Nov 30, 2012

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout

You all may want to buckle up, especially those of you that may not be the biggest fan of the best beer style ever. That’s right! It’s cold out and it’s stout season. I’ve got a plethora of stout reviews coming your way in the next couple of weeks — along with plenty of others (helles, doppelbock, kolsch…) as well, of course.

I’ve never encountered this mysterious and elusive beast before, but from what I’ve read, Narwhal is the bottled version of an Imperial Stout that had done quite well on draught for the brewery. And now that I’ve found the creature, I don’t want to lose sight of it ever again. Weighing in at 10.2% ABV, Narwhal isn’t a small beer by any means. It’s got big roasty notes, a dark coffee character and goes down deceptively smooth.

North Coast’s Old Rasputin has always been my favorite, go-to stout due to its great flavor and availability, but if Sierra Nevada were to make this beer available year-round, I’m not sure the mad monk stands a chance against this horned beasty. It’s delicious!


Narwhal pours an opaque, midnight black with a short-lived, dark tan head that faded to a thin ring around the surface.


Dark roast coffee, a subtle char, light grassy hops and a hint of cocoa fill the nose with a rather subdued nose. There’s not much of any alcohol present.


Yep. That’s good! Roast coffee and chocolate arrive with the first wave before slowly fading through a sea of malty goodness and a hint of anise and travels to a semi-dry finish that allows for the subtle char to linger nicely. There’s a decent, moderate level of hop bitterness in the tail-end, as well, balancing out the slightly sweet malt profile that presents itself first. The alcohol doesn’t affect the flavors, but does leave a warming glow in the chest. For the size of this beer, it’s smooth.


Narwhal is an excellent roasty and earthy Imperial Stout. There’s none of the silly, over-the-top sweetness that is commonplace amongst its peers. It’s a no-nonsense brew that gets to the point with a well-balanced flavor profile and deceptive drinkability for the amount of alcohol it brings to the party. If this were to ever become available year-round in my area, I’ve got a new go-to favorite stout. Sorry, Rasputin.

Rating: 4.5/5

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