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Parabola - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,091 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 1,091
Hads: 5,724
Avg: 4.54
pDev: 18.72%
Wants: 2,922
Gots: 3,277 | FT: 250
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
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Reviews: 1,091 | Hads: 5,724
Photo of rand
4.8/5  rDev +5.7%
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.

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Photo of kkleu357
4.83/5  rDev +6.4%
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.

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Photo of Tele
4.73/5  rDev +4.2%
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 ☺.

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Photo of HalfFull
4.37/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Series No. 001 poured into a snifter glass, been cellaring this one for a while. Opens with a soft pop and pours dead black into the glass with a fleeting deep brown cap. Offers a complex aroma with some light ethanol notes generally subdued by rich malts and a pleasant blend of barrel aromas. More chocolate emerges with warming.

Taste is rich and back to basics vs. the aroma. Lots of rich dark malts, some cherry and fig, along with a touch of wood at the end of a rather long finish. Offers a spritzy carbonation which is more than expected given the light foam on the pour. Rich and full in feel without being overbearing and a hint of vanilla on the finish. Solid stuff with a couple years on it...

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Photo of mabermud
4.87/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

2014 - Well-made. High quality. Rich and complex, with a balanced bourbon taste.

2015 - All of the above + caramelize sugar, vanilla, and breadiness. Everything is superbly balanced. BCBS is more rich, but this has a more complex and intricate smell, taste, and feel. This is a winner.

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Photo of ilikebeer03
4.75/5  rDev +4.6%

2014 vintage.

A: pours slightly translucent black with a half finger of tan head which dissipates quickly and leaves a slim ring around the glass. no lacing. to be expected for such a high alcohol brew.

S: wonderful. soft bourbon, vanilla, oak, chocolate, coffee, dark malt, roast. very complex. no one of these dominates.

T: follows the nose. soft bourbon notes, oaky vanilla, dark chocolates and coffee with a malty roast backbone. slightly dry finish with a very slight trace of alcohol.

M: mouth feel is good, but could maybe be a little thicker. carbonation is nice (low carbonation as is appropriate for the style) bourbon and dark chocolate lingers in the palate well after swallowing.

O: This is an incredible beer! Definitely not all hype. Well worth the price tag.

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Photo of KornWallace
4/5  rDev -11.9%

Date: 8/31/14
Location: Trade
Glassware: Snifter

Appearance: Pours pitch black and allows no light through. Large light brown head with good retention. A lace of carbonation and alcohol ring the side of the glass when swirled. The carbonation falls quickly but the alcohol ring remains.
Aroma: Smells of bourbon, cocoa powder are the heavy hitters. Some fruity esters from alcohol, think cherries and figs. Some cereals surprised to get a light oatmeal (even if is titled oatmeal stout).
Taste: The taste is lovely, nice hits of vanilla, cocoa powder, big boozy bourbon, cherry fruit, port, oatmeal cereal, dark malts.
Mouthfeel: Heavy body and medium carbonation. This beer weighs like a brick on my tongue. At times it feels smooth but on the whole it has a coarseness like cocoa on the tongue. Some viscitude from the bourbon but it is surprisingly low.

Notes: Tragically, this bottle was heat damaged from a loss of power to the fridge. There was a strong smell of soy and it was found in the flavor to a lesser extent. I did my review of the beer omitting those flavors, and graded it accordingly, but I will cellar need to rereview this at a later time.

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Photo of hagbergl
5/5  rDev +10.1%

The owner of Brookland Pint, DC's newest beer bar, really pulled out all the stops for the draft list on its grand opening this week. It was packed with rarities, many from the West Coast, like 2013 Speedway Stout, FW Stickee Monkee and Parabjava, and even a keg of "G'Dale" from Oskar Blues Brewing ( a blend of Dale's Pale and G'Knight). Now, these all sounded fantastic, but when I saw they had 2013 Firestone Walker Parabola, I felt compelled by the higher forces of beer geekery to FINALLY have what many consider to be the finest barrel-aged stout in the land.

Appearance: Pitch black, thin light tan head of less than one finger. Nothing astonishing about the appearance, other than some serious alcohol legs.

Smell: Huge oak and bourbon, some dark fruit (figs) and vanilla. This aroma only intensifies as the beer warms, becoming more noticeably chocolatey--and alcoholic--than it was at first pour.

Taste: Just insane. Massive vanilla, bourbon, and dark chocolate, with the bourbon essence really shining. A light espresso bean roastiness is mixed in there with a truly gorgeous amount of subtlety. Flavors keep changing as I drink. Sloshing the beer around in the sides of my mouth produces a flavor that is much more overtly chocolatey. The alcohol is present in the flavor, but it adds some spicy-sweet complexity to the flavor profile. As with the nose, so with taste; as it warms up, this beer evolves nicely, gaining a more pronounced brown sugar-molasses type sweetness. After about 45 minutes, this beer is at its true peak. So sip it slowly!

Mouthfeel: Velvet smooth, thick and full bodied (thanks to the oats, no doubt). The alcohol warmth is mild and not accompanied by any burn.

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Photo of PHBoiler
4.5/5  rDev -0.9%

2011 bottle that is jet black with brown hues on the edge. There is minimal carb. Mouthfeel is smooth and slick. Not a big chewy body on this one. It's really smooth and there is still a little bit of heat on this that warms the mouth. No real standout flavor for me. There's some roast, oak, and vanilla but the bourbon is the spotlight. Outstanding BA stout.

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Photo of macrosmatic
4.54/5  rDev 0%

Thanks to eyebereej for this one! Reviewed from notes. Poured from bomber into a Peg's snifter.

A: Pours essentially black and opaque. With streams of bubbles coming up the sides of the glass, it forms a thin tan head that fades fairly quickly. 4.5/5

S: Rich bourbon, heavily roasted malts, oak tannins, some vanilla from the oak, cacao, and dark sticky fruits. Very nice aroma. 19/20

T: Sticky roasted malts, chocolate malts, bourbon up front. Some charred oak, cacao, vanilla, and rum-raisin sweetness. This is complex to the point I feel like there's trouble pulling everything out. It develops some cola character as it warms as well. It finishes sweet and sticky with some hop bitterness as well. 41/45

M: Sticky mouthfeel, but a body that is of average weight for style. This isn't one of those crazy-thick imperial stouts. The alcohol is actually pretty well-restrained, or at least integrated, for style. Average carbonation sensation. 8.5/10

O: This was a very, very good beer. Truly deserves its reputation. I didn't pull anything out of the flavors to suggest the oatmeal in the mash. But otherwise, no real complaints. Recommended, of course. 19/20

Estimated final score: 4.54
Calculated final score: 92/100
Old BA score: 4.60

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Photo of zander4dawin
4.27/5  rDev -5.9%

Dark black color, thin mocha head. Coffee, chocolate pretzel, chocolate malt taste. thick silky body. Light hop presence, oaky vanilla character, fat beer.

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Photo of Phenom
3.75/5  rDev -17.4%

Smells and tastes like many another barrel aged stout. It is quality, but nothing remarkable. Could use a little more carbonation to cut the sickly sweetness. Too boozy, not enough oak flavor to really be special.

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Photo of guityler83
3.54/5  rDev -22%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

2012 Vintage

A: poured with vigor into a snifter glass, the beer produced a finger of tan head composed of mixed bubbles. The foam sustained for about a minute before receding and left a layer of larger sized bubbles in the center with a ring around the edge. Streaky lacing when the carbonation is kicked up and medium alcohol legs are visible. The beer is opaque black with just a hint of dark brown when the carbonation kicks up on the top.

S: When the cap was cracked there was already an oak aroma seeping from the bottle. In the glass, big dark chocolate, coffee and molasses aroma. Vanilla and oak, with caramel and toffee notes are moderate in strength. Sweet impression overall with bourbon noticeable but no ethanol or harshness. Some mild citrus hop notes are also coming through surprisingly.

T: Lots of complexity from the malts - dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee, molasses very upfront followed by caramel, vanilla, smoke, tobacco and roast. I get an interesting chocolate malt flavor as the beer warms up that reminds me of tasting pale chocolate malt in a homebrew shop – oxidation?. The barrel isn't as dominant in the flavor as the nose would lead me to believe, but there is some oak, vanilla and toffee notes mixed with light bourbon. No hop flavor and the bitterness is subdued.

M: Moderate alcohol warming, the beer drinks like its a 12%. Carbonation is mild to low with a big body like you'd expect from the style. There is some tingling on the lips/tongue from the bourbon.

O: I have to wonder if this beer isn't in the greatest shape given it's scores and reputation. Granted it has some age on it, if cellar'd decently that should have mellowed out some of the harsher qualities. However the malt/roast flavors coming through to me seem stale and or oxidized. Maybe I need to try a fresher example so I can give it a higher score but as it stands.. it didn't do so hot. CW16 is still my favorite BA Stout - I'll stick to that while I have a few left

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Photo of seedyone
4.84/5  rDev +6.6%
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.

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Photo of ramay86
4.57/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2015 vintage:

Very pretty beer. Black as all hell, with a surprising amount of frothy head. Great lace and an expectedly heavy dose of booze legs.

An intense variety of chocolate on the nose... brownie, milk chocolate, bitter dark chocolate, dry cocoa... all soaked in a wave of bourbon.

The taste follows suit in every sense. The bourbon/heat becomes very evident here; the high ABV is magnified by a bourbon barrel presence that dominates more than in any other beer I can think of.

This is dessert.

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Photo of richj1970
4.6/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 22 oz bomber into tulip glass. 2014 vintage.

A: At first glance, this is pitch black with absolutely no light penetrator. On closer examination, I swear there is a bit of deep mahogany brown lurking. One finger mocha colored head that settled quickly to a thin ring leaving very little lacing.

S: A wonderful bouquet of sweet bourbon, fresh picked cherries, vanilla, and good chocolate. Maybe a little hint of coconut and espresso.

T: Lots of bourbon bursts on the tongue from the first sip. Dark chocolate, roasted malts, espresso, and vanilla. The flavors remind me quite a bit of BCBS.

M: Full body coating the tongue nicely. Just a little alcohol burn at the end but not unexpected considering the 14% ABV.

O: Completely and utterly fantastic stout. One of my top three for sure. I really wish this was available in 12 oz bottles and distributed in my area.

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Photo of utopiajane
4.65/5  rDev +2.4%
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.

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Photo of larryarms847
4.77/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Pours a thick midnight black with an off white/light brown head. Looks similar to crude oil.

Slightest of coffee, mainly toasted nuts, roasted malt, and bourbon to finish.

The coffee is still very slight in the overall flavor, but adds a nice roasted nuttiness to this monster of a beer. A lot of bourbon and dark chocolate are also prevalent.

Mouthfeel is thick, like I said before much like crude oil.

Overall, not my favorite BBA imperial stout, but nonetheless an amazing example of one.

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Photo of dcmchew
5/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2014 vintage.
Pours pitch black with a nice dark brown half finger head that lingers a while, just a thin lacing later on.
The smell tells you this will be incredible. There's great rich dark chocolate, smokey roasted malts, espresso, toffee, some dark fruit, some bourbon barrel (without any booze tho), faint tobacco, and much more.
Taste started with rich milky chocolate , salted toffee and dark fruit (plum, raisin, some fig). Huge tasty vanilla, lots of oak, nice bourbon, again, with a great flavour-enhancing abv that never gets boozy. Barrel notes intensify, roasted malts and some nice coffee start appearing, but the initial tastiness is never pushed away. Great complexity.
Perfect mouthfeel.
Had just a few quick notes, so i'm sure i didn't get to write down all about this beer, and i'm sure i wouldn't be able either way. There's a huge complexity here (incredible barrel-aging), incredible flavours, setting this one as the best beer i've ever had, without any doubts.

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Photo of ToriBug13
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

One of the best beers I have ever had in my life. Poured with a gorgeous, thick, luxurious head which left delicate lacing on my glass. The taste of slightly roasted cocoa nibs and mocha was so smooth I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Smooth, thick, rich, round, yet still clean and refreshing on the finish. I have never had a more perfect beer. I am so glad I have another, because I cannot wait to taste this with some age, I can't even fathom how it could be improved!

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Photo of BeerME_562
5/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Best Stout I ever tasted... This beer should be put on a pedal stool.. soo amazing

A: dark espresso color, little to no head 14% can't blame it

S: lots of sweet chocolate, coffee, little alcohol, coconut

T: Amazingly well balance... Simple yet complex...beautiful sweetness of coconut carmel/toffee feel, great espresso, dark chocolate that linger through and slowly dissipate. little to no alcohol taste which is amazing for a 14%...

M: full and more of it... the taste and feel changes as it dissipate on your tongue ...

The best stout i've tasted by far. i have to say underrated compared to Founders/ bourbon county

yes fitting words

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Photo of JulioH
4.3/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A unique beer.

Pours a light brown beer, almost looks like chocolate syrup with water, or watered chocolate. Forms bubbles immediately. Aroma is heady, coffee, chocolate. Taste is very strange. It is a heady beer but it is highly carbonated, and the carbonations tickles the tongue in a way that doesn't let you taste the high alcohol. Very strange feeling. The body is very light, not a heavy beer.

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Photo of Furlinator
4.59/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2013 vintage.

Pours opaque black. The 1/2 inch khaki head quickly fades to a thin ring on top and leaves faint spotty lace.

The smell is of dark chocolate, vanilla, pipe tobacco, coffee, oak and faint bourbon.

The taste is of brown sugar, dark chocolate, earthy almost herbal oak, vanilla and just a hint of bourbon.

The texture is heavy bodied and slightly oily with medium carbonation.

Amazing aromas and flavors. This is a little thinner in body and more carbonated than I expected. Goes down scary smooth considering the 13% ABV. World class.

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Photo of Smokesnotes
4.82/5  rDev +6.2%
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.

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Photo of Larbear2497
5/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured my bottle of Firestone Walker Parabola 2014 into a snifter.

Appearance-Upon pouring Parabola into the snifter, I noticed the midnight black color. Extremely dark at first, but as it settled, a small amount of dark brown reddish foam stayed at the top of the pour.

Smell-Smelled a lot like the 2013 release with some additions. It had a boozy smell at first, with vanilla, bourbon, and the sweetness of chocolate.

Taste-Had a small amount of smoke. The more I drank, the more chocolate I got. A lot like the chocolate oak aged yeti but more complex.

Mouthfeel-Overall it was very smooth, not chalky like I had expected. It was a nice surprise, and very easy to drink even with the high alcohol content.

Overall-One of the best beers I've ever tasted. I have 3 more bottles of this years brew, and I'm very excited to see how this years vintage ages.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 1,091 ratings.