Parabola - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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5,480 Ratings

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Ratings: 5,480
Reviews: 1,095
rAvg: 4.61
pDev: 8.03%
Wants: 2,759
Gots: 3,151 | FT: 242
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:
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]
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Ratings: 5,480 | Reviews: 1,095
Photo of deltatauhobbit
4.47/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tasted at the local SMBDC meeting, got a decent serving size in a taster glass.

Pours a dark brown/black color with a nice viscosity to it, the size of the glass makes it difficult to produce any sizable head but there is some small bubbeage to it.

Smell is a beautiful mix of dark roasted malt, chocolate and just the right amount bourbon, some dark fruit notes linger about as well, from the bourbon you can pick up that it could be a little hot.

Taste isn't as overwhelming with the bourbon that I thought it was going to be which also means that it isn't overly hot like some similar beers, in fact all the flavors meld quite well together, the dark bitter chocolate is probably my favorite part about this beer, good stickiness in the mouth as well, not overly syrupy and not cloyingly sweet which makes this beer all the more respectable.

Didn't think I would enjoy this one as much as I did, a top notch example of the style. Something I'd like to try again, hopefully from a larger sample.

Photo of srandycarter
4.17/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

1000th review!

A - Black, of course. Small tan head after hard pour. Thin ring left with not much lace. EDIT: Subsequent hard pour delivers better head.

S - Yum. Every open a bar of really good dark chocolate and shove your nose in it? Booze and wood notes in the smell. Malt in there trying to say something... anything... over these other loud mouths!

T - Beautiful. Chewy. Chocolately. Booze and wood very evident. Little anise and molasses in there too.

M - Thick, low carb, coating and finishes still thick on the palate. Understandable for this one.

D - Hell no. Sipper and good night!

Good stuff!

Photo of steve8robin
4.6/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Got this as an extra in a trade. Thank you so much Dave. 22oz bottle, 2010 vintage. Very excited to try this one...

A: A beautiful thick deep dark pour with a 1 inch deep mocha colored head that fades quickly to a nice mocha foam atop the brew. Very good.

S: I get some nice sweet bourbon chocolate upfront quickly blended a nice dark fruit raisin scent. I get some nice coffee roast notes in the middle with some creamy dairy on the backend. Almost like a fig and molasses scent blended in there. There are a lot of different scents bouncing around. Very good.

T: It's a brew where I get some many flavors in the first sip all at once. There is not one specific pronounced flavor. I get a blend of cocao, vanilla, bitter chocolate, a perfect spot for the warm bourbon, followed by some awesome creamy milk chocolate. As I drink more, the more it tastes like a perfectly balanced milk stout. I start to get some port notes blended with some booziness and dark fruit. This is my idea of a stout. Perfect!

M: Full bodied with a very nice carbonation balance. Very good.

D: The drinkability on this one is quite good. Goes down good once you get a handle on all of the flavors bouncing around. Good.

All in all, bravo Firestone Walker! This is my idea of a fantastic stout. Definitely worth hunting if you like deep, thick, creamy, dark stouts to try and grab some to age. One of my new faves for sure!!

Photo of JohnGalt1
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Inflatablechair busted this one out at Eric's a while back... just getting around to entering in the notes.

Pours with a thick brown head... great retention and lacing...

Nose shows more wood than bourbon but with a good roasty background that carries a subtle sweetness reminiscent of dark dark chocolate.

Flavor is immediately drier than the nose made me believe.. bits of vanilla and sweet cigar wrapper envelope waves of great complexities.. a bit boozy with warmth.. and the malts open up to be a bit sweeter as the temperature rises.

Smooth but present carbonation with a pretty full decadent mouth coating body.

Thanks Sammy.... I really need to try and score some of these before the wells run dry.

4.5 across the board.

Photo of hophead247
4.62/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a pitch black color with a brown highlights and a tan 1 finger head. Poured into my Surly Darkness glass. Have heard how good this beer is and really am trying to not be dissappointed if it doesn't reach the level of goodness I have heard so much about. Coffee, bourbon, and cream type notes in the aroma. This is a very complex beer with lots of aromas and tastes. I taste dark chocolate, coffee, bourbon, and some hop bitterness. I would say this is a very balanced and complete Imperial Stout well worth the praises I have heard. Medium/heavy mouthfeel. Very rich and good. It doesn't really get much better than this.

Photo of TKEbeerman
4.68/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Firestone Walker Parabola courtesy of coryking:

A: Poured into my Firestone Walker Pint Glass (purchased for me by my beautiful girl friend) this brew pour an extremely dark black with an extremely impressive, almost 2in, chocolate milk bubble colored head that refuses to bow down and leaves some of the best lacing I've seen on a beer glass (let alone @ 13%) ever.

S: The aroma is almost perfect. Were those barrels made of chocolate? Seriously there is a heavy amount of biter sweet chocolate in this brew. Molasses and slight espresso with whims of whiskey make up the nose.

T: Upfront chocolate dominates the flavor. Vanilla is present and really does an excellent job smoothing out and combining everything present in the brew. As far as Bourbon barrel aged stouts go, this brew has note more along the lines of Whiskey, and it is a slight accent that just gives this beer more depth. Molasses and a little hop bitterness wrap up the profile of this stout. As the brew warms, whiskey becomes a more dominate flavor note and chocolate starts to take a back seat.

MF: The mouthfeel is good without being spectacular. Like many barrel aged beers (especially Bourbon) I've had, I've begun to notice the barrel aging really does a job of thinning the mouthfeel just a tad to much. Still this brew is silky smooth and excellent.

D: Drinkability at 13% is superb. This stout is a little more filling then most.

Overall, I am very grateful to coryking for a trade I thought I could not have completed with the beers available in my area. Parabola is a stout worthy of its place amongst the best.

Photo of davod23
4.55/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

I finally broke open the case of Parabola I have sitting in my cellar. I've had this a few times before, but never reviewed. It was, at one point, my favorite beer... I'm looking forward to this.

Pitch black, viscous, but not chunky pour. Dark tan head billows up, but fairly quickly dissipates completely. A swirl coats the interior of my Bruery tulip in brown. This is a really nice-looking stout - I wish the head stuck around a bit longer, but hell, this is a 13% barrel-aged stout, I can't expect miracles.

Smell is delicious. Great balance. Huge chocolate, coffee, and roast. Touch of smoke, vanilla, brown sugar, and anise. All of this backed up by the bourbon barrel, which thankfully does not overpower the brew.

Taste follows the nose for the most part. Bourbon plays a bit bigger role here. Chocolate, coffee, vanilla. Oak. Molasses. A sweet beer, but not overly so. Alcohol is present, but very, very well hidden considering the ABV on this brew. Bittering hops in the finish balance this out nicely - I recall this on tap at the release being a bit astringent in the finish, but that's either not present in the bottled version or it's mellowed out in the time since the release. Either way, I'm happy. This beer is a flavor monster.

Mouthfeel is awesome. Thick, syrupy, but with a surprisingly dry finish. The end is as clean as you can possibly get with a stout of this magnitude.

Drinkability is tough. It's not easy to drink a ton of this stuff - I had about 3/4 of the bomber, and that was enough for me. I kinda wish this was in smaller bottles, like 2008 Bourbon County.

Nevertheless, this beer is awesome. Highly recommended, if you can find it.

Photo of Spica66
4.53/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Received in trade from Darkrthebettr. Thanks, Erik!

Poured into tulip with Fr. Ian and Tom Taylor.

A: Black as the night is long. Beautiful brownish head. Absolutely perfect looking stout.

S: They named it right. Dark chocolate, dark fruits, dark caramel.

T: Just like it smells. Bitter chocolate, dark figs, really Imperial Stouty. No gimmicks, just huge, dark flavors.

M: Creamy with the just right amount of carbonation. No stickiness. Really, really nice.

D: Alcohol hits a little hard in the chest on the way down, or else I would have given a 5.

Photo of punkrkr27
4.4/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

nky black pour with a small, off-white head. Intense black coffee aroma, with lots of dark chocolate, molasses, brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla, and smoky, heavily charred oak. Heavy, bitter black coffee falvor with dark chocolate, lots of charred oak, and lots of dark fruit. Chalky assertive hops on the finish. Creamy, full body with soft carbonation.

Photo of ToasterChef
4.12/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from my tasting notes of a decent sized sample I consumed at an epic tasting event held with the members of the SMBDC.

Dark brown liquid is capped with a slight skim of tiny brown bubbles. Cocoa and bourbon make up the very appealing aroma. The beer tastes chocolately, with a strong bourbon finish. Although the flavors are there, the alcohol is well-hidden. There isn't burning or a warmth to the swallow. Medium body and low carbonation. Lots of coating. The flavors stay with you a while, so you don't feel the need to grab another sip as soon as you put the glass down. A note on the bottle recommends you share, and I agree, but I would want a large pour. This is a good beer!

Photo of MbpBugeye
4.75/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Another blind beer sent to me by AleWatcher. It calls for a snifter and it says be careful not to look at the cap when opening. Its got a very unique foil on the top, much like bottle of wine. This is making me think Firestone Walker...

A- Super black and thick looking. Not much of a head, it really takes a heavy pour. The head is wet sand colored and short lived. This is about as thick and black looking as any beer can get.

S- Imperial stout for sure, and a BIG one at that. Lots of alcohol, licorice, dark berries like currants, super rich and bitter black chocolate, port wine and some oak. Its hot 'n heavy.

T- Oh man, oh man, oh man. This is getting a 5 for taste. So complex but its not all over the place at all. It has an agenda. Loads of dark chocolate right off the rip. It then moves into a rich black currant and vinous place. Then there is molasses, brown sugar and more cocoa. A little bit of licorice and a lot of alcohol bring things to a close.

M- I would say this beer is right around the 12-13% range. Its warm, sometimes hot, but never offensive. The body is so thick and full, carbonation is low. This makes for an unstoppable creaminess. With a body like this the ABV could be 25% and it would still drink smoothly.

D- Drinkable? Uh yeah, Ive savored this for the past hour and I want more.


FIRESTONE WALKER PARABOLA!!! I feel bad now. What did I do to deserve this? This beer was on my most wanted list in my profile. I was thinking about trading off my Jackie O's bottles for one. HUGE thanks to Jeff.

Photo of Jmoore50
4.38/5  rDev -5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Yes, this beer is right up my alley. It was good also that I drank it on a colder night, so it was just the right beer to warm me up.

The appearance is, 'dark as night'. It pours with a fluffy brown head that is small and leaves fast. What a dark menacing beer I had in my glass.

The smell is of roasted grain, lots of chocolate and Tootsie Rolls, some caramel and toffee. Awesome.

The taste is awesome, and I picked up something that I didn't find in other reviews. I picked up loads of chocolate and espresso, toffee and caramel and some. . . spruce? I picked up a somewhat earthy spruce or light mint flavor that was awesome. It reminded me of a chocolate covered peppermint candy, a great treat.

The mouthfeel was silky smooth and lightly carbonated. It was such a deep, dark, thick, and drinkable brew that I wish it was more available. Delicious beer.

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

Black, thin layer foam with plenty of light carbonation and a ring of foam throughout. No lacing.

Coconut, bourbon, and coffee notes with chocolate in there too.
Sweet malt. Not an overpowering or exceptional nose but very good. 

Bourbon, slightly sweet, roasty, coffee, chocolate, and coconut all harmoniously blended. Nothing dominates. Fairly strong bitterness that's noticeable on the long finish. 

Nice fairly thick mouthfeel with a good level of carbonation.
Immensely drinkable. Not hot whatsoever. A very good beer. Shared with three great friends. Glad to have more of this to drink in the future. 
Highly recommended. Thanks to whitebricke and wavers1 for the bottles!

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

Thanks to kbutler1 for sharing this.

Poured into ccb snifter

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of adkirkish
4.79/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Dark brown, orange hue around the edges, no carbonation or lacing.

A: Toffee, caramel, light brandy booze aromas, sawdust - wood, slight salty umami aroma / soy. No hop aromatics.

F: Dark toffee (Imagine dark sees candy suckers), roasted malt, tobacco, light soy.

M: Very viscous / thick on the palate, medium-heavy bodied, low carbonation, no alcohol warmth, drinks silky smooth.

O: Very well brewed and enjoyed very much (Thanks EvilTwinCP). The only thing I would have liked more is a little more carbonation. Although I see a growing trend among the Imperial Stout beers to not have carbonation. This is what I like to call another good example of a fine gentleman's sipping beer. Would pair great with a cigar.

Photo of Gfunk720
3.9/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Michael for hooking this bottle up. Consumed out of my Sierra Nevada 30th Anniv. Tulip.

A- Very dark with a frothy coffee colored head. Good head retention, no lacing. The beer is pretty much solid black, with some hints of red at the edges.

S- Smells of creamy bourbon, with oak notes. Definetely not as strong as most bourbon aged beers, but noticeble. I notice a good hop smell as well, but nothing crazy

T- Starts very creamy, then opens up to flavors of chocolate/coffee/caramel/bourbon and oak. I like big bourbon beers, and thats where this one fell a little short. It just didn't stack up to some others.

M- Nice, and a very good blending of flavors. I wish it was a little thicker, as it is 13%. Good, but no BCS

D- All around pretty darn good. A little tangy, and some overly lingering hop aftertaste at times. Quite light for a bourbon barrel beer at 13%

I might have hyped this one up a bit in my head, thinking it could best KBS/BCS and some of my other favorites. I'll age a couple bottles, and see what I think down the road.

Photo of kbutler1
4.42/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle. Pours a pitch black color with a brown highlights and a tan 1 finger head. Poured into my Surly Darkness glass. Have heard how good this beer is and really am trying to not be dissappointed if it doesn't reach the level of goodness I have heard so much about. Coffee, bourbon, and cream type notes in the aroma. This is a very complex beer with lots of aromas and tastes. I taste dark chocolate, coffee, bourbon, and some hop bitterness. I would say this is a very balanced and complete Imperial Stout well worth the praises I have heard. Medium/heavy mouthfeel. Very rich and good. It doesn't really get much better than this.

Photo of hughesm4
4.08/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had a taste out of a bottle poured into a glass.
a-Black with a thin layer of chocolate looking head.
s-Smells very boozy with a sweet smells of malt and a little chocolate.
t-Yet again very boozy, with a chocolate sweetness and possibly a slight hint of coffee towards the end. A pleasant balance of flavors that tastes powerful.
m/d-Very full syrupy flavor that clings to the mouth and leaves you feeling like you need a drink of water. It goes down smooth for something this strong, but is certainly a slow drinker.

Photo of degerbah
4.25/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours midnight black with a dark brown head. The aroma is molasses sweet with a hefty hint of booziness. The taste is fantastic with the booziness providing a sightly harsh overtone to the coffee and sweet malty taste. The mouthfeel is noticably thick, which makes sense given the borderline ridiculous alcohol content. All in all its a fantastic beer in the vein of dark lord or the other tremendous big body american stouts.

Photo of mwa423
3.85/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours jet black with 0 head. If you've ever poured motor oil into an engine you can get a good idea of what this is like.

S - Dried fruit, some malty sweetness, chocolate and a good amount of alcohol.

T - Boozy, harsh and really could use a couple years age. The malt is quite forward and slight chocolate notes, but this beer actually has an alcoholic burn to it.

M/D - Mouthfeel is very thick and harsh, it coats the tongue and cheeks and leaves a bit of burn. This is as drinkable as most extreme imperial stouts (Dark Lord, DORIS the Destroyer, etc) but could be an amazing beer with some time.

Photo of ptykozoon
4.03/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Pours almost black with a small dark caramel colored head, good retention. Very pretty beer.

Smell is chocolate and coffee, and a few other lovely flavors I can't quite place.

Yummy! The chocolate tastes very high quality; rich and full. The coffee flavors aren't as pronounced as in the smell, which I like. The flavors resulting from the barrel conditioning are very subtle to me, but work very well to offset the sumptuous chocolate. Tastes slightly complex as I try to pick out the flavors. Well balanced and refined.

Mouthfeel is incredible, one of the smoothest beers I've had. A strong and dense texture which works exceptionally for this beer.

This is a good sipping beer. The 13% surprised me.

Photo of DavoleBomb
4.62/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a snifter. Big thanks to piclee for this.

4.0 A: I had to make an aggressive pour to coax one finger of creamy light brown head. Average retention and not really any lacing.

4.5 S: Aroma is just what I like from a -bal brew. The stout shines while the bourbon takes a complementary role. A decent amount of semisweet chocolate in this one. Indeed, the sweet character outweighs the roasty but not by a whole lot. Roasted barley makes an appearance next with a touch, and only a touch, of coffee. Finally, the bourbon comes in completing the very nice nose. As it warms, the bourbon comes through stronger.

4.5 T: Taste is just as good as the nose. Sweet chocolate stands out first, with roastiness next, and bourbon on the finish. There a bit of fruitiness in the taste that wasn't in the nose: plum and raisin. Alcohol is apparent, but at an acceptable rate given 13%. It's really hard to figure out how complex this is. The chocolate, roasted barley, and bourbon dominate, but it seems like there is more beneath. Bourbon, booziness, and a roasty bitterness lingers on aftertaste.

5.0 M: Thick, syruppy body. Good moderate carbonation. This is how I like my imperial stouts. Rich and creamy or bust. Relatively smooth with a warming finish.

5.0 D: Excellent brew. Great aroma, great taste, awesome mouthfeel, but the alcohol is a bit of an ass kicker and moreso than comparable brews (BCBCS, for example). Still, solid brew overall. I'm glad I have another one. I think some age will do wonders with this one.

Edit: This gets much better as it warms up. Drinkability score adjusted.

Photo of Lukafer
4.32/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Jdefont for busting this out at our tasting! From notes:

Pours pitch black with minimal tan bead. Smells are little chocolate, booze, powered cocoa. Tastes are coffe, booze and a slight chocolate finish. There's some others in there as well, possibly some dark fruits and maybe hints of tobacco. Drinkability, as with other beers in this style are extremely subjective, and I know my group could have had one more bottle.

Photo of jjayjaye
4.57/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours 'Midnight Black' with better than a full finger loose frothy dark brown head. The collar fades quickly with spotty patterns of lacing in its wake. The aroma is moderately intense; boozy bourbon, nicely roasted malt, choco-molasses and fig. The mouth feel is very nice. Creamy smooth, lightly carbonated. Slightly less coating character than my favorite examples of this style..the mouth feel is medium bodied. A wonderful after experience ...lingers nicely. One heck of a drinker!! The 13% ABV is out in the open; no apologies. Highly recommended. I got this one from Geoui. Cheers JJ

Photo of coldmeat23
4.3/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

GLASS: Snifter
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 50 degrees
Thanks to a generous trader for this sweet hook-up!

This one pours up black, which is more than I'd hoped for, actually. Starting out well. An easy pour produces a head of two-fingers worth of almost dark-brown colored foam. The retention is very good and the lacing is in large spots, which are fairly sticky.

There is alot going on in this nose. Big presence of dark malts, along with a good amount of roastiness. Hints of leather and tobacco, along with some mild notes of dark fruits. A nice hint of dark roasted coffee. Light traces of oak and vanilla.
Complex and completely enticing.

Very roasted malts forward. The barrel presence is more of an afterthought, actually. This one follows the nose, for the most part. Just a whole lot more focus on the malts here. A light hint of dark chocolates works its way in. More than just a hint of smoke.

Here's the strongest part of this beer. It is full-bodied and has a light-to-medium level of carbonation. It is very smooth and has a nice amount of creaminess, which is wonderful to have. Especially for this style. It helps it come off as damn-near thick.

Flavor-wise, this one is very tasty and nicely drinkable. That 13.00%abv though, does manage to make itself known, mostly in a touch of warmth, on the back-end. Overall, it is nicely drinkable, though.

Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 5,480 ratings.