Parabola - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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4,979 Ratings

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Ratings: 4,979
Reviews: 1,006
rAvg: 4.61
pDev: 8.24%
Wants: 2,338
Gots: 2,702 | FT: 188
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)
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Ratings: 4,979 | Reviews: 1,006 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of fatmcb1
4.25/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a wine glass

This is as black as midnight. Oily. A dark tan head of a finger fades into a ring with a light layer on top that slowly fades.

Tons of bourbon, charred oak, and sweet roasted malt. Also, lots of molasses and dark chocolate.

All of the components from the nose follows. There is also a lot of vanilla that I did not pick up before. Dark fruit and hops are both barely noticeable.

Mouthfeel was smooth, creamy, and thick, exactly what I would expect from a world-class stout.

Overall, this was very enjoyable. Glad I have a couple to age.

Photo of BeerLover99
4.38/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: onyx body, trace khaki head, sexy lacing

S: big roasted malt, dark chocolate, vanilla, boozy, caramel

T: dark chocolate, roasted malt, hint of boozy taste,
long chewy mild bitter finish

M: heavy/chewy/smooth mouth

O: OH MY! Another fine brew by Firestone Walker.
If you like Stouts or big beers, this is a must have.
When or IF this beer comes out again, I will
seek it out. As someone who love this style,
I would HIGHLY recommend this beer.


Photo of MsRif
4.35/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at Teresa's Next Door on 10/24/11.

Poured into a tulip glass and appeared almost pitch black with a chocolate brown head. Head receded almost completely and lacing was minimal as I drank this brew.

Aroma was not very strong. Mostly got a sense of chocolate and vanilla. As I tasted it, the chocolate became even more pronounced, particularly in the finish. A very complex, multidimensional beer with several distinct stages of flavor. Vanilla came out more along with bourbon and a bit of smokey flavor in the front of this beer. Very balanced. I did not let this beer come up in temperature enough as I drank it too fast (it was just too good!) time I will let it come up a bit more because I would like to see how that would affect the balance/complexity of flavor.

This brew is pretty heavy with nice carbonation. There was a bit of an alcohol burn with it, but it wasn't overwhelming. This was my first time imbibing in this particular beer and I enjoyed it very much. It was smooth...very drinkable for 12.5%!

Photo of Rifugium
4.6/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

First had: on tap at Teresa's, Wayne, PA

Tremendous stout! Served on tap and poured into a tulip glass, this beer was a rich opaque black with a lovely chocolate brown head, nearly a finger of it, which receded a bit during the session and left just a bit of soapy lacing behind. Luscious aroma of rich bittersweet chocolate, with notes of bitter coffee and a touch of vanilla and bourbon. All these qualities followed through in an excellent way on the palate, with the smooth, rich chocolate taking the foreground, both in the front and the finish, with a good balance of coffee bitterness mid-palate. Alcohol warmth definitely present, but barely boozy at all in the taste. Woody with subtle oak tones, and just a hint of dark fruits: cherries and figs. Full-bodied, rich, and quite the amazing drink overall.

Photo of sholland119
4.35/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Teresa's Next Door, 10/23/11.

A-Deep dark opaque black with a foamy dark mocha head and good lacing.

S-Chocolate, roast, vanilla and a fine charred oak.

T-Lovely bourbony sweetness in the front with milk chocolate, some roastiness and a delicious dark fruit. Delicious balance and rich layers of flavor. A hint of booziness is well hidden.

M-Medium heavy with nice fine carbonation and a great lingering warmth.

O-A bit mellower after six months in the TND cellar, as compared to the bottle. Still delectably smooth and mellow.


Photo of claytong
4.05/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

appearance - black and oily. not much of a head to speak of. not much lacing either.

smell - i like molasses, but not this much. the dark malts and molasses dominate with the heat. dark chocolate and oak are in there.

taste - much of the same a bit less heat. too much molasses and the dark malts mix oddly with them.

mouthfeel - very thick and carbonation is on the low side. making this the only reason its not a 5

overall - still a great beer... had the same night has cbs, fifty fifty evan and four roses, ba boris and boris so its getting a tough review.

Photo of RonfromJersey
4.78/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

$14.99 bomber from Rutherford Wine.

BeerAdvocate review #1000.

Body is perfect black hole darkness, topped by a dark tan/light brown two finger level head, that levels to an oil slick sonn after.

Knock out aroma of vanilla, bourbon, dark fruits, dark chocolate, and just maybe a hint of expresso.

Taste follows nose. Vanilla/bourbon dominate. Dark fruits, chocolate, and a hint of coffee. Warming alcohol is enjoyable, not over burning.

Mouthfeel is a bit light for the style, more a full medium than the thick near syrup I was expecting.

I went over my standard $10.00 bomber limit for this, and have no regrets at all. A superior Imperial Stout which I will enjoy each sip of tonight.

Photo of portia99
4.47/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle (2011 Release) poured into a Brooklyn snifter.

A - Pours a syrupy, opaque black color with a thin finger of frothy dark cappuccino foam with decent retention falling over a minute or two to a thick collar and spotty lacing on the glass.

S - Huge vanilla, sweet caramel and milk chocolate aromas up front. Sweet bourbon layers on top of the already sweet base. Dark roasted malt, potent coffee and a touch of burnt toast, cherries, oak.

T - Caramel, molasses, milk chocolate, black coffee, oak, burnt/charcoaly bitterness, bourbony sticky sweetness, vanilla. Basically the aroma doesn't lie...all the complexity is found in the flavor profile as well.

M - Really smooth, thick, syrupy full body. Carbonation gives it a little life but really stays regulated and low enough to not interfere with the huge body of this beer. Mix of sweet and offsetting bitter gives excellent balance tho tending to stay on the sweeter side of the equation.

O - Great overall imperial stout. This is excellent fresh and seems like it would age with the best of them. Definitely a sipper, but the alcohol is hidden far too well. Incredible smoothness and complexity. One of the best I've had in recent memory.

Photo of Spider889
4.38/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage. Big thanks for bobertkuekn for this bottle.

Poured into a Cigar City snifter.

Black and thick... this is a proper stout right off the bat. The head is a little slow to rise, but it is a beautiful dark fudge color. The head retention is pretty weak, though not unusual for the style. No lasting lace.

Smells of rich chocolate and fudge with hints of peanut hulls. Freshly opened and still cool, the beer is awash with aromas of fresh whiskey and other liquor, but with warmth this becomes much more mellow and balanced. Surprisingly as this neared room temperature I was getting some wonderful tannic notes from the oak. Musty old barrels and red wine layer Parabola with depth and fruity undertones.

From the very first taste I knew this was going to be a fun bottle to sit down with and sip throughout the night. As in the aroma, at first I feared that this brew would prove to be a one-dimensional whiskey-fest. But careful patience will reward you with the best evidence of why Firestone Walker is the king of the barrel.

Dark chocolate fudge is thick and chewy in Parabola. Roasty malt and charred barrel are lovely additions of flavor, while neither contribute the more harsh ashy bitterness that many beers exhibit. Damp oaken flavors add body and texture, while the dark fruited notes of red wine and plum lend softness and nuance.

Thick, sticky, and luscious. Warming but never hot or boozy. Chewy as any self-respecting RIS ought to be. At 12% I'll easily sip my way through the entire bomber to myself. This is only further evidence that Firestone Walker NEEDS to distribute to OH. Seriously. While not quite as complex or unique as FW14, I think I prefer this beer. And though I didn't buy this myself, I want to say that it is cheaper to boot (paid $21 in Chicago for a bottle of the anniversary beer).

Photo of chalsk
4.6/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a black color with a caramel colored head that breaks down to an oily slick with a very thin soapy head. So much going on with the aroma. Aroma of dark fruit and chocolate with hints of coffee, cherry, earthiness, and bourbon. Wow. Has a silky, creamy sweet caramel, chocolate taste with a nice bitter, biting layer from the barrel. Perhaps some citrusy hops are coming through. Some notes of dark fruit, coffee, and bourbon on the finish. What a beer. FW is truly an excellent brewery.

Photo of LittleDon
4.65/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A bottle had at Beer Kitchen in Kansas City on 10/15/11.

Dark and thick with a tan but short lived head and minimal lace. Aroma and predominant flavor is chocolate and malty. Up front there is lots going on. Licorice leads to dark chocolate with some bourbon/oaky tones and dried fruit in the middle. A bit of booziness, but not too bad for the ABV. Very big body and medium carbonation. Glad I saved this one for dessert and a cool night.

Photo of KickInTheChalice
4.7/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a tulip. Thanks to goodstrongbeer for bringing this over.

Appearance: My glass is a thick looking mahogany color with a very thin brown head that reverts to a collar rather quickly.

Smell: My nose is filled with notes of roasted malts and coffee, some tobacco, smoke, dark chocolate, molasses, vanilla, oak, and bourbon. No one smell really dominates, making me think that I am in for a treat.

Taste: Parabola is a demonstration of brewing excellence. There is a confidence that a nuance will be noticed and no flavor must bludgeon you with its strength. Up front, roasted malt takes on a lightly charred character, and semi-sweet dark chocolate and a bit of molasses add further flavor and sweetness. Roast coffee and vanilla add some more delicate flavor, with a bit of oak and bourbon hardly noticeable at the end.

Mouthfeel: The full body of this beer works well with the light to medium carbonation to create a decadent and creamy feel. The thickness is necessary to provide a reasonable base for such a rich and complex beer.

Overall: This is a beer that definitely lives up to the hype. A bourbon barrel stout that still manages to be delicate and complex is a rare find. I will definitely try to stock up on this beer and look forward to having it again.

Photo of impending
4.45/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

22oz into a tulip. Pours shiny dark, slick, oily. Minor dark mocha head receded quickly, no lacing.

Aroma is exactly as advertised - tobacco and charred dark chocolate but the bourbon is not overt.

The bourbon quiet in the scent is upfront and defining. The alcohol too is loud. Not nearly as bitter as anticipated, rides from mid taste through the long lasting aftertaste. Final persistent echo is of semi sweet chocolate. Thick full bodied mouthfeel. Incredible at room temp!

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

Two of these awesome bottles were given to me by TheBrewViking right before diner at his house. Thanks a million!

Review from notes that I found in my pocket at work.

Poured into a snifter

Pours out very black with a mini tan colored head.

There is a lot of booziness on the nose, together with lots of oak bourbon notes.

Flavors are a lot more balanced than the nose promised to be. Vanilla and coffee notes mixed with chocolate and dark roasted malts. Great hop and chocolate bitterness.

A medium to full bodied beer. A bit more of a burn than I like but all together a good mouthfeel. Flavors linger forever.

Overall this is a great stout. The aroma could have been better but the flavors make up for it. I wish the alcohol burn would have been a little less. I'm very glad to have tried this beer and happy that it does live up to the hype. Thanks a bunch for the beer Brooks!

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

An awesome extra from BeerThursdays.
No. 002
Poured from a 22oz bomber to a cigar city snifter.
A. S.- Pours pitch black with less than a half finger of golden brown head which retreated to a small collar that leaves little lacing. Big aroma. Chocolate, dark malt, dark fruit, a bourbon-like boozeiness, lots of sweetness, oak, tobacco. The aroma is just a bit sweeter than what I'd expect from an RIS.
T. M.- Mmmm. Pretty creamy, I defiantly get coco, sweet espresso, tobacco, dark fruit and a big warm boozie finish. Medium body with a great feel, just a little sticky but creamy at the same time, lots of flavor hanging out on the back of the tung and roof of the mouth 3 or 4 minutes after the last sip.
Overall, ISO: Parabola

Photo of Damian
4.43/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Drank from a 1 pint, 6 fluid ounces/650ml bottle
Reserve series 2010/No. 001
Served in snifter
Acquired in a trade with oregonskibum

Review #625

The beer poured midnight black with motor oil colored edges. Quite viscous. No head or lacing, but the liquid was topped by a bubbly, saddle brown ring of froth.

The nose was remarkably smooth and complex. Quite sweet overall. Lots of brown sugar and raisins. Moderately roasty. Strong powdered cocoa notes. A few minutes in, I thought I picked up a hint of oxidation, but this quickly subsided. Strong vanilla and sweet cream notes also came through. Some molasses as well. Toward the beer's end, a touch of bourbon-like booziness was detectible.

The taste was also rather interesting. It was similar to the nose in many ways but a touch edgier. Deep, dark and roasty. Strong chocolate notes. Unlike in the aroma, the chocolate here was more pure and raw. French roast coffee was also noticeable. Some brown sugar and vanilla as well. Hints of dark fruits. Piney, citrusy hops came through in the moderately bitter finish. At 13% ABV, this imperial stout masked its alcohol prowess exceptionally well.

The mouthfeel was smooth, frothy and creamy yet definitely thinner than anticipated. I was expecting something more full bodied.

Parabola is an excellent beer, but it is perhaps a bit more tame than I was anticipating. Ideally, I would have liked a stronger bourbon presence and a more robust body. To those of you who have a fresh bottle, I would definitely advise you to cellar it for at least a year. We sampled a 2010 vintage next to a 2011 and the former showcased a flavor profile that was far better melded and an alcohol presence that was much more subdued than the latter.

Photo of CruisaC
4.47/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

3rd time getting to try this beer, figured I'd give it a review finally. Picked up on a trip out to CA for around $15

poured into my Rodenbach snifter. Fairly standard RIS black color with a mocha head.

Smells sweet vanilla and bourbon; a hint of dark fruit.

Roast coffee with oak, vanilla, bourbon. Very well integrated. Moderate heat on the back end; delicious.

Near perfect creamy, moderately thick mouthfeel. Again, some heat on the end, so you know the ABV is up there on this guy but you could easily guess 9-10%

A world-class -bbal RIS. If they produced fewer cases this would achieve whale status; but FW made enough to go around and thus I'm able to try it without jeopardizing my family's financial stability.

Photo of dogfishandi
4.33/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

500th review!!!

big thanks to youradhere for sending this my way.

2011 vintage, No. 002, 22oz bottle at cellar temp poured into a snifter. bottled 4/28/11

pours out a completely opaque black color with a dark brown colored head, somewhat fizzy, faded to a creamy dark ring rather quickly. a quick swirl of the glass rouses some lacing and a quick return of some head. some legs are also evident on the glass.

big notes of smooth powerful bourbon blend very well with a deep roasted/ burnt malt. i would say the bourbon is most obvious in the aroma however, becoming increasingly so the more it warms. some solvent like alcohol. also noticeable is some chocolate cake batter, vanilla, a bit of some dark fruits and a bit of molasses and brown sugar.

again, the big powerful bourbon is at the forefront, pretty boozy, but in the best way possible. very smooth and rich and just melds with the rest of the flavors so nicely. deeply roasted/ burnt malt, some oaky, vanilla, barrel qualities noticeable. behind all that there is some chocolate cake batter, molasses, dark fruits, dark chocolate.

big, full, chewy body. extremely warming to almost your whole body. carbonation is on the low side. so smooth, especially in the finish. slick, heavy and hot.

this is defiantly a solid, very well made BA stout, one of the better ones, but there are still a few i would take over this, 09 BCBS, and BA sexy chocolate to be specific. the 12 months spent in the barrel really does show with a big, smooth bourbon character with some oak as well. this is really a bourbon lover dream. personally i think this would benefit from at least a year or 2 of age.

Photo of metter98
4.47/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is jet black in color and poured with a thin tan head that quickly faded away and left some lacing on the surface and a thin ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: There are strong aromas of bourbon, oak and vanilla on the nose along with some hints of alcohol.
T: Quite complex, the taste is very similar to the smell with flavors of oak and vanilla and also has notes of chocolate and hints of wine in the flavors. The complexity increases as the beer warms up.
M: It feels full-bodied and smooth on the palate with a light to moderate amount of carbonation with heat from the alcohol in the finish.
O: Despite its strength, the beer doesn’t taste overly strong but is a good sipping beer because its complex aroma and taste will retain your interest.

Photo of spointon
4.7/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had this on tap at Finnegan's Irish Pug in Plainfield, IL. The two amazing things about that statement are: Parabola "on tap" and "Finnegan's" which is about to go under. Anyway, I tasted this with a beer guru buddy and cherished every drop. From my notes:

A= This stout poured pitch black with a super dense dark tan head that rose just 3/8" and then stuck there for a good while. Once it settled, it left a small bit of lacing on the glass.

S= The aroma was incredibly complex. Sweet dark molasses, roasted grain, chocolate, leather, a hint of tobacco, vanilla, oak...Christ it had it all!

T= Much like the nose indicated. Super complex, with wave after wave of flavor. Lots of rich sweetness up front, but never cloying. Roasted notes were firm and bitter without being too much. Hops were in there with an earthy presence that helped to balance everything without getting in the way. The boozy bourbon, vanilla, and oak character was there but never too much. This was honestly one of the better balanced barrel aged RIS' I have ever had.

MF= Full body with a fairly low carbonation level. Slick and pleasant across the tongue.

D= Its a sipper for sure but a damn fine one that I would go a long way to get more of.

Photo of socon67
4.35/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours syrupy thick from the tap. Black, with a mocha faom. Minimal lacing in a snifter.

S - Smells of roasted malt, milk chocolate, and licorice. Not an overwhelming aroma, but more of a subdued scent that improves as the beer warms.

T - Exceptional. Flavors range from malty, bitter from coffee, sweetness of cocoa powder, to a boozy warming feeling at the back end that belies its potency yet doesn't trash your taste buds. Overall profile is smooth and blended well.

M - A true sipper in the mold of a good big stout. Syrupy thick consistency, robust flavors, and a heavy bite. Not a beer to have with a meal, because it essentially is a meal.

O - Easily as good as the top imp stouts in the world. Firestone Walker is fast becoming a favorite brewery of mine with the quality in their elite beers. Highly recommended for Imperial Stout lovers, and I'd love on eof these on a cold January evening.

Photo of vfgccp
4.55/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A – Almost pitch black. Creamy, yoo-hoo colored head with a nice lace.

S – Huge vanilla and caramel over a bourbony booze. There’s an interesting fruity twist deep in the nose that’s almost like cinnamon apple oatmeal.

T – Soft booze into raw vanilla and caramel. Smooth cream and thick dark chocolate. Semi-sweet cocoa finish with a touch of spicy booze.

M – Full bodied and silky smooth. Booze leaves a nice warmth on the backend.

O – A fantastic RIS. Surprisingly drinkable for the booze.

Photo of inlimbo77
4.72/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Firestone Walker
22oz bottle 2011
Deschutes snifter

A: This one pours completely black. Basically no head, but what is there is nice tan color. Great lacing. Alcohol legs for sure. Some red on the edges when you tilt the glass.

S: Lots of vanilla/bourbon notes. I get some deep dark chocolate and some espresso notes as well. Beautiful roasted malts, pumped up by the bourbon/vanilla hints for sure.

T: Just flat out awesomely blended beer. Absolutely no hop bite. It comes to life in the middle of the mouth and through the back of the throat. Lots of deep dark chocolate along with the bourbon, vanilla, and bourbon. You get some of that coffee bitterness, but just a touch. Alcohol is completely hidden at 12.5% which is amazing. I have had lesser BA beers that blast you with bourbon, and this one does not. Again, great blending.

M: Full bodied with tons of mouth coating.

O: A+ for sure on this one. Currently in my top 5 of the year, if not all time. I just wish I had more bottles to lay down for a while.

Photo of Burt
4.9/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Served in a tulip glass.

Black with a thick brown head (darkest that I have ever seen) that dispersed slowly and left a lacing on the glass.

Coffee and chocolate with a little hint vanilla and alcohol.

Dark caramel sweetness at first then it becomes dark chocolate and coffee in the middle. Light vanilla and alcohol at the end, finish is thick and oily on the tongue.

This is an exceptional beer. With it being 12.5% the alcohol could barely be detected. There are not that many beers that make sit back and go wow, this is one of them. Believe the hype.

Photo of Auracom
4.34/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

My friend found out that early last week that we would be working together at the same company come November. That combined with him finding a secondary stock of Parabola at Binny's LP = a really really drunken night for us. We worked through 2 bottles of this within a couple hours. Served in a stemless wine glass.

A - Standard coloring. Noteworthy item here would be the smooth khaki head that really looked great and better than I'd hope for from 12.5 %.

S - Honestly, pretty damn similar to KBS. Same level of bourbon and incredible dimension of other undertones. Spice, oak, chocolate, so on and so forth.

T - It's a bit sweeter than I thought it'd be. More milk chocolate and spice balance over secondary bourbon flavor. Somewhat tannic on the backend.

M - Smooth-as-butter through and through. Seriously the smoothest beer I've had. Moderate/heavy body. Fair carbonation, nice dry and lingering finish. Brilliantly good in this category, deserves more than a 5.

D - At first, I wasn't sure. But 15-20 minutes into the glass I decided that this was probably the finest barrel-aged stout I've yet come across. I'd put it on over the Founders counterpart as my new reference for this style. All's well that ends well.

Edit - over many revisits, I'm not quite as impressed with this but it remains relatively consistent from year-to-year.

Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 4,979 ratings.