, but tasty is!

Final Thoughts - $12 bucks IS high for a 4 pack but at a 10.2% and the taste, why the heck not?!!??!

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

A: poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass, almost black with a nice dark tan head that lingers leaving good lacing, clear

S: coffee, dark chocolate, molasses, dark roasted grain

T: coffee, bitter coco, espresso, tobacco, dark roasted malty grains

M: heavy, oily, low carbonation, alcohol noticeable

O: great imperial stout, rich flavors

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Photo of JGlitz87
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black and nearly opaque. Slight tan head.

S: Roasted malts. Little bit of chocolate

T: Lots of flavor. Roasted malts, chocolate, caramel, little bit of bourbon barrel taste. Slightly boozy.

F: Thick body and no carbonation. Very smooth. Hides it alcohol content well.

O: Very good beer. Not the best RIS I have ever had, but certainly good. Looking forward to see how it ages.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle - $2.99 at Total Wine & More in Kennesaw, Georgia.

2013 Vintage.

Appearance: Slips out a black, viscous-looking body, though with only a very, very small, tan head.

Smell: An aroma choked with rich maltiness -- molasses, chilled espresso, chocolate, along with full notes of licorice sticks, plump raisins. Minor spiciness, slim smokiness.

Taste: Boldly roasty, espresso-laden, and heaping with melted, fine dark chocolate and thick molasses. Restrained sweetness, as it's tempered by the sharpness of the roasted malts, hops, and warming alcohol. Black licorice. Dark fruits. A little additional fruitiness attributed to the hops, slightly resiny. Reasonably dry on the smooth finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium carbonation.

Overall: Big and beefy yet relatively balanced -- I liked it.

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Photo of AdamF625
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

A- pours jet black with a thick khaki head that fades quickly.
S- black malt, roasted barley, cacao
T- a lot of roast and black malt flavor, expresso, bitter chocolate, earthy hops
M- medium body and carbonation
O- well balanced between the dark malts and hops. The alcohol is hidden well but this beer sure keeps you warm.

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Photo of taylor714914
3.84/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Another solid beer from Sierra Nevada.

Pours a chocolatey black with a tan cap of foam.

Smells of roasted malts, chocolate, and a bit of smoke.

Tastes of roasted malts, chocolate, a hint of blackberry, and some lingering residual malt sweetness.

Mouthfeel is slightly thin, but still decent.

Overall a good offering from Sierra Nevada.

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3.4/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

It pours a jet black color with a nice head that retains decent.stouts are hard to rate in appearance To me they are black and not much else.

The smell is good,you get coffee in the front then the alcohol just ruins it in the back end,maybe a little coco back there too.

The taste is not bad just the booze overpowers it,after a few drinks that's pretty much all you taste.

The mouthfeel is a little thin IMO.

Overall this is not a great imperial stout,too much booze taste.if Sierra Nevada can hide the abv better it would improve this one drastically

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Photo of Beersnake1
3.77/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Pours black with a finger of light brown head. Head disappeared quickly - probably 20 seconds.

Smell: Not overwhelming. Toasted malts with some hints of dark fruit. Even a bit sweet. A bit smoky and a hint of caramel.

Taste: The taste follows the smell nicely. Fairly mellow, with a taste of toasted malts, caramel, and a bit of coffee. Not as burly as some other imperial stouts, but a nice smooth flavor. The alcohol content doesn't come through.

Overall: Nice beer from Sierra Nevada. Pleasantly smooth, but not extremely distinct from others in its class.

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

A 2013 bottle that arrived to Albuquerque in the last month. Poured from the 12-ounce bottle into a snifter.

The beer pours engine oil black and creates a delicious looking, off-brown head. Healthy lacing is present.

The aroma is boozy, smelling like a brandy with some fruity, cherry qualities. A sweetness is present, as is sweet malt. Some chocolate pops up too.

Taste-wise, there is a whole lot going on here: breadiness, caramel and chocolate and a potent blast of booze. Coffee hints drift in and out and linger with the dry aftertaste.

The booze really takes the beer over at this point, giving significant burn and a dry ending and taking away from the beers other flavors.

I will be aging a 4-pack of these and will be revisiting them later on in the winter and down the line and suspect they will improve significantly as the beer settles. Right now, the beer is still to potent to truly enjoy.

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Photo of MikeWard
3.68/5  rDev -11.1%
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 quckly 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.

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Photo of haschauer
3.62/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - Very dark, pitch black body. Light caramel head.

S - Chocolate, toffee, coffee. Good smelling beer.

T - Chocolate and coffee up front. Some prevalent alcohol flavor. This is my third bottle from the 2013 varietal and the alcohol is already dying down but still there.

M - Good mouthfeel. Not too heavy, good level of carbonation.

O - I wanted to let this age a little more but I suppose I got a little excited with the weather cooling down so much at night these days. I will definitely let the last bottle I have lay down for a some months. Good stout but not as great as I was expecting.

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Photo of jopezu
5/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

pours an oil slick dark brown with a medium tan head that quickly rolls down to a bubbly film. nose; i can't stop drinking it long enough to discern... milk chocolate, fudge, espresso and hops. taste; dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, bitter coffee bean, bitter leafy hops, espresso, plum, light fudge & some slight wood notes. very highly carbonated with a silky, heavy mouthfeel. the hops, malt, abv and darkness are pretty much perfectly balanced to my palate. an expertly crafted russian imperial stout that brings a wallop on the roasted profile, and still has the hop to be a big beer. sierra neveda pulled no punches on this one!

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,916 ratings.
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