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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel AgedNarwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.90%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
This deliciously dark treat is our bold Narwhal Imperial Stout aged in oak Kentucky bourbon barrels. Black as midnight, this intense stout is incredibly complex with notes of dark chocolate, rich roasted grains, and espresso seamlessly blended with hints of vanilla and toasted coconut with a slight touch of honey from aging in the oak spirit casks. Nearly as rare as its nautical namesake, try it out while you can because, like the creature itself, it will disappear into the blackness soon and leave nary a trace behind.

Additional Info:
Narwhal was aged for 8 months in fresh bourbon barrels (a combination of Willett single barrel, Heaven Hill and various Beam brands).

ABV: 12.9
IBU’s: 62
Bittering Hops: Challenger
Malts: Two-row Pale, Caramel, Chocolate, Honey, Carafa III, Roasted Barley

Added by BeerAdvocate on 01-11-2013

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Reviews: 260 | Ratings: 1,755
Photo of jasonpeckins32
4.45/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours dead black in color. A small, greyish colored head fizzles around the top. The foam isn't as dark as I'd expect considering the style and how black the beer is.

Aroma of roasted malts and coffee with some notes of oak and bourbon. You can tell it's barrel aged just by smelling it.

It's flavor is of roasted malts, subtle bourbon and oak, dark chocolate, and leather. It has a soft mouthfeel with mild carbonation.

Full bodied, but clearly not the biggest mouthfeel I've gotten from a RIS. It's almost like the barrel aging process toned its mouthfeel back a notch from the original Narwhal product.

Definitely a great beer, and one I wouldn't mind trying again.

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Photo of SHODriver
4.5/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Poured into a snifter to a thick black beer topped by a finger of dense tan head that fades quickly to a collar around the edge of the glass with minimal lacing
S: Smells of fudgy dark chocolate, espresso, caramel, vanilla and oak from the barrel.
T: Taste is dark chocolate covered espresso beans with some roasted malts, caramel, vanilla and oak with a little charred wood and smoke. There are some hints of dark fruits at times as well. Swallow is cocoa powder, espresso and more barrel notes with some more caramel, vanilla and oak. Nice smoke and char toward the end as well.
M: This one is big and silky in the mouth with soft but adequate carbonation and a dry finish.

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Photo of ChazMania
4.27/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Liquid glory! Motor oil darkness with one finger dark full head. For 12.9%, this was seductive and smooth. Shared with my brother who thought it was one of the more outrageous beers he had ever tried. The barrel notes are not over the top, just a good hint of bourbon (not as strong as say Abyss).

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Photo of FBarber
4.35/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours pitch black, with a thin mocha colored head. Head has decent retention. Appears viscous on the pour and to the eye.

Smell is chocolatey, roasted malts, bourbon, oak, hints of vanilla, marshmallow and coconut.

Taste had notes of chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla, marshmallow, coconut. A touch sweet, but not cloying. Nice strong barrel character with hints of bourbon and oak. Strong and prominent but never overpowering the base beer. Rich and decadent.

Feel was decently viscous, mild carbonation, smooth and velvety.

Overall one of the better BA russian imperial stouts out there. A must try.

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Photo of Beers-es
4.41/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2015 bottle opened today...looks pretty darn black, with a half-inch of dark tan foam. Smell is wonderfully complex, and the barrel aspect is very well integrated with the rest of the beer. Bourbon and vanilla notes mingle with chocolate and a kaleidoscope of dark fruits. Taste is all that, with the addition of some coffee flavors. Almost no alcohol flavor. Sweetness is very well balanced with a bit of bitterness.

Feel is a medium-plus, very drinkable. A wonderful BA RIS.

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Photo of Franziskaner
3.94/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black as night with no light penetration and a fingernail of Brown on top. I smell sweet bourbon and marshmallow. I taste sweet bourbon and roasted barley. The mouth is th hick,chewy,and has warming sensation from the alcohol.

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Photo of Bulabeers
5/5  rDev +16%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

L: Black with a nice finger of brown head. Light lacing as you drink.
S: Bourbon chocolate oak coconut vanilla
T: Chocolate bourbon oak roasted malt
F: Full bodied imperial stout
O: This can hang with the best barrel aged imperial stouts. Great beer.

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Photo of BucannonXC5
4.07/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Type: 750-ml bottle
Glass: AleSmith Barrel-Aged Reserve snifter glass
From: Costco in Mission Valley (San Diego), Calif.
Price: $12.97
Purchased: Feb. 25, 2016
Consumed: June 17, 2016
Misc.: Bottled in October 2015; Cork and cage top

Reviewed this base Narwhal almost three years ago and thought it was very good, but nothing special. But when you’re wife calls to see if you want the barrel-aged version for a discount price at a Costco, you instasay yes.

Poured an almost pitch black color with 1-to-2 fingers of tan, frothy head, which thinned out quickly. Rather serene setting underneath the head. Good, spotty lacing. Average retention. (Sight - 3.75)

Smelled a very nice mix of rich, dark chocolate and smooth bourbon to start. Also toffee, caramel, cocoa, chocolate syrup, hints of toasted oak, light coconut, vanilla and dark espresso. A tad boozy on the nose late. Very nice though. (Smell - 4.25)

Taste was not as refined as I had hoped. Initially got cocoa, toffee, chocolate and caramel, all finishing with a long warming feel. Also smooth buttery bourbon, vanilla, espresso, toasted coconut flakes, woody notes, crayon, fudge, toasted molasses, hints of tobacco and faint red wine (the kind with heavy tobacco notes). Kind of boozy, but not quite 12.9 percent boozy. (Taste - 4.00)

Full body. Creamy-to-sticky texture. Average carbonation. Long, semi-boozy finish. (Feel - 4.25)

This was very good, but not as good as I hoped. Can’t quite put my finger what was missing. Would have it again though. (Overall - 4.00)

4.07 | 91 | A-

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Photo of ccg
4.35/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2015 Vintage, poured into a small Founders snifter.

Look: Jet black with minimal head. Pours thick-looking with a tiny ring of bubbles around the edge. Nice bit of lacing and very thick legs. 4.25

Smell: Oak, vanilla, coconut, and cherry cola. Some roasted malt but mostly sweet, syrupy goodness. It smells like something I should be pouring over a bowl of vanilla-bean ice cream. 4.25

Taste: More oak, vanilla, coconut, and cherry, but also a nice layer of cocoa powder. Little bit of smoky roasted malt on the finish. There's just a hint of a bitter bite at the end from some hops, and that helps keep it from being too sweet. I find the base Narwhal stout to be too bitter, but in barrel-aged form, it is perfectly balanced. Excellent. 4.5

Feel: Nice chewy viscosity, sticky and mouth-coating. So good. 4.25

Overall: Possibly the best BBA stout that you don't have to wait in line or buy tickets to get. 4.25

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Photo of bluejacket74
4.34/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750 ml caged and corked bottle, 2015 vintage. 092215 is stamped on the bottle so I'm assuming that's the bottling date. Served in a DFH snifter, the beer pours dark brown/black with about an inch tan head. The head stayed around for a while, and there's a decent amount of lacing. The brew smells like bourbon, vanilla, coffee, roasted malt, woodiness, and some bittersweet chocolate. For the most part I think the taste is pretty much just like the aroma, but there's also the addition of some coconut and molasses. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's coating and creamy with a moderate amount of carbonation. It's easy enough to drink for a 12.9% ABV beer. I thought it was a pretty good imperial stout, I wouldn't mind drinking a bottle of this again. Definitely worth a try if you've never had it before. $20.99 a bottle.

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Photo of stortore
4.36/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

750 ml bottle, the 2015 edition, into a snifter. Had on 3/5/16.

Pours a dark brown, opaque, with a small head and some foamy lacing. Smell brings malt, bourbon, vanilla, some chocolate and cocoa, caramel. The taste also leads with the malt, vanilla, less bourbon than the nose, oak, chocolate, some caramel. Great flavor. Smooth, creamy, well carbonated.

Well blended, lots of flavor. Didn't pick up the coconut that many people have, in either the aroma or flavor, though. Remember this as having a decent price point, too. Well worth a purchase, looking forward to the 2016 issue.

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Photo of zonker17
4.26/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Draft pour to snifter. Small ring of tan bubbles on the edge on very dark brown liquid. Faint nose of roast malt, coffee, treacle, some wood. On the sweet side, vanilla, tannin, caramel, wood. Not getting any bourbon here. Heavy feel and light carbonation.

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Photo of davidperez
4.33/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Served in a snifter, this beer is indeed dark as midnight.
It forms a one-finger head, dark brown, with excellent retention given the style. This is the BA IS with the most head retention I've seen so far.
The head leaves a ring of foam that decorates the rim of the glass.
Swirling the glass reveals an excellent lacing and alcohol legs.

Intense, deep and scrumptious bouquet.
Huge oak and coconut. Dark chocolate, charred wood, vanilla, bourbon, and coffee. Some roasted malts, caramel and a slight spiciness.

The flavor follows the nose.
While chilled, upfront a high carbonation for the style. Let this warm a bit and almost no discernible carbonation will be detected, which IMO is preferable for the style.
Coconut, oak, roasted malts, vanilla and molasses.
Huge chocolate and bourbon. The bourbon is prominent, and it actually makes this beer hot, though not to the point of being unpleasant.
The aftertaste is hot and full of chocolate and bourbon.
Full body, thick mouthfeel.

This is probably the hottest BA IS I've tasted so far, yet it is outstanding, scrumptious, and I prefer this over some others I've had so far. The barrel characteristics are so infused in this beer that it's like you're drinking the barrel itself.

 1,244 characters

Photo of DaveBar
4.3/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Got on trade! 750ml bottle served at 10deg C in a tulip

A- Opens well and pours a tiny 1/4" high light brown head that is gone in seconds. Very dark brown colour.

S- Lots of coconut and malt here.

T- Light bourbon. Chocolate. Malt. Moderately complex. Has a nice body and depth to it. Not great but very good.

M- Creamy going down.

O- Nice brew. Not great nor worth cellaring but worth a try once. After that it's take it or leave it. So many other great examples out there. Will not buy

Food Pairing

This nice brew went well with (only because the bourbon is so low)...... Roast pork shoulder sprinkled with all seasoning then low and slow at 250deg F for 3.5hrs or so on a 4lb roast.


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Photo of champ103
4.15/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Have had a few times, most recently on tap at Hay Merchant in Houston, TX.

A: Pours a near opaque black color. A dense two finger tan head forms with good retention and excellent lace.
S: Big oak and wood aromas. Dark chocolate and vanilla, coffee. Light roast and toasted malts. Really inviting and very balanced at the same time.
T: The barrel is very good here. Oak/wood with vanilla and dark chocolate flavors. A bit of warming alcohol, but still really balanced. Light roast and toasted malts, bitter chocolate lingers.
M/O: A big full body with good carbonation. Silky smooth. Just a bit of warming alcohol, but instead of being a detriment, it just becomes more welcoming. Wich is all the ore impressive because of the big ABV. So easy to drink and very enjoyable.

Like most everything from Sierra Nevada, this is exactly what they wanted to make. On top of that, really well done and really enjoyable to drink. An all around well done, big barrel aged imperial stout.

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Photo of corby112
4.38/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pitch black and completely opaque without a trace of lighter color when held to a light source. Two finger frothy beige head that quickly settles into a thick, lasting ring. Impressive retention for style and ABV lingering for most of the pour. Streaks of soapy lace are left clinging to the glass.

Intense aroma with strong barrel character nicely integrated into the complex malt bill of the base. Prominent oak stave presence but not overly charred or burnt. Spicy spirit with deeply toasted coconut, silky mallow and vanilla bean sweetness. Underneath, there's a nice balance of roast and lighter dark malt sweetness. Robust dark malts with lightly charred toast, light smoke, gourmet coffee bean and bitter dark chocolate. This is nicely countered by decadent dessert-like sweetness. Silky, luscious chocolate cake, caramel Samoa cookie, mounds bar, toffee and tootsie roll. Very complex yet well balanced and inviting.

Full chewy and viscous mouthfeel with a prominent barrel presence that's nicely integrated into the robust roast and lighter malt sweetness of the base beer. More oak than I usually prefer but it's really nice here complimenting the deeply roasted dark malt flavors. Dry deeply charred oak stave with strong spicy bourbon flavor. Awesome spirit spirit presence without much heat. Toasted coconut and subtle vanilla/mallow sweetness that opens as it warns. These flavors along with the sweeter dark malt notes really bring out the mounds bar/German chocolate cake/Samoa cookie dessert-like flavors. Underneath the barrel, there's some deeply roasted dark malt flavor with burnt toast, oatmeal, bitter dark cacao and gourmet coffee/espresso giving off hints of dark fruit and roasted nut. The roasted flavors are perfectly countered by silky dessert like sweetness. Hints of bakers chocolate, flourless chocolate cake, fudgey molten lava cake, caramel, hazelnut and delicate vinous dark fruits. Just a really great complex and well balanced BA stout with a near invisible ABV making it deceptively drinkable.

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Photo of Uscjojo
4.41/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours black with very small head. Smell is bourbon chocolate vanilla an coffee. Taste is bourbon vanilla chocolate, quite pleasant. Good stout for 12.9%. I will definitely be trying out their 10% to compare.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.64/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

750ml bottle into snifter.

A: Pours a deep cola brown, near black, with a thin dark brown film. Spotty and wispy lace.
S: Sweet and sticky nose with complex and smooth notes of caramel, leather, vanilla, toasted marshmallow, and chocolate fudge. Lightly boozy.
T: . Bourbon, leather, and chocolate dominate, leaf tobacco and sticky caramel follow, slight vanilla, and toasted marshmallow finish. Bourbon is sweet and lightly spicy, followed with flavors of leather, chocolate and vanilla. Roast in the finish. Very thick and potent. No peat, no anise. Super buttery barrel in the aftertaste along with some lingering sweet caramel.
M: Big full robust body, thick mouthfeel, light alcohol warmth, low carbonation. Smooth. A potent sipper that's super flavorful, integrated, and smooth.
O: A masterful barrel aged stout. The base beer is amazing and the barrel treatment melds to perfection. One of the better and underrated BA stouts out there.

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Photo of B33rN3rd
4.48/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I was on an Arctic adventure, searching for something new. I had heard there were Narwhals to be seen, but actually doing that was only granted to a select few. So we set out into the blustery smashing waves and blustery wind and on the tenth day, we saw her in all her glory. With her beautiful dark flesh she set off frothy, chocolatey waves as she splashed and turned. I'll have to admit she didn't smell like much on the first sight, but when we snagged her and pulled her into the boat, and she was allowed to warm in the sun, hints of sweet toffee and earthly barrel rang through. We thanked her for letting us see her in the wild, and asked her to dine with us. She did, and with notes of vanilla, espresso, and coconut, she was absolutely decadent. Of course she wooed us with class. However, there was just enough hoppy bitterness undertone to let us know she had seen a thing or two in the ocean. She was of the 2015 vintage, and hiding under the waves for almost 8 months had done her well. We made a friend that day, and even though we released her back into the wild, we told her we'd be back to see her again, year after year.

 1,143 characters

Photo of Victory_Sabre1973
4.21/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Nice dark color. Minimal head. The nose has tones of coffee and chocolate. It is very rich in flavor. Dark. Deep. It's got chocolate and coffee taste. Delicious.

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Photo of GOBLIN
4.34/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Mmm . . . Darn good beer ! BA Narwhal is a respectable stout but hardly mentioned as elite. Well, you'd be hard pressed to find a more well crafted and smooth BA stout above 12%. Seriously . . . Big, bold, roasty as well as warm and I couldn't help but almost chug this beer. Well done beer !

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Photo of EMH73
4.24/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours black with a half inch dark brown head, well retained and virtually no lacing. Smells of bourbon, oak, and chocolate. Taste is of dark chocolate, bourbon, oak, espresso and vanilla. Heavy bodied with very light carbonation, very dry finish. Overall an excellent beer that I believe will get better with aging.

 318 characters

Photo of jrenihan
4.15/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Taste is exactly what you would expect: bourbon and oak upfront, with chocolate and coffee flavours close behind. A bit hot, though not unpleasantly so. Full bodied and moderately carbonated, it drinks very well considering the ABV. A very nice barrel-aged imperial stout, though not one of the best.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4.25/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle: Poured a pitch-black color stout with a large dark brown foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of nice dark chocolate notes with some bourbon and vanilla notes. Taste is a great mix of black chocolate notes with some roasted malt notes and some bourbon notes and vanilla. Body is full with good carbonation with some light warming notes of alcohol. Not bad but I was expecting even more complexity.

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Photo of larryarms847
4.39/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a silky motor oil black with a nice half finger of medium brown foam.

Espresso, roasty, toasted coconut, dark chocolate, vanilla, oak, and subtle bourbon sweetness.

The aroma translates well into the flavor, huge roasted coffee/espresso, dark bitter chocolate, toasted coconut/vanilla cream, and subtle barrel notes.

Heavy-bodied, low carbonation, slick, semi-chewy, a tad thin for my taste.

Overall, this beer's aroma and flavor are outstandingly balanced and complex. My only beef with this beer is that with a BBA stout I'd like a little motor thickness and chewiness in the mouthfeel, but a truly outstanding beer overall.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.31 out of 5 based on 1,755 ratings.
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