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

BA SCORE
96
world-class
1,837 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score
Send samples
Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel AgedNarwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged
BEER INFO

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

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

BEER STATS
Ratings:
1,837
Reviews:
279
Avg:
4.31
pDev:
8.58%
 
 
Wants:
282
Gots:
921
For Trade:
118
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Ratings: 1,837 |  Reviews: 279
Photo of acurtis
3.9/5  rDev -9.5%

Photo of Texasfan549
4.35/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of kylehay2004
4.22/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Photo of GRG1313
4/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of jaydoc
4.2/5  rDev -2.6%

Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.18/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottle shared at the monthly bottle share held at Flask Fine Wines in Studio City, CA.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Tiny dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa, black licorice, bourbon, and wood aromas. Taste is much the same with cocoa, vanilla, bourbon, and wood flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roast bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good beer with a bourbon barrel aging that adds well to the base beer.

Serving type: bottle.

 668 characters

Photo of spycow
4.04/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Tasted earlier this year while in SFO

37 characters

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

we are approaching perfect with this one, and beer rarely ever does for me. this is extraordinary, and absolutely delicious. i am amazed how the barrel mellows the base beer, but how the unique flavors of narwhal come through the bourbon is incredible, not covered up by whiskey but enhanced by it. there has always been a little vanilla finish to the base beer, and that really comes out on the nose of this one, along with bakers chocolate, melting fudge, honey, and vibrant oak. there is the vanilla and chocolate complexion in the flavor too, but theres also a whole lot more, the coffee notes of the malt, and a burning dessert bread sort of thing, followed by moderate raw sweetness and just a tickle of alcohol. i do get a little coconut when i look for it, but there is a different kind of nuttiness here, more of an almond thing, almost creamy with the earthy side, works so well with the heavy bourbon flavors the beer finishes with. texture is amazing too, viscous but not syrupy, palate coating but not teeth rotting, and hearty but not filling, its a mix of sensations not usually associated with the style. this may well be my favorite barrel aged stout right now, and is certainly the beer of 2015 for me here in the early going. wow, go find this one and open it immediately, no need for cellaring at all its ready to rip!

 1,338 characters

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

Photo of djrn2
4/5  rDev -7.2%

Photo of Knapp85
4.23/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of nmann08
4/5  rDev -7.2%

Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
4.75/5  rDev +10.2%

Photo of BEERchitect
4.46/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Incredibly powerful, yet full of grace- Sierra Nevada's Barrel-Aged Narwahl is woven into a seamless bourbon cocoon. And with wine-like tones, the Stout is so much more than just roast and booze.

As the beer is delivered to the table, a quick swirl seems to encourage the Stout to crawl around the glass on its own, trailing with inky legging as much as it does a scattering of lace. Its mocha-stained sheet of foam is creamy but loosely knitted together, eventually succumbing to its massive strength.

Its bold and fragrant aromatics lead with obvious roast overtones. Smooth like espresso, dark chocolate, roasted nuts and a hint of dark fruit. As the sweet bourbon notes release caramel, vanilla and weathered wood, it also highlights its floral, plumb, berries, grape and overall vinous, sherry-like tones. Warming a bit, its citrusy hop character pull from the roast and booze in a surprising turn before that first sip.

Its masculine sweetness wraps around the tongue with those espresso and bittersweet chocolate malts like fudge and chocolate-covered espresso beans. Hearty sweetness of burnt toffee and molasses supports the roast character to near perfection. Its bourbon infusion delivers a plethora of complexity at middle palate- vinous sherry, charred berries, dates, figs and plum that's pulled together by the natural caramel wood sweetness, vanilla, mature oak and cherry wood spice. Turning assertively bitter in finish, only the slightest grapefruit taste discerns its hop-derived bitterness from charred bitterness.

Its certain full and chewy body uses its embedded carbonation to give a marshmallow texture to the mouth. Its creamy sweetness dissolves in stride to give its finish remarkable semi-dryness without harsh astringency. Lingering with espresso roast, bourbon warmth and a wisp of campfire- the Stout is perfect as after dinner digestive.

Where the standard Narwahl is formidable in its own right, the bourbon aging really pulls out the fruit, floral and hop tones as much as it provides complexity of barrel, booze and controlled aging- savory inducing taste.

 2,097 characters

Photo of kojevergas
3.31/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

(Reviewed from notes)

BOTTLE: Brown glass. Bomber format. Branded cork. Generally appealing label art.

Reviewed as an imperial stout per the label. Served cold into an Odell stem-tulip at high altitude in Fort Collins, CO. Expectations are above average; I'm not big in the original Narwhal and I'm not the Sierra Nevada fanatic everyone else seems to be.

No bubble show forms as it's poured.

HEAD: 1 finger wide. Khaki colour head. Creamy, thick, and full. Soft-looking. Retention is average – about 2 minutes. Leaves no lacing on the sides of the glass as it recedes.

BODY: Opaque solid black – pretty much what you'd predict, but not an ink black or anything. Clean; no yeast particulate or hop sediment is visible.

Overall, it looks apt for an imperial stout, but is far from unique or special looking. I've definitely seen far better in the style.

AROMA: Dark malts, chocolate malts, cream, and caramel. Barrel-wise, I pick up on some faint coconut, but no rich toasty evocative oak. There's a mild vanilla presence. It isn't as woody as I'd anticipate given the barrel aging.

No yeast character, overt alcohol, obvious off-notes, or hop profile is detectable.

Evokes a fairly balanced brew without much barrel character. Definitely seems more interesting than regular Narwhal. Seems a bit too sweet.

Aromatic intensity is moderate.

TASTE: Boasts interesting notes of faint toasted coconut, mild vanilla, and a kiss of bourbon. It's missing toasted oak barrel and barrel sugar notes. Dark malts and chocolate malts comprise the simple foundation. Comes off a bit too sweet, but it's not quite boozy. Some caramel.

No yeast character, overt off-notes, caramel, or hop profile comes through.

It's decently balanced, but leaves much to be desired in terms of complexity/intricacy, subtlety, and nuance – especially considering the style – which demands that a lot be happening, at least to set it apart.

Average depth, duration, and intensity of flavour. Decent flavour amplitude. It's nicely built, with some loose cohesion, but never comes off tasting like a gestalt whole.

I do like it, and it's certainly more interesting than regular Narwhal, but I still expect more from a barrel aged imperial stout – especially in today's oversaturated market.

TEXTURE: Smooth, wet, full-bodied, unrefreshing, lightly boozy, somewhat soft, fairly moderately thick and overcarbonated. Overall presence on the palate is nice but wanting. This texture doesn't elevate the beer and doesn't feel custom-tailored specifically to the taste, but it suits the taste decently and doesn't hold the beer back.

Not oily, gushed, astringent, harsh, rough, scratchy, or dragging on the palate. It does have a noticeable alcohol warmth, however.

OVERALL: Definitely an improvement on the base beer, but still ultimately underwhelming considering the style. There are far better beers available in the style for less money, but this is decent and I do enjoy it. Sierra Nevada continues to fail to impress me, but I'm glad I tried this once. Unfortunately, the barrel character just never melts into the base like it should. A nice stab at the style, with a good premise. The toasted coconut stands out, but is too subtle in my opinion. More drinkable than a sipper, but by no means easy to drink.

Low B-

 3,308 characters

Photo of brentk56
4.35/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Pours the color of starless midnight but leaves a galactic pattern of lacing; the head recedes to a film rather quickly, however, but can be resurrected with a swirl

Smell: Roast and oak, buttressed by chocolate, caramel, coffee and Bourbon tones

Taste: The Bourbon is nicely integrated with the roast, chocolate and caramel tones with vanilla and toasted coconut developing; in the middle, there are touches of coffee, graham cracker, cinnamon and some hoppy bitterness; a lively warmth builds, after the swallow; with all of the flavors coming together in the finish

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with moderate carbonation and some warmth in the gullet

Overall: A bit of aging in my cellar has served this beer well, with all the flavors merging nicely

 768 characters

Photo of oline73
4.25/5  rDev -1.4%

Photo of SocalKicks
4.25/5  rDev -1.4%

Photo of emerge077
4.25/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

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.

 422 characters

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

Photo of largadeer
3.5/5  rDev -18.8%

Photo of zestar
4.25/5  rDev -1.4%

Photo of superspak
4.52/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle into snifter, bottled on 10/16/2014. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense dark tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Light spotty lacing clings around the glass, with a fair amount of streaming carbonation retaining the cap. Aromas of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, toffee, toast, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, light dark fruit, light butterscotch, and roast/oaky earthiness. Incredible aromas with awesome complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel notes; with good strength. Taste of big dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, toffee, toast, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, light dark fruit, light butterscotch, and roast/oaky earthiness. Light herbal/roast/oaky bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses, caramel, toffee, toast, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, and roast/oaky earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible complexity and robustness of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel flavors; with an insane malt/barrel balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy, silky, and lightly slick mouthfeel that in incredible. Alcohol is extremely well hidden with only a slight alcohol warmth lingering after the finish. Overall this is a world class barrel aged imperial stout. All around insane complexity, robustness, and balance of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the huge ABV. A truly mind blowing offering.

 1,605 characters

Photo of mothman
4.09/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Tan head. Black in color.

Rich and roasted. A fair amount of bourbon with a touch of heat. Lots of chocolate. Roasted malts. Oak and caramel. Molasses.

Medium bodied for a stout. A bit too much carbobations. Ends with bourbon and roast.

Solid offering from SN. Well done, but a bit expensive.

 295 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Narwhal Imperial Stout - Barrel Aged from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
4.31 out of 5 based on 1,837 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.