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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

For Trade:
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Reviews: 889 | Ratings: 4,927
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?

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Photo of FBarber
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours pitch black. Oily with a one finger khaki head that dissipates leaving a ring of foam around the outside.

Smell has aromas of roasted malts, prunes, raisins, slight boozy character. Slight undertones of milk chocolate.

Taste follows the nose with a savory array of prunes, raisins, roasted malts and chocolate. Slight spice to the beer with a bitter finish. The beer is sweet, but not overly so. There is a slight boozy aftertaste that is reminiscent of a barrel aged beer. Very nice.

Very smooth feel on this one, almost buttery. Bit of carbonation provides an initial tingle on the mouth. Slight boozy tingle at the end. Wee bit thin in the feel, but not distractingly so.

Overall a top notch imperial stout. Love the more savory flavor of this one.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of CTbrew32
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance- 2013 bottle cap. Pitch black with a slightly mocha head. One finger head poured with no angle.

Aroma- Big notes of sweet milk chocolate and some dark fruit and roasted aromas as well.

Taste- Not far off from the nose with big roast malts at the front followed by milk chocolate and slight bit of dark fruit. A little hoppy and dry as well.

Feel- As noted before this is a little dry, but pleasant and very drinkable. A slight warming is noticeable at the back end.

Overall- Great imperial stout with nice roasted malts and sweet chocolate balancing each other out. Only downfall to me is the roast/coffee malts linger at the end which I could do without. Definitely worth picking up again. (90/100)

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Photo of superdedooperboy
4.02/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Celebrating International Stout Day the right way. 12-ounce brown glass bottle poured into a Duvel-branded tulip glass. Served at approximately 45 degrees F.

Pours pitch black -- this thing isn't letting any light through. A small one-fingered head of mocha foam rises up and falls away just as quickly as it came. It settles to a thin cap on the surface of the brew, leaving behind a nice webbing of lace on the walls of the glass as it empties.

Roasty and chocolaty on the nose, with notes of chocolate-covered cherries and currants making their way into the mix. Rich, decadent and inviting.

Delving in, the most noticeable quality is the mouthfeel -- this stout is thick, smooth and creamy on the tongue, gliding over like silk, followed up by a light prickly carbonation that wipes it all away.

Fairly sweet in the opening, with an intense deep malt character taking hold. Chocolate, molasses, burnt toffee file in, followed in the middle by roasty espresso notes. Here, some citrusy hope notes actually find their way into the fray around the edges, but they dissolve into the rich mix just as they become perceptible. Espresso and bitter dark chocolate fall into the rear, mingling with some dark pit fruit before falling away into a bit of booziness. The alcohol warmth carries into the finish, which is rather dry and punctuated by lingering notes of dark chocolate and black cherry.

An exceptional Imperial Stout overall, with a succulent mouthfeel that is perhaps its best quality. Nothing outlandish here, just solid Imperial Stout as it should be. Why Sierra Nevada took so long to release a beer like this is beyond me, but it displays all of the attributes of quality brewing that the brewery is known for, and will undoubtedly become a quick favorite for cellaring and general wintry imbibing.

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Photo of jpro
3.98/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz single picked up from Total Wine. Poured into tulip...

A: Pours with an ink-like blackness; two-finger mocha head leaves a ring of retention and few short-lived strands of lace; looks pretty bold.

S: Deep, dark, roasted malt; dark chocolate; coffee notes; sweet.

T: Bitter, charred malt; dark chocolate / chocolate syrup; chicory on end; pretty big oily hop finish.

M: Medium-full mouthfeel; high carbonation with some zing; not quite as full or as slick I'd like in an imperial stout.

O: A very nice Russian imperial stout from Sierra Nevada; is this a new seasonal? a one off? Interesting as its kind of out of nowhere. Big and bold and somewhat reminiscent of Old Rasputin - that's what it initially reminded me of, at least. A good beer, even with the slightly off mouthfeel. I'd have another - maybe on a cold winter night!

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

Split a 4 pack with my brother in law. Always excited to try a new imperial stout. This one was somewhat of a disappointment though.

The pour into the glass was very dark but not as thick as some of the better imperial stouts. As was mentioned in many of the reviews on this site, the smell was of alcohol with some roasted malts in the background. The taste was very similar to the smell and unfortunately the alcohol taste masked what could be a very good imperial stout with some chocolate, dark fruit and malts hiding behind the alcohol burn.

I have another bottle of this. Perhaps with some age on it, the alcohol taste will die down a bit leaving behind a much better beer.

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Photo of toppoop
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - Aggressive pour into a snifter yielded a mighty head which shrunk down to a thin layer over the top. Slight lacing throughout.
S - Chocolate and booze dominate the nose with a touch of coffee and molasses.
T - Dark chocolate hits first with the booze to follow which clings to the palate for some time after a taste. A touch of bitterness at the end.
M - Very nice. Full and silky, clings to mouth and stays for some time. Very balanced carb as well.
O - Very good RIS. Think I'm really gonna enjoy this a lot more after some time in the cellar.

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Photo of horshack7
4.59/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: It's down right black as the night sky. The head is light brown and is about one finger thick.

Aroma: Vanilla bean, light alcohol notes, charred wood, subtle yeasty bits. Traces of dark fruits, citrus and black licorice.

Taste: Dark roasted hops and chocolate malts, milk and dark chocolate notes. Espresso, vanilla bean, charred wood. Quite the silky smooth mouthfeel.

Notes: Rather a hefty beer very good for a cold night. Cheers.

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Photo of SteveB24
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%

just tried this beer for the first time since my earliest days of craft beer drinking.
color is black as night with a finger of frothy brown head. lots of lacing on the side of the glass.
aroma is sweet and malty, with notes of molasses, coffee, dark fruit, with a mildly boozy finish.
lots of rich malt flavor, biscuit, slight maple syrupy taste, coffee in there too, with some deep woody notes. not too sweet. texture is full bodied, slightly oily, surprisingly carbonated.
overall this is an excellent representative of the style. delicious. perfect for cold nights.
the ten percent abv is barely noticeable, drinks dangerously smooth.

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Photo of GreatStoutman
4.29/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2015 bottle pours black with lively, deep khaki head. Leaves no lacing.

Smell is sweet malts, cocoa and bitter coffee. Taste follows, in that order, with a thick body. Nice and chewy.

Overall, this is a really smooth drinking RIS with almost perfect balance and an excellent layer of flavors. No heat, but a hint of the booze toward the close.

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

Black pour with cinnamon tan head; thick cap and fairly thick lace; no clarity under cap. Roast malt and coffee bean nose. Flavors of bittersweet dark chocolate, roast malt and roast coffee. Medium plus mouthfeel; semi creamy tongue coating; moderate carbonation. Excellent roast malt linger; alcohol well hidden.

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

P: Super black body with a glisten of mahogany at the bottom of the glass. A dollop of creamy espresso froth that dwindles to a bubbly crown. Retention is nice and leaves thick micro bubble lacing that sloshes around the edge. The melted Dutch chocolate ice cream like head never seems to leave.

S: Rich roasty malts, bakers chocolate, burnt molasses, dark coffee beans, sawdust, sweet whisky mash, smoked grain and salted cashews.

T/M: Sweet burnt molasses, milk and bitter chocolate, charred grains, dirty wood, spicy booze with earthy and pine resin hops in the background. Coffee, black pepper, and sweet figs round out the multitude of malty layers. Full creamy but oily body with spicy carbonation.

O: A mystical adventure for your mouth. Super complex and ever changing this brew delivers amazing results. This is a beer of myth and legend that lives up to its magical name. Cheers!

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Photo of RaulMondesi
3.99/5  rDev -3.6%

Kind of like shamu doing the backstroke, I'd put this just a tick below "outstanding," status, but just barely. It's sumo status, but it's more like a featherweight sumo. A bit too light, a bit too lackluster... It has all those nice chocolate, toffee, rich notes that any player would like in a stout, but it's a bit thin and insipid.

Close, but, well, half of the cigar, I guess.

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

12 oz bottle poured into Delirium tremens snifter.

A: Dark tan creamy head with medium lacing when swirled. Head mostly dissipated to a thin film in about a minute or two. Dark but clear and medium carbonation.

S: Dark brown sugar, dark roasted malt, chocolate and some dark fruits like raisins and figs as well.

T: Wow, I had to double check the abv because this is so smooth... Very drinkable. Light roastyness, not as sweet as the aroma, fruitiness is not very present as well. Good dark roasted character with some well balanced dark chocolate bitterness that lingers with just a tad bit of alcohol presence at the end. Great beer with just enough sweetness to balance it out but not a syrupy mess at all. Does not feel like its as big as it is.

M: Medium bodied and drinkable. Slight roasty sweetness at the beginning with a nice bitterness in the middle and finishes with a great alcohol dark chocolate mix.

O: Can't believe its a 10.2 % beer, first sip seemed like I was drinking a nice smooth roasty chocolaty oatmeal stout. Will be buying this again, especially for its price. Definitely a hard choice between this and Old Raspy... Need to do a side by side but highly recommend this beer. Prime example of why Sierra Nevada is as great as they are.

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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 greyghost86
4.94/5  rDev +19.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

As close to a perfect imperial stout that I have had. Beautiful dark coffee appearance. Dark tastes of chocolate, coffee, and hints of smoke. This is a brew you can chew. Love it!

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Photo of ddedhed
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Beautiful black, with a thick dark tan head, which leaves nice lacing. Smell is chocolate sweet with a whiff of hops. Taste is chocolate, smooth roast, slight licorice, some dark fruit, and roasted, bitter finish. Defintiely some booze noticable. Mouthfeel is thick, yet soft and smooth. Overall, I really like this a lot. Very nice sipper.

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Photo of atr2605
3.53/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A-poured black with a tan head with nice lacing
S-roasted coffee, licorice, unsweetened cocoa
T-lots of roasted coffee flavors mixed with licorice and finishes with unsweetened chocolate
M-full bodied and low carbonation
O-Not a bad brew, honestly not my favorite for the style, booze is pretty apparent. Interesting to try

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Photo of StoutItOutLoud
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2013 vintage. 12-oz poured to tulip. Consumed 2-20-2014.

Thick and viscous. Opaque black; large, frothy, 3-finger mocha head. Decent alcohol legs coating the glass. There's a cap holding out.

dark roast coffee; grassy hops; baker's chocolate. wish there was more dark fruit here

one dimensional - dark chocolate-hops roastiness. alcohol less noticeable than ten fidy

well-carbonated. medium mouthfeel.

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Photo of craftbeersweden
4.24/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pitch black, clear liquid with a beigebrown, fluffy, two finger high head that leaves a lot of lacing on the glass.

Nose: Red fruit, coffe, roasted malt, chocolate and spice.
Taste: A really great, hoppy, taste! Newly brewed coffee, chocolate, roasted malt, brown sugar and pine.
Medium body with just a little carbonation. Almoust no taste of alcohol, and it's 10.2 % ABV!

Great work Sierra Nevada!

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Photo of BigCheese
4.52/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle. About 2.5 months old. Served a bit below room temp.

A: Pours straight black, a thin but thick light brown head forms and sticks around for a few minutes. No real laving.

S: MMM. Dark Coco, espresso, raisins, maybe some vanilla. Pretty aromatic out of the bottle, enticing.

T: Not as viscous as I would have thought. A mix of dark coco nibs and espesso, some vanilla oak and maybe even coconut. Some caramel maltiness linges on palate. There seems to be some substantial hops trying to fight through, cascade perhaps, something with a very slight hint of pine. Primarily chocolate, with some cherries and honey too. A little bit of heat, but not much.

M: Super thick mouthfeel. Real chewy, very heavy, very creamy. One of the richest bodied beers I've ever had. Low carbonation.

O: A really smooth velvety brew, definitely well executed, I'd love to see how this ages. A great sipper to have on a cold winter night. Probably the best value RIS I've had to date. I will have to buy this again to drink and cellar. Try it if you can, a real winner from SN.

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Photo of Premo88
4.36/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle poured into "stout glass" (tulip)
Oct. 17, 2013 born-on date

L: motor oil black that percolates like nothing I've seen short of a nitro -- the beer looks like it's not going to form a head, then from almost nowhere, the layer just under the surface starts to spin and cycle and pop and explode into a full inch of the thickest head of tan foam, and it sticks in classic Sierra Nevada fashion. wow! the brew might actually be 100% clear -- the very bottom appears so and shows dark, dark red -- but good luck passing light through this thing. black black with just a hint of dark brown around the edges and a constant tan collar ringing the surface.

S: huge everything -- BOOZE, chocolate, coffee, wine/grapes ... fully-roasted barley ... maybe a bit of oak -- and this thing is still almost ice cold. you can't mistake it for a pale ale, that's for sure. the boozy smell here is mostly like vodka, almost even gin more than whiskey, but it's not off-putting or medicinal.

T: oh, my ... similar notes as in the nose but in a different order: the alcohol doesn't show up until the afterburn, whereas the booziness seems to hit first on the nose. big dark malt extravaganza -- chocolate, coffee again with some definite oak-wood thrown in. very interesting and both classic and different; the notes seem to hit just a bit different tune from other big stouts I've tried, especially with the oak and the fact that so far nothing here tastes burnt. starting to detect a massive hop presence ... yes ... there's a bitter hop bite trying to chew threw all of this malt. and it's having some luck. wow! hard for me to tell what these hops taste like other than bitter, but they are really balancing out the quaff.

F: full. enough carbonation to make it drinkable, but silky and full.

O: it's a lot, and it's good. everything you could ask for from a Russian Imperial Stout, ABV included. i'm not the biggest fan of high ABV brews, but this brew is so full of the sweeter dark malts I love that it's perfect for sipping.

and I can tell aging it is going to be fun. in fact, I'll be off to the store soon to get at least another four-pack for *next* winter.

aging this brew is going to be fun.

three months of aging in the bottle has just barely tamed this beast. it's still relatively boozy, but it doesn't seem to be as big a bother as other boozy stouts.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.14 out of 5 based on 4,927 ratings.
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