Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
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Russian Imperial Stout
Ranked #28
Ranked #532
4.35 | pDev: 8.51%
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
California, United States
Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels)
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
Reviews: 296 | Ratings: 1,904
Photo of ksimons
4.13/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2015 Vintage. Black in color with a thin layer of dark tan head that quickly turns into a bit of lacing around the top. Aroma is heavy on the bourbon, vanilla, some chocolate, and caramel. Taste is pretty similar but with more chocolate and a bit of roast in the finish. Medium to full body and moderate carbonation. Overall lots of bourbon sweetness and chocolate. Good winter beer.

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Photo of morimech
4.3/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

I believe this is the 2015 vintage but I honestly do not know for sure and cannot find a date anywhere on the bottle. Inky black color with a finger of head that faded away. Not a lot of lacing is left behind. Nice barrel character backs up the aroma and flavor. A lot of vanilla compliments the bourbon, chocolate, and a bit of coconut flavor. A bit of alcohol flavor and heat in the finish. Nice smooth carbonation compliments the beer perfectly and allows the flavors to envelope the palate.

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Photo of GuyFawkes
4.5/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2015 vintage; drank 1/16/16 @ the Palace.

Poured from the bottle into a glass.

Black/brown appearance.

Minimal tan head; decent lace.

Oak, dark chocolate, marshmallow & faint booze heat in the nose.

Medium thick mouthfeel.

Milk chocolate, caramel & oak flavors up front; vanilla notes on the finish. Mild booze heat emerged as this warmed. A rich, tasty treat.

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Photo of ryan1788a5
4.34/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750ml bottle poured into a snifter.

A: Pitch black. Tan head settles after a short time. Spotty lacing.

S: Brownies, fudge, bakers chocolate. Chocolate caramel chews. Char and roast. Hint of licorice. Subtle plum. Drying oak and bourbon.

T: Rich chocolate, brownie batter, fudge sauce. Thick chewy caramel with chocolate. French roast coffee in a big way. Roastiness really kicks it up middle to end. Flashes of black currant and plum. Woody oak barrel and bourbon come to the forefront as the roast tapers, and these flavors ride into a long finish.

M: Thick in body with a silky/creamy texture. Fine carbonation prickles at the tip of the tongue. Some alcohol warmth, thought it is very tame for the size.

O: Barrel aging done right. Big, bold, and thick, but well-rounded with all flavors melding easily. A sipper to be sure, but it actually drinks more easily than expected for its size. Excellent.

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Photo of Ri0
4.24/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured 750 bottle into chalice. vintage 2015. Color is obsidian black with a thin 1 finger tan hear. Quick retention that leaves a collar and a few spots of lacing. The aroma is sensational with very soft bourbon, coffee roast, vanilla, dark chocolate, cocoa, marshmallow and thick caramel. The flavor begins with a hints of bitter coffee, rich caramel and moves into some chocolate. It evolves with a faint vanilla and bourbon with a bit of oak or wood. Medium body with creamy, smooth feel. Carbonation is spot on. Really enjoyed this bottle and found it similar to some local offerings.

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Photo of ilikebeer03
3.77/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Nose is a combination of toasted grain, chocolate, and espresso.
Taste is dark roasted grains, spicy bourbon, a touch of chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. Nothing dominates. A hint of smiley charred barrel. Body is fine, but not the best I've ever seen from and imperial stout.

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Photo of justinp444
4.9/5  rDev +12.6%
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 billshmeinke
3.32/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured in a wine glass.

Pitch black with a nice finger of foam on top. Head retention and lace are impressive.

Smells of butterscotch, booze, and oak. Some soy sauce. A bit astringent. Not off to a good start.

Luckily the taste is much better, booze and astringent fragrances aren't as prevalent. Hints of chocolate and vanilla. Still some butterscotch, and some mineral, and earth booziness, reminiscent of tequila (and yes that's in a bad way).

Mouthfeel is a little thinner than expected. Still fairly sticky, and low carbonation.

Disappointing overall. A lot of bad flavors that better barrel aged imperial stouts don'e exhibit. Let it warm and breath some. It helps, but not enough.

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Photo of jp32
4.45/5  rDev +2.3%
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 +3.4%
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 -1.8%
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%
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 +1.4%
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 -9.4%
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 +14.9%
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 -6.4%
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%
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 -0.2%
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 +0.2%
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 -2.1%
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.

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Photo of DaveBar
4.3/5  rDev -1.1%
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 -4.6%
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 +0.7%
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 +1.4%
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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Trip In The Woods: Narwhal Imperial Stout (Aged In Bourbon Barrels) from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 96 out of 100 with 1904 ratings