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Parabola - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

4,731 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 4,731
Reviews: 993
rAvg: 4.61
pDev: 8.46%
Wants: 2,249
Gots: 2,619 | FT: 185
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:
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]

(Beer added by: largadeer on 03-26-2008)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 4,731 | Reviews: 993 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of kojevergas
3.36/5  rDev -27.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Reserve Series No 003. 2012. 1 pint 6 fl oz (650ml) brown glass bottle with papered-over pressure cap served into a glassform bubbled pilsner glass in me friend Brendan's gaff in high altitude Fort Collins, Colorado. Reviewed live. Expectations are high given this beer's reputation.

Served straight from the refrigerator and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

Not paired with food.

A: Pours a one finger head of slight tan colour, mocha soft cream, good thickness, and great retention for the 12.50% ABV. Colour is a solid nontransparent black. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show. Predictable for the style, but nevertheless appealing.

Sm: The aroma's starting to get me more interested. Cream, vanilla, chocolate, moderately heavy oak, hints of roast, a light hint of booze, unwelcome caramelization, and unwelcome caramel. The oak distracts from the general tone of the beer. I'm a bit concerned about the oats, and I worry they'll make the mouthfeel too porter-like. A moderate strength subdued aroma. Not at all the bold flavours you'd expect from the style, but I'm hoping that's indicative of subtlety rather than restrained character.

T: Oak-laden, with nicely balanced caramel and hints of vanilla & chocolate. Nice dark malts comprise the foundation. Slight yeast comes through. Where's the roast? The style demands roast and it just isn't present. Certainly not a unique or special beer. It's a touch too sweet. The sugars used seemed simple and predictable. Built pretty close to the style; it lacks experimentation or boldness as a result. Some decent layering and subtlety, but not particularly complex for the style. I detect slight plum after suggested. Structurally indistinct; the first, second, and third acts are not clear and divisive but rather vague and poorly managed. It's good, but I'm far from impressed with it. The alcohol comes through as it warms.

Mf: Smooth - overly so for the style (even considering the oats). Tries too hard to have porter-like smoothness. Would be better with coarseness (ideally from roasted barley) to coax out the flavours. Not dry enough either, instead offering only jarringly overdone wetness. Adequately carbonated. Moderately heavy on the palate. A touch too thin.

Dr: Drinkable for the ABV - which is hidden alright. The expectations created by its high ratings and hype are certainly not met. This has been done similarly - and better - before many times There's nothing special or unique here. Pretty pricey for the disappointing quality. I expected great and got pretty good. I might try this on draught, but having now had most of Firestone Walker's beers (including Sucaba) I know that I oughtn't to get me hopes up.



Revisited this on-draught because I kept seeing it hyped in the forums. Truncated review below. 17cl for $7.00.

A: 3 finger head, creamy, nice soft complexion, great thickness. Damn good (~10 minute) retention. Opaque black body colour.

Sm: Marshmallow, dark malts, chocolate malt, vanilla, cream. Lovely bourbon barrel notes including subtle vanilla and oak. No alcohol is detectable. Lovely aroma overall. No yeast or hops is/are detectable. Way better than the bottled form.

T: Syrupy, with molasses and marshmallow. Nice cream on the climax. Boozy. Chocolate malt, dark malts. The barrel notes hardly come through at all; no evocative vanilla or oak here. Very low flavour duration; it's brief and then it's gone. Timid intensity (save for the alcohol); shockingly restrained, to its detriment. Balance is off. The absence of roast is regrettable.

Mf: Nice creaminess, thickness, and carbonation. Smooth and wet. Strange presence on the palate; comes off somewhat artificial. Doesn't feel custom-tailored to the flavour profile.

Dr: Drinkable the high ABV, but quite pricey. Underwhelming overall compared to the hype. It's a decent beginner's imperial stout with timid barrel character, but timid and restrained does not equate to subtle and well integrated. I revisited this in good faith, but it's just not remarkable enough to justify its reputation or its high ratings. The barrel notes in particular are lacking compared to top beers in the style.

Low B-

kojevergas, May 29, 2012
Photo of XmnwildX12
4.25/5  rDev -7.8%

XmnwildX12, Nov 28, 2013
Photo of oriolesfan4
4.75/5  rDev +3%

oriolesfan4, Jan 02, 2014
Photo of Halcyondays
4.45/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Beachwood BBQ, 8 oz. serving, as it is 13%,

A: Pours a jet black, with a light tan head with good retention, and excellent, thick lacing.

S: Get a lot of bourbon notes mixed with some coffee and booze, ethanol volatiles are there that you can feel in the nose.

T: Reminds me of Firestone 11 right of the bat with its initial taste which was full of vanilla. But then the beer changes and shows that it was only a small part of that beer. Major chocolate and coffee notes, definite espresso with a soothing alcohol presence, very tasty stout.

M: Velvety smooth and thick, what you'd expect from a 13% stout, pretty much picture perfect, very full-bodied.

D: This is an outstanding beer from Firestone and I was suprised how fast I finished the glass. Not as good as the blend of Firestone 11, but this is great in its own right, glad I finally got to try it; I definitely want to have it again while it is still out.

Halcyondays, Sep 19, 2008
Photo of Gavage
4.25/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: pours a black color with a 1/2" head which falls quickly to a spotty surface foam.

Smell: roasted malts, dark chocolate, and some fruit sweetness are up front. Some vanilla and alcohol round it out.

Taste: big roasted malt flavors, chocolate, vanilla, prunes, a bit of coffee , and alcohol. Very complex and flavors improve as it warms.

Mouthfeel: heavy in body. Smooth throughout. Long lasting aftertaste.

Overall: very slow sipping but very flavorful. This would be better aged as it is a bit boozy now.

Gavage, Aug 19, 2011
Photo of GClarkage
4.45/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

11/15/08- Had on tap in samplers at the Barrel Aged festival at the Bistro in Hayward, CA.

Presentation- Via the tap into small taster glasses.

Appearance- Pitch black in color. Drity white slight creamy head. Left behind sticky patches of lace.

Smell- Rich in roasted caramel, bittersweet chocolate and mild coffee notes. Light fusel alcohol notes.

Taste- A mixture of everything. Mild bitter hops, medium dark chocolate with a nice dash of sweetness, slight grain flavor noted...vanilla oaky barrel taste, nice bourbon barrel base. Coffee is there, but toward the back because of all the other flavors. Even some booze soaked dates.

Mouthfeel- Thick, viscous, creamy, but with all that a higher rate of carbonation.

Drinkability- I could easliy buy this if it came out in bottles. A 12oz bottle would be sufficient.

GClarkage, Nov 17, 2008
Photo of imperialking
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

imperialking, Dec 19, 2011
Photo of InspectorBob
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

InspectorBob, Jan 01, 2012
Photo of drewone
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

drewone, Jan 17, 2012
Photo of yourefragile
4.25/5  rDev -7.8%

yourefragile, Jan 18, 2013
Photo of corby112
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bomber, received in a recent trade with BelgianBeerGal. Thanks again Amy!

Pours pitch black and completely opaque with a one finger dark mocha head that quickly fades into a thick lasting ring. Sporadic spots of lacing left behind.

Complex aroma with a good balance of luscious roasted malt, dark fruit, coffee and bourbon. The barrel character is there without overpowering the other notes. Lots of earthy oak/dry wood in the nose along with sweet boozy bourbon as well as some hints of vanilla and toasted coconut. Lots of dark roasted malt giving off hints of dark chocolate, roasted coffee bean, oatmeal and tobacco. Slightly smokey but not burnt or acrid smelling. Smells like there might even be some cedar in there. Surprisingly, underneath all of this, there is some very faint light fruit and licorice as well as a good bit of earthy, piny hops. This beer has 80 IBUs and it shows in the nose, even with all of the other intense aromas.

Chewy full body with a blast of dry, bitter hops up front that lingers thrughout the intense malt backbone into a nice warm fnish. Resinous, earthy pine flavor that holds it's own against the more intense, robust flavors. This adds another dimension to this beer that I wasn't expecting. After the initial bitterness there is a strong barrel presence with a prominent dry oak/wood flavor. The bourbon and other spirits are there but they are well integrated into the beer withut turnng it into a hot, boozy mess. The smoother vanilla/marshmallow/coconut notes that were suggested in the aroma aren't evident to my palate.

Although there is a nice bourbon flavor, the robust, roasted malt flavors are very prominent. Lots of luscious dark chocolate, oatmeal and burnt toast as well as a very strong roasted coffee bean presence. The coffee/espresso flavor is deep and roasty but is not stale, burnt or acrid tastng at all and doesn't overpower the other flavors. Again, I'm picking up a good amount of smokiness/tobacco flavor that I'm really loving. All of these flavors are bouncing off of one another resulting in an incredibly complex, delicious beer. Each sip brings something new and although there is some nice heat and burn in the finish, the ABV at 13% is very well masked. Very quaffable and tackling the whole bomber was no problem for me. Maybe that says more about me than the beer but that's a discussion for another time.

corby112, Apr 01, 2011
Photo of orangesol
4.3/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to FooFaa for bringing this to the Inaugural "Imminent Liquidation Bottle Share" Event. Bottle poured into a taster glass.

A - Pours pitch black with a small cap of half finger tall tan head, dissipating down to almost nothing, leaving little to no lacing down the glass.

S - Plenty of dark malt, chocolate, vanilla, dulled bourbon heat, and some light charred wood. Good overall balance but nothing too over the top. Solid Stuff.

T - Flavors are similar to the nose. Lots of dark roasted malt, chocolate, vanilla, and charred oak. The booze is very well hidden, offering only short glimpses of the warming bourbon. Finish is a mix of sweetness and lightly warming heat. Damn, this is one good beer. I might need to get a few bottles of this for myself.

M - Heavy body and flavor with moderate carbonation. Nice full feel with some lingering sweet roast in the finish.

D - Very good. I have wanted to try this one for awhile now and now that I have I am impressed. I just wish I would have picked up a few bottles for myself.

orangesol, Mar 10, 2011
Photo of weeare138
4.6/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appears a turbid opaque onyx with russet toned edges. A small, foamy tan head slowly fades. Scattered streaks of pacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of dark bakers chocolate, vanilla beans, sugary rum, bourbon, and intense caramel. Sheesh! I could smell this all afternoon.
Taste is of the aromas with a fine sipping version of caramel, vanilla, and cocoa. Obvious bourbon influence on amwell done imperial stout. Hells yeahs!
Mouthfeel is a tad boozy, as expected, full bodied, chewy, with a resonating sugar cookie and chocolate chip finish.

weeare138, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of stakem
4.45/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Leon for sharing this brew on 1/22/11.

Poured into a snifter, this brew appears black in color with no light shining through as it is held to the light. A thin dark coating of brown head appears across the top. Faint spotty lace clings to the glass with legs. A swirl revives the cap to a thin film.

The aroma of this brew includes the pleasant barrel indication of vanilla. I love that smell in barrel aged beers. Sweet and roasty with indications of chocolate malt overtop of a tingly presence of whiskey. As it warms, notes of coffee, licorice and citrus hops come forward.

The taste includes a vanilla flavor just like the aroma led on. It is roasty with a mild bitterness like unsweetened chocolate mixed with whiskey. There is a tangy hop influence but it is mellow and does not outshine the roasty qualities of this brew. A lingering roastiness resides in the mouth with some earthy coffee notes and a bit of astringent alcohol.

This is a medium bodied brew that is lightly carbonated and very smooth drinking. Tons of flavors to enjoy and quite a deep brew. Roasty and bitter with lots of nuances to pick up on. This is a solid example of barrel aging and something I would love to have as a staple in the cellar.

stakem, Feb 01, 2011
Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.55/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2012 boxed bottle purchased from Belmont Station in Portland, OR. Shared with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe during a brewday in Sydney, Australia.

Pours a fine deep brown-black, with a slightly frothy, large-bubbled head of mocha brown that leaves speckled lace. Body is solid but fluid, leaving fine carbonation, but swirling quickly. Looks good.

Nose is an excellent deep sweet oak-aged stout melange. Hints of vanilla mixed with a depth of roast, with a sharp ashy tinge like the cold remains of an overnight campfire. There's a little touch of sulphur to it as well, which lends some organics in a slightly weird, but not necessarily unpleasant way.

Palate is exceptional. Incredibly smooth and rich, and wonderfully balanced. Deep darkness is obviously the order of the day, but it's blended and folded over itself again and again until it has no harshness in it: it's smooth, rich, and certainly dark, but in the most mellow and approachable way. Light oak gives some vanilla, but as ever, that darkness sits around and draws the flavour back to its midnight depths. Wow. Incredible stuff.

Feel is smooth but with a lightness that again antagonises the true darkness that is at its heart.

This is a wonderful beer. It straddles the dichotomy of dark and light, of good and evil of sweet and bitter. Of everything. This beer is a little of it all. Really great stuff.

lacqueredmouse, Oct 13, 2012
Photo of wrightst
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

wrightst, Jul 07, 2014
Photo of dbrauneis
4.56/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2011 Vintage

A: Pours an opaque jet black in color with some very dark amber highlights and a very light amount of visible carbonation. The beer has a quarter finger tall dark tan to mocha head that quickly reduces to a small patch of very thin film and a very thin ring at the edges of the glass. Light amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Strong aromas of bourbon, oak, and vanilla along with some light to moderate notes of chocolate. There are some very light hints of alcohol in the aroma as well.

T: Upfront there is a strong flavor of chocolate, caramel, and coffee - the chocolate is more of a dark chocolate, a bittersweet chocolate. There is a moderate to strong flavor of bourbon, vanilla, and oak with just a hint of coconut towards the finish. There are light notes of roasted malts and vinous notes. Light to moderate amounts of bitterness in the finish.

M: Just shy of full bodied with light to moderate amounts of carbonation. Velvety smooth with a light amount of alcohol heat in the finish.

O: This beer is very enjoyable with a great amount of complexity to both the taste and the smell - this makes it a great sipping beer that is best slowly enjoyed... The beer smells much stronger than it tastes but the alcohol is not overly present in the flavor. The beer continues to smooth out as it warms and the complexity increases.

dbrauneis, Jan 12, 2013
Photo of barleywinefiend
4.6/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Poured opaque black with a huge frothy brown head.

S: Nose is boozy,oats, light bourbon, cocoa.

T: After having Parabola on draft numerous times and initially at FW 13 release I thought the bottled 2011 was a tad bit hotter and bourbon heavy than previous years. Nose and taste mirror are very close with molasses and dark chocolate being most prominent with some bourbon and oak in there. This beer is pretty boozy but the ABV is hidden pretty good. If you dont watch it this beer will sneak up on you.

M: This brew is totally full bodied and smooth. The ABV is pretty high and this keeps drinkability at Good. Not a session beer for sure but great for a cold day!

O Oh so well done and down right fantastic

barleywinefiend, Jul 03, 2011
Photo of Georgiabeer
4.88/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2010 bottle I've been aging in my cellar- I decided to crack it with my wife in this prelude week to Christmas. I very much like the way the 13% abv edges have been smoothed out and the Bourbon flavors have become integrated into the beer. Definitely noticeable Bourbon notes, but it doesn't dominate the beer, and it's become oh so smooth. Pours inky black and viscous with a thin brown rim of a head and some legs on the glass. Nice aromas that present as a seamless whole- outstanding notes of licorice, vanilla, bourbon, and molasses. The taste is even better- really nice bourbon notes coupled beautifully with roasted notes, dark chocolate, licorice, and a slight woodiness than underlines the beer. Wonderful stuff. Absolutely silky in the mouth, with the sense of having swallowed some excellent drinking chocolate laced with good quality whiskey. Thoroughly enjoyed this, and I'm glad I was patient enough to wait.

Georgiabeer, Dec 21, 2011
Photo of duceswild
4.25/5  rDev -7.8%

duceswild, Aug 28, 2012
Photo of akorsak
4/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A bottle shared at Al's blow-out.

A: The imperial stout sure is imperial looking, dark and black. A moderate-sized head, a tan color, stands out against the darkness.

S: The nose is nutty and roasted, plenty of malts to go around. Call me an outlier, but I wasn't impressed with the bourbon presence.

T: The roasted flavors consume the stout, burnt and bready, well toasted. Nuttiness matches the dark stouts, a sweeter flavor that puts a few dents into the roasted depth. Again, the barrel aging isn't very dominant. Instead the malt profile is left to fend for its own. Some oak comes through late, but the oomph of bourbon seems to be lost on me. Anyone wanna send me another to try?

M: The mouthfeel is that of an imperial stout, sweet and deep, burnt and full. Much more stout than bourbon, at least what was in my glass.

D: Big and bold, a mouthful of a stout. Only problem is that is like every other imperial stout, dark and warming with plenty of roasted flavors.

akorsak, Nov 03, 2010
Photo of mothman
4.47/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to kbutler1 for sharing this.

Poured into ccb snifter

Pours a light layer of brown head. Color is an oil black.

Aroma: Oak, vanilla, whiskey, coffee, chocolate, and light cherry flavors.

Taste: I get more of a bourbon flavor here instead of the whiskey I picked up in the nose. Dark chocolate, very sweet. Roasted malts, oak, vanilla, cherries, raisins, and coffee. Just a tad boozy.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy. Full bodied with a medium amount of carbonation. Ends warm and a bit dry, but clean.

Overall, a very nice imp stout. Good -bal aging notes. Good flavors and the drinkability is nice on this one. Solid stuff.

mothman, Aug 29, 2010
Photo of ejimhof
4/5  rDev -13.2%

ejimhof, Feb 19, 2012
Photo of DoubleJ
4.43/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

The one and only Parabola, on-tap at 38 Degrees. The final beer of the night, on to the beer:

Oh my, another darker than black imperial stout! The lacing on this one is actually quite solid for the style. Now in this beer, the barrel qualities are noticable, but are more subtle than the Rasputin XII I had earlier. The aroma is very mellow, with a little oak, and succulent cocoa.

While not as complex, it's still very tasty. There's chocolate, boysenberry(!), licorice, and a little touch of oak. That sounds, good, don't you think? And they're blended and balanced together with the craftsmanship of FW. It's thick and rich, yet never overbeaing or harsh on the palate.

Do I need to say that this is delicous beer? A bomber of this may be a little much for me, but I'd certainly be happy to split one with somebody in the future...or be lucky and find Parabola on-tap again.

DoubleJ, Jun 17, 2010
Photo of BARFLYB
4.83/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 bomber split with oglmcdgl and sourbatchkid. Glad to see firewalker out here on the eastcoast. The world just got a bit smaller. Sorry Cali :(

Into the Duvel tulip, Parabola pours out a sludgy black color resembling night time. Pretty viscous looking streaming down, it is jet black once in the glass. A nice mocha brown inch of foam bubbly and lasting leaving some marks.

Smell is something to marvel at. It's bold, pungent and full of everything you would think. Bourbon clashing with a big roasted malt scent. Wood with chocolate hints and a underlining vanilla scent. Bold and beautiful.

Had a sip, meh, had another, yeah, and another, give me more!! Roasted malts play a big part as does the bourbon and wood at this young stage in the bottle. A bit of char and smoke and a faint drop of dark fruit resembling cherry. Not sure what the wine barrel influence brings, but something gotta be there. Chocolate over slight and I mean slight vanilla. Not a sweet beer, but well balanced with all above.

Feel is what you would expect from the look. Viscous, a big ol body, adaquate carb yet goes down smoother than that. With all the flavor it's best to sip this slow to get to know it better. A bit oily and a coater of the throat. Get a bit of char with bourbon in the aftertaste and some heat to go with it.

Im not the biggest rizzzz guy, but for what Parabola puts out, im more than game and if a bottle needed to be drank by myself, I would do it. It would take me four hours to do it, but it would get finished. A sipper at heart that begs to be drank more and more and more.

Overall I think this is an excellent BBA beer and one of my top three. It helps that it is not insanely overpriced like a certain ops from Brooklyn. The other barrels used impart so much more than just your average Barrel stout and it shows from the complexities, especially the faint cherry. Got one to lay down till wintertime, maybe christmas.

BARFLYB, Jul 07, 2011
Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 4,731 ratings.