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Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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BA SCORE
92
outstanding
904 Reviews
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Narwhal Imperial StoutNarwhal Imperial Stout
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
sierra-nevada.com

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:
904
Ratings:
4,973
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
22.46%
 
 
Wants:
320
Gots:
1,422
For Trade:
41
User Reviews
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Reviews: 904 | Ratings: 4,973
Photo of woemad
4.09/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle from a 4-pk purchased at J.B.’s in Spokane for $10.99. It was literally the last they had of it, which was fitting, as I somehow missed this when it was released. The name reminds of an utterly absurd moment in the movie Elf.

Super viscous-looking when poured into a funky Sam Adams glass. From the looks of it, I could run my car off of it. Modest tan head that dropped fairly quickly into a sudsy ring, but never quite disappeared. Spotty and streaky lace.

Fairly standard aroma for the style. I get brown sugar, coffee, and chocolate. The high abv percentage is not noticeable in the smell.

A little more bitter tasting than the nose indicated, but that helps balance things nicely. In addition to the qualities I noted above, there’s also a prune-like dark fruit flavor, and a little bit of smoke. Quite dry at the swallow. Again, there’s no sign of the high alcohol content.

Fairly full-bodied, with a sticky mouthfeel.

A very tasty addition to the Imperial Stout ranks. Not quite as complex as some, but still very good. Dangerously drinkable at 10.2% alcohol - not a session beer! Glad to see SN do this style of beer.

"Goodbye Mr. Narwhal."

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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 CwrwAmByth
4.19/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle shared with Ruds in the Cask (Pimlico) 26/2/2013 Served in a half pint tulip. Hats off to him for buying it to split with this poor student!

Pours an opaque dark brown/black colour, velvety in texture. Little carbonation.

Smells strong and malty - chocolate, slight coffee

Tastes strong though mostly quite well hidden. Heavy dark malts - chocolate, liquorice, coffee, slight vanilla. Nicely hopped too, fairly bitter aftertaste. Thick and still.

Overall quite a lovely beer. I'd definitely have this again, wish they'd import it properly.

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Photo of OtherShoe2
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown, almost black. Nice tan head that dissipates. I have some remnants of sticky lace in the pint glass, but not much.

Coffee and licorice in the nose. Some bitter charred notes.

Deep flavors with terrific balance of dark richness and bitter. Sweet malt of dark chocolate, molasses, coffee, charred burnt bits. Bitterness leans in with some alcohol, but it seems less boozy than it really is. Nice bitter finish with a coffee aftertaste.

This one even pours thick. Dense full body. A little acid.

Great RIS. Loved this and glad I tried it.

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Photo of BB1313
3.61/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a snifter. Pours black with some brown hues, mocha head which fades quickly and leaves decent lacing and retention. There's lots of char and smoke up front. Lots of chocolate malts as well. There's also a touch of roasted coffee beans and vanilla beans. The flavors are aggressively bitter. The hop presence isn't shy. Very roasty. The coffee really comes through in the flavors. Blast of anise. No sweetness. There's subtle heat going on with this one, slightly boozy. Mouthfeel has active carbonation, slightly syrupy, but on the lighter side of full-bodied. The alcohol is noticeable. Rough around the edges, but it works with the cold weather.

I've enjoyed my time with Narwhal. I have one more I'm going to age. I think time will do this stout very well.

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Photo of secondtooth
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a pitch black, with tons of tan suds and exquisite lace.

Nose is charred wood, dark bittersweet chocolate, and roasty coffee. I can sense the strength and richness already.

Taste is indeed rich, but oh-so-smooth. More of the roasty, charred chocolate, with some fruit near the finish. The 10.2% ABV is well-hidden here, and this is an exceptionally smooth and satisfying imperial stout. Outstanding.

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Photo of hosehead83
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a "stubby" 12oz. bottle into a wine goblet.
Pitch-black, almost purple hue, with a moderate head of cafe mocha.
Aroma-Dark roast coffee, dark chocolate
Taste-Baker's chocolate, dark roasted coffee. A big, rich, flavorfull stout, full of character and complexity. Good stuff!

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

Pours a pitch black color with a 1-finger caramel-colored head that dissipates into a nice crown around the top of the glass. Leaves little splotches of lacing.

The aroma starts off with tons of dark chocolate and mild coffee, followed by some prunes and raisins. The back end is slightly boozy with a bit of leather.

The taste brings some dark malts, chocolate, and coffee beans. There's also a good amount of vanilla and freshly baked biscuits. Finishes slightly charred and smokey.

The feel is full bodied with low carbonation. A bit sticky with some alcohol warmth.

Overall, a great stout that brings a ton of flavors and aromas. It's a bit hot for the first few months but after that it smooths out and becomes very heavy, but drinkable.

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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 PicoPapa
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle. Pours a pitch black color with dark brown hues and a ring of brown head. Minimal lacing. Aromas of espresso, dark chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla, and maybe even a bit of bubble gum. The taste is dark bitter chocolate and espresso. Smokey, roasted malts as well. Some vanilla and an overall sweetness flavor. Hints of caramel. Dark chocolate and coffee finish. Full bodied. I really liked the 30th Anniversary RIS so I was glad to hear they were releasing another Russian Imperial Stout. Overall, solid beer worth seeking out.

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Photo of zeledonia
3.01/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours black in the glass, light coming through coffee brown at the edges. Two fingers of mocha brown head, good retention and nice lacing. Solid.

Smell is faint for an imperial stout. Light cocoa makes up the most of it. A little milky. Not bad, but I want more potency.

Taste starts out roasty, and quickly takes a downturn. I initially thought it was chili pepper spice, but now it's coming through as an off, bitter, cardboard-paper-glue sludge. This is truly foul. I'll drink enough to finish my review, but no more. So I drank a little more, and a strange thing happened. It warmed up, that nastiness faded, and it became, well, consumable. And then it warmed up a bit more, and it became passable. Still not something I'd call good, but no longer something I'd call bad.

Mouthfeel is fine. At least, what I can perceive through the nastiness is fine. Heavy body, medium carbonation, lasting finish.

This beer is weird. Based on comparisons to other reviews, I wonder if I got a bad bottle. Or maybe my sense of taste is just that different. As it warmed up, the bad flavors faded, and it became, well, okay.

 1,117 characters

Photo of hardy008
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours black with a 1 1/2 inch foamy tan head, with nice retention and lacing. Smells like dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, and cocoa.

The flavor is nicely balanced with dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, and cocoa. Both bitter and sweet, without being overly bitter or overly sweet. Very nicely balanced.

Medium to full bodied with mild carbonation. Creamy, and the alcohol is very well hidden for having an abv of 10.20%. Very nicely made, and a must try.

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Photo of SebD
4.28/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: It has a beautiful jet black color to it. It has a nice thick dark tan head that stays around for ever and leaves lovely lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of sweet roasted malts, coffee, chocolate and dark fruit.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has a some sweet roasted malts, bitter coffee, dark chocolate, some dark fruit and an earthy hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel: It has a low carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied with great flavors and aromas.

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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.

 333 characters

Photo of rangerred
4.44/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours absolutely pitch black with a smallish dark tan head that fades to a thin ring around the edge of the glass.

The aroma is full of dark chocolate along with roasted caramel and a touch of smoke. There is a healthy dose of vanilla bean and some very light wood as well.

Loads of vanilla up front on the flavor followed by some cocoa, plum, and caramel. A touch of smoke and charred wood along with burnt caramel and a little honey. Alcohol is very well restrained and just becomes noticable towards the finish. Mouthfeel is very silky with just a touch of sweet stickyness in the finish.

Overall, a very well put together and nice imperial stout. Not at all too sweet and the alcohol is barely detectable. An awesome, and affordable, imperial stout from Sierra Nevada.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.11/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours an obsidian, liquid black death of 0% transparency. Forms a head of 2 fingers, almond color, and lace stays stuck to the head while it recedes.

Aroma of melted chocolate, cocoa powder, licorice, roast malts, coffee, and finally, leather. A complex, although quiet, bouquet.

Tastes of bitter chocolate, coffee grounds, charred malts, molasses, and a little brown sugar. As it warms some fig comes out, too. A touch of ash. The profile overall is robust and roasted. Coffee bitterness is moderate, but not overwhelming. At least, not more than any other Russian Imperial Stout. It increases as the beer warms.

Feel comes alive right away in a Coca-Cola like carbonation, tapering off to a crisp nip, and then an alcohol dryness.

Overall Narwhal is a winning stout. A solid representation. I'd rate it just under Old Raspy, maybe about on par with FBS...perhaps even more enjoyable due to the muted coffee notes (FBS is very coffee-forward).

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Photo of AlCaponeJunior
3.75/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

OK looking, about what you'd expect from an imperial stout that doesn't stand out looks-wise.

Aroma and flavor are pretty good. Standard roasty, toasty, burnt and charcoal notes present from the dark malts. Coffee and chocolate make balanced appearances. There is a touch of dark fruits, brown sugar. There's also a bit of hoppiness that you might expect from an American stout.

The body is pretty thick, good for the style. Finish is bitter dark chocolate with slight burnt notes and a slight lingering sweetness.

Overall it's enjoyable, about standard for the modern day definition of an American imperial stout.

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Photo of Chico1985
3.92/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours into a snifter darker than the bottom of the sea. A finger of tan head quickly forms a ring and retains as such. Decent scent of roast, dark chocolate, some raisin and molasses, but seems a bit on the tame side.

Taste opens things up more, very nice straight up roasty stout goodness. Nice char and a roasted malt/dark chocolate punch lead the way while some dark fruits and light caramel sweetness tag along. Just a touch of hops there. Nice coffee grounds finish. Mouthfeel is thick and viscous with medium carbonation and some alcohol heat.

I love the straight-up stout feel for this one, big roasty dark malts and alcohol with low sweetness (ala Old Rasputin, Ten FIDY, etc.) Definitely worthy of a 4-pack purchase every year - drink 2, age 2.

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Photo of Bierguy5
4.22/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle, 10.2% abv. Pitch black in color, with a good looking tan head. Head retention is pretty nice. A thin collar eventually remains, along with a few spots of lace.

Roasted malts are big up front. Dark roast coffee, near espresso roast. Bitter dark chocolate in the mix as well. Maybe a bit of earthy hop aroma.

Bittersweet dark chocolate comes to mind at first. Roasted malt, but with a rounded feel instead of sharp. Cocoa powder is the next flavor. A bit sweeter and more caramel in the middle. Some coffee flavors as well.

Medium body, with soft carbonation and a bit of a creamy feel. A bit of warmth, but not very much for the strength of this beer. I love the roasted, bittersweet feel of this beer. Very well done.

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Photo of Brutaltruth
4.43/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed from a growler in a snifter, this fantastic imperial stout pours a thick, rich, black as sin with a thick light brown head that holds on for some time till finally turning int o a thin layer with fantastic lacing. Nose of dark chocolate, deeply roasted grains, toffee, and strong alcoholic UMPH! Flavors are bakers chocolate and dark sweet malts to the front and sides mingling with dark fruits of plum and dark cherries on the back. Rich coating mouth feel and coating finish. A stout lovers dream. Excellent.

Cheers

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Photo of BarryMFBurton
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Now here is a beer I have been anxiously awaiting since I heard it existed – finally, Sierra Nevada’s imperial stout has been released. Let’s taste the liquid hype…

Brewed a little over a month before the date of this tasting (October 5, 2012 by the code on the bottle).

A: Phenomenally thick, pouring like viscous black motor oil from the bottle. Dark brown bubbles form a ring around the top of the body, settling there for the duration as the only inkling of head. Ropy lacing strings all the way around.

S: Chocolate-covered pretzel and toffee encase this moderately-pungent nose in sweets, augmented by a spattering of burnt sugar, cappuccino, and marshmallow tones. It brightens up with a tinge of raspberry, hazelnut, and cherry cordial, as well as that classic, piney, Sierra Nevada hoppiness. But with all that, it still has a yeasty note overall, bready and earthen in every whiff – not a sugar bomb like Choklat or Dark Lord. In this nose, balance is always present.

T: One taste and it’s instant Sierra Nevada, immediately spreading those taut, piney bitters to the corners of the palate. It’s one of the brewery traits that got me into craft, so I know it and love it, but this time it definitely fits – the wave of blackened malt fits perfectly into the resinous hops. Char, oak chips, toasted bread, and peanut brittle make up the thick middle of the palate, but not without a smooth cocoa and nougat character throughout. On the ends, it’s woody and round, filling out with whiskey and molasses flavors. Finishes hot and bitter, cementing it as the most powerful Sierra Nevada beer I’ve had.

M: Goes down smooth and fiery, prickling up with resin astringency. Each sip doesn’t exactly pull the lips back with intensity, but certainly you notice its power.

O: A cheap, kick-ass RIS. This is a step from the norm for Sierra Nevada – it’s definitely the thickest and most slow-drinking beer from these guys – but it works at every turn. If this were more than limited release, I’d buy it all the time; over Old Rasputin, Storm King, and even Plead the Fifth. Put this in a barrel and this would stand up to the best of them.

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Photo of inlimbo77
4.05/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

8oz taster pour
Mini pint glass
Two Stones Pub, Newark, DE

A: This pours out a completely dark black color. No light getting through. Thin layer of tan head that hangs around for a while. Some lacing bits. Getting some alcohol feet, but harder to see on this little pint glass.

S: Sweet and Dark chocolate on the nose. Some nice roasted malts and coffee. Very pleasant stout character.

T: Big roast character. Dark chocolate. Creamy flavors.

M: Full bodied. Nice and creamy/oily mouthfeel. Easy to drink.

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Photo of ONUMello
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 edition poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass
A: Pitch black color with a one-finger mocha colored head
S: Rich with coffee, cocoa, roasted malt and hops rounding it out
T: Also very rich with flavors that perfectly match the nose
M: Wow. Full-bodied, incredibly smooth but with a bit of a bite from the hops
O: This is a very well-made RIS that's incredibly enjoyable to drink

 388 characters

Photo of stephens101
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A dark tan head fades quickly from two fingers with minimal residual lacing. Insert cliche of choice for the color black here. Nutty, chocolaty and vinegary to the nose. Closer inspection reveals a nice fusion of dark grapes and cocoa. Tastes silky smooth with milk chocolate notes that are quickly countered by a semi-rough woodiness. Black coffee, subtle hops and burnt sugar provide a fine follow up to the preceding notes. Fusel alcohol heat plays a big part in this burly one; demanding respect, but remaining fairly welcoming despite its 10 plus percent. Narwhal is simple one more notch in Sierra Nevada's belt of excellence and consistency. Few breweries do it better.

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Photo of JoEBoBpr
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a tulip glass form a 12oz bottle.

Pours a pitch black slightly oily liquid. Some dark mahogany and caramel edges are present. There is a nice light tan 0.5 inch head that is formed. It recedes fairly quickly down to a thin film.

Aroma starts with roast and dark malts. Slightly smokey with some coffee notes. There is also some nice bitter chocolate in the nose. There are some slight grassy aroma in the nose as well that mix in with the roasted, dark and coffee notes. Pretty nice aroma.

Flavor starts off with dark chocolate notes. Some sweetness with nice dark cocoa bitterness. Then there is the roast that comes in. Coffee and espresso notes with some slight sweet milk chocolate notes present. There is definitely some nice grassy hop notes in the middle and the back end of this brew. Very well blended with the roast and stout notes. Quite the roasty brew with nice dark cocoa notes to finish it off. Mouthfeel is nice and slick. Creamy with good lively carbonation as well.

Pretty impressive brew by Sierra Nevada. Rich and creamy with some nice roasty coffee notes. Good RIS.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,973 ratings.
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