Narwhal Imperial Stout | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
BA SCORE
92
outstanding
879 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score
Send samples
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:
879
Ratings:
4,893
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
22.71%
 
 
Wants:
316
Gots:
1,383
For Trade:
43
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 879 | Ratings: 4,893
Photo of brewtus
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into snifter

Drank on 11/22/12

A- pours black with a dark tan head
S- a bit metallic, roasts, malty, a bit of chocolate
T- starts with a nice bitterness, hints of dark fruit and chocolate. There's a nice dark chocolate dry finish. I get a little smokiness. The alcohol is well hidden
M- for the abv, it's quite drinkable but has a bit less thickness than your bigger RISs, certainly has great texture
O- I usually like most Sierra Nevada beers, but I'm not usually overly impressed by most of the ones the brew. This one was really great. It was a lot thicker than I figured it would be and had a smoothness throughout. It's an easy drinking stout and I'm glad I grabbed a bottle.

 689 characters

Photo of hreb
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2014 edition. 12oz bottle, dated 08/13/14, served in pint glass. Beer pours pitch black and slick like oil, with nearly zero head. Dark aromas suggest molasses. Flavors are immediate and complex: layers of toasted barley, burnt toast, treacle, and of course ethanol, but there's also an assertive hop flavor. I find the combination spicy, very appropriate for winter, and decided American (a high gravity, high IBU stout? why not!). Mouthfeel is great, low carbonation, which is perfect for the style.

 508 characters

Photo of Futbolmanby
4.09/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Look: dark brown with a thin khaki head
Smell: roasted malts with a hint of vanilla
Taste: roasted malts, bitter chocolate with a small amount of vanilla
Feel: smooth finish, light carbonation.

 195 characters

Photo of BurgeoningBrewhead
4.27/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours like engine oil into a snifter; jet black with a thin brown head that fades into a loose topping of foam after a few seconds.
Smells of dark roasted metallic malt; coffee and chocolate, both dark and sweet. Simple but foreboding smell, unassuming but unapologetic.
Taste is very big, and much more complex than the smell suggests. Dark coffee and chocolate blends with sweet chocolate and dark fruit, as well as a thick booziness that warms as you drink.
Mouthfeel is thick and smooth, awesome.
Overall, this is a solid RIS. Definitely one of the more extreme examples, but a great one for those who love huge stouts.

 627 characters

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

A - Pitch brown. Beige, reluctant head that develops into a light halo.
S - Sweet lactose. Dark chocolate + sweet coffee.
T - Smooth, sweet coffee and milk chocolate.
F - It goes well with everything else.
O - Very nice. I will have it again.

 248 characters

Photo of Samp01
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle from mike67. Pours a deep slightly viscous black with a small brown head. Aroma and Taste of dark roasted caramel malt, some mild liquorice notes, dark fruit with some notes of dark cacao and mild espresso flavors with a dark toasted malt bitterness on the end for balance. A full bodied, creamy body on the palate with moderate carbonation and sticky mouth feel. A good full flavored brew, rich and creamy. Overall this is very good, delicious and flavorful brew.

 471 characters

Photo of ajm5108
3.82/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

You get a lot of medium toasted malt flavor, with some outside hints of roasted coffee. You can sense some hops in there as well, and some residual alchohol peaks through. Mouthfeel is smooth. Aroma is lacking, mostly just the toasted malt. Overall a good stout but not exceptional.

 286 characters

Photo of MacMalt
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into snifter glass. The color is jet black with a rather thin, light tan head and minimal lacing. The smell features dark chocolate with a hint of dark fruit. The taste includes abundant dark fruit with burnt coffee, dark chocolate, and caramel. It's like a rich dessert. This stout has a rich, creamy mouthfeel and is very easy drinking notwithstanding its 10.2% ABV. Overall, it's a very good imperial stout. I particularly like the prevalent raisin and dark fruit. I'm a big fan of the barrel-aged version of Narwhal but the base stout does not disappoint. I don't think it's quite as good as Founders Imperial Stout, but it's excellent

 655 characters

Photo of NiceTaps
4.04/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle dated 9/11/15, in a tulip.

Opaque jet black color with a 1F dark tan colored head that fades quickly to an oil sick. Minimal lacing.

Smell of coffee, dry chocolate, lots of roasted malt. Some alcohol as it warms.

Healthy dose of roasted malt flavors. Strong coffee and a touch of unsweetened chocolate. Black cherry.

Full creamy body with tingle. Smooth and balanced. Just a touch of alcohol on the end, but no burn. Underlying oiliness.

It packs flavor and big beer punch. A sipper, very good.

 511 characters

Photo of BlackBelt5112203
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter at cellar temperature.

L – Black color with a 3.5 frothy, rocky, tan head. Really nice retention and some good lacing.

S – Lots of dark fruits like plums and figs plus chocolate, vanilla, molasses, and some roasted coffee.

T – It starts off a little bit hot and then the sweet flavors of chocolate, molasses, dark fruits, and vanilla shine through. Big bitter roasted coffee shines through at the finish.

F – Full-bodied with good carbonation, a slick and velvety smooth mouthfeel, and a bitter finish. Bitter roasted coffee flavors linger nicely along with a mild throat-warming sensation from the alcohol.

O – This is a nice imperial stout. The dark fruit and chocolate sweetness is nicely balanced with the bitter roasted malt. It’s also ridiculously drinkable considering the high ABV. I’m glad I got to try this one out.

 879 characters

Photo of Jeffreysan
4.93/5  rDev +19.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

12 oz bottle, poured into a goblet.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, completely opaque, pitch-black color with practically no head what-so-ever, except for an extremely thin halo of foam that gripped the sides of the glass.

Aroma: Strong, rich, earthy aromas of roasted malt, freshly baked dark bread, dark chocolate, dark molasses, licorice, vanilla and some boozy alcohol.

Taste: Wow! Extremely strong flavors of roasted malt, dark chocolate, dark molasses, coffee, licorice, brown sugar and some nicely balanced hops.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and pretty smooth, as there is very little carbonation. With an ABV of 10.2%, there is quite a bit of alcohol on the palate, imparting a pleasant warmth in the mouth while being drunk.

Overall: This is another excellent stout! Massive flavors of roasted malt, coffee, dark chocolate, dark molasses, coffee, licorice, brown sugar and some nicely balanced hops, awesomely blended together in a chewy, smooth quaff. Fantastic!

 973 characters

Photo of Wiffler27
4.55/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

pours jet black with a dark cream colored head.

smells of creamy chocolate with coffee. very creamy aroma.

taste is equally creamy. hints of vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. unique taste in combination with the smoothness. almost a nitro-beer creaminess but without being thin. the body is full and the creamy is so smooth. just amazing! goes down so smooth, this is dangerous!

instantly one of my favorite RIS' if not favorite beer over all. great full flavored taste, not one-dimensional at all.

 499 characters

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

Serving: Bottle into snifter
Served: 27 February 2014

Appearance: Pitch black, with literally no light penetrating this brew. The dark brown head quickly disappears and leaves just a ring of bubbles around the edges. Looks impressive and daunting.

Smell: Roasted malts, black, dark-roast coffee, and unsweetened cocoa.

Taste: Wow, is this one complex. An initial burst of hop bitterness is followed by a strong assertion of roasted malts, dark roast coffee, espresso, and cocoa flavors. Finishes very dry.

Mouthfeel: Think and smooth, just as one would expect.

Overall: A great beer, and I was surprised to taste as much bittering hop as I did. When I burped, you could definitely re-taste the hoppiness (gross, I know). While hops aren't the dominant profile here, they are certainly assertive in their bittering qualities. But we wouldn't expect anything less from Sierra Nevada, would we? A great brew, and one I recommend. Definitely a sipper, and definitely a once-in-a-while beer, not something I could stomach any time any day.

 1,039 characters

Photo of glass_house
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours opaque black like an imperial stout should. One finger of creamy off-white head. Aroma is heavy on roasted dark malts with a little burnt coffee, chocolate, and dark fruit.

Taste is heavy on the roasted malts with subtle fig and dark plum in the aftertaste. There are hints of coffee and chocolate, but much less so than many beers of this style. The roasted malt takes center stage. It's a bit of a one trick pony, but when that trick is really really good, that's not a bad thing. The mouthfeel is silky smooth and just slightly creamy. Coats the palate well. Virtually no noticeable alcohol. One of the smoothest 10%+ beers I've ever had.

There are more exciting and complex stouts out there, but this is super solid and never lets me down.

 752 characters

Photo of samtrillo
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%

Black with no head and minimal lacing.

The nose is of cocoa and coffee and sweet malt.

The taste is much more pronounced. It reminds me of a dark chocolate covered coffee bean! A toasted essence to the malt. The back end of the taste profile brings to mind dark fruits, bittersweet craisin.

The mouthfeel is smooth and a little warm. Low carbonation. Very easy drinking for such a big beer in taste and ABV. Overall an excellent Russian Imperial.

 450 characters

Photo of 1000lbgrizzly
4.5/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Black body, creamy light tan head, some sticky lines of lace. Nose is rich and complex; baker's chocolate, licorice, some coffee, bread crust, heavily roasted malt. Flavor is even more widespread and deep; dark chocolate, roasted malt, somewhat sweet smokey toffee, faint chocolate, undertones of bitter hops, star anise, dry biscuit, faint alcohol and milk sugar-likeness here and there. Supremely dark yet reasonably bitter, even with a mild sweetness. Full, heavy, chewy body with lip-smacking stickiness.
What a great beer. Perfectly enters RIS territory without clashing the hop flavor with the roasted malt, which *rarely* works for me. Huge range of dark flavors to mull over, nicely dry and bitter while still offering a faint oasis sweetness. Please, Narwhal, impale me again ;)

 788 characters

Photo of keithmurray
3.95/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance - dark brown color body with mocha colored head

Smell - roasted coffee, roasted malts, dark chocolate, black licorice,
Tobacco, smoke

Taste - dark chocolate, molasses, coffee, smoke, citrus from the hops,

Mouthfeel - medium bodied, medium carbonation, slight sweetness from the Chocolate upfront, hops and citrus in the back end along with a smoky feel. I'm finding the flavors to be a bit unbalanced on this beer.

Overall - slightly disappointing beverage as I feel like this beer borders on Black IPA territory. Flavors are a bit unbalanced versus other examples of the style. Perhaps age would help this one out.

Price Point - $1.99/12 ounce single

 671 characters

Photo of dtivp
4.21/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a very dark brown, near black with a one finger dark tan head that fades quickly into a thin ring with very little lacing.

Aroma of dark roasted malt, dark coffee and chocolate.

Taste of dark roasted malt, nuts, dark roasted coffee with a slight sweet balance of chocolate and molasses.

Moth Feel was medium leaning full body with very little carbonation, creamy and the alcohol is very well masked, there is very little boozy warmth for a 10.2 % ABV beer.

Overall this is a very nice RIS, well balanced with a slight sweetness off setting some of the dark bitterness. This is a nice sipping beer on a relaxing evening.

 629 characters

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

Poured from a bottle into a tulip glass.

L: Pours an inky black with 2 fingers of brownish head. Delicate lacing with great retention.

S: Chocolate and coffee, roasted malts, molasses.

T/F: Roasted malts with a complex coffee and chocolate flavor. Slightly sweet gives way to slightly bitter and very smooth on the palate. Even better as it goes from cellar temp to room.

O: One delicious Imperial Stout, and a great product from the venerable Sierra Nevada brewery. Can't wait to see what they've done with the bourbon aged versions (2 bottles currently relaxing in my cellar) and this beer can have a place in my fridge any time.

 644 characters

Photo of JamesMN
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: In a long list of the most opaque black beers out there. Two finger light brown head that leaves nice lacing.

Aroma: Coffee, molasses, cream, chocolate syrup.

Taste: Heavy on the bitter black coffee flavor. Dark chocolate as well but not as prominent. Not quite as roasty as I was expecting but still quite robust. Very bitter probably more due to the malt bill than the hops utilized because there is no discernible hop presence. Still, a nice change of pace from the usual RIS (although I probably wouldn't classify it as such). Dry finish and lingering black coffee bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a good level of carbonation and pretty easy to drink but more of a sipper.

Final Thoughts: Not my favorite but a very good Imperial Stout, especially if you like coffee flavor in your stouts. Would I drink it again? Yep, got a few in the cellar to see how it does with some age on it.

 909 characters

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

Bottle pkgd 11/25/14 into pint glass. Very dark; almost black. Chocolate-colored head that vanishes quickly. Taste is dark chocolate and coffee, with a little bite to finish. Mouthfeel is on the heavy side of medium. Nice alcohol glow, but certainly not objectionable. Decent RIS, but not anything extraordinary.

 318 characters

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

I was really looking forward to this beer. I always anticipate what Sierra Nevada is doing lately to keep engaged with producing great beer in spite of their growth.
Pours dark brown into a tulip.
Minimal head. Carbonation is there, it just doesn't produce much foam.
Burnt dark chocolate nose & taste. A little edgy that should smooth out over time.
Mouthfeel, burnt edginess lingers. Not to the point of distraction however. Very enjoyable with a great price point for the style.

 481 characters

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

Deep brown with a mocha head. Good retention and lacing. Malty and roasty aroma... somewhat campfire like. Taste is more aggressive with a solid kick of bitterness derived from both, hops and roasted malt. Long burnt finish. Medium body, apt carbonation. Will drink again.

 272 characters

Photo of Lawl3ss
3.76/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Chilled 12 oz. stubby into a shaker pint glass. 2013 vintage.

Look- Pours deep ruby brown, quite opaque. Finger and a half of dense toffee-colored head that refuses to settle. Decent lacing.

Smell- Dark roast, milk chocolate, blackcurrant. A little booze in the background. Nice.

Taste- Bold albeit standard profile. A bit of molasses and raisin stand out, dominated by bittersweet chocolate, charred biscuit, and medium roast coffee. A little boozy, not really surprising considering the 10%+ ABV. Not too sweet. Finishes with a moderately assertive herbal bittering, roast lingers.

Mouthfeel- Medium-full body, some astringency from the booze keeps it from being creamy. Slick feel, carbonation crisp. Not too heavy, but, well.... I was expecting something a bit more substantial.

Overall- Accessible. SN's not going too crazy with this, and that's probably a good thing. Still definitely worthwhile, and very reasonably priced for the category. Sic this on your friends when they talk about Guinness being "oh so dark"- they'll be pleasantly surprised rather than sickened.

 1,081 characters

Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,893 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!