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Parabola - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
ParabolaParabola

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
100
world-class

5,302 Ratings
THE BROS
97
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 5,302
Reviews: 1,065
rAvg: 4.61
pDev: 8.24%
Wants: 2,671
Gots: 3,003 | FT: 219
Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  13.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: largadeer on 03-26-2008

Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged for 8 months in circa 1990's Heaven Hill bourbon barrels.

2011
OG: 29.5p [plato]
IBU: 82 [high]
Cases: 3000 produced [LTD]
Aged: 12 mo [time in barrel]
Yeast: British Ale [house]
Color: 167SRM [midnight black]
View: Beers (78) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 5,302 | Reviews: 1,065
Reviews by Beerandboards:
Photo of Beerandboards
4.72/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bomber into a large wine glass. 2012 vintage, reviewed fresh.

A - black, almost pitch, but when tilted and held to the light, a dark brown sugar color comes out on the edge. Very little carbonation, even an aggressive pour straight into the middle produces very little head. I wish there were a teeny bit more head, but almost no complaint here.

S - absolute 5 here. Top notch. Vanilla, bourbon, some very rich roasted malt, slight oak. Can't quit huffing this throughout the life of the pour. Really smells great.

T - also really really great here too. Vanilla, toasty malt, bourbon, rich deep flavors and I can't do a great job of describing. There are some hops that come in at the end and really assert some bitterness at the end. My only (tiny) complaint is that the hops may be just ever so slightly too bitter. As he beer warms, I find the hop bitterness less and less off putting, but I still have to say I'm glad I have another to cellar for a year or so to see if the hops quiet down.

M - again, no fault here. Where I complained a bit about no head, I have to give the beer props for perfect low carbonation. Rich, thick mouthfeel.

O - Very close to 5s all around, but not quite. This is about as close to perfect as I can think of though, really excellent.

More User Reviews:
Photo of seedyone
4.84/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

05/14/13 On tap at Rattle n Hum, NYC. 2013 vintage. The first sip is like an innocent kiss & then it's too late. You find you have a tiger by the tail...or should I say it's got you. There's so much going on in the glass it's difficult to home in on where to start. Each sip is different from the last & they are spiraling upwards until you reach a plateau of familiarity that has simplified all the complexities of aroma & flavors that make up this admirable brew & you start to feel at home & very comfortable.

Not for the faint of heart (or anyone driving). I found myself sipping at a leisurely pace for 1) enjoyment 2) preservation of the potion, as it's a rare find & 3) self preservation. The 12.5% ABV, although present in every sip, never let's on that this is for adults only. Think of it as an encounter on a plane trip, sitting next to some extremely attractive & engaging person & your smitten. It's a short lived experience & most likely once in a lifetime. Because of that, all feelings are multiplied & enhanced, in memory, by distance from the moment.

Do yourself a big, big flavor favor & make some time for this indulgence. If you do I guarantee your self esteem will improve based on that decision alone.

Photo of tectactoe
4.59/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to the numerous BA's who sent me some bottles of this; I've put it off for way too long. It pours an extremely dark brown color that might as well be called jet-black as it sits, motionless in the glass. A light-mocha colored head plumes up and shows excellent retention; it lasts for days and leaves nice lace spots behind as it slowly recedes down the glass.

The aroma is magnificent; lots and lots of bourbon that's mellowed out by a deep onset of wood and oak. Plentiful amounts of chocolate graze the top of the booze; sweet, creamy and delicate, like a molten mocha cake. Mild hints of vanilla ride over the top of everything, most likely an induction of the barrel itself.

A nice, underlying blanket of roasted malts gives a solid base upon which everything else seems to stand, although the bourbon is strong enough that it may not even need a "base". Parabola has a very large aroma; its potency outright is surely something to behold, and if nothing else, it tells you that this is gonna be one hell of a beer.

Wow. One sip in, and color me impressed. Incredibly smooth, silky, and soft on the palate with just a light tingle of carbonation as the bourbon-heavy brew slips across my palate. The "first and foremost" flavor would be the monumental heaps of chocolate that assault my palate. Deep, dense, dark, bittersweet, and creamy fudge-y chocolate cascades over my senses, clashing with smaller pips of vanilla to create an almost dessert-like delicacy with each sip.

Make no mistake about it, though, the bourbon and oak are as heavy as can be. Soft, warming bourbon entrances every sip just as well, showing the huge robustness of the brew and sending a permanent warmth from the back of your tongue to your belly. Not "hot", but pretty warm, while still remaining smooth thanks to the blunting efforts of the creamy chocolate and the oatmeal.

The aftertaste also contains a bit of bourbon and lots of oak; almost enough oak to call the finish "dry", but falling just shy of this mark. The malts open up a bit more with time, adding more complex notes of burnt caramel and maybe even a touch of sweet maple syrup in the finish. The dominant chocolate and bourbon notes still reign supreme, making this beer like an "adults only" dessert that would be fit for a king.

Well, it's taken me long enough to finally try Parabola, and now that I have, I'll be sure to nab up as much as possible each year that it comes out. Being from Southeast Michigan, some might say we're spoiled with "big" stouts; BCBS, KBS, Black Note, etc... But I'd put Parabola RIGHT up with those brews, and possibly even ahead of a few. So what the hell are you complaining about West Coasters?? This stuff is amazing.

Photo of Heatwave33
5/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Look- Creamy black silk that is only found inside the deep crevices in California.

Smell- Dark chocolate aged in roasty bourbon barrels for her pleasure.

Taste- As if the whiskey barrel creamed in my mouth!

Feel- Creamy, smooth, refreshing and hoping for a call the next day.

Overall- The first time a met her we made love all night. I told myself not to jump straight into the sack with this and build respect for a well founded relationship. But I couldn't help myself. My animal magnetism took over and I did what felt right. I'm thankful she still answers the phone when I call.

Photo of utopiajane
4.65/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

This pours out the paragon of virtue. Completely opaque. Black walnut. If you only pour a bit like I did you will not see too much of the mocha colored head but it does refresh even though I did not pour one. It created a ring as I swirled it and left spot of lace and alcohol legs. In the natural light the beer showed a deep chestnut brown with engaging clarity. ( In the photo you can see my face in the beer)

Deep rich, sweet chocolate and hearty roasted malt combine on the nose. Subtle blushing cherries, bold bourbon and a bit of espresso coffee. The bourbon is like a flower that opens on the nose. It is fragrant and seductive. There is a scent of toasted coconut that is light and accented by a bit of vanilla. Dark fruits dance gayly in the background. Molasses rounds out the nose and the scent of sweetened nuts.

The palate is alive at once with earthy and full roast. This malt has been brought to the edge of blackness and yet it stays mellow and tempered with sweetness that collapses inward on all it's sides. The blushing cherry, the dry date, the light and airy oak, the creamy coconut and vanilla. The malt is dry and firm but just bitter enough to come up to the brink of char and stop short. Nothing burnt here. Smooth, creamy, chewy, full mouthfeel. Exceptional smoothness. The molasses takes over the palate as this finishes with bourbon getting lighter and the dark fruits getting stronger.

A slightly boozy finish takes hold at the very last moment of the swallow not with a big taste of alcohol but with a warmth like a smile from a gracious host who is sincerely happy to have set all this before you. The alcohol leaves a bit dry and fully engages the senses one more time before it's done.

Drinking this beer is like doing something you know is wrong and loving every minute of it.

Photo of obiwan_k3n00bi
3.25/5  rDev -29.5%

One of the first craft beers I ever had, and for some reason I kept one from that same time.

Genuinely bad idea, tasted like old salty raisons.

Photo of superspak
4.4/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Got in a trade with cyde. 22 ounce bottle into snifter; 2013 vintage, bottled on 3/18/2013. Pours pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass, with a moderate amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of milk chocolate, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, toasted coconut, toffee, oak, bourbon, tobacco, light char, and roast/oak earthiness; with some light alcohol/booze. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roasted malt and oak barrel notes; with solid strength. Taste of big milk chocolate, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, toasted coconut, toffee, bourbon, oak, tobacco, light char, and roast/oaky earthiness. Fair amount of roast/oak bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of milk chocolate, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, toasted coconut, toffee, bourbon, oak, tobacco, light char, and roast/oak earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible complexity and robustness of dark/roasted malt and oak barrel flavors; with a great malt/barrel balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. A very slight oak astringency was present but not detrimental. Light-medium carbonation an full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy, and fairly slick mouthfeel that is fantastic. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a light warming present after the finish. Overall this is an absolutely incredible barrel aged imperial stout. All around outstanding complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the big ABV. An insanely delicious offering as I expected.

Photo of smb
4.97/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Most of the other reviews have already covered and said all there is to say about Parabola. Memories of the aroma and taste often hit me at random times in random places. Potentially one of the greatest beers of all time.

Photo of mynie
4.08/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.25

After a pathological, yearslong refusal to crack open any vintage of Parabola, I finally cracked and shared a bottle of 2013 with a friend of mine. It was... good, vey good, but not quite worth waiting for.

Tastes like a dense, charry double stout. Big nodes of peat, medium hops, and a very pronounced burn of alcohol blotting out some of the more complex nodes at the back. Intense and tasty, but not as interesting or variegated as I had hoped. The flavors also die off rather quickly in the back end, as the beer's thin body leaves much to be desired.

RISes are getting harder and harder to judge. What was once a world-changing, palette-crushing masterpiece can now seem limp and tame. Certainly, no one is going to mistake Parabola for Guinness, but I really don't see what separates it from, say, Stone Imperial, or Ten Fidy

Photo of don1481
4.86/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

6 oz snifter at Firestone taproom.

Appearance: Pitch black, very tiny off white head.

Smell: Coffee, chocolate, oatmeal, booze. This smells like heaven.

Taste: I can't put this into words, but I'm gonna try. Amazing. The bourbon is just right. Not overpowering, not barely there, but a perfect balance.

Mouthfeel: Slick, bourbon, wonderful.

Overall: I wish this was available back home.

Photo of Smokesnotes
4.82/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Excellent beer.

A: Very dark brown, not much head.

S: Good bourbon/vanilla aroma.

M: Great mouthfeel. Pretty smooth finish.

T: Lots of caramel flavor.

O: I want more.

Drank at a bottle share alongside Black Xantas and KBS. Parabola definitely holds up next to these beers even though I think KBS edges it out slightly. I enjoyed the info on the label and was surprised how high the IBUs are for not seeming too hoppy. Definitely recommend if you like BA stouts or Imperial Stouts.

Photo of steenkampa
5/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Amazingly balanced hefty stout, at a great price.

The first time I had this one, 2011, I walked into a BevMo to buy two beers for myself to drink during a house party...and got 2 bottles of this, thinking "meh, cheap burly Stout, that'll do great for the night" not knowing at all what I had.

Half way through the night, I'm completely trashed off both bottles wondering what this was and why it tasted so amazing, and when did Firestone get so good when I only remember the DBA being boring before!? This really turned me onto them, and I keep an eye out for any in the Reserve Series (Abacus/Sucaba is great, too).

Anyway. Now I always buy the max, and I have at least 2-3 of each vintage since then in my cellar.

Dark, rich, not much carbonation, chocolate and bourbon notes, lots of roasted malts...just about everything I want in a stout.

Can't wait for the 2014 release, so I can keep the cycle going.

Photo of poibag808
4.58/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

poured from bottle into a snifter.

A: Poured black almost oily with very little head. Some lacing on the glass.
S: sweet with hints of oak and coffee.
T: Initially strong dark fruit/raisin flavors. As the beer warmed up a bit I got dark chocolate, roasted coffee and hints of vanilla. Amazing complexity and drinkability as the beer opened up.

M: The colder it was the more syrupy sweet it stuck in my mouth, almost cloying. As the beer warmed up it become much smoother.

Overall great beer, wish I could get my hands on another bottle.

Photo of SkiBum22
5/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A - Dark as night, absolutely viscous appearance. Very minimal head with strong lacing on the glass.

S - Chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, dark fruits, coffee, oak. You can barely smell the alcohol.

T - Sweet roasted malts and chocolate up front. On the back coffee, toffee, caramel, and vanilla. You can barely taste the bourbon.

M - Very good smooth feel. A lot softer then I would have guessed. Just like velvet.

O - Wow, that was the first word that came to mind after the first sip. This beer is as close as excellence can get in my opinion. By far the best beer for me this year and definitely in my top 5 all-time. Thank god I have one more bottle aging!

Photo of newk340
4.75/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A: a dark mocha pour, very little visible carbonation and an thin tan head.

S: certainly hints of chocolate and vanilla at first with some lingering notes of caramel, malts, and bourbon to round out an absolutely delicious smelling beer.

T: YUM. similar to the smell there was an immediate blast of chocolate and bourbon while undertones of vanilla and toffee took some time to develop.

MF/D: definitely could've drunk the bottle by myself if it were my own (and it wasn't 13%). went down fairly smooth, though some lingering IBU's tickled my tongue. could feel the ABV at the end of my 8oz pour.

Photo of gregmoscetti
4.4/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Firestone parabola is nothing new... but lord is it good. I think that this beer is a textbook example of the Barrel Aged RIS style. Its not too sweet, not to hot (though it could use 9-12 months), and incredibly balanced. this beer will mature to really be a heavy hitter. Can't wait

Photo of andyfrancis
4.12/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pitch black with a thin brown head that fizzled out immediately. hits of red on the edges when held to light.Looks nice in a snifter.

Getting some vanilla, dark chocolate, and booze on the nose.

First taste on my tongue is the wood. Booze is pretty well hidden, though there is a little ting on the tongue.

Slightly chewy, yet clean finishing.

There was a lot of hype around the bottling of this beer, and I'd say it just lives up to it. Not over, not under, but right there. Very tasty.

Photo of 3HovsepiansBrews
4.1/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Black with a dark brown head.

S- Wood, coffee, dark fruits.

T - Wood, vanilla, coffee, raisins, plums, alcohol, dark chocolate, and some flavors reminiscent of coca-cola.

M - Syrupy, oily/greasy with low carbonation.

O - The are a lot of really nice flavors and aromas, but the mouthfeel is not very pleasant. The alcohol really comes through as well, which takes away from the drinkability.

Photo of warnerry
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 release

A - Pours pitch black with less than one finger of brown head. Looks thick and rich.

S - Big aromas of vanilla, chocolate and bourbon with moderate oak notes. All of the aromas seem well integrated, nothing seems to dominate. Some alcohol presence but not overwhelming.

T - Bourbon is even more noticeable in the taste than the aroma. Nice vanilla and oak with a bit of alcohol bite mixes with a thick chocolate taste, mostly semi-sweet. Nice bourbon finish.

M - Full mouthfeel that is somewhat viscous. A bit dry with an alcohol bite on the finish.

O - This is a very nice barrel-aged stout. The bourbon is a big component, but it works very well with the heavy chocolate base.

Photo of Beaver13
3.5/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle, 2012 version. Pours dark brown black with a small light brown head that quickly diminishes to a thin film that leaves a little lacing.

The aroma is grainy dark chocolate malts with some lactose and dark fruits and some sharp alcohol.

The flavor is sweet grainy chocolate malts, dark fruits with some roast and quite a bit of vinous alcohol in the finish. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with low carbonation.

Overall, it reminds me of Old Viscosity. I remember this being better than this sample. It's in your face and not really well balanced. Too sweet and treacly at times, and the alcohol is too sharp for me. It's still a good beer though.

Photo of Jared14
4.62/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2014 bottle

A- poured deep black with minimal head and lacing.

S- chocolate and fruits with a hint of alcohol heat.

T- Vanilla and cocoa nib notes come through strong. Not boozy at all for a 14% beer. Amazing.

M- thick and smooth. Coats your mouth. Exactly what I want when I drink a stout.

O- I wish I could have this every day. Great barrel aged stout that is not horribly difficult to get.

Photo of barhoc11
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

2014 vintage Review-

Pours very dark but not motor oil dark like I like these beers. Smell is intensely sweet bourbon and the taste follows. The beer seems like it would benefit from cellaring at least another year to mellow out.

Photo of bishopdc0
4.22/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 bottle shared with my sister and wife. Served at cellar temp

Pours black with a tan head. The head dissipates but a nice ring forms on the edge.

The nose is wonderful I can smell it very easily from the pour. Wonderful coffee vanilla a slight bourbon

The.taste is nice sweet with cocoa and coffee but a nice bourbon flavor. The bourbon is subtle but very nice everything is well balanced and the sweetness is cut by the alcohol.

Photo of tjthresh
4/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I tried this beer at The Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer 08. This beer pours black with a brown head. The aroma is light toast with plenty of chocolate and fruit. Well balanced bourbon, oak, and chocolate flavors. The mouthfeel is oily and the finish is sweet.

Photo of ElSid
4.73/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

The Beers of California

#7

Freshness Date: None

Reserve Series No. 003

A: Poured into a snifter. This brew is pitch black with a khaki head which fades to a faint rim.

S: Bourbon alcohol with complimenting aromoas of tobacco, chocolate, espresso, oak and dark fruits.

T: The flavors at first match the nose: tobacco, chocolate, oak and espresso. Then comes raisins, plums, cherry, vanilla, marshmallows, and smoke. All these complex elements are brought together by dark bread and smooth oat creaminess. Moderate warming bourbonesque alcohol and leafy bitterness throughout.

M: Moderate chewy mouthfeel with light carbonation. Creamy smoothness and good warming alcohol.

O: Stumbled upon this gem at the local BevMo. Aged 12 months in oak barrels, this beautiful brew is the product of patient and knowledgeable hands. A complex, flavorful imperial stout that is both a joy and a honor to imbibe.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 5,302 ratings.