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: 269 | Ratings: 1,786
Photo of LtownTrev
5/5  rDev +16.3%

I am early in my appreciation of such things but I believe this to my benchmark from which the rest will be measured. Big fan of the espresso impressions!

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Photo of Bulabeers
5/5  rDev +16.3%
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 InkedinRi
5/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Tasting a 2013 bottle in 2015.. This stout is so outstanding! If you can find a few put one aside for a few years you won't be disappointed! Really mellows out the alcohol, Big coffee, roasted malt, coffee, coconut and that sweet Bourbon barrel taste! 5/5

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Photo of bcheng
4.98/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

It's fantastic, great nose, excellent balance and high enough alcohol to further the enjoyment. I actually like this a bit better than BCBS, but that's just me. It feels higher on the ABV than 12.9%, but I'm not complaining!

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Photo of dpgoblejr
4.95/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2015 Bottle
Black; the color with a slight amber hue around the glass. Extensive mocha, frothy, head and lots of lacing to boot. Bourbon, espresso, chocolate, vanilla and oak on the nose. Top notch flavors meet the tongue and tastes of cocoa powder, bourbon, coffee, vanilla and some coconut can be found. Super thick with a coating quality down th e throat. Mostly full bodied with just the right amount of alcohol heat. Superb comes to mind when describing this BBA Stout and one that should be enjoyed by all! Well done and go get one!

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Photo of redsahx
4.91/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured in a snifter. Dark black but not quite as pitch black as other imperial stouts. Nice mocha colored head that settles. Nice aroma with solid but not overpowering bourbon. I think I pick up a pleasant hop aroma buried in there as well. Flavors of roasted malts, coffee, bourbon and even a hint of hop bitterness smoothed out with the bourbon and alcohol. One of the most well-balanced bourbon-barrel aged stouts I've had. I still put the Bourbon County Coffee and regular stout ahead, but this one might top the rest (including KBS) for me. Tough call there. Anyways this is truly well done.

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Photo of iTunesUpdates
4.9/5  rDev +14%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is an ineradicable beer! So glad I found two of these. Was not sure what to think after the price tag. But it definitely lived up to the hype!

If you find this brew, buy it!

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Photo of justinp444
4.9/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a mini snifter of draft it has a black body with a thin white ring of beige head. Smell of roasted malt, chocolate, vanilla, slight bourbon, and coffee. Taste is fudgey chocolate, spicy bourbon, roasted malt, vanilla, almost a mascarpone flavor, and a nice bit of sweet coffee. Mouth feel is full as well as body with a moderate carbonation. A fantastic ba stout, it is very dessert like but bridges the gap of very sweet ba stouts and more semisweet stouts, basically the perfect amount of dessert flavors within a stout.

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Photo of threeviews
4.85/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

750ml bottle (Bottled On Date: Oc. 15, 2014) into a Rastal Teku 2.0 stemmed glass (Initial pour was ~14oz). The cork was firmly seated and moist, making for a relatively painless extraction. Not much in the way of a 'pop' when opened.

A- Conservative pour yields a black-as-night beer with a quickly dissipating, 1-finger mocha colored head. Based on the head, the viscosity of this beer is less than BCBS (of which will undoubtedly be the beer by which this one is judged), but equally as elegant. (5.0)

S- Beautifully comple and rich melange of Espresso, Vanilla Bean, Oak, Whiskey and a punch of those whole-cone piney/floral hops. Even at room temperature, alcohol is merely a footnote...well done in every facet. (5.0)

T- Caramel, Vanilla Bean and Whiskey pounce first with oak tannin and espresso following. The beer finishes with those piney/floral whole-leaf hops. Each stage lingers long enough to reward each sip with a profound drinking experience. (4.75)

M- Although only clocking in at a point less in the ABV department (and as perceived during the pour), BBA Narwhal has an oily mouthfeel, yet with still significantly less viscous than BCBS. The carbonation is low, but expected considering the beer's style and strength. (5.0)

O- The only glaring issue with this beer is the ~$20/bottle price point. That aside (and like BCBS), this is another example of a perfectly executed BBA Imperial Stout. Even after 8 months in barrels, the hop presence is still quite pungent both on the nose and in the flavor. What's more, the 12.9% ABV provides depth and complexity without ever becoming distracting. (4.75)

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Photo of dar482
4.79/5  rDev +11.4%

The beer comes in a dark black color with a surprising amount of medium brown head and carbonation.

The aroma is more intense than a smooth sweetness of some BA stout. Dense roasted malt, licorice, vanilla, coconut, oak, cocoa chocolate, bright whiskey.

The flavor in the front hits like Narwhal. Harsh, bitter of anise and licorice, almost charred roasted malt. It is then layered with spicy whiskey. Then onto a bittersweet chocolate, espresso bean, and then finally coconut and vanilla to compliment the dabs and touches of sweetness that the beer has.

The aftertaste lingers of oak tannins, and more sweetness to not drag the palate down from the initial onslaught.

The mouthfeel is medium plus to full.

A wonderfully balanced brew that reminds me a bit of Barrel Aged Framinghammer, with its oak flavors on the finish.

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Photo of novamat
4.79/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Tasted from a bottle within a month or two of release. Pours a super dark brown like any good imperial stout should. Smell is primarily of roasted malts and a bit of bourbon. Taste is an awesome balance between chocolate and bourbon with other notes as listed in other reviews, and it has a creamy mouthfeel that is well balanced with carbonation and is very pleasant. This is my new favorite BA stout, will definitely buy again. And again.

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Photo of geryeb624
4.78/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Was lucky enough to come across a bottle of this and split it today after Thanksgiving dinner with some family. Corked and caged, served in a tulip.

A- Pours a jet black with a finger of brown head. Actually looks pretty fizzy for a stout pushing 13% ABV. Overall very attractive in the glass.

S- All the things they say on the bottle come through in the nose: chocolate, vanilla, coconut, coffee. A little caramel and maybe some maple notes, and a definite hit of alcohol. Very nice.

T- This may actually be the tastiest stout I've ever had. Tastes nothing of the alcohol it contains, and the roastiness and bitterness of ordinary Narwhal are mellowed into a beautiful sweetness and notes of chocolate, caramel, coconut. Actually has a nice hoppiness too, in case you forgot it's a California beer. For me, almost the Platonic ideal of what a barrel aged stout should taste like.

F- Not too heavy or syrupy, this beer actually has a nice consistency and some good carbonation. I don't care for beers that overdo the body and run too thick, so this was very welcome.

Overall, this is a magnificent achievement by Sierra Nevada. Narwhal was a great beer, and this is up there with the best I've ever had. Going to be seeking out some more bottles to lay down, and maybe will try another next Thanksgiving. Cheers!

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Photo of HorseheadsHopHead
4.77/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled on 9/18/15

Pours a very dark brown, almost completely black, and looks pitch black in the glass. An aggressive pours yields a surprising two fingers of dark tan, mocha that leaves sheets of lacing.

The aroma offers lots of bourbon barrel goodness; bourbon, oak, vanilla, butterscotch, and burnt sugar, milk chocolate, and almond.

The palate offers milk chocolate, bitter cocoa, vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, burnt sugar, almond milk, figs and raisins, toasted coconut, bourbon, oak, and some charred smokiness. Well rounded with the alcohol level remarkably well hidden, only a warming on the finish, with some lingering sweetness.

Mouthfeel is medium-full, creamy and slick, but not chewy or heavy. A bit thicker than BCBS but not as oily, but not as thick as Founders Imperial Stout.

This is a top notch barrel aged beer and a delicious stout. It's not quite on the level of BCBS but it's pretty darn close. Absolutely worth buying on a yearly basis.

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Photo of Barracudas
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This is a whale of a tale! The complexity of the flavor is outstanding! They have done a very good job with this Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout. Highly recommended!

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Photo of ocelot2500
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

Pours a deep ebony color with a tight, tan head that leaves a ring of lacing.

Smells of deep roasted note with some bourbon to it.

Tastes of rich dark malts layered with sweetness and booze. Malts lead off with notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and dark molasses. This gives way to some dark fruits as well as some toasted nuttiness. Light barrel notes come next with vanilla and wood. A slight amount of piny hops add depth. Finishes with an alcohol warmth and another kiss of chocolate.

Mouthfeel is full with a creamy amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is very tasty. The barrel notes are somewhat subdued, but I think it makes for a better blend of flavors overall.

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Photo of deford
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

Poured from a bomber into a FW snifter.

A- This beer is beautiful. A gorgeous black with tinges of brown and a caramel colored head.

S- Bourbon, chocolate, bit of vanilla, burnt wood, dark fruits....pretty inviting.

T- Cocoa, licorice, dark fudge, coconut, prunes (just a lil bit). It all blends together so well. The licorice faded as it warmed and the fudge came forward.

M- It completely coats your mouth as if you ate a soft chunk of fudge that grandma made. Its almost chewy. I didn't even notice any carbonation. This beer is thick and sticky.

O-Simply fantastic! There's some kind of roastiness on the finish, a welcome balance to grandma's fudge. The barrel has done wonders for an already fabulous beer!

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Photo of ThickNStout
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

Corked and caged 750mL bottle from Sprayberry Bottle Shop (Marietta, GA). 22.99. Bottled 10/14/14. Served in a Barrel and Barley teku.

Pours midnight black with a two and a half finger cap of dense, pale tan head. The froth slowly settles to a thin ring that leaves some nice patches of lace.

Sweet, rich, inviting smells of bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, burnt oak, coffee and caramel with a hint of the fairly formidable alcohol in the background. Quite nice.

Flavors are bold, rich and ocassionally bordering on hot. Dark chocolate fudge, bourbon, charred oak, vanilla, heavily roasted malts, burnt caramel, espresso, faint coconut, marshmallow, vague dark fruits and a nice blanket of booze over it all. Despite the name, this seems like a different stout than the base beer. Significantly sweeter with almost none of the anise that I recall being so prevalent. An outstanding blend of imperial stout and barrel character that goes down with an ease that belies it's near-13% abv.

Sludgy, heavy, creamy feel with an interesting, lethargic seeming carbonation. That may not read as a compliment but the mouthfeel is almost perfect for an imperial stout. Bittersweet dark fudge, bourbon and sweet barrel linger in the finish.

I remember thinking Narwhal had some real potential when I first tried it two years ago and that potential is fully realized in this barrel aged version. The barrel smooths out the flavors, adds a wonderfully sweet complexity and seems to have thickened it beautifully. This beer came out of left field and surpassed my expectations, which is a rare occurrence these days. Yes this is a tad pricey but Barrel Aged Narwhal is a benchmark example of what a barrel aged imperial stout can be and possibly the best beer I've had from the craft veterans at Sierra Nevada. Seriously- try this if you can!

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Photo of BenwayPHD
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

Pours pitch black with a 1 1/2 finger mocha head. The nose is mild but nice. Vanilla, bourbon, mocha, chocolate ice cream, slightly roasty. The flavor is fucking delicious. Chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, almost no booze. Very pleasant. Great, creamy mouthfeel.

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Photo of Martyrob
4.75/5  rDev +10.5%

This is one of my favorite BA stouts. I think Narwhal is a good stout, but this puts it top of class. I will definitely be looking for this next year.

Now that being said:
- thick and coating the glass with a slight head
- rich chocolate and definitely can smell the booze
- taste like a wonderful balance of chocolate and bourbon with a nice linger on the tongue.

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Photo of Young_John
4.74/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

So. Damn. Good.
If only there were something exactly like this available in smaller portions or lower ABV so I wouldn't have to plan an entire day around drinking one.

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Photo of gibgink
4.73/5  rDev +10%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Really enjoyable BA stout from Sierra Nevada. Takes Narwhal up a notch. Picked up the bourbon, but not in excess. Tasted some chocolate notes, and roasted flavors as well. Very well done. Would recommend.

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Photo of Lard_City
4.73/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Fruit, hops, molasses, malt, vanilla, raisins, boozy. There are a lot of tastes going on here and they all scroll by you in a spectrum. Just a delight but will hammer you pretty quick. Kind of like drinking port wine after dinner, just a little goes a long way.

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Photo of SaxmanRick
4.73/5  rDev +10%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Poured from 750ml bottle into English pint glass - vintage 2014. My ratings went up slightly, as I believe age has done this treasure good. Unfortunately, this was my only bottle for home.

A = 5.0 Dense dark tan head with superlacing, with dense lines recording with every sip. Liquid was a dark, caramelly brown. The appearance is totally inviting.
S = 4.5 Roasted malts, some bitter/some sweat aroma - well-balanced
T = 4.75 Fully engaging, balanced flavor...Chocolate, Coffee...roasted + bitter + sweet and balanced, with a dark chocolate and caramel (hints of molasses)
M = 5.0 Damned marshmallow fluff (but lighter)
O 0 4.75 I am so bummed that I didn't buy more to cellar and that I ended up not sharing this bottle with others (this may have not seemed like a whale to them, but this is great). SN, you pinnacles of craft beer, BREW ME MORE :)

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Photo of YodersBeerEmporium
4.71/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Great Bourbon Barrel aged Stout! Especially for the money! Great burbon and chocolate notes and not too hot for being fresh. Going to cellar one as well.

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Photo of Chris585
4.71/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Chocolate - vanilla - roastieness. - barrel aged goodness. This is outstanding. I looked for this beer for a month and finally found it on New Year's Eve. The price point of 22.99 was crazy but I'm sure they would have got a buyer at some point. What do they care right. Beer wasn't worth the price, but I'm glad I had a chance to try it. All great in every category.

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Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.3 out of 5 based on 1,786 ratings.
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