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Parabola - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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1,069 Reviews
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Reviews: 1,069
Hads: 5,593
rAvg: 4.51
pDev: 7.54%
Wants: 2,831
Gots: 3,236 | FT: 246
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: 1,069 | Hads: 5,593
Photo of stupac2
4.42/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter. Pours a dark black with a couple fingers of light brown head. Smell is strongly vanilla, delicious bourbon vanilla. Mouthfeel is warm, the booziness coming through. Tastes magnificent, I love the vanilla, also roasty flavors coming through strongly. The main detractor (for me, at least) is the booziness, at 13% I'd expect it to be coming through somewhat less, actually. But I'm cellaring a few bottles, and I anticipate that age will mellow this and make it even better. (496 characters)

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

Pours a rich black with dark brown head. Nose is rich with vanilla woody components, toffee, & creme de brûlée. Palate offers a rich combo of roasty flavors, vanilla wood bourbon elements again, and finishes delightfully boozy. Full bodied. Simply a hedonic delight. (268 characters)

Photo of pumptrick
4.9/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured hard into my Reidel snifter which rendered a beautiful 2 finger head.

A- Pitch black with a wonderful brown head

S- Bourbon smoke vanilla chocalate and fruit

T- Bourbon roast barly vanilla booze and some dark fruit with the booze lingering

M- all over coater and lingerer if thats a word. this thing hangs on for minutes

O- outstanding overall but would love for the price to be more along the lines of stone brews. That being said I bought several and will enjoy every sip. (486 characters)

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

Staring into the depths of the sea at night. This beer smells like bourbon, chocolate, and coffee with the latter two struggling to persevere over the bourbon. The taste follows the nose with alcohol being prevalent but not overbearing; aftertaste of hops, dark chocolatiness, and bourbon. Light carbonation, nice creamy mouthfeel, and some heat from the 13% abv. Overall an awesome impy stout that sneaks up on you and won't let you go. (437 characters)

Photo of Jazzcrop
4.67/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tastes are smoke, a humidor, cigars, dark chocolate, hops, wood fire, British crystal, bourbon, oak, oats, dark fruits, (alotta) booze, fastly-warming heat, a little milk sugar/lactose, menthol, vanilla beans -- strong, caramel-covered apples, tea leaves and silk. (264 characters)

Photo of TheBrewViking
4.62/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

poured from a bottle to a 17oz brandy snifter which was perfect for smelling the amazing aroma this beer puts off.

A- black, 2cm head with excited pour

S- bourbon and barrel with some maltiness

T- very smooth bourbon up front followed by oak and sweetness, vanilla finishes it up and leaves a sweet taste in your mustache/flavor saver. the alcohol heat is perfect for a big RIS like this. Firestone sure has their barrel aging down to an art.

M- this was fairly soft on the tongue very drinkable, i was hoping for a bit heavier but i dont think that is firestones style

O- Firestone has a very respectable stout here. i'm glad i bought a few bottles of this to age (671 characters)

Photo of Allpe45
4.57/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On tap at The Hungry Monk
Appears black, no head but I blame the pour. Little to no lace either.
Smells delightful, dark bitter chocolate, roasted malt, coffee, smokey bourbon and a bit of booze.
Extremely well balanced for what it is. This is the the most balanced "fresh" barrel aged beer I've had. Starts out roasty and chocolatey with hints of vanilla, in the middle it takes a complex dark fruity turn, with dark wine varietals and a bit of tartness. Bourbon flavor and a slight bitterness in the finish. along with some heat that is to be expected from a 13% barrel aged beer. Still this beer is incredibly smooth and balanced compared to other "fresh" barrel aged imperial stouts.
This is way too drinkable for what it is. Medium-heavy bodied with low carbonation, incredibly smooth, not too chewy but on par for the style.
This is my second time having it on tap and I look forward to having it again if there is any left tomorrow. Be sure to let it warm up before imbibing. (982 characters)

Photo of bigbelcher
4.8/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage on tap.

Color is dark brown, almost black. Aroma was intense boubon, vanilla and caramel, no hop aroma. Taste was fantastic as expected. Huge alcohol beer that reeally needs to warm up to be fully appreciated. Flavors of oak, biurbon, vanilla and chocolate malt. The beer is extremely well balanced and complex. Mouthfeel was light for such a big beer. Bought a bottle to let age a good while.

Great beer. (421 characters)

Photo of DarthKostrizer
4.35/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at the taproom In Buelton

Look: Extremely dark purple color to the point where no light can pass through it the beer had very little head maybe because it was poured to the very top of the 6oz snifter and had very little lacing

Smell: Spicy bourbon notes and alcohol are the front runners on this beer and are back up with hints of roasted coffee and chocolate

Taste: Much of the same as the smell. This beer can be alittle over powering on the power and the 13% abv is definately noticeable. When you get past that it has a very nice flavor profile with hints of burnt oak, coffee, chocolate and bourbon

Mouthfeel: It has a very silky smooth feel on the palate with alittle bit of heat from the bourbon and abv

Overall: This beer is good now but will be great with at least 1yr of aging most likely 2 just to dumb down the alcohol punch that it gives you and lets the true flavors really come through. So buy several like I did and forget about them (971 characters)

Photo of kayalla
3.58/5  rDev -20.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had this numerous time, both batch 1 and batch 2. This is my first review though I've been scouring this site for some time and going out of my way to collect bottles. On the the beer...from a batch 1 bottle. Pours black in the glass with a small brown head. Aroma was molasses, roasted grains, chocolate, hot bourbon. Really pronounced flavors, a lot of that molasses I got with dark chocolate, maybe some raisins. As a BA stout it's all right, not my favorite. Mouthfeel was thick and creamy. Kind of messy and really sweet overall. I guess this would fall into the "over rated" camp in my book. (597 characters)

Photo of snpub540
4.66/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep black with hints of brown at thee bottom and when held up to light. A vigorous pour yielded a one finger head that was a coffee brown and quickly turned into a very small ring of bubbles.

Aroma was slightly faint I thought for sucbh a big beer. Aromas of oak, coffee, roasted malts and a hint of the alcohol held within were present.

The flavors during my first sip were incredible. A complex mix of coffee, vanilla, roasted malt, dark fruit, and black licorice. As it warmed the roasted malts and coffe got stronger and so did the bitterness. With all that going on, there was hardly a notice of the alcohol content unless I took a really big gulp.

The mouthfeel was pretty much perfection. Smooth and thick like velvet. It was pretty much like drinking off of cask. Drinkability was great for such a big beer, but next time I'll probably spli the bottle with someone. This was outstanding and I'm glad I got a few more to put down. (949 characters)

Photo of Mavajo
4.62/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Nearly black body with a brown head. Aroma and taste consist of chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, caramel. Exceedingly smooth taste - perhaps the most expertly bourbon barrel aged beer I've had yet. Mouthfeel is thick with appropriate carbonation.

Really a top notch -bal aged stout. Exceedingly good and smooth. (308 characters)

Photo of domtronzero
4.45/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Very dark brown, nearly opaque with a short lived, dense mocha head. Little lacing.

S - Dark fruits, vanilla, chocolate and a little roast. Very inviting.

F/M - Very similar to nose with a nice bourbony dark malt backbone. Vanilla and warm dark fruits. Full bodied with moderate carbonation. Nice semi-dry finish making me want another sip.

O - Another outstanding -bal from FW. Tasty, rich and quite enjoyable. Too bad it's in such limited quantities. (459 characters)

Photo of claybeerman
4.3/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I was really thrilled with this beer. A very enjoyable Imperial Stout.

Firestone Walker Brewing Co. is becoming one of my favorite breweries. And lucky for me it is only 45 minutes away from my house. So whenever they have something fun on tap or realeasing, I try to stop by and see what's going on. I had one of those opportunities last month when Firestone Released their Parabola in bottles at the tasting room in Paso Robles, Ca.

Serving type:
on-tap poured into a 6oz snifter and 22oz bottle poured into a large wine glass.

It is quite dark. I held it up to the light in a large wine glass and even at the edges it was hard to see any light coming through.

Much more fragrant in the large wine glass than in the snifter. My buddy and I would just sit and smell it over the course of the half hour it took us to finish the 22. It is almost as enjoyable to smell as it is to drink.

Compared to:
My other favorite in the imperial stout category would be Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout which I would say is quite similar. There is definitely much less of an alcohol taste with Parabola. I would say that when it comes to flavor, they are right on par with each other. It would be hard to name a favorite.

With Parabola now in bottles (and $15 for a 22 at the taproom), I am very happy that an amazing Imperial Stout will be accessible now. Way to go again Firestone! (1,398 characters)

Photo of cb462
4.47/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 bottle, poured into a Spiegelau (classic pilsner) tulip.

A-Poured dark as night with a full one inch creamy mocha head, which dissipates to a lasting film. Beautiful lacing.

S-Oak tannins, vanilla, caramel, all aspects of the bourbon blending in nicely. Bitter chocolate and roasted malt intermingling underneath the sweet bourbon aroma. Just a hint of bourbon soaked dark fruit.

T-Vanilla and caramel are the key players here. Again, bitter chocolate and oak coating the mouth. Light fig/date sweetness. Ass end leaves a lasting rich caramel/vanilla bourbon warmth. Delicious. Leaves you salivating for the next sip.

M-Spot on. Not to thick, not too thin. Carbonation is just right. Again, a really inviting bitterness coats your mouth.

O-A really nice BA stout. In my eyes, it doesn't tackle Silva, but is up there with a lot of other great examples of the style. I did a lot of leg work to track down bottles of this in the greater San Diego area. Firestone seems to spread our limited release allotment pretty thin, but I was glad to pick up several of these. I think a year or so would do interesting things to this, but its going to be hard not to crack into more. (1,183 characters)

Photo of nataku00
4.53/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The 2010 release on tap at Public House poured into a tulip glass. Poured a very dark brown / black with a half a finger of creamy mocha colored head. Head dissipated after several minutes to a thin collar at the edge with some nice lacing. Swirling reformed a finger of quickly dissipating head and showed a bit of alcohol legs.

Nose was very nice, rich dark chocolate, smoothly brewed coffee, dried dark fruits plums and raisins, molasses, red wine like fruit and a tinge of astringency, charred oak, and light vanilla. Really opens up as the beer further warms to room temperature.

Follows the nose. All of fruitiness gets richer as it warmed, along with the charred oak and vanilla. Very nice chocolate, coffee and cherry notes throughout. Delicious.

Full bodied, rich and creamy. Smooth small bubble carbonation further contributes to it. No alcohol detected for this year old keg. (889 characters)

Photo of illidurit
4.65/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2010 batch shared at the May Santa Cruz tasting. Pours darkest brown, nearly black, with a coffee colored head. Aromas of sugary coffee, dark chocolate, graham crackers, and roasted malt. Flavor is punishingly strong coffee, dark bitter chocolate, immense roastiness, eternal black coffee bitterness, smoldering oak. Just an obliterating beer. (343 characters)

Photo of beertunes
3.47/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I know that this is a highly rated and sought after beer, but for me, it just didn't meet the hype. It was the expected black, but had no head. The aroma was subdued to the point of blandness. Some grainy malt, a whisper of roast and a solid alcohol scent.

The flavors weren't any bolder or more well-defined. The body was decent although much thinner than typical, which did help with drinkability. Overall, a good but not great beer. A relative disappointment from FW, a brewery I think very highly of. (505 characters)

Photo of alexhahn82
3.5/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A - Poured pitch black like Vin Diesel into over sized "Balloon" wine glasses, 1 finger head that dissipates at a medium pace.

S. Coffee, Toffee, Vanilla, Chocolate.

T/M - Coffee, Coffee, Coffee, Chocolate, Toffee, slight vanilla, almost no hint of bourbon flavor on its own, though you can tell its in there. Thick and rich bodied, reminded me of Black Gold BBL.

Overall - I am not sure about the hype on this one, don't get me wrong its good, and should age very well. I prefer a bit more presence of bourbon on something aged in bourbon barrels.

PP (Price Point) -- I paid a $5 premium on the bottle, it should have been around $15 but I paid $20 and snagged 3 bottles. I will probably get a few more for trading but as I said didn't really live up to the hype to me, though it was an excellent beer, only slightly above average for the style. (850 characters)

Photo of Devi0us
4.5/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this for the first time yesterday on tap at City Beer in SF.

A- Poured pretty damn black into a snifter. Couldn't really tell how black due to the place being dimly lit. Had a 1 finger head that gradually faded away after a couple minutes. Hardly any lacing but left a ring throughout my experience.

S- Had a  potent bourbon aroma with some slight dark chocolate and vanilla fused in there as well.

T - Upon first sip was bourbon and alcohol heat. Kinda unpleasant. 2nd sip after warming for about 5 minutes was a completely different experience. Has a nice chocolate taste with a sweet vanilla finish.

M - Medium bodied but not a thickest that I've had. Very smooth and drinkable.

O - What we have here was a highly anticipated beer that exceeded my expectations. When served cold, not so awesome. When given a chance to warm up, watch out now. Can i take a Bomber to the face? Sure, but this is one that you wanna share and enjoy with others. I've already searched all over Hawaii and nothing to be found. Once I get back to Cali, the hunt is on. (1,059 characters)

Photo of Proteus93
4.27/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Rich and inky-black, topped with the chocolaty brown head that I appreciate in an imperial stout. Some come with quite a white hue that offer an attractive contrast to the beer, but the deeper brown ones suggest a 'serious stout.'

S + T: Loads of vanilla, brown sugar, and chocolate. A sweet stout, though not one of the thick and intense ones (ie: Abyss, Dark Lord, Ten FIDY). There's nothing particularly subtle in either the aroma or flavour, but there is plenty of going on in each profile. There's a sweetness that I want to associate with dark fruits, but I can't name one off the top of my head that I would like to suggest. There are qualities to it that I would probably most attribute to something like dried tropical fruit... say papaya in the level of sweetness it offers on the finish. That's not to say it tastes like papaya... you know what? This isn't going well. Let's just say it there's a fructose quality that alludes to some tropical fruits without... no, that's rephrasing the statement. Forget it. Try it.

M + D: The one negative element I found in this beer was in the body. Considering the look, scent, and flavour, I would have expected something richer and thicker--and I would have preferred it for being such, even if it was following others of the same style. It seemed a little thin, and I found that it slipped down my throat quite quickly, leaving some alcohol burn that is slightly disappointing. Fortunately, the other elements of the beer make up for it. As for drinkability, it's got a pretty high ABV. It's an evening sipper or 'end-of-the-day' type brew--best slow and steady to finish the day up. (1,643 characters)

Photo of ellswrth
4.7/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: vigorous pour into a tulip glass, about 1/3 inch of head which dissipates within a couple of minutes. It's as dark as Abyss or a strong cup of drip coffee. Not as opaque as Old Viscosity, however.

Smell: I'm really excited about this one and at first I kept smelling it without actually tasting it trying to nail down exactly what's coming into my nose. Definitely smelling bitter chocolate and the aroma you get when you grind beans for espresso. As it warms up the bourbon smell becomes a bit more apparent.

Taste: First sip - very rich - chocolatey and thick. What a mouthful! I could feel the heat of the alcohol, but I wasn't tasting it very much at just-out-of-the-fridge temp. As it's warmed up, it's tasting a little more like smooth tobacco and of course imperial stout, and while I know there is a bourbon flavor here somewhere, I am not really tasting it yet.

Mouthfeel: Sucking a bit of it into my mouth, and before it's really on my taste buds, it really does have the mouthfeel of chocolate milk--then when the flavors spread on my tongue I'm quickly reminded that I'm drinking a very impressive adult beverage.

Overall: I'm going to need to get a lot of these. This rivals KBS in my book -- they're different versions of one of my favorite styles. I'm going to have to go head to head one of these nights. Quite a commitment to drink a 22 of 13% imperial stout, but on special occasions, this will deliver quite a treat. (1,452 characters)

Photo of matttttYCE
4.62/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into my Deschutes snifter. Really looking forward to this beer!

Appearance - Pours a deep, dark black color with about a fingers worth of dark brown looking bubbles that aren't quite creamy, but that's probably the best descriptor for them. Head diminishes pretty quickly, but leaves a nice dark tan ring and a grouping of rockier bubbles in the middle.

Smell - There are some aromas of barrel aging, but they aren't overpowering and not strictly Bourbon barrel notes in the smell. There's a good deal of oak and barrel juice, but not straight bourbon barrels like some other beers (think Older Viscosity 2011). Makes sense though because they didn't just age this in Bourbon barrels, it's blended with some other stuff as well. Other notes in there are big bitter dark chocolate and burnt roast malt like a wonderful RIS should be. Behind that there's some pretty strong vanilla, hints of coffee and I feel like what I can't quite put my finger on is notes of dark fruit or slight dark cherry. Very complex and enjoyable aroma!

Taste - At first, the taste hits me with lots of dark roasted malt, smooth bittersweet chocolate, vanilla sweetness, charred oak, and some Bourbon hints. The barrel aged flavors are complex, but not strong or overpowering at all. You can tell there was some blending going on, some bourbon barrel aging, some other things as well. Next I get more of that rich dark chocolate and rich roasted malt and maybe some toffee and some of the dark fruit from the nose. Finish is some more dark chocolate and bold roasted malt of an RIS with just the slightest alcohol hint of alcohol on the way down, but still so smooth and wonderful. Overall, I think the taste of this is near fantastic. You can tell it's Bourbon barrel aged (mostly, but not all), but it's not in your face about it. The flavors meld with a complexity that I think I've yet to experience in any other beer I've had. Frankly, I think this is pretty damn deserving of 5.0 in the taste. I can only imagine how this one is going to age after a year or two.

Mouthfeel - Mouthfeel actually tends towards the lighter side for an Imperial Stout, but not light by any means. I was surprised to find myself not needing an extended amount of time between sips to get the mouth coating dryness to go away so I could take another sip. That aspect makes this one very drinkable and almost dangerous for the ABV it's at. I would describe the mouthfeel as velvety smooth, with a full, rich body (not heavy) and a moderate carbonation.

Overall - I just can't say enough about the complexity of this beer. It's like the *perfect* amount of everything mixed in. I'm not a fan of drinking a stout that tastes like someone slipped a shot of Bourbon in it. If I wanted that much Bourbon flavor, I'd just drink Bourbon. But this beer finds a wonderful middle ground between Bourbon and the other barrels used and it really just compliments what I can imagine the base beer being. Absolutely wonderful beer and I can't wait for the other half I have warming up from fridge temp! (3,071 characters)

Photo of Kshock
4.43/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A- None more black...Great, bold, and bight black. no haze at all

S- Chocolate, coffee, decent amount of roasted malts. Everything is balanced pretty damn well.

T- Oh wow. Great coffee, chocolate flavors blend excellently with some slight roast at the backend. Finishes perfectly....

M- This is what really stood out to me on this beer is the mouth feel. Just like a big thick cask condition Imperial Stout. Supper creamy and gentle on the palate, like a glass of milk. Truly awesome.

O- Amazing beer, gets better ever ytime i have it, which says a lot. Wish i could drink this on the reg, but what would i dream about? (623 characters)

Photo of Rizalini
4.67/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bomber into my Deschutes tulip...

A - Pours dark as night, with a thick creamy 1 finger brown head. Fades to a thin head, leaving spotty lacing.

S - The smells are so wonderfully combined, of coffee, dark chocolates, burnt toasty oak, and ever a little bit of black licorice.

T - Dark chocolates hit the tongue right away. The middle gives way to vanilla, and a chared woodsey flavor. Very warming as it goes down. The taste is just as complex as the smell is.

M - Nice and thick, full-heavy mouthfeel. Perfect amount of carbonation for an imperial stout.

O - This is a very well crafted imperial stout. It's everything a stout should be, thick, complex, robust. It's all here. I can't wait to see what some aging will do to this... (751 characters)

Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 1,069 ratings.