Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 14.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
This Russian imperial oatmeal stout is aged for a full year in a blend of bourbon barrels from Elijah Craig, Four Roses, Pappy Van Winkle, Woodford Reserve, and Buffalo Trace.

Added by largadeer on 03-26-2008

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Reviews: 1,196 | Ratings: 6,315
Photo of scottsoileau
4.69/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2013 004, Pours like motor oil into my 18 oz snifter. Beautiful but small head. Deep bourbon and vanilla aroma and flavor. Silky smooth mouthfeel. Simply an amazing beer. So happy that I was finally able to try it.

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Photo of HipCzech
4.56/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Serving: 22 oz bottle, poured into a 9 oz Libbey Embassy snifter. 2015 vintage, no. 006.

Appearance: Deep cola brown with clear mahogany edges and a brief but lush head of tan foam.

Smell: Full aroma of burnt caramel, charred barrels, vanilla beans, Bounty chocolate bars and bourbon.

Taste: Massive layers of roasted malt, cocoa powder, warmly sweet and boozy bourbon, and some oak barrel tannins. Just enough roasted coffee bitterness for balance.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body, oily smooth and rich, with moderate but soft carbonation.

Overall: A huge, boozy beer - deeply flavorful and complex with plenty of bourbon barrel influence, but somehow perfectly integrated and balanced.

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Photo of Samlover55
4.61/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2016 Vintage sitting in cellar since May
22oz "bomber" into libbey tulip
L- dark black in glass with tints of brown, small brown head, fizzling quickly
S- rich chocolaty fudge, vanilla, black cherry,of course the bourbon as well
T- roasted chocolate malt, laced with bourbon, vanilla, cherry, with velvety finish with notes of cocoa and a revisit from the bourbon
F- rich velvety feel, smooth, slight alcoholic bite, but at 14% can't expect otherwise, light carbonation as well
Overall this is one heck of a beer, reminiscent of Barrel-Aged Cherry Vanilla Cola, and sweet Bourbon infused Brownie.
I am really glad I got to try this one.

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Photo of ajcuster89
4.27/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A little thinner than I expected out of this stout. HUGE bourbon flavor, but the alcohol burn is very miniscule. Big dark fruit flavors, think really good raisins and overripe plums. A very good stout!

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Photo of stevepat
4.27/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2015 vinatage
The look is a beautiful dark almost black but the head is surprisingly thin and white.
The smell is also beautiful and delicate but is honestly surprisingly light and simple. Chocolatey with a subtle note of roasted nuts. Very milder smell than I expected, especially at cellar, not refrigerator, temperature.
The taste strikes an elegant balance for a bourbon aged stout. I'm also drinking it almost 2 years after it was barreled. The front is a deliciously bitter-sweet flavor that exemplifies stout in my mind, and is reminiscent of good dark chocolate. The bourbon makes itself known quietly on the tail end, after the liquid has passed. Very nice
The mouth feel is a great balance of full and light. Creamy and complete as it passes your palette, it fizzes off nicely leaving a delicious taste without a residue.

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Photo of jngrizzaffi
4.5/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pitch black with mild foamy head. Mild retention and good lacing. Chocolate, strong java and mild licorice aroma. Very nice but strong alcohol. Well balanced taste. Big java taste. Molasses and caramel at the end. Heavy bodied with mild carbonation. Strong alcohol burn.

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Photo of SHODriver
5/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2013 Edition

A: Poured into a Barrelworks Glass to a deep black topped by a finger of dense dark tan head that fades quickly to a collar around the edge of the glass with some lacing
S: Smells of oak, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, roasted malts, espresso, and some smoke
T: Taste is roasted malts and dark chocolate covered espresso beans with some oak, caramel and vanilla. Slight smoke and charred wood as well. The swallow brings more charred wood and smoke with lingering roasted malts, dark chocolate and coffee with some lingering caramel and vanilla
M: This beer is big and silky smooth on the palate with soft but adequate carbonation. The beer has a dry finish but that is to be expected.
O: Overall this beer is worthy of its reputation. It's big and beautiful with an amazing amount of flavor and complexity without overpowering the palate. Balanced yet still a heavy hitter. This is a beer that I always want to have on hand.

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Photo of ajm5108
4.53/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours pitch black, little to no carbonation or head. Warm, luscious bourbon notes on the nose - sticky caramel, vanilla - with some medium chocolate malt which adds to the decadence. Flavor profile is traditional, but everything is balanced for the most part. Lots of smooth oak caramel tones upfront, the vanilla after that...the bourbon flavors are more assertive than the base elements - I would have liked to see that roasted malt / chocolate flavor present for sure - but isn't hot or boozey. Ends with some toffee sweetness from the bourbon. A little thin on the mouthfeel for how I like my bigger stouts.

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Photo of brewskifan55
4.6/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a tulip glass on Christmas eve. Near 60 degrees. Cellared for 6 months after purchasing in Seattle. Thanks to the Beer Junction for holding this while I flew across the country to pick it up.

A: Dark brown/black with mainly foam for a head that quickly dissipated. Spotty lacing.

S: My favorite part of the experience. Rich, bourbon-y, chocolate, molasses, caramel and more bourbon. I could sniff this one all night.

T: An explosion of rich tastes. Chocolate, bourbon, molasses, oak, coffee, and some dark fruits. Sip and be awed. As it warmed, the flavors only increased.

M: Medium to heavy with creamy carbonation.

O: This is beer decadence at its finest. Glad I got to add this one to my beer bucket list. Wow.

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Photo of Noles9585
4.77/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Had a vintage 2014 that I aged a little over a year, which took down the heat just a bit ( I had previously had some at the tap room fresh). One of the best Imperial Stouts that I have ever had

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Photo of dbl_delta
4.56/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Anything that's individually boxed had better be damn good. This is a 2016 vintage (cellared for 6 months); 650 ml bottle into pint glass. Pours a very dark brown, with almost zero light leakage at the glass. Thin tan head. Initial impression is...oh, my. Creamy-smooth, sweet chocolate, molasses, caramel, oak, booze, coffee, and a little dark fruit combine in an absolutely exquisite BA Stout. Mouthfeel is thick and oily; carbonation is light and doesn't dare interfere with the taste. Finish is very smooth. (Due to the cellaring? I wish I could have bought two bottles and tried one fresh, but no such luck.) Slight bitterness lingers in the back of the throat, inviting another sip.
This is just excellent.

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Photo of tillmac62
4.45/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2016 aged at 33 degrees shortly after bottling. Pours dark as a starless night. One finger of head that quickly dissipates leaving no lacing. At 13.1% ABV, head characteristics are difficult to produce so an allowance shall be made and an outstanding score awarded.

World class complex nose of dark fruit (plum, raisin), bourbon, caramel, vanilla, molasses and subtle chocolate over a background of tobacco and oak. The nose is a rich mixture than blends exceptionally well then fades into the bold tobacco and charred oak background.

Light full body that is substantial and almost achieves creamy. The high alcohol content produces a rich velvety smoothness that coats and flows across the tongue. Carbonation is light due to barrel aging, yet produces a noticeable effervescence in the middle and a slightly prickly finish. All things considered, the palate characteristics are quite outstanding.

The flavor profile is world class and quite worthy of this beer's reputation. At first chocolate is light but gains in prominence through the experience. It never achieves dominance but lets its presence always be known - especially from about three quarters through.

Bourbon is similar except that it peaks during the first quarter. In the middle lies the true richness of this beer. Dark fruits explode and then succumb to caramel and molasses bringing with it a solid sweetness as a contrast to the bold elements of this beer. These, in turn, fall to the bold tobacco and charred oak notes which are preceded slightly by a vanilla burst. The finish is a slow fade of blended flavor with tobacco, oak and vanilla lingering. Alcohol remains covered until a nice burn at the finish.

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Photo of Bartleby91
4.84/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Happy to finally slay this whale that I have wanted since I started to get into craft beer. On tap at Olympic Tavern in rockford.

The appearance is pitch black with no head retention. Big alcohol legs too.

The aroma is a wonderful mix of bourbon, oak, chocolate, vanilla, dark fruits and a hint of booze sweetness.

The taste follows the nose with a big bourbon kick up front with a complex mix of flavors. Really decadent yet not overtly sweet.

The palate is full with a lingering bourbon spice that warms the throat going down.

Overall this is an awesome beer and yet another great barrel aged beer from FW. Definitely lives up to the hype.

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Photo of Drvitlkeyustolit80
4.5/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

First had 5/26/13 at Lord Hobo on a trip with John to Boston. It's typical BBA Russian Imperial Stout kicked up a notch. Flavors are strong and come through layer after layer. Hoping to get my hands on more at this year's EBF in Boston.

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Photo of SHDoyle
4.53/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Description: Jet black with no light coming through. Only the faintest ring of bubbles around the rim of the glass to qualify as a 'head'. Leaves some nice legs on the glass as you swirl/drink it. Aroma is chocolate, vanilla, oak and dark fruit and you can truly smell the booze on this. Yum. Taste follows the nose with chocolate up front followed by vanilla sweetness, bourbon and dark fruit into a slightly bitter finish. For a 14% ABV beer the alcohol is well hidden in the taste, probably masked by everything else going on. Taste is big, balanced and complex. Mouthfeel is thick and velvety, just like a great stout should be.

Suggested food pairing: Medium rare prime rib

If you like this beer then you should also try: Black Note Stout

Overall: 4.5 (This beer is very good and I would definitely have it again) This beer crushes it. Awesome. With deep, complex and balanced flavors, its reputation is well deserved and it belongs right up there with the other elite stouts (e.g., KBS, BCBS, Black Note). A tough one to find, sure, but definitely worth it if you can.

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Photo of Mateo2699
4.52/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2016. Pour is less dense than expected, dark brown hue with an off white colored head that sticks around for a minute. Big booziness in the nose with subtle hints of caramel and charred oak. Following the nose well, the booze and oaky finish doesn't go nowhere. Noticeable amount of dark fruit. Subtle vanilla, caramel and lacto sweetness. Mouthfeel is relatively thin, with a nice bourbon bite. Excellent beer, but a little overrated in my opinion. If this had a BCBS similar mouthfeel, it would be on the same level if not better.

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Photo of senglish7
4.83/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured with very little head. Very boozy on the nose. Taste is sweet with banana, raisin, and bourbon notes. Bittery finish. Truly a great Stout with tons of complexity.

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Photo of BobMagruder
4.95/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

After a 12 hour work day and exploring the beer menu a little I noticed this on tap. They served me this in a tulip and the beer was black and only a small amount of tannish head. Then I smelled this wonderful creation and wow. The bourbon was there in the background but the dark chocolate and raisiny smell from a RIS was there. The taste was even better. Soft vanilla notes throughout to blend the edges of the chocolate, plum, and caramel notes. Then the bourbon and wood from the barrels came through on the finish.

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Photo of BlakeAM
4.74/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Drank my only bottle of this that I've ever landed a few days ago. It was a 2015 that had spent most of its time in my "cellar fridge" that I have set at ~50 degrees.

I'm not sure what conditions others have aged this beer in, but it was pretty incredible to me. Not quite on the level of, say, aged 2014 BCBS, but a truly phenomenal BBA stout with notes of chocolate fudge, vanilla, toffee, creme brule, dark fruits and of course sweet oaky bourbon.

I will continue to seek this one out.

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Photo of q33jeff
4.55/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5


2014 bottle to tulip glass. Tasting with DC, Dark Lord vs. Parabola vs. Abyss.

LOOK: dark black pour, off white head, lasts long. Touch of cola like transparency on the edges.
AROMA: smokey, oaky, scotch-like.
TASTE: charred oak, toasted barley, touch of earth and mineral,
FEEL: Perfect. Just thick enough to be chewy, thin enough to support excellent carbonation and silky feel.

Bottle to snifter, sipping through Seahawks @ Falcons playoff game.

In addition to all of the above....
Dark fruit in the aroma.
Bourbon in the taste, not sure how I missed that initially, probably b/c of scenario my taste buds were a little overwhelmed.


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Photo of RockAZ
4.83/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Have had several years of this, and still have eight bottles in my stash. This creation can be very boozy, but not bourbon flavored, and ripped with vanilla overdose. However another bottle or keg can be nectar of the stout gods as well. Different batches drank at different times makes a difference. Was that grammatically correct? To clarify, I might be willing to state, that in my experience, that age in a bottle does not treat this one well, it brings out too much of the sharper alcohol notes, vanilla comes into play more and the subtle oak and chocolates gets lost. IMHO, kegs just get better!

Anyway, the best have been awesome, chocolate, vanilla, wood and the snap and burn of serious alcohol at work here makes it one of my favorites for years. In sum, if you get one in a bottle I recommend drinking it soon, (not that I am following my own advice since I still have a few left!)

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Photo of Pray_For_Mojo
4.18/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: dark brown with a dark tan / cocoa-colored head, which fades to a lacing. The beer is bright when held directly to light and resembles Coke.

Aroma: sweet smelling, like flourless chocolate cake. The oak comes through well, contributing vanilla.

Flavor: prominent molasses that fades to oak and vanilla in the finish. Absolutely no alcohol heat or flavor. Several layers of flavor. I see no reference to this beer being bourbon-barrel aged, but there is no bourbon flavor – just the oak components.

Mouthfeel: medium body. I wish this had a bit more body to it. A bomber is certainly a meal by itself, though.

Overall: 4.5 years in the cellar. Good, but far from great. This was rated nearly identical to Bourbon County, which I drank side by side. Bourbon County is far superior. I can’t help being somewhat disappointed. Perhaps it was the extended cellaring and I missed its peak. There are better readily-available imperial stouts.

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Photo of qrazvan
4.94/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Had the 2016 Vintage edition, which comes in a nice carton box.
Pours a very nice dark brown colour with medium head and dense texture.
The smell is sweet and bourbon-like.
The taste is very complex, ranging from sweet at first with a hint of scotch, then oak, aged wine, bourbon, vanilla and chocolate and probably other aromas that remain hidden for me still.
I don't like stout beers in particular, but this is clearly one of the best beers I've had (along with Devil's Halfacre). For me, it's better than drinking a good cognac.
Absolutely wonderful!

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Photo of BSiegs
4.84/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Black in color with one finger of medium brown, caramel colored head. Retention is excellent. The aroma is divine. Bourbon, oak, chocolate, anise, coffee. Slightly earthy and leather like. Taste follows the aroma, with the bourbon lingering on the aftertaste. Rich, complex. Body is full, with light carbonation. Slightly dry and slightly bitter finish. Absolutely superb - about as close to a perfect beer as I've had.

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Photo of jrenihan
4.35/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

An excellent barrel-aged imperial stout. Perfectly blended, a mix of bourbon, oak, vanilla, chocolate. The oatmeal helps provide a soft, chewy mouthfeel. Though obviously strong, it doesn't have a lot of heat. Classic for a reason.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,315 ratings.
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