Russian Imperial Stout Faceoff – Narwhal vs. Old Rasputin

Narwhal – Sierra Nevada

10.2% ABV
Purchased at Taylor’s Market and poured into taster glasses.

Narwhal pours an opaque mahogany with a slight, soda-style head, and offers a complex and inviting nose rich with roasted coffee beans, alongside some dark chocolate and sarsaparilla root notes.  This beer is aggressive out of the box, with all of the wonderful dark and roast-y flavors of a classic Russian Imperial Stout.  Sierra Nevada’s twist is to add a much more pronounced hop presence to the coffee, muted dark chocolate, and blackstrap molasses tastes.  The result is a long-lingering and absolutely delicious slow sipper, and a definite triumph for Sierra Nevada.  (4 ½ toasts)

    4.5 Toasts

    4.5 Toasts


Old Rasputin – North Coast

9% ABV
Purchased at Taylor’s Market and poured into taster glasses.


North Coast’s Old Rasputin is the beer that re-ignited the Russian Imperial Stout craze for the modern era, and it pours an espresso black with a decently sized, light brown head.  It has a subtle aroma of doctored espresso and some black licorice, along with a slightly sweeter, almost cola-like smell.  Old Rasputin is much more subtle and insinuating on the tongue than Narwhal, combining coffee, very bitter chocolate, and licorice.  The big difference between these two Russian Imperial Stouts is that North Coast’s take leans on British-style malts and watery texture, as opposed to Sierra Nevada’s West Coast super-hopping.

    4 Toasts

    3.5 Toasts

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2 thoughts on “Russian Imperial Stout Faceoff – Narwhal vs. Old Rasputin

  1. ryan y. (California) on said:

    Nice job on the side by side! My two all time favorite beers! First thought is Old Rasputin owns the top spot but after more time with Narwhal especially at room temperature the more I love it. Both are excellent choices and I can’t buy one without the other. Cheers!

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