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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:
4,972
Avg:
4.14
pDev:
22.46%
 
 
Wants:
320
Gots:
1,421
For Trade:
41
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 904 | Ratings: 4,972
Photo of minterro
3.72/5  rDev -10.1%
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.

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Photo of davey101
4.2/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012 vintage, bottled October 12, 2012. 12 oz bottle into a DFH signature glass.

A - Pours a dark black body with two finger mocha/red head. Settles into some thin edging. Solid amount of lacing and retention but nothing too impressive.

S - Roasted malt, coffee beans, cocoa powder and anise. Incredibly balanced. Just a great aroma.

T - Roasted malts lead into that signature SN grapefruit and pine hop profile. Finishes with bitter coffee beans and smooth milk chocolate. Just a touch of anise.

M - Smooth and creamy with nice carbonation. Alcohol is hardly noticeable and the beer really opens up as it warms.

O - This beer gets everything right, even as a fresh beer. Plus its SN so its at an amazing price and distribution. It seems less hoppy and intense than the the 30th Anny stout, but I really like this beer a lot.

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Photo of Gregaroo
3.85/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

I've had this one before and lived it. Now on tap at City Taphouse in Philly. Still a knockout, but not as much as I remember it to be. Maybe because three are so many others like it. Still, oh so dark and coffee-y. Awesome IRS from these guys that I will continues to seek out. Had a couple with Keith after he bound some new biz.

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Photo of StoutElk_92
4.38/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 8/05/15

Pours black with a light tan head. Smells lightly of dark chocolate and boozy fruit. Taste is like bitter dark chocolate baker's cocoa, dark stone fruit, and bittersweet dark roast coffee, with a slightly licorice and herbal hop note. Feels pretty light, almost sticky and chewy, with very little carbonation. The alcohol is covered up well. Overall, a really nice imperial stout.

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Photo of abeeronthebeach
4.33/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Tasted Blind against Old Rasputin. This was my preferred beer.

A - Light-swallowing black, accented by a bracelet of mocha coloured foam. Very thin head but what a gorgeous colour!

S - Not quite as forceful as implied by the colour but tantalising due to its subtlety nonetheless. Dundee cake (it's like Christmas cake) and treacle were the main characteristics I picked up. A murmur of coca cola once it warms up a little followed by a sweet, rich rum booziness.

T - Surprisingly sweet. Leads with treacle and follows with a booziness reminscent of a good single malt. By this I mean that it had that sort of smokiness or peatiness in its bite. To me it tastes like dark dried fruits soaked in whisky.

M - Creamy, thick like treacle or molasses. Chewy and pliable.

O - What a cracking beer for the price. Took Old Rasputin to the cleaners. Did a good job of civilising its 10% Abv which always wins brownie points with me. I was concerned I might be overpowered by this beer a I was recently by Rochefort 10 but this was not the case. Underrated.

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Photo of Mikus
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%

Cold into the snifter, poured midnight black with a cocoa-tinged head w/small bubbles. Can't see the letters on the glass... nice. Aromas of roasted malts, coffee, some chocolate, and the clean SN bitter note. Deep, complex flavors. Some nice coffee on the end, and excellent balance, not afraid to have so E bitterness. Smooth mouthfeel, not chewy like other big stouts. Nice and crisp. I have waited a long time for this beer, and I was definitely not disappointed. Did anyone else notice, though, that this didn't necessarily get smoother, more complex as it warmed up? My only small concern. Would recommend.

 612 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 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.

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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.

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

Pours a dark black, only a little foam that faded to a light film, left no lacing. The aroma was of dark chocolate, slight coffee, sweet malt, and just a hint of dark fruit. Taste was of sweet chocolate and coffee, with some bitter hoppiness and alcohol burn. Mouthfeel was medium bodied, with some alcohol, but not too much. Just right. Overall, this beer is super tasty, can't wait to see what a year of cellaring has done to it.

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Photo of dd43
4.1/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The barrel aged version of this beer is more complex, more interesting and overall my clear preference. That said, the base beer is nothing to sneeze at.

Pours inky black with a dark brown head. Big chocolate and roast notes on the aroma, as well as a rich molasses note. Flavors are the same for the most part. Alcohol is present, but actually doesn't come through quite as much as the 10% might lead you to believe. Mouthfeel is fairly creamy though this is more lively/carbonated than barrel narwhal. This beer can be warmed up to cellar temperature and it stays delicious, with the coffee character showing up more as it rises from the fridge like its namesake whale.

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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 ;)

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Photo of jondeelee
4.45/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Narwhal opens to a thick, black aroma bursting with ash, coffee, tobacco, and black malt, but these supported by an equally thick layer of heavy cream and caramel. Anise and black pepper dance in the background, adding spicy notes, joined by black breads, yeasty wheat dough, and toast crust. A reveille of dark fruit esters – fig, date, prune, black cherry – joins with blackstrap molasses and cocoa to add a layer of deep sugars, and the hops bring grapefruit rind, pine, pink grapefruit, and light hints of dandelion stem to form a bitter, citrusy buzz that nicely complements the sugars. Though the beer is not barrel aged, there’s a charcoal-and-vanilla bourbon-like undertone as well, adding delicious alcoholic liquor aromas to the mix. On the whole, the aroma is fantastic, being rich, fruity, black, hoppy, ashy, and bourbon-y, offering pretty much everything one could wish for in an Imperial Stout; the only way to improve this would be to actually bourbon barrel-age it.

On the tongue, the beer starts off black, and then gets even blacker, with massive waves of ash, coffee grounds, semi-burnt cocoa, black malt, and tobacco rushing across the tastebuds. Though these dark layers never let up, they are met after a time by a good layer of vanilla-soaked heavy cream, and a nice fruity layer of figs, dates, and prunes. Burnt pecans, toast crust, and heavy black breads add further earthiness, deepening the complexity. In subsequent sips the bourbon-like vanilla-and-charcoal notes gain more ground, adding alcoholic goodness to the mix. Hops are less present here than they were in the nose, but do add pine resin and grapefruit rind, creating some bitterness. The aftertaste is a continuation of the ashy notes, with sugars hanging on for all they’re worth, and at least the ash lingers on the tongue for a very long time. Mouthfeel is medium, and carbonation is medium.

Overall, this is a fantastic Imperial Stout, though it should be noted that it’s not for the faint of heart. This is mostly due to the tobacco ash and black malt notes, since at times they were so powerful that I felt like I had a mouthful of cigar smoke – especially in the aftertaste. But for fans of the style, there’s really not much else one could want in this beer, except perhaps some barrel aging. I did find the mouthfeel more watery than I would have expected, but almost everything else in here is excellent. Well worth trying.

 2,440 characters

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 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.

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Photo of VashonGuy
4.14/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12/2014 bottle into a tulip.

Dark, dark, dark. Not much of a head, nor much lacing. Aroma is milder than the flavor, which is big and bold. The flavor is classic RIS generally, with a little bit of hoppiness, and a fair bit of sweetness on the back end. The 10% ABV is pretty apparent, not in a bad way.

This is a huge beer, just what an RIS should be.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of CraigP83
4.36/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown almost black, this head has a chocolate color. Roasted barley or malt odor, not much else "pops". Burnt coffee taste gives way to nice roasted malts you also get some bitterness like you would from dark chocolate.

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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.

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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.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,972 ratings.
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