Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine and select auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Parabola - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,086 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 1,086
Hads: 5,708
Avg: 4.54
pDev: 8.15%
Wants: 2,913
Gots: 3,274 | FT: 252
Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  14.00% 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.

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 (83) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 1,086 | Hads: 5,708
Photo of IowaBiertrinker
4.73/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2015 from a bottle.

Pours moderately thick. Very flavorful with just enough carbonation and balance to make this near perfect. Couldn't find many flaws to criticize. Get some.

 181 characters

Photo of arvidkoval
4.14/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Smell is straight bourbon. After the initial bourbon blast, some toffee, espresso, chocolate, some oak flavors. On the sweeter side. Good full body. Tasty shit.

 163 characters

Photo of jageraholic
4.84/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A: black, almost oil slick, ten head.
S: amazingly complex. Vanilla, oak, marshmallow, cherries, coffee, bourbon. In unison. Perfect
T:amazeballs. Everything in the aroma comes through in waves. Sweet finish.
M: thick, like milk. Perfect
O: outstanding, just wish the finish was a bit less sweet but perfect sipper by a fire.

 336 characters

Photo of Kuaff
4.86/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

In my snifter at cellar temperature. I'm excited!

Midnight black, as the label describes it, is accurate. A fleeting sheet of rich-looking dark mocha froth.

That's quite an aroma. VERY forward with dessert-like caramel, butterscotch, and maple. It also has vanilla, oak, toasted pecans, bourbon, leather, earth, and yeasty dark bread dough. It even brings the dark fruits like raisins and plums! Add to all this the most lusciously rich, enticing of dark chocolate scents , and it makes for a superbly sniffable stout.

Oh my dear. That first sip just took me on quite a ride. EVERYTHING I just described above comes through in the flavor, if not more. And it's incredibly well-integrated and smooth. Intense bourbon, leathury oak, vanilla, dark fruits, and chocolate barrage the palate, yet nothing feels over-done. The finish leaves me feeling not cloying sweetness, but rather a dry, almost woody, earthen grainy sensation. Powerful, yet balanced.

The feel is sticky and wonderfully viscous.

Words cannot do this stout justice.

 1,034 characters

Photo of tony2beers
4.81/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2014 vintage poured from bottle into snifter

Poured a deep black color and immediately smelled chocolate and vanilla up front with a more bourbon as it warmed.

Very thick mouthfeel, and taste of chocolate and bourbon.

 219 characters

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

Parabola '12 vintage

Many thanks to Kevin for the bottle.

Pours a black color, with a decent, bubbly head.

Aromas reveal a rich Bourbon note among chocolate, coffee and wood. The Bourbon is very well pronounced, hovering on top of sweet, toffeeish malts, bakers chocolate and molasses, well balanced between sweet, earthy and bitter aromas. Toffee and hot Bourbon blend outstandingly well into each other, with coffee playing a balancing role, bittering the nose.

Drinks incredibly smooth, revealing the rich, decadent body of the beer, with almost no carbonation necessary to showcase its complexity.

While the Bourbon is very prominent on the nose, it is well integrated into the beers taste, due to earthy malts, wood and creamy milk chocolate, balancing the bourbonic impact. It tastes quite hot though, with coffee blending into the oak incredibly well, exhibiting a slightly dry quality, absorbed by sweeter chocolate with lots of cream. The bitternes turns quite prominent, due to the wooden, hot bite, inviting matured hops and coffee to the tongue. Until the very end, coffee and chocolate are on par, leading to a semi-dry, slightly burning finish.

Fantastic brew, outstandingly balanced, while providing an amazing depth. Wooden coffee and creamy milk chocolate are balancing the Bourbon artfully, both staying recognizable until the finish, while their taste gets gently transformed due to luscious, slightly dry, warming Bourbon and notes of coconut, as well as vanilla.

 1,492 characters

Photo of BuccoFan
4.53/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured a 22 oz bottle into snifter. 2015 bottle. Didn't find it much different than BCBS, which is to say I found it exceptional. Totally robust feel with nice bourbony taste. Worth every effort to get hold of, if you can.

 222 characters

Photo of raynmoon
4.61/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2015 bottle

Looks a little strange actually. Doesn't pour as black as some other stouts out there, but that is how parabola has always been. The strange thing is how large the bubbles are on the foam. No head to speak of. But to be expected.

The smell is glorious however. You get that classic firestone barrel character shining immediately. I get a big amount of brown sugar sweetness, toasted coconut.

Wooh, this is a big boy. Boozy heat comes in the back end of the sip, starts to tingle and burn the tongue a little. But the first taste is a soft, warm wave of dark chocolate and coconut. It has quite a bit of vanilla and barrel coming through while also maintaining tons of balance.

Mouthfeel is superb, very velvety, low carbonation.

This vintage of parabola is coming off a little hot, which it don't quite remember any of their barrel beers being, but this is a super fresh bottle of a 14% abv beer! should be expected.

 937 characters

Photo of tprinzing
4.95/5  rDev +9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured a 2015 into a 6 oz snifter, warmed to about 50 degrees.

This is one of my favorite beers. I get heavy vanilla both in the smell and the taste. I really like the Anniversary series, and now that I've tried Parabola I see where a lot of the appeal comes from. If there was any way it could be more awesome, IMO it would be just to have a slightly more heavy feel. I absolutely love this beer!!
Good thing I bought a bunch of them!!

 441 characters

Photo of MtnSoup
4.74/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Better than 2014 (in my opinion). 2014 was very bourbon-y, too much so, with not enough carbonation and less lacing. 2015 seems to be perfectly balanced, super heavy bourbon nose, but could not be more balanced upon tasting. Just a wonderful beer, and oh so glad I have more. Will be interesting to taste side by side with the 2013 and 2014 that has had some time to settle in.

 377 characters

Photo of Phigg1102
4.88/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

This lived up to all the hype for me. It was simply the best BA beer I've had and possibly the best stout I've had. I would love to try a '13 or '14 for perspective, but the '15 was brilliant.

 192 characters

Photo of IPAGeorge
4.76/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a bottle into a tulip

A. A jet black poured with a cappuccino colored 2 finger sudsy head. Splashy lacing around glass.

S. Bakers chocolate and booze fill the nose. Caramel, Coffee and Vanilla aftertones. Slight licorice notes.

T. Very nice. Chocolate, Caramel, Coffee Bourbon oak boozy, roasted malts all nicely blended together. Delicious. Slight bitter aftertaste.

M. Creamy, luscious, silky. A very nice feel in the mouth. Nice and thick. 8 out of 10 on body. Slight carbonation. Finishes clean. Some warming going down. Can't ask for a whole lot more mouthfeel.

O. An excellent beer. Every aspect. If there was something to nitpick at and I would have to, to say much is wrong with this beer it would be the lacing. It's a bit spotty. But everything else is pretty top notch. Get this beer and enjoy it!

 864 characters

Photo of Falcon91Wolvrn03
4.72/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2012 Vintage opened in 2015. Review #200.

Appearance – A very dark black, with a light brown head and medium light lacing.

Smell – Malt, sweet vanilla, bourbon, and oak.

Taste – Follows the nose – malt, vanilla, bourbon, and oak. Delicious!

Mouthfeel – Nicely carbonated, smooth, and creamy. Goes down amazingly well and doesn't feel like 13%abv.

Drinkability – This went down easy for 13%abv. Very nice!

 425 characters

Photo of don1481
4.86/5  rDev +7%
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.

 395 characters

Photo of BenwayPHD
4.83/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a dark, dark [bordering on black] brown with slight auburn on the edges and a very thin mocha head. The smell is very classy and subtle. Vanilla, molasses, dried figs, dried cherries, chocolate, the bourbon is present but not overwhelming, there is a subtle hint of alcohol but it adds a little warmth instead of distracting. The flavor is exquisite. Toffee, vanilla, chocolate, mocha. With a nice thick mouthfeel that coats the tongue. This is the most subtle yet perfect BBA Stout I've ever had.

 503 characters

Photo of Jeffwildcat
4.84/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Had this saved for my 40th bday (2014 version) this past week. Was a great beer. The alcohal didn't punch me in the face as much as BCBS does. Very smooth and cant wait for 2015...

 183 characters

Photo of rodmanfor3
4.53/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

This is a great stout., though I remember little about it.

Probably the third best offering from Firestone Walker after Stickee Monkee and the Anniversary beers.

Definitely worth grabbing if it is available, though there are better stouts at a similar price point available.

 278 characters

Photo of rwf08
4.94/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Parabola 001
This is my favorite beer by far.
Color: opaque jet-black
Head: thin mocha head around the glass
Flavor: coffee upfront, warming alcohol, chocolate notes, bitter burnt grain, wood and vanilla.
Smell: soy sauce, dark chocolate.
Mouth-feel: medium body with a slightly dry finish

 301 characters

Photo of TychoNDC
4.63/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A quick unfocused review. This beer delivered...completely lived up to the hype. It's up there with BCBS among my favorite bourbon barrel aged stouts. Immense, chewy, roasty, delicious, but still true to its RIS base. Just wonderful.

 233 characters

Photo of BuckeyeBeers
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Amended rating: Just tried a 2012 bottle and it was a dramatic difference from the relatively fresh bottle consumed last fall. Despite what some folks have said, age made a great beer an extraordinary beer.

 207 characters

Photo of humuloner22
4.88/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

This one was the 2014 edition.

Appearance: Dark frothy caramel colored head that sits there pretty long considering the abv.

Aroma: Vanilla initially is dominant on this one, it does not smell too boozy considering the abv. but the bourbon and the oak do come through on the nose. It also has some roasted malts and a mild hop presence.

Taste: Bourbon and barrel are upfront, then vanilla and caramel come through in the mid palate. This is not a cloyingly sweet beer its very well balanced and surprisingly not boozy at all considering the 14% abv. It also has a nice velvety smooth mouthfeel. Its a very enjoyable BA stout and I am happy I have had the opportunity to try this one.

Overall: Very well worth the place it holds as one of the best stouts out there! I think this one kicks Bourbon County out of the room. Its not boozy considering the similar abv whereas Bourbon County is very alcoholic in flavor and pretty one sided. This beer is really what most bourbon barrel aged stouts should try to achieve.

 1,020 characters

Photo of Heatwave33
5/5  rDev +10.1%
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.

 586 characters

Photo of Dodgerrigo77
4.99/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Fantastic, different texture then Abyss or BCBS!
Awesome lots of body!!
Not as boozym, the Molasses in Abyss was nice.
On a tap @ Toronado all 3 awesome but Parabola takes the cske!!!

 183 characters

Photo of TheBrewo
4.5/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

We unleash a bottle of 2013’s “No. 004” into our three-quarter sized tasting snifters. It glugs out a very dark and oily espresso brown coloring, producing no real head despite a heavy-handed pour. Small aggregates of chocolate brown bubbles cling to our glasses as you swirl the liquid, but otherwise no lacing comes forwards. The dregs of the bottle actually helped stir up a half finger’s worth of this same foam, but this wasn’t reproducible either, thereafter. No haze is noted, but punctate sediment sits suspended throughout. Carbonation appears to be mildly moderate. The aroma is breathtaking. Notes of charred chocolate, coffee, and black malts, musky oak, heavy buttery diacetyls, fresh vanilla, cream cheese cake icing, Graham cracker crustiness and flaky croissant breadiness, black cherry and prune fruitiness, raw barley, chlorine, burnt coconut, aloe and creamy sunscreen chemicals, mild Magic Marker phenols, smoky rye whisky warmth, whole black peppercorns, and sweet molasses enliven the senses. The flavoring is much, much sweeter than expected at first, but holds onto this harsh and heavy booziness and smokiness on the back to offer supreme balance. Here, we experience heavily charred barley, clean and bittering chocolate and coffee grain, soured rye grainy grit, brassy metallics, acidic vinegar, hot and fusel bourbon ethanol kick, raisins and dried cherry fruitiness, clove and medicinal phenolic wash, brown sugar sweetness, fired oak, chalked ale yeastiness, campfire char, Concord grape sugars, light soapy hops, creamy vanilla pound cake, dried coconut flakiness, Elmer’s glue, bitter devil’s food cake, raw cacao nibs, and sarsaparilla fumes. The body is sufficiently full and chewy, and carbonation is medium, but remains soft as you work it around your mouth. Slurp and smack are as oily as ever, with the same effect subduing froth, cream, and foaminess. The mouth is slicked, warmed, and wrinkled of tannins, with intermittent twangs of puck and suck, while the lips are left to lick themselves clean of stickiness. The abv is appropriately large, and the beer sips well between the two of us.

Overall, this is an exceptional offering. What a few days it has been for us!! Yesterday we got to enjoy Firestone’s other coveted rarity, §ucaba, and less than twenty-four hours later, we have the supreme pleasure of tackling Parabola. This pairing has really helped put the landscape of barreling into perspective for us, and have, in part, reestablished where the bar should sit. From the moment you open the bottle the aroma is already settling into your nasal mucosa, even at a distance. It highlights some of the most authentic and warming oaky butters we’ve experienced to date, effectively setting the stage for a decidedly serious beer. With this in mind, the first sip takes you a bit by surprise. There is so much cloying sweetness to it. Thankfully, this is transient, and only serves to shock the palate before the real complexity of the flavor begins to settle in. The final blend is intensely bittering, with primary contributions from the deeply burnt malt bill, the wood, and the booze. It is simply succulent and wonderfully savory. If you are going to force us to complain about one thing, it would be the feel. It was by no means poor, but felt, at times, lacking in substance and creaminess compared to what you’d expect for the style, and for such a big beer. As we watch the next winter storm creep towards us on the radar, we are thankfully for such a beer to keep us warm through the evening. This beer should be on everyone’s list, if it isn’t already.

 3,662 characters

Photo of WI-Beer-Man
4.78/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2014 bottle.

Amazing beer. Heavy sweet chocolate flavor, bourbon on the back end, a tad hot but incredibly smooth. Thick, rich mouthfeel. One of the best beers that I've had.

 181 characters

Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 1,086 ratings.