Dismiss Notice
Subscribe to BeerAdvocate magazine?

Learn more about beer and save over 53% with a 3-year subscription.

Subscribe now →

Parabola - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,079 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 1,079
Hads: 5,639
Avg: 4.53
pDev: 8.39%
Wants: 2,868
Gots: 3,255 | FT: 247
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 (88) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 1,079 | Hads: 5,639
Photo of JayQue
4.47/5  rDev -1.3%
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 +2.6%

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 +7.3%
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 Loldong
4.8/5  rDev +6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

I had heard a lot about this beer, it had been hyped to me for a couple of years and never having found a bottle I thought I would never be able to try it. Until one day I found a bottle sitting in a minifridge in the back of an Irish Pub. That was the single greatest beer purchase I have ever made.

It poured dark with a small head, the bottle was about a year old not sure if that really makes a difference with a beer like this. It smelled slightly of bourbon and roasted malts. The taste was incredible, very well balanced and the bourbon flavor was simply amazing, it was truly an experience.

 600 characters

Photo of barhoc11
4.5/5  rDev -0.7%

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 -2.9%
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 +7.1%
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 -4.2%
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 +4.9%

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 -1.5%
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 +8.6%

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 +10.4%

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 +10.4%

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%
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 +6.6%
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 +4.4%
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

Photo of HalfFull
4.37/5  rDev -3.5%
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...

 713 characters

Photo of mabermud
4.87/5  rDev +7.5%
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.

 291 characters

Photo of ilikebeer03
4.75/5  rDev +4.9%

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.

 779 characters

Photo of KornWallace
4/5  rDev -11.7%

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.

 1,165 characters

Photo of hagbergl
5/5  rDev +10.4%

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.

 1,707 characters

Photo of PHBoiler
4.5/5  rDev -0.7%

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.

 367 characters

Photo of macrosmatic
4.54/5  rDev +0.2%

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

 1,244 characters

Photo of zander4dawin
4.27/5  rDev -5.7%

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

 155 characters

Photo of Phenom
3.75/5  rDev -17.2%

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.

 216 characters

Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 1,079 ratings.