Napa Parabola
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Napa ParabolaNapa Parabola
Write a Review
Beer Geek Stats: | Print Shelf Talker
Style:
Stout - Russian Imperial
ABV:
11.3%
Score:
96
Avg:
4.44 | pDev: 6.76%
Reviews:
63
Ratings:
173
From:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
 
California, United States
Avail:
Retired (no longer brewed)
Wants
  7
Gots
  19
SCORE
96
World-Class
Napa ParabolaNapa Parabola
Notes: Fine wine meets a Firestone Walker legend with the inaugural release of Napa Parabola, a Russian imperial stout matured in French oak wine barrels from one of Napa Valley’s most prestigious cult wineries.
View: Beers
Reviews: 63 | Ratings: 173 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of StonedTrippin
StonedTrippin from Colorado

4.41/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

i knew this would be good, and it definitely lives up to the hype, a very cool version of this iconic stout aged in red wine barrels. the beer is a pretty and luxurious dark chocolate brown, quite viscous but not scary thick, with a short and lasting dense mocha head from the bottle. the price tag is still on this, just ten bucks, a screaming hot deal, i love how fair that is for something so special! it smells like parabola, i hate when a nice base beer is obscured or overrun with its barrel or adjuncts characteristics and is unrecognizable, but that is not the case here, this is still parabola in all its glory, dark cocoa, subtle vanilla, wet earth, a light char element, and a regal smoothness in texture. these wine barrels do contribute a lot though, some nice dried berry vibes through most of it, black cherry and blackberry, a richness and a little sugar sure, but i think its less sweet than bourbon barrels, and i like the little bit of tannic quality in the finish, it almost seems to lighten this up while also making it more unique and dynamic. still a ton of wood here, and there is all the mellow richness that it adds. the fruit layer is cool, its not overly vinous, and there is a sort of chocolate covered fruity thing happening with the dark grain that i really like. a little bitter espresso note hangs on the palate after each sip. a lovely variant of this classic, setting a high standard for price and quality too, i loved this!

May 27, 2020
Photo of hoptheology
hoptheology from South Dakota

3.56/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

12 oz bottle poured into Crane snifter.

Deep silky inky black with a 1/2 finger of beige head, receding to a fingernail. Very wet looking.

Aroma is of black licorice, molasses, port barrel, caramel, and fudge.

Flavor brings grass, dirt, pine, caramel, sweat socks, dry cacao, tannic blackberry wine, oak, and more dirt on the finish. It is just far too bitter and dirty to be enjoyable. It is a huge beer, yes, but it tastes like a Tide commercial.

Feel is slick and full, creamy, hot, viscous, very dry on the back half nearly to annoyance.

Overall, Parabola has flew a bit below the radar for me in the past, and this didn't do much to help it. I can't finish this one. Nearly half a bottle left that I don't feel like finishing, and price/trade value considered this one really sucked.

Apr 14, 2020
Photo of stortore
stortore from Illinois

4.41/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle into a snifter. 2019 release, had 10/9/19.

Pours near black and opaque, with a quarter inch foamy, fizzy looking head and some foamy cling. Aromas of roasted malt, char, chocolate, vanilla, tobacco, light wine, light cherries, some oak. Flavors of roasted malt, some wine, vanilla, oak, cocoa, some chocolate, some tobacco, light caramel, a hint of cherries. Tastes a little jammy. Smooth, somewhat creamy, a great full body, well carbonated.

Certainly delicious, but surprised the wine barrels aren’t a little more noticeable. Great aroma, terrific flavor. Very enjoyable.

Mar 30, 2020
Photo of q33jeff
q33jeff from New Jersey

4.49/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

**
03/27/2020

Bottle to snifter. Sampling with Parabola and XXIII.

Very interesting take on Parabola. Aroma and Taste suffer a tad, but the finish has a distinct sweetness and mustyness that is different. Light wine notes of grape apple and maybe a touch of blueberry.

The smoothness and finish is amazing. A clear Improvement over Parabola which I already had at 4.75, so a 5 for mouthfeel is in order here.

I prefer the standard Parabola, but its close and I can certainly see someone with different palate than mine feeling the opposite.

Great experience.
**

Mar 27, 2020
Photo of Franziskaner
Franziskaner from Missouri

4.12/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black in color with no penetration to light. There’s a quarter inch of densely packed brown on top. The aroma is of dark roasted barley with notes of merlot. I’m tasting a blast of dark roasted barley and a hint of Cabernet. The mouth is thick and chewy.

Mar 07, 2020
Photo of tigg924
tigg924 from Massachusetts

4.79/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Had on tap. Pours opaque, dark brown in color with 1/5 inch head. Taste is dark cherry, barrel, char, and a touch of vanilla. Heavy bodied, sweet, roasty, with low carbonation. The beer really opens up as it warms. I am largely over barrel aged beers, but when Firestone Walker does it, they are in a league of their own. This lives up to their reputation and the red wine character adds pleasant notes to an exceptional base beer. Worth seeking out.

Mar 02, 2020
Photo of Damian
Damian from Massachusetts

4.06/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Drank from a 12 fl. oz. (355ml) bottle purchased at BevMo! (Burbank), Burbank, CA
2019 Vintage No. 001
Served in a snifter

Thinner bodied, dark brown/black appearance. This looked more like a porter than an imperial stout. The liquid was capped by a small film of caramel colored bubbles that quickly broke apart. A medium halo encircled the liquid. Small, odd shaped patches of lacing trickled along the glass.

Really pleasant aroma. Dry and yeasty initially. After a minute or so, rich chocolate notes appeared. Sweet and fudgey. Lots of brown sugar and vanilla too. Perhaps some dark fruit notes. Roasted malts were also detectable. Good amount of oaky barrel character as well. As the beer sat, the chocolate and vanilla notes intensified. Powdered cocoa came to mind.

Solid flavor profile. The chocolate really came through strong here as well. Semisweet chocolate to be precise. Rich and fudge-like. Malty and robust on the front end. Nice blending of roasted and caramel malts. Brown sugar was noticeable in the center. Intense ashy notes appeared on the back end and lingered after the swallow. There was a big, bitter, leafy hop presence as well.

Nice creamy, fuller bodied mouthfeel. Slick and smooth on the palate. The liquid contained a medium bubbled, moderate effervescence.

I used to really enjoy Firestone Walker’s stouts, barleywines and strong ales, but they seem like a relic from the past these days. While the aroma on this beer was solid, the mouthfeel was somewhat thin, the finish was far too roasty and bitter, and the overall wine presence was minimal at best. I am glad these barrel-aged beers come in smaller format bottles now because I would be disappointed if I dropped $20 on a bomber of this.

Feb 23, 2020
Photo of BillRoth
BillRoth from Maryland

4.6/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at FW Propagator. Complex and delicious. Strong with dry musky vanilla, wood and cherry. No typical Parabola soft burn. Gentle, smooth. Much more complex and interstate than I thought. Best wine barrel stout I’ve tried.

Jan 29, 2020
Photo of mdfb79
mdfb79 from New York

4.21/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Good but I think the bourbon BA version is very superior; this one has some extra bitterness to it for some reason. Still a good beer because parabola is a great base and tool to try but I’d buy the normal BBA version over this.

Jan 19, 2020
Photo of SierraNevallagash
SierraNevallagash from Maine

4.36/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle - 2019 - courtesy of Grizleeg (thank you!!) - poured into a snifter at cellar temperature (60ish).

Pours a motor oil brown, sitting black as night in the snifter. A thin mocha head builds up, and quickly fizzes out, leaving a creamy collar and a razor-thin island of foam. Some micro bubbles can be seen slowly feeding the ring. A swirl produces some cling to the glass, which eventually clears off.

Nose: Really quite interesting, and not at all standard Parabola. There's lots of chocolatey roasted malt of course, a touch of sweetness, an interesting note of smoke, a ton of hazelnut, some absolutely diving sweet red cherry and ripe red berry notes, vanilla beans, and if you really inhale with force, a bizarre, almost smoked meat note - that eventually disappears as the beer opens up. Once the beer has breathed, there really is this incredibly jammy red grapey note.

Palate: Immediately clear is it that this is not your standard Parabola. The wine influence adds some seriously interesting notes, many of which I simply cannot describe. There is definitely a prominent cherry thing going on. The wine element in vinous in a way, but not in an acetic, sharp, or tart way, like you'd find in a wild ale. No, in a slightly fruity, and somewhat earthy way. There's an almost musty pinot noir flavour going on. Even moreso than a classic red, I actually get some old tawny port and olorosso sherry notes. The good stuff, that you have to carefully decant. That jammy, earthy, fruity, musty element. Some potpourri, and fragrant floral flavours. Red licorice, with a hint of black licorice or anise. Fenugreek? Caraway? The flavours that the wine lends just cannot be accurately described with words. Moving past the wine, the stout itself is much drier and more roasty than Parabola. Lots of ashen char. Charred malt, charred oak, charred aromatic pipe tobacco. Real classic Russian imperial stout profile. Plenty of vanilla bean, presumably from the bourbon barrel - I just got it...The wine cask really overwhelms almost all of the bourbon barrel, which is what really defines Parabola. All of the classic sweet caramel, toffee, vanilla, oak, brown sugar, and molasses notes from the bourbon just aren't here. As the finish approaches, the wine influence subsides a little, and the big charry roast amps up and brings some additional bitterness. The beer begins to really dry out, emphasising the bitter roasted malt, overtaking the fruity elements of the wine, and bringing the earthiness to the surface once more. The wine earthiness slowly fades, and the roasted, ashen malt stays with you well into the finish.

Mouthfeel/Body: Much like Parabola, this beer is just liquid fudge. Thick, chewy, viscous, sticky, even almost syrupy. Again, much like Parabola, this intense viscosity begins to thin out after it has sat in the glass for a while, but it always remains a chewy beer. Drier and roastier than Parabola, the roasty tightness is more pronounced in this one, with a drying finish. Effervescence is on the lower side, if course, but right where I'd want it for a big stout.

Overall: Do I like this more than Parabola? No. I personally think Parabola is one of the greatest bourbon barrel-aged stouts to grace the craft beer world. That's a high bar set. I give Firestone Walker credit for doing so incredibly bold, and taking such a beloved beer and giving it a complete makeover. Often, variants can closely resemble the base model, perhaps too much. This is not the case here. This take is so wildly different, I'm not even sure I'd even want to compare it to Parabola. I prefer Parabola, but undoubtedly, others will prefer this. The wine does not add sharpness, sourness, or any vinegar flavours, but it certainly makes for a one-of-a-kind beer. One you just need to try yourself.

Jan 01, 2020
Photo of HoppingMadMonk
HoppingMadMonk from New Jersey

4.46/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Light carbonation with an above average body. Has a slight creamy, oily feel
...aroma is black coffee, roasted malt, espresso, red grapes,vinegar, and wine
..taste is mild sweetness, bitter free coffee,dark and milk chocolate. Red grapes,vinegar, and wine
Overall its excellent, definitely worth trying. The barrel adds a bit of a dry ,wood/ earthy taste . The wine and wood together make for a very unique beer with a complex assortment of flavors.
Not an every day beer but it made for an excellent post meal beer

Dec 22, 2019
Photo of TBoneJones
TBoneJones from Texas

4.39/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A vinous version, it’s full of character, roasted notes, dark fruit hints/ cherry, char, cocoa, a tobacco-like spice note, and red wine hints. Luscious medium mouthfeel, chewy and a bit sticky. Bitterness throughout, and only hints of sweetness/ molasses/ brown sugar. More of the latter and less of the bitter bite would make this better, in my opinion. The small window of initial flavor in each sip, before the bite sets in, really is terrific.

Nov 30, 2019
Photo of Lingenbrau
Lingenbrau from Oregon

4.58/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Some beer you pour and you just know there lies something special. Parabola, in my opinion, was one that changed stouts, barrel aging, and perhaps beer in general. I can't help but think the same for this Napa version, even before popping the cap.

The time has finally come to do so. It ends up being for no special occasion other than I'm off tomorrow, it's been a long day, and I just feel like (hopefully) blowing my mind through sensory overload. So I open this box, pop this cap, and pout the obsidian fluid into a Proprietors Reserve Series snifter, just to make the occasion that much more effectively special. It rests like a pool of nothing. A black abyss that stares right back at you. A thin tan later of foam forms above, but says goodbye almost as quickly as it said hello, but leaves nothing to remember it by.

Time to draw the glass to the second welcoming sense. It smells glorious. I can't help but think of toasted hazelnuts. They're covered in chocolate and layered between sweet rolls. Like a candy bar but better, and for some reason Almond Roca comes to mind. But that's not good enough. It's like an amazing dessert you get just once at an exclusive restaurant, but I don't quite have the ability to describe it. Whatever it is, it's phenomenal. Oak, wine, booze? Can't even tell.

The first sip is an overwhelming explosion. My initial trigger of hot cinnamon spiced oatmeal is intense. But then a wave of chocolate strangles the tongue. The nuttiness is actually less intense than the aroma would suggest, but is still noticeable. Less hazelnut, more toasted almonds. Finally, the oak reveals itself, and the wine... What the hell wine is that? It's a deep red, whatever it is. Damn, I should've paid more attention to my uncle. Bordeaux? Merlot? I have no friggin clue, but it sure has some influence.

It has a nice feel overall. Not as rich or full as you'd think, but a presence nonetheless. Silky smooth and sweet at first, but a calculated bitterness slowly brings thing to balance, and an oak derived dryness strips the tongue before a smooth warming alcohol burn chimes in.

Was I right? Is this groundbreaking? I'm not sure. Is it better, or at least do I like it better than Parabola? Nope. But that doesn't mean it's not amazing. It is. There's something about it that is incredibly unique. Much respect to FW for continuing their journey to something different, something bigger. This is one killer beer, and I'm so glad to have tried it.

Cheers

Nov 26, 2019
Photo of Roguer
Roguer from Georgia

4.57/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Really impressive head production and retention. Half of the bottle produced more than a finger of dark tan foam from a moderate pour, and several minutes later there's still a half finger left, heaving behind wide flat fields of lacing. Head is shockingly firm.

Nose is much more imperial stout, much less red wine and oak. Plenty of roasted malt, molasses, toast, espresso, chocolate, nuts, all accented by sharp red grapes and musty oak from the wine barrel aging.

Sweet, smooth, rich, and creamy up front immediately, but before the sugars can be absorbed, the wine barrel aspects come in. An incredible amount of egg nog-like spice notes in a beer that has no spices. Tons of chocolate, oak, cream, molasses, toast, and brown sugar, with the red wine adding an incredible accent all throughout, without ever becoming aggressively vinous or sour.

Full bodied and smooth, nearly chewy. Noticeable alcohol, but very minor bite, really allowing you to savor the brew.

This is an incredible beer. I've never had a red wine BA imperial stout where the wine is this well integrated. I think I like it better than the original Parabola, but that would probably take several repeat experiences with both, perhaps side-by-side, to confirm - and that is unlikely to happen.

Nov 23, 2019
Photo of Viaduck
Viaduck from California

4.5/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

As expected, pours very dart with modest tan head. Very sweet aroma: dark chocolate & espresso. Taste is not as sweet as it’s aroma implies, a fair amount of bitter. Whereas there is harmony with Parabola & bourbon, it seems to clash a bit with the red wine but not continuously. Lots of interesting flavors & they seem to present themselves one at a time: chocolate,coffee, cherry,mocha, charred oak, tobacco & alcohol. There’s no harmony, there’s a battle of flavors going on here & it continues for a long time after swallowing. Feel is smooth as silk, thick with light carbonation. Overall I prefer regular Parabola. Napa Parabola is very different & odd. It fascinating how the aftertaste is constantly changing. At first sip I didn’t think I was going to like this but it’s flavors are intense & abundant.

Nov 09, 2019
Photo of Tony210
Tony210 from New Jersey

4.43/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours fairly thin and pretty dark, nice 2” mocha head. Great chocolate aroma, a little yeasty and a little winey. Flavor is predominantly chocolate, wine barrel is evident. Not too sweet, bitter espresso finish. Surprisingly thick and creamy, pretty full bodied. Overall a very good BA beer, looking forward to seeing what a year or two does to it. I usually do not like wine barrel aged beers, this one is an exception.

10/31/19
12 oz bottle, 2019 vintage
4.5 rating

Nov 01, 2019
Photo of puck1225
puck1225 from Texas

4.59/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a tulip glass. Exquisite beer!

Very dark brown color with a nice beige head and beautiful lacing. Dark chocolate smell and taste. Dark red wine flavors, rich hazelnut, slightly woodsy smokiness, very ripe dark cherries. Exceptionally smooth with a rich feel. A treat of a beer!

Oct 27, 2019
Photo of Oh_Dark_Star
Oh_Dark_Star from Washington

4.46/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

L: Dark mahogany brown to black with a tan-cream head fading to a thin cap and ring.

S: Cocoa and brownies with strong notes of cherries and tannins, chilies, and especially anise.

T: Follows the nose with a spicy Sangiovese wine and a coffee-bitter after taste.

F: A hair thinner than the standard.

O: I really enjoyed this variant and there would be some occasions when I might even prefer it.

Oct 16, 2019
Photo of Donco
Donco from Pennsylvania

3.17/5  rDev -28.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 2.5

My own opinion: I don't understand the high ratings of this variant. One of the few beers I've drain-poured. I'll take the Parabola (regular version) any day which is far superior.

Oct 05, 2019
Photo of thebeers
thebeers from Pennsylvania

4.38/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Garnet-hued dark brown with a finger of dark mocha head. Leaves a beautiful, soupy wisp and crown, as well as some sloppy lacing.

Brownie batter, toasted chocolate malt and some jammy, light red wine in the nose.

Ash, semi-sweet bakers chocolate, berry jam and red wine in the taste. Hints of licorice, plum and tobacco make appearances also. Much darker and drier than the nose suggests, with bitter chocolate and ash lingering in the aftertaste.

Thick, chewy feel with just enough carbonation.

This is an excellent all-around beer. I’d love a cuvée with regular Parabola, as I think some vanilla or caramel bourbon notes would complement this perfectly.

Oct 04, 2019
Photo of johnInLA
johnInLA from California

3.41/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Given that I am an outlier here a few comments are in order:

Overall I found the roastiness, almost burnt, flavor did not blend well with the red wine flavor pulled from the barrel. The strong bitter finish also did not seem to work well with the other flavors., at least for me. And I do generally like bitterness, even strong bitterness, in beer.

For comparison sake, I followed this with a Parabola BBA 2018, and found that to be a significantly better beer.

On a side note: I do consider 3.25 to be a good beer.

Sep 25, 2019
Photo of Radcpa
Radcpa from Washington

4.48/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Very dark appearance with a tan head that dissipates quickly. Aroma is a slightly sweet malt with a touch of red wine. Taste is a little harsh malt and red wine that I think would be improved with a few months of aging.

Sep 12, 2019
Photo of MonDak_Joe1953
MonDak_Joe1953 from Minnesota

4.46/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle. 2019 Vintage.
Dark brown colored body, with red mahogany back lit highlights. Half a finger of light beige head, which settle back to scattered islands and ring. Leaves behind some some spots of lacing but most slide back down into body.
Aroma expresses a lot of oak wine barrel, with background of dark roasted malts, chocolate, sweet bread, and vanilla.
Taste goes to a chocolate covered cherry, with an envelopment by the oak wine barrel. Roasty, malty, with vanilla notes.
Medium plus mouth feel, with supportive carbonation.
Quite memorable Parabola version, with the oak wine barrel providing an embrace to the base imperial stout.

Sep 10, 2019
Photo of LifesAnesthesia
LifesAnesthesia from Virginia

4.59/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

L - Deep, pitch black with mahogany highlights with a dark tan head that dissipates quickly leaving behind minimal lacing.
S - Rich, roasted malts, dark chocolate, dark fruits, caramel, molasses, oak
T - Follows the nose: rich, roasted malts, bitter dark chocolate, dark fruits, caramel, molasses, burnt oak, some rich berry/jam flavors from the wine, vanilla, tannin are present from the wine
F - Full bodied with a light to moderate amount of carbonation. Smooth, rich, velvety.
O - Overall, reminds me of rich, fruity dark chocolate. Overall, it's an incredible stout, I just prefer the original Parabola - especially the original's mouthfeel.

Sep 06, 2019
Photo of dcotom
dcotom from Iowa

4.77/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

What's not to love? Poured from 12-ounce bottle into a proper snifter. Deep dark brown color, with ruby highlights and a thick, sudsy dark tan head that won't quit. Plenty of curtain-like lacing. The wine / barrel character really comes through on this. Fruity and jammy notes take their place alongside the dark roasted malt, which has a prominent hint of char. A lot of sweetness on the palate as expected, with a little tart cherry on the finish. Beautiful beer, truly world class.

Aug 28, 2019
Napa Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 96 out of 100 with 173 ratings