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Parabola - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,108 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 1,108
Hads: 5,835
Avg: 4.54
pDev: 18.72%
Wants: 3,019
Gots: 3,335 | FT: 248
Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

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 (85) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 1,108 | Hads: 5,835
Photo of glid02
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle shared by Jay - thanks!

Pours black with a one-finger brown head. The head recedes into a thin layer on top leaving solid lacing.

Smells of robust roasted malt with good amounts of dark chocolate and tobacco aromas. Also present are light amounts of vanilla.

Tastes similar to how it smells. Smooth roasted malt flavors kick things off and are joined quickly by well-integrated dark chocolate and vanilla flavors. Hints of bourbon hit midway through the sip along with mild amounts of tobacco. Near the end of the sip slight amounts of coffee flavors make a brief appearance before fading into a moderately bitter ending.

Mouthfeel is very good. It's got a nice thickness with soft carbonation.

Drinkability is also very good. I finished my glass quickly and could easily have another.

Overall this was simply a phenomenal beer. Nothing was out of place and everything worked exceptionally well together. Well worth a shot.

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Photo of Mar02x
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

At a beer tasting at my place this was the 10th beer we tried, with thanks to the ‘Brabander’.

A –Very dark, almost black

S –Heavy Caramel, mocha, oak wood and some vanilla

T – The taste is fantastic complex. Thick, cream, sweetness with hops but very good balanced.

M – Thick and creamy, soft on the carbonation., slightly less than superb!!!

O – A good beer, very tasty. A winner and worth buying again and again.

I had this beer again on the 11th of December 2011 on a beer tasting at Erik's place, with thanks to Thijs, Jeff and Erik. It was the last beer of the session and a perfect way to end this day. I didn't alter my review because I still think it's a pretty damn good beer.

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Photo of 2ndloveofmylife
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Serving type: on-tap into a 4oz sniffer glass released day at Firestone

Pitch black with with a nice thin mocha colored head. Smells like chocolate and burnt marshmallows, thick caramel malt fudge, cocoa nibs, and a roasted malt characteristic reminiscent of espresso. There is also caramel, vanilla, and bourbon. Whiffs of alcohol.

The taste pretty mostly follows smell. Layers and more layers of bourbon with dark chocolate, chocolate fudge, pralines, caramel, vanilla. Roasted expresso and milk chocolate, some roasted cocoa, a ton of vanilla raisin, vanilla and bourbon flavor lingers. Wonderfully complex everything you would expect from a barrel aged imperial stout.

The drinkability is pretty unreal for 13% abv. Simple delicious!

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Photo of jegross2
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewing the Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Company. A hearty thank you to BA user 4DAloveofSTOUT for trading me this one.
Score: 97

2011 vintage bottle shared and served in a snifter glass.

Appearance: Jet black, opaque with subtle ruby highlights at the top of the body. Pours a thin, bubbly, mocha-colored head that settles into a ring around the glass. Pretty good lacing for a 12.5% ABV beer. A very attractive looking Russian Imperial Stout. 4.5/5

Smell: Soft notes of vanilla and oak up front. There is lots of vanilla and oak, but it is not in-your-face-strong. Figs, raisins and cherries pretty apparent too. Creamy chocolate. Some really mellow bourbon notes and a little molasses. Touch of booziness. Very complex and balanced aroma. 4.5/5

Taste: Very smooth, nuanced, complex and balanced! No single flavor is in your face, but there are a lot of different, noticeable flavors here. Brown sugar and creamy, unsweetened chocolate hit first. Then lots of dark fruits. Tons of fig and raisin sweetness on the mid-palate. Vanilla and oak, a little dark rum towards the end. Some bourbon and molasses in the finish with a little alcohol warmth. As the beer layers, I am detecting hints of roasted nut. Plum comes out too, and more bourbon as it layers. More unsweetened chocolate in the finish as it layers. This one is absolutely delicious, and boy does it linger! 5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, thick and oily. Quite viscous, with the perfect level of carbonation. Finish is slightly sweet. 4.5/5

Overall: An absolute flavor bomb that is incredibly balanced. The bourbon builds up as it layers, but neither it nor the dark-fruit sweetness of the beer ever overwhelm. Can't wait to see how age affects this brew.

Recommendation: An absolute must-try beer for all. Not too intense for casual beer drinkers, and loaded with enough complex flavors for even the most jaded beer geek. This is a brew that lives up to its hype. Bottom line: seek this one out.

Pairings: A well-aged steak. This is a special beer that should be paired with a classy meal. Probably would pair well with a fancy warm chocolate cake. Colleen, I'm looking at you.

Cost: $17.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

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Photo of hansgruber
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
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!

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Photo of blankenhoney
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

22oz bomber poured into a snifter.

A: Dark brown cola. Foamy head that settles in <10 seconds. Brown film coats the glass.

S: Huge barrel character; raisins and cherries; vanilla; chocolate; roasted coffee beans. Quite boozy.

T: Like drinking a booze- and vanilla-soaked bar of dark chocolate; dry red fruit; roasted malt; faint tobacco; oak everywhere. Super boozy, but the kind of booze that complements rather than overwhelms everything. Great dryness and mild bitter dark chocolate on the aftertaste.

M: Perfect: creamy, sticky, substantial, and chewy; dry cocoa powder all over the tongue.

O: OK I guess.

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Photo of Reaper16
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage, served into a Duvel glass

Pours a nice dark roasty black color. You know what this beer looks like. It looks dark. Lots of head, especially for a beer with age on it. It looks great. Not much to say.

What sets Parabola apart from its competition is balance. The aroma is so complex but so balanced: roast, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, coffee bean, vanilla, dark caramel, bourbon, dark fruits, cherries. All of that is there in the aroma, but it all works together. It's got fantastic cohesion.

Same with the flavor. Things don't unfold in waves, really. Its more of an "all these flavors are happening all at once, singing as if in a chorus, making a joyful noise together" thing. Fantastically blended, these flavors. It's a very sweet beer, so keep that in mind. It's not Dark Lord sweet, but its close. What Parabola has over Dark Lord is that balance though. Phenomenal.

The mouthfeel is full but not super-sticky, not ultra-thick. It's pleasant. I have to say this, this is important: there is NO alcohol burn on this year-old bottle. None. This is so smooth, so drinkable, that it should be illegal in most states.

While I can conceive of a better-tasting imperial stout, It's hard to think of one that could be better-brewed than Parabola. Everything works together. Perfect harmony.

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Photo of chanokokoro
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage 22 oz. bottle fairly aggressively poured into Firestone Walker Proprietors Reserve snifters

Pours a viscous motor oil black with a one and a half finger tan head. Huge aroma of oak, bourbon, and roasted malt. Bourbon, vanilla, and oak with hints of chocolate joined by the dense flavor of black cherries, hints of plums, and rich fig. Finishes with bold espresso notes and roastiness and a comfortable alchohol warmth. Full bodied, smooth, and even a bit of creaminess. Incredibly complex and without a doubt one of the finest barrel aged Russian Imperial Stouts available.

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Photo of ellswrth
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
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.

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Photo of BrewtifulMind
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at The Bottle Room, Whittier. 9 oz pour

This is just about as black as black can get. No light gets through this one. Has a minimal brown head, if you can even call it that. Its more of a thin blanket that recedes to the sides of the glass. It leaves minimal, spotted lacing down the glass. The aroma on this one is amazing. A very strong vanilla presence, chocolate, espresso, dark fruits, and a nice touch of bourbon booziness. It smells sweeter and sweeter as it warms up as well. On to the taste test. Just as the nose described, really heavy tones of vanilla, bitter chocolate, coffee, oak, and booze. The boozy taste is by no means in the way. Its the perfect complement to the rich sweetness. Taste is just phenomenal and very complex, all of the flavors just seem to meld with each other perfectly. It has a very rich, thick, and creamy mouthfeel. Just phenomenal. I was very excited to try this, and very glad to say that this exceeds its hype. Being someone that is fairly new to BA Imperial Stouts, they are quickly becoming my new favorite style. Cheers.

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Photo of kevanb
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The first year Parabola was ever bottled, this 2010 bottle came to me as part of a share and I could not be more grateful. It pours a really sexy jet black color, thick viscous motor oil like texture as it fills the glass with a nice thick foamy caramel colored head on top which dissipates rather quickly leaving a nice ring of caramel color along the rim of the glass and a slight film at the top of the glass. The aroma is great, mild bourbon, definitely cut down from aging, strong tobacco and chocolate are big players with faint bitter coffee at the end. The flavors are superb, bourbon up front with smooth creamy chocolate right at the front, coffee is in there but muted as a result of aging, with tobacco playing a major role but definitely at the back end with some vanilla and toffee flavors as well. The body is unreal, silky, creamy, full and chewy, bold and viscous, perfect for the style and takes this to another level.

Verdict: Easily one of the best stouts I've ever had, and one of the best barrel aged beers of any style I've had. If you are fortunate enough to come across this vintage or the 2011 vintage, make a point to try this, you won't be let down.

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Photo of alexgrahamlv
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer is amazing!!!
Pours opaque black with long lasting tan brown head, nice legs filming the glass.

Aromas of chocolate, molasses, nutty toffee caramel. The booziness burns the inside of the nose.

Taste is very rich of cocoa, very complex, dark chocolate, not overly roasty, quite a bit of booze. Toffee, nutty.

Mouthfeel is big bodied with moderate carbonation. Still quite hot at 13% and young.

This beer young is fantastic and aged will only be even better. Glad I got some to hold on to. Yummy!!!

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Photo of mdfb79
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

From 11/28/10 notes. Shared a 22 oz. bottle of this with my brother. Poured into an oversized wine glass.

a - Pours a jet black color with one to two fingers of tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Head lasts for a few minutes and leaves a little bit of lacing on the glass. Looks great.

s - Smells of bourbon, oak, chocolate, dark fruits, roasted malts, and coffee. Very complex and great. I had Old Rasputin XII the night before drinking this one and I think the two of them might be the best barrel aged RIS's I've ever had.

t - Tastes of bourbon, chocolate, roasted malts, oak, dark fruits, and vanilla. Again, very complex; I loved it.

m - Wow, the mouthfeel is truly amazing. Light to medium body and low carbonation, this might be the smoothest RIS I've ever had. A perfect mouthfeel.

d - Truly an amazing barrel aged beer; this is one of my favorite RIS's. The smell and taste are both very balanced and complex, and the mouthfeel is perfect. I felt like I could drink a lot of this, even with the 13% ABV. Can't wait to have this one again.

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

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

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Photo of drabmuh
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle shared at a recent small tasting. Split between three people. Beer served in a snifter. Beer is dark black and forms a one fingered head of small brown bubbles that leaves some lacing on the glass. Nice.

Aroma is bourbony and nice. Its a little hot in the nose, much hotter in the nose than in the mouth.

This is close to the perfect tasting beer. Its creamy and smooth, mildly sweet up front, not hot in the mouth. A subtle and well balanced liquor flavors, nice bourbon character. Its mildly dry but not harsh or acrid. Good roast in the back, some almost coffee like flavors. Very wonderful beer. I would drink this again if given the opportunity.

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Photo of Goatshaver
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 Bottle

First impression is this is one dark beer with a nice light mocha colored head that just stays on there forever. Smells of dark roasted chocolate and malts with the bourbon and oak smells coming through. Wow...it just smells so smooth. Now to tasting it and even more wow! Coffee, chocolate and the oaked bourbon tastes hit immediately finishing with a deep chocolate taste with slight alcohol taste. This is a really smooth drinking beer...I don't find as much alcohol as some other barrel aged imperial stouts I've tried so its has a nice feel with low carbonation and a warming feel.

All in all easily my favorite barrel aged imperial stout I've had to date. This is such a treat and I look forward to getting my hand on another one. A++

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Photo of trxxpaxxs
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Got this from 2beerornot2beer in the Blind Beer Round 6 BIF. Batch 002.

A: Pours a super dark oily brown with a thin mocha head. This beer has some serious legs on it. It coats the glass in a thin greasy film. Very little lacing as it drinks. This beer looks great.

S: I’m picking up some bourbon, vanilla, dark chocolate, and some really nice roasted notes. This beer begs to be sipped. And I shall oblige.

T: This beer starts off a bit sweet with a blast of raisins, but the dark malt and bourbon come to the forefront right after. There are mixed flavors of vanilla, chocolate, caramel, oak, and maybe a little bit of coffee. This beer is legit.

M: Full bodied beer. This brew is sweet, silky, and coating. The flavors linger on the palate for a bit. I'm loving the smoothness of this beer.

O: This beer is damn tasty. All of the aspects are top notch. I’m really diggin’ on the smell and taste of this beer. It’s a wonderfully easy drinking brew.

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Photo of InebriatedJoker
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured form bottle into pint tulip - bottle date 4/28/11.

A: Poured a deep black with three finger head that dissipated into a thin frothy tan lacing, good carbonation - Great looking stout.

S: Rosted barley with slight molasses , anise, bourbon, chocolate, toffee, caramel.

T: Roasted malts and barley , bitter chocolate with slight molasses,anise hints, coffee ,toffee and caramel, vanilla hints as well slight bourbon.

O: Overall this was a wonderfull RIS ,Just made my top five,
The sweet lip smacking taste was extremely well blended and balanced with great and complex flavors. Will definitely seek this one out again.

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Photo of inlimbo77
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
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.

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Photo of azdback
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter. Utter darkness. Not even a hint of light coming through this beer. There isn't any head to speak of. What little there was, dissipated quickly. No lace is sticking around on this one, this is possibly due to my snifters being washed in the dishwasher (tisk, tisk) or maybe just the high abv.

Smells of vanilla, coffee, and chocolate, with hints of bourbon barrels and a little smoke. All these are wrapped up in a nice whisky booze package. It almost smells as fantastic as The Abyss.

Tastes of dark roasted coffee, bitter chocolate and brown sugar. There is also some spicy flavors of tobacco and charred wood. The barrels are here as well, bourbon, oak and whiskey tastes. Just a perfectly blended Imperial Stout.

The mouth is quite fantastic. Deep rich flavors all the way to the end. Alcohol warminess sooths the throat all the way to the belly. There is no carbonation to speak of. As this warms it almost drinks like a glass of bourbon.

Overall I really enjoyed this. I believe this has cracked my top five Russian Imperial Stout list. Seek this out at all costs!! Really!!! Thanks to aandresen for this bottle.

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Photo of puboflyons
4.71/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

From the 2012 batch Reserve Series no. 003. Sampled on July 31, 2013.

The pour is a deep dark brown with an opaque black veil dropping down from top to near the bottom. The brown is around the edges and there is a short-lived tan head.

Imperial Stout aroma galore including dark malts, sugar sweetness, licorice, chocolate, fig, wood, and the slightest sniff of smoke. Hops are downplayed on the nose.

The body is full and delicately smooth.

The taste is upfront with sweet malts, a little chocolate, maybe some butterscotch, and bourbon with this moderate hop bitterness that powers its way forward at the very finish lingering briefly. A topnotch Imperial Stout.

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Photo of Gregaroo
4.71/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

On tap at Isaac Newtons in Newtown, PA. Served into a tulip glass. Very like head, but great aroma and taste! Went back for a second, but the keg was gone. Nice treat on a Wednesday evening.

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Photo of More_betterness
4.71/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2014 vintage.

A: Absolutely pitch black body with a half finger mocha head that recedes to the thinnest of rings around the glass quickly. Perfect appearance for an RIS.

S: Bourbon soaked vanilla bean, bakers chocolate, and rich dark pitted fruits. Sweet alcohol emerges as it warms. As inviting as it comes.

T: More vanilla, but this time paired with dark cherry and raw cocoa nibs. Charred oak and dark chocolate covered espresso beans linger on the palate long after each sip. Remarkably hidden alcohol for 14%. Glorious.

M: Full bodied and velvety. Coats the mouth completely and a bit of viscous texture remains following each taste.

O: World class. In my opinion the yardstick by which each and every bourbon barrel aged stout should be measured. Remarkably potent flavors and aromas, yet maintains perfect balance throughout. Firestone + barrels = magic.

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Photo of BeerBuckeye
4.71/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2013 Vintage poured into Bell's snifter

A - Pours a little lighter than I was expecting. Mostly opaque, but a dark brown color rather than a viscousy black

S - Good amount of bourbon in the nose, vanilla sweetness, licorice, grapes, and a hint of chocolate.

T - Great complexity here. Taste starts with bitter coffee, nice and roasted. Comes into a good amount of bourbon, provides a kick of vanilla. Works into dark fruits before finishing again with some bitter baker's chocolate and a tinge of hop.

M - Drying almost, but smooth, very

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Photo of Fcolle2
4.71/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: this pours a thick muddy black with a nice dark tan head. Lacing is beautiful, I've never seen anything quite like this.

S: bitter dark chocolate, minor notes of espresso, dark fruit and oak with a slight alcohol finish.

T: wow, lots dark chocolate and vanilla upfront that fades into the rich charred malt that is highlighted by the oak and hints of dark fruit. Bourbon is subtle, not over powering and very well balanced. Alcohol is there but well hidden.

M: thick in the best way possible, coats the mouth entirely and great small bubble carbonation, has the velvety feel of a nitro, really nice.

O: best beer I have had in a long time. Perfectly balanced and very complex. I can't wait to re-review the one I'm putting away for next year.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 1,108 ratings.