Parabola - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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1,063 Reviews
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Reviews: 1,063
Hads: 5,547
rAvg: 4.51
pDev: 7.54%
Wants: 2,797
Gots: 3,203 | FT: 244
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]
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 1,063 | Hads: 5,547
Photo of TheBrewo
4.5/5  rDev -0.2%
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 +6%
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)

Photo of infinitebruner
4.52/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

January 16, 2015

Draft, snifter

2012 Vintage

A – Jet black, opaque, fairly thick. Large light brown bubbles sit on top, with moderate-low retention. Some lacing remains.

S – Very strong vanilla and bourbon/booze, oaky with sweet chocolate and dark malts. Some caramel and blackstrap molasses. Perhaps dark raisins or figs.

T – Some roasted, bitter black malt, light chocolate, vanilla and bourbon. Hops are low, on the herbal side. Definitely some dark molasses. Booze is prominent but not overwhelming.

M – Warming from the booze, a lot of bitter malt and chocolate sweetness as the backbone. Carbonation is moderate. The balance is definitely towards bitterness and alcohol warmth. Moderately dry finish, with a bittersweet aftertaste.

O – Great blend of alcohol heat, malt sweetness, and bitterness. Oak gives great character. A fantastic beer. Thanks to Falling Rock in Denver for having this on tap. (934 characters)

Photo of Chrisfarleywine
5/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This may be my favorite beer of all time. The mouthfeel is second to none. There's a thick, oatmeal quality to it. The flavor begins nutty, malty and chocolately and effervesces into a complex mixture of tobacco, dried fruits, malt, chocolate, booze, wood - amazingly complex and very drinkable. I wish I could scrooge mc duck into a pool of this beer. (352 characters)

Photo of beerbully
4.26/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured into cuvee

2013 version

L-Black with 1/2 inch mocha head. that fades quickly into a cap that sits atop the beer. Little to no lacing that slips away quickly

S-chocolate, oak, vanilla, bourbon, dark fruits

T-follows the nose, roasty chocolate, oak, vanilla, molasses, bourbon is present but well blended with other flavors........doesn't dominate,

F-Thick, low carbonation, viscous

O-flavors and aroma just not coming through for me. Beer seems to be well balance as no one flavor dominates........sweetness lingers a bit.........alcohol is noticeable but a bit tame for the ABV (593 characters)

Photo of PaulyB83
4.59/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2014 version poured into a snifter

A- Black, some light on the edges reveals on nice dark brown beer, small brown head.

S- Dark fruits, vanilla, chocolate, molasses, some alcohol.

T- Lots of molasses, vanilla, sweet chocolate, dark fruits, pretty smooth, some alcohol bite left on the palate.

M- A nice level of heavy mouthfeel, not too syrupy. Good carb level for a big stout.

O- I find this beer to be right up there with Black Note and BCBS, very similar flavor and mouthfeel, maybe slightly sweeter than the other two. (530 characters)

Photo of Treyliff
4.68/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2013 vintage, poured into a teku

A- pours a midnight black color with no light seeping through, creamy, foamy & bubbly khaki colored head retains for a while, eventually settling to a film on top, some patches of lace being left behind

S- complex aroma starts with walnut fudge brownies & a big hit of chocolate. Beyond that, layers of caramel & toffee mesh with toasted coconut, vanilla & sherry. Slightly sweet fruit aromas of fig, prune & black cherry. Toasted charred oak and barrel juice close it out with a hint of coffee at the end

T- Rich chocolate brownie batter flavor up front with notes of marshmallow cream and coconut. The fruity flavors immediately follow with notes of rum soaked raisin, black cherry, fig & dates. Toasted walnut, charred wood, bourbon juice close it out with lingers of espresso coffee & cream

M- viscous chewy body leads to a creamy mouthfeel and a velvety-chewy finish, lingers of alcohol warmth

O- simply a world class RIS, the complexity of this beer is so impressive, and more subtleties are revealing as it warms. Way too drinkable at 13%, one of my favorites (1,110 characters)

Photo of breadwinner
4.68/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Rightfully one of the standard bearers of the style, it is a lovely synthesis of coffee, dark chocolate, roast, bourbon barrel/char, and maybe the slightest hint of dark fruit. Absolute classic that'll warm you right up. (220 characters)

Photo of Chief09
5/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This is the beer that started it all for my obsession with craft beers. Just thinking of this beer makes me want to pull one out of the fridge. I have a few that I have been ageing. (183 characters)

Photo of Harvest06
4.9/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Review for 2013 version (13% abv, 82 ibu): Consumed 15 months after release. Amazing how much its improved. Stored at 55F. Its still a little tight. I anyone aging this leaving in cellar another 9 months. That would be March 2015 - 2 years after release date at the minimum.

2014 Edition (14%, 82 ibu). This one is even higher abv. With the extra abv I'll cellar this one a full 3 years and I plan to take better tasting notes!

Side note - this is a bba imperial stout, not a RIS and have been categorized incorrectly on BA. (526 characters)

Photo of JayQue
4.47/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 date batch 002. I can't believe I held on to this one so long. Pours a dense black color with a dark brown head (10 FIDY color). The head is small and fades quickly as befits a high abv beer. Some lacing on the glass.

Rich and complex aroma. Bourbon and chocolate are quickly apparent. There is also some oak, vanilla, and coconut. Taste is more of the same, big rich chocolate and bourbon flavors. The woody (oak) flavor is strong too. There is a hint of vanilla and coconut. The alcohol is still present after 3 years of aging.

Mouthfeel is incredibly rich with some warming ahcohol presence and a little alcohol burn. This is a slow sipper, but a very enjoyable one. Lives up to the hype. A great beer. (718 characters)

Photo of timc100
4.65/5  rDev +3.1%

The 2014 vintage clocks in at the highest abv yet though doesn't feel it. Wonderful barrel notes of bakers chocolate, barrel char, notes of sweet vanilla and coconut. A little dark fruit comes through as well. The palate is much richer - brilliant bitter dark chocolate, char, oak, vanilla and the firestone coconut, which is not as prominent as it is in DDBA and sucaba. Very smooth but a little thin.

Don't get a lot of bourbon-whiskey on this, but I do get the great caramelized barrel flavors. Fantastic beer as is expected from the FW barrel program (559 characters)

Photo of smb
4.86/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Memories of the aroma and taste often hit me at random times in random places. An exceptionally crafted and balanced BA stout. One of the greatest. Thank you Matt Brynildson. (174 characters)

Photo of barhoc11
4.5/5  rDev -0.2%

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. (230 characters)

Photo of superspak
4.4/5  rDev -2.4%
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. (1,627 characters)

Photo of WesMantooth
4.85/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2014 Edition

Appearance - Black. Completely opaque. Small mocha colored head.

Aroma - Amazing. Sweet Hersey like chocolate. Deep roasted malts and a faint expresso. Subtle bourbon and oak. Some vanilla too.

Taste - Smooth, perfectly balanced bourbon. Something along the lines of figs, raisins, or cherries. Slightly charred malt. Molasses and rich chocolate. Not much coffee here. Alcohol is very well integrated.

Feel - Silky smooth, fairly viscous.

Overall - This is world class barrel aged stout that is worthy of it's ranking. (540 characters)

Photo of SportsandJorts
4.34/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Vintage 2013. Drank November 2014

Appearance: pours a fairly light black with lots of brown to mahogany around the edges. a finger or just less of a tan head that has decent retention and leaves behind a small lacing. some brownish sludge left as it swirls. completely opaque with darkness.

Smell: bourbon and chocolate mixture. sweet caramels along with some roasted malts. some vanilla and oak qualities. alcohol.

Taste: opens with a strong bourbon with light notes of vanilla and oak. a caramelized malt character comes through along with some decadent chocolate. some slight roasted malts. alcohol is present throughout.

Mouthfeel: heavy and slick. alcohol warmth and some bitterness.

Overall: after being disappointed by Sucaba and highly disappointed by Velvet Merkin I didn't expect much from this. but this one lives up to every bit of its reputation. a big and nicely decadent ba stout. perfect for the cold winter night, or national stouts day. (959 characters)

Photo of floridadrift
4.75/5  rDev +5.3%

Equal to Cigar City Marshal Zukov 1:1

Very smooth, semi-rich, dark as night and lightly carbonated. Dont enjoy this too cold, the alcohol is hidden, let Parabola warm down to expense the true flavors. A great label and a great beer. Super sought after in the places it doesn't make it to and I can see why. (307 characters)

Photo of chinchill
4.46/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2013 shared bottle.

A bit less complex (flavor but not aroma) than the Black Tuesday that preceded this, with more coffee and higher bitterness. Lower (than 19.2%!) ABV evident.

Dark chocolate and coffee linger on in the aftertaste, with plenty of dark roasted grains. Very faint burnt toast component. (308 characters)

Photo of JohnG190
4.92/5  rDev +9.1%

2013 Vintage. Pours black as motor oil with no head to speak of. Lots of chocolate, bourbon and and roasted malt on the nose. The first thing you notice upon the first sip is just how smooth this beer is. The next thing you notice is how amazingly balanced this beer is. Firestone Walker has a world class barrel program, keep up the great work! (345 characters)

Photo of mirp1
5/5  rDev +10.9%

I had this beer on draft at the Green Onion Pub in Utica, NY. First all, if any of you readers are in the Utica area, be sure to drop into "The Onion". Their craft/import beer offerings are high quality, and often exotic as well. It's an old english style pub, no TV's, just great beer, great wine, exceptional single malts, and other small batch whisky, and great music.

As for the Parabola. Wow, a flavor bomb! It is as impressive of a beer as you will ever have. Nuff said. (488 characters)

Photo of imstimpy
5/5  rDev +10.9%

By far the most balanced stout I've ever had the chance to wrap my lips around. Toasty, malty, rich, chocolatey, coffee, all perfectly entwined. A 2013 aged for 1 year before sharing with some great friends. (207 characters)

Photo of rand
4.8/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2014 batch

22 oz bomber poured into a snifter

I've reviewed this before but lost my notes, 2010-ish batch. This beer is one of the best to cellar for a couple (or more) years, but I'll do a proper review of a fresh batch

A: Black in color, completely opaque. Any head the forms quickly collapses under its own weight.

S: The nose is boozy and oaky but complex. Strong notes of ripe fruit and carob, boozy sweet bread. The oak canvasses notes clove and mint.

T/M: Much sweeter on the palate than the nose would lead. The ripe fruit is replaced by cocoa and coffee, although hints of raisin are noted. Malt-forward, but there's enough hop and oak astringency to keep the flavors aligned. The flavor profile is supported by a rich, chewy complexion, giving the chocolate notes a buttery aspect. Long, sweet finish.

Simply one of the best beverages in existence. (882 characters)

Photo of kkleu357
4.83/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Poured a dark thick black with instant aroma of bourbon. Heavy oak, bourbon, and tobacco smell. Thick sticky viscosity. Instant flavor of dark chocolate that lasts and lasts. Some nuttiness as well. Not as big of a bourbon taste. This guy is very well balanced and very delicious. (280 characters)

Photo of Tele
4.73/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Serving Type: Bottle
2014 Vintage

A: 4.75 Looks quite thick on the pour. In the glass, it’s pitch black with a half inch tan head that lasts a couple minutes.

S: 4.75 The nose is excellent. Lots of bourbon, vanilla, and roasted malt up front, but it’s followed quickly by much more subtle aromas. There is cinnamon, berries, graham crackers, cocoa, and coffee. The roasted malt and big bourbon still dominate, but the background aromas are nicely intertwined with the bigger characteristics.

T: 4.75 Like the nose, there’s a lot of roasted malt and bourbon. At first, there’s a good amount of sweetness (though a bit less than expected). The fruitiness is a bit stronger than on the nose, but it is quickly followed by a lot’s of coffee, chocolate, and roasted malt leaving a pleasant bitterness on the aftertaste similar to eating good, dark chocolate. The alcohol presence is very minimal for 14%.

M: 4.5 Carbonation is just right. The beer is very thick, but not quite a much as BCBS, so there’s a little room for improvement. Still, it’s rich and thick and extremely satisfying. Also, surprisingly easy drinking (but still a sipper).

O: 4.75 This is a superb stout. You can tell that the base beer is high quality and the bourbon really adds to it rather than covering up flaws. I would like to compare this to BCBS, but in truth they are quite different. This is a bit more roasty, bitter, and less sweet with surprisingly fruity flavors that balance out all the richness. I once did a side-by-side with a 2013 of each, and the BCBS was the clear winner, but there’s something really special about this 2014, so I might have to give it another shot ☺. (1,682 characters)

Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 1,063 ratings.