Barrel-Aged Narwhal
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Barrel-Aged NarwhalBarrel-Aged Narwhal
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Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #65
Ranked #960
4.33 | pDev: 8.31%
Nov 26, 2022
Jan 11, 2013
Barrel-Aged NarwhalBarrel-Aged Narwhal
Notes: 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
Recent ratings and reviews. | Log in to view more ratings + sorting options.
Photo of stcules
Reviewed by stcules from Italy

3.97/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25
Black, oily. A veil of foam.
Intense smell, chocolate, note of bourbon. Vanilla, wood.
Intense, sweet, strong.
Hidden alcohol, full taste.
A bit forward (bourbon barrel), but hey.
Pleasant, challenging, good.
Nov 26, 2022
Rated: 4.29 by LunchMoney from Minnesota

Nov 04, 2022
Photo of dbrauneis
Reviewed by dbrauneis from North Carolina

4.4/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
A: Pours an opaque yet still clear thick jet black in color with moderate amounts of active visible carbonation rising along the edges of the glass and faint dark amber + dark chestnut brown + dark cola brown colored highlights. The beer has a three finger tall sudsy foamy dark tan head that slowly reduces to a handful of medium sized patches of medium thick film surrounded by a large patch of thin film covering the remainder of the surface of the beer. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of rich dark chocolate + espresso as well as bourbon + vanilla + caramel + toasted oak over the top of slightly stronger than moderate aromas of roasted + dark + chocolate + toasted + lightly charred malts with a moderate amount of caramel + molasses sweetness.

T: Upfront there are slightly stronger than moderate flavors of roasted + dark + chocolate + toasted + lightly charred malts with a moderate amount of caramel + molasses sweetness. That is followed by moderate to strong flavors of rich dark chocolate + espresso. Finally there are just shy of strong flavors of bourbon + toasted oak along with moderate flavors of vanilla + caramel.

M: Full bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Smooth with a light too moderate amount of alcohol warming in the finish,

O: Drinks quite easily considering the strength and the alcohol is well hidden except for the warming in the finish and a nice smooth mouthfeel. Very enjoyable with lots of flavors and aromas imparted from the barrel aging as well as lots of complexity from the malt profile and the base beer. Excellent.
Nov 04, 2022
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Reviewed by AZgman from Arizona

3.76/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75
Wow! This is a strong beer, both in taste and alcohol. If you don't like bourbon, skip this one. If you do, then this will be heavenly. Definitely, the polar opposite of Guinness. (which I love)
Nov 02, 2022
Rated: 4.4 by HopBelT from Belgium

Oct 27, 2022
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Reviewed by LucidoMMA from California

4.5/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
Pours midnight black with a two finger soapy, pillowy head.

Smells heavily of bourbon and dark chocolate.
Heavy taste of dark chocolate with notes of espresso in the back. The bitr starts in the mid and continues to the finish. A delicious full bodied Stout. Leaves heavy sticky lacing.
Oct 15, 2022
Rated: 4.62 by MacStinson from Michigan

Oct 10, 2022
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Reviewed by Brutaltruth from Ohio

4.42/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5
From the 16 oz can in a snifter. This monster pours a dark obsidian with a
very nice head of brown foam that settles to a thick ring, thin layer, and sports
some excellent lacing. Nose of dark roasted coffee, oak, bourbon, vanilla, char,
dark bakers cocoa, and molasses. Flavors hit the marks with black strap
molasses, bakers cocoa, espresso, vinous notes, bourbon, oak, vanilla,
rich char, deep roast, and spicy hops amongst the booze notes. Of note
dark fruit notes of raspberry and blackberry show with warmth. Nice mouth
feel; full body, smooth, lightly slick, coating, and finishing warm and with a
nice bitter malt finish.

Overall---more excellence from a great brewery!

Sep 23, 2022
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Reviewed by Luscious_Malfoy from Illinois

4.28/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25
poured from a 16oz can into a CW snifter. pours a dark brown but gathers in the glass a shiny black with less than a finger of mocha brown foam. heavy bourbon, baker’s chocolate, roasted malts, roasted coffee and a touch of raisin. taste follows with a big splash of bourbon, chocolate and roasted coffee. the dark fruits are kept in check by the bourbon which also gives it a sweet and spicy aspect. thick, full mouthfeel. perfectly carbed. this is old(er) school with less chocolatey sweetness and more roasted malts, coffee, oak and bittersweet chocolate. excellent BA RIS.
Sep 18, 2022
Rated: 4.65 by joran from Kansas

Sep 13, 2022
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Reviewed by highdesertdrinker from Arizona

4.5/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
I haven’t had this in a while and didn’t rate it so here we go: the pour is ebony liquid with a nice tan head and good carbonation. Smells like vanilla, alcohol, and bourbon. The taste is vanilla, bourbon barrel, chocolate and enough hop to counter the roasty malts. This packs some heat but it’s a nice, fairly complex sipper and a great bargain for the 4 packs in pint cans, cheers!
Sep 04, 2022
Rated: 4.5 by TheDoak from Florida

Jul 22, 2022
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Reviewed by HardTarget from Texas

4.63/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5
Appearance: Black glass, opaque, holds a thin cover of very dark brown foam that laces the glass.

Aroma: Sweet dark malt, hints of whiskey soaked barrel, roasted barley.

Taste: Roasted barley, barrel char, flash of pine or citric hop before a dump truck of dark malt toffee sweetness rolls through. Finish gives a bit of the whiskey barrel heat.

Mouthfeel: Heavy body, very low carbonation, warming oily finish, smooth texture, big chew.

Overall: Sweet beer, both literally and figuratively. A lot of big bold flavors that compliment each other for an easy drinking package. Big one, can feel the warmth and caloric intake, wish it came in smaller cans, just need to share it with someone, or make it an all day sipper. It's Narwhal dialed up to 11.
Jul 05, 2022
Photo of nizzle8287
Reviewed by nizzle8287 from Texas

4.61/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75
Canned on 12/20/2021; 16 oz poured into a snifter at 50F. Pours pitch black with a bubbly khaki 1 finger head that dissipates down to a patch and a small ring around the glass. Not much lacing on this boozy thing. Smells of bourbon, caramel, coffee, and dark chocolate. Taste follows the smell, with bourbon being quite pronounced; all the stout flavors are somewhat subdued compared to the bourbon, but are there underneath all the booziness. Almost reminds me of a caramel late with bourbon in it. Did I mention this beer is quite boozy? ABV at 11.9%.. Chewy, definitely. Not too heavily carbonated. Overall, nice beer, but the booze is strong with this one. Not for the faint of heart.
*edit*: After letting it sit in my cellar for about 5 months, the booziness has mellowed out significantly. It still has bourbon notes, but the burn has decreased greatly. I am upping the rating and suggesting that this one needs to sit for a while before consumption.
Jun 13, 2022
Rated: 4.2 by USAF-Mike from California

Jun 11, 2022
Photo of drdiesel9483
Reviewed by drdiesel9483 from Ohio

4.13/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4
Look - really fantastic looking black and thick with a great tan head sticky lacing and rimming
Smell - chocolate roasted malts oak bourbon booze
Taste - chocolate slight roasted malt some hop very slight barrel and bourbon
Feel - medium full body light carb, slight dry
Overall - needs more barrel and body. The hop in here almost taste like a black ipa
May 07, 2022
Rated: 4.42 by DylanBrkhff from Netherlands

Apr 17, 2022
Photo of NevadaBill
Reviewed by NevadaBill

4.67/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
Boy do I love this stuff. Poured 16oz. can into chilled pint glass. I've been cellering it for a couple years now and it is getting better (mellow, complex, etc). I'll be honest and say the the "barrel aged" part of this does not separate it much from its standard form (regular Narwhal). As a Sierra Nevada fanboy I love many of their brews, but this one stands apart. It seems to have a bit of Pine flavor to it. Almost as if they took a dash of the SierraNevada-Style IPA character and poured it in to the Stout batch. I stock up on this stuff each year when available, and hoard it. This (along with Stone's Wootstout) has become one of my special occasion drinks now. It is getting better each year. I often drink it warm.
Apr 14, 2022
Rated: 4 by TylerJ from Iowa

Apr 07, 2022
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Rated by Manta200 from Kentucky

4.34/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25
At the Cincinnati Beer Fest 2022
Apr 04, 2022
Photo of jbolger
Reviewed by jbolger from Connecticut

4.25/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
3/22/22 very similar to Ten Fidy Barrell Aged. Black as motor oil. Nice tan head. Heavy body. Chocolate, burnt barley. However, bourbon overtones are too strong for my taste. Turns syrupy as it warms.
Mar 22, 2022
Photo of BJB13
Reviewed by BJB13 from Maryland

4.16/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4
16 ounce can poured into a tulip.

Black with a persistent, one inch medium-brown head. Vanilla, bourbon and sweet chocolate malt aromas. Malty and semi-sweet with assertive roasty and hop bitterness. Chocolate also comes through. Taste is straight forward, rather clean. Body is medium-full, soft and creamy with medium carbonation. Acrid but not harsh. Warming but not harsh.
Mar 20, 2022
Photo of 40ontarget
Reviewed by 40ontarget from Colorado

4.32/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25
Black with 1/2 inch of tan head. The nose is vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, a touch of oak, and a great ever present bourbon smell. The taste is molasses, dark chocolate, rye bread, again the bourbon is omnipresent. The finish is woody char and dry. The feel is chewy and mouth coating. Narwhal nails it!
Mar 17, 2022
Photo of Lucular
Reviewed by Lucular from Maryland

4.24/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
16 oz can poured into a snifter. Pours pitch black with a large, long-lasting tan head. Great lacing. Aroma features sweet bourbon, dark roasted malts, black coffee, bitter chocolate, and hints of earthy hops, caramel, and oak. Mouthfeel is similar but the flavors seem a bit muted compared to the aroma. Mouthfeel is moderately carbonated and full but not creamy. Overall it's a great BA stout that starts off promisingly but falls a bit short of my expectations in the end.
Mar 15, 2022
Rated: 4.42 by DOCRW from Washington

Mar 14, 2022
Photo of MadMadMike
Reviewed by MadMadMike from Florida

4.15/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4
In a word: “Common”. It’s OK, but nothing stands out, above, or even beside, other similar-style efforts from countless breweries. It surely doesn’t suck, I’m glad to get a taste, but I don’t need to stash one if these away in hopes that it improves with a little time in the cellar.
Got a little better as it warmed, but, again, indistinguishable from the pack.
Mar 06, 2022
Rated: 4.58 by selekt0r

Mar 06, 2022
Photo of damndirtyape
Reviewed by damndirtyape from Ohio

4.17/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
16 oz can served in a snifter. Date stamp on bottom of can: 071421 C 11:44.

Appearance: Pitch black letting no light through. Thick tan head with lots of lacing that slowly slid back down and dissipated a bit.

Smell: Light bourbon aroma, vanilla / oak, burnt sugar, leafy hops.

Taste: Taste a lot like it smells, but the roasted malt is more noticeable and the vanilla sweetness is more at the finish along. Bourbon notes are along for the ride - here and there. Some hop bitterness at the finish as well.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy, with a little bit of underlying prickly carbonation. A bit of a dry finish. Warming notes on the palate after each sip.

Overall / Drinkability: More on the bitter side for a bourbon barrel aged stout, but not excessively bitter - more like nicely contrasting styles of stout, hops, bourbon, and sweetness all blended, but still distinct.
Feb 26, 2022
Rated: 4.21 by Sellen from Connecticut

Feb 22, 2022
Rated: 4.29 by drews240 from Rhode Island

Feb 13, 2022
Rated: 4.52 by Avitra from California

Feb 09, 2022
Rated: 4.34 by beaulabauve from Louisiana

Feb 04, 2022
Rated: 3.66 by Chilmer from Iowa

Feb 02, 2022
Photo of BubbleBobble
Reviewed by BubbleBobble from New York

3.55/5  rDev -18%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5
Pours black with a 1" dark tan head that fades to a solid ring, light lacing. Nose is char and barrel off the bat, black licorice and barrel; not overwhelming in strength, but it's solid, balanced, and familiar. Taste is also pretty scaled back - it leans neither bitter nor sweet, and the barrel notes (vanilla, wood, bourbon) are far into the background. As it warms, dark chocolate and cocoa come out, as do prunes and other dark fruits. The alcohol is certainly present, but helps carry some spice rather than pure heat. The finish is dry and spicy as well. Mouthfeel is thin compared to over barrel aged RIS, including similarly OTC examples like Founders RIS, Expedition, etc. Overall, didn't knock my socks off in what is a really crowded category of beers, but does fill the niche of a less-aggressive, easier drinking BBA RIS.
Jan 24, 2022
Rated: 4.21 by Dave2234 from Minnesota

Jan 22, 2022
Rated: 3.75 by TMoney2591 from Illinois

Jan 17, 2022
Rated: 4.1 by Lelampp from Ohio

Jan 17, 2022
Photo of Perioddicals
Reviewed by Perioddicals from Texas

4.27/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75
L - August 2021 release poured in January 2022 from a 16 oz can into a Dogfish Head Signature Glass (Snifter) at roughly 55 - 60 degrees. At 11.9% ABV and barrel-aged, I assumed there would be a minimal head and gave an aggressive pour. This left a two finger tan, frothy head. The beer was incredible dark and opaque with only the slightest burgundy at the base curve of the glass with light refraction. The head left good lacing, and even a tiny head layer stayed until almost the end.

S - It may have been my sinuses acting up, but I didn't get much besides chocolate, bourbon alcohol, and aluminum can on all the pre-drinking smells. This left me worried that the can would be bad for this over a traditional bottle.

T - Tasting completely redeemed the subpar smell. Again, I got the bourbon and chocolate notes, but without the heavy alcohol or booziness. A little hint of a bread, with no bitterness up front. This is a very smooth and balanced flavor. There is only the slightest bitterness near the end. As the beer warmed up, the 11.9% ABV started to come into play, but it was enjoyable through 16 ounces.

F - This was a great frothy beer with excellent medium, to above-medium, body. Great drinking the whole way through.

O - I enjoyed this beer tremendously. It wasn't as complex as some others with tons of different flavor notes, but the frothy body paired with the chocolate and bourbon notes were a wonderful mix. I would definitely buy and drink this beer again.
Jan 16, 2022
Photo of Curt2969
Reviewed by Curt2969 from Ohio

4.28/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25
I think my rating is as accurate as I can make it. To be fair, I'm just getting over the Rona. But, I've had many better RISs. And many worse. It's my favorite style, and this one is definitely solid, but definitely not the best in the category. Nonetheless, buy it if you find it. You won't be disappointed.
Jan 16, 2022
Photo of PathofChaos
Reviewed by PathofChaos from Maryland

4.91/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75
A towering column of mocha foam, looming three fingers high. Despite its apparent gigantism, the head is so neat and tight you’d swear you were looking at a nitro. It collapses in long, loosely interwoven stands, like thick cobwebs drifting down into the lightless chamber of an ancient tomb.

Decadent dark chocolate and shredded coconut tossed in powdered sugar, melted together, and poured over a mound of vanilla-soaked figs.

Ample and smooth as a quilt made of clouds, stitched together with fibrous threads of carbonation that add needed liveliness to the saucy, chocolate bourbon linger.

A hazardless fistful of dark chocolate truffles, each one lined with pinstripes of French vanilla. The aftertaste is a reserved gala of cocoa powder and dried coconut, each aged in barrels to the point of acquiring a permanent oaken aspect and a subtle bourbon tang

Until now, I didn’t know Sierra Nevada was capable of producing anything with actual flavor.
Jan 05, 2022
Barrel-Aged Narwhal from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 96 out of 100 with 2143 ratings