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Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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1,180 Reviews
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ParabolaParabola
BEER INFO

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

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
1,180
Ratings:
6,231
Avg:
4.54
pDev:
7.93%
 
 
Wants:
3,137
Gots:
3,601
For Trade:
273
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Reviews: 1,180 | Ratings: 6,231
Reviews by 1up:
Photo of 1up
5/5  rDev +10.1%

More User Reviews:
Photo of seedyone
4.84/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

05/14/13 On tap at Rattle n Hum, NYC. 2013 vintage. The first sip is like an innocent kiss & then it's too late. You find you have a tiger by the tail...or should I say it's got you. There's so much going on in the glass it's difficult to home in on where to start. Each sip is different from the last & they are spiraling upwards until you reach a plateau of familiarity that has simplified all the complexities of aroma & flavors that make up this admirable brew & you start to feel at home & very comfortable.

Not for the faint of heart (or anyone driving). I found myself sipping at a leisurely pace for 1) enjoyment 2) preservation of the potion, as it's a rare find & 3) self preservation. The 12.5% ABV, although present in every sip, never let's on that this is for adults only. Think of it as an encounter on a plane trip, sitting next to some extremely attractive & engaging person & your smitten. It's a short lived experience & most likely once in a lifetime. Because of that, all feelings are multiplied & enhanced, in memory, by distance from the moment.

Do yourself a big, big flavor favor & make some time for this indulgence. If you do I guarantee your self esteem will improve based on that decision alone.

 1,228 characters

Photo of tectactoe
4.59/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to the numerous BA's who sent me some bottles of this; I've put it off for way too long. It pours an extremely dark brown color that might as well be called jet-black as it sits, motionless in the glass. A light-mocha colored head plumes up and shows excellent retention; it lasts for days and leaves nice lace spots behind as it slowly recedes down the glass.

The aroma is magnificent; lots and lots of bourbon that's mellowed out by a deep onset of wood and oak. Plentiful amounts of chocolate graze the top of the booze; sweet, creamy and delicate, like a molten mocha cake. Mild hints of vanilla ride over the top of everything, most likely an induction of the barrel itself.

A nice, underlying blanket of roasted malts gives a solid base upon which everything else seems to stand, although the bourbon is strong enough that it may not even need a "base". Parabola has a very large aroma; its potency outright is surely something to behold, and if nothing else, it tells you that this is gonna be one hell of a beer.

Wow. One sip in, and color me impressed. Incredibly smooth, silky, and soft on the palate with just a light tingle of carbonation as the bourbon-heavy brew slips across my palate. The "first and foremost" flavor would be the monumental heaps of chocolate that assault my palate. Deep, dense, dark, bittersweet, and creamy fudge-y chocolate cascades over my senses, clashing with smaller pips of vanilla to create an almost dessert-like delicacy with each sip.

Make no mistake about it, though, the bourbon and oak are as heavy as can be. Soft, warming bourbon entrances every sip just as well, showing the huge robustness of the brew and sending a permanent warmth from the back of your tongue to your belly. Not "hot", but pretty warm, while still remaining smooth thanks to the blunting efforts of the creamy chocolate and the oatmeal.

The aftertaste also contains a bit of bourbon and lots of oak; almost enough oak to call the finish "dry", but falling just shy of this mark. The malts open up a bit more with time, adding more complex notes of burnt caramel and maybe even a touch of sweet maple syrup in the finish. The dominant chocolate and bourbon notes still reign supreme, making this beer like an "adults only" dessert that would be fit for a king.

Well, it's taken me long enough to finally try Parabola, and now that I have, I'll be sure to nab up as much as possible each year that it comes out. Being from Southeast Michigan, some might say we're spoiled with "big" stouts; BCBS, KBS, Black Note, etc... But I'd put Parabola RIGHT up with those brews, and possibly even ahead of a few. So what the hell are you complaining about West Coasters?? This stuff is amazing.

 2,717 characters

Photo of utopiajane
4.65/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

This pours out the paragon of virtue. Completely opaque. Black walnut. If you only pour a bit like I did you will not see too much of the mocha colored head but it does refresh even though I did not pour one. It created a ring as I swirled it and left spot of lace and alcohol legs. In the natural light the beer showed a deep chestnut brown with engaging clarity. ( In the photo you can see my face in the beer)

Deep rich, sweet chocolate and hearty roasted malt combine on the nose. Subtle blushing cherries, bold bourbon and a bit of espresso coffee. The bourbon is like a flower that opens on the nose. It is fragrant and seductive. There is a scent of toasted coconut that is light and accented by a bit of vanilla. Dark fruits dance gayly in the background. Molasses rounds out the nose and the scent of sweetened nuts.

The palate is alive at once with earthy and full roast. This malt has been brought to the edge of blackness and yet it stays mellow and tempered with sweetness that collapses inward on all it's sides. The blushing cherry, the dry date, the light and airy oak, the creamy coconut and vanilla. The malt is dry and firm but just bitter enough to come up to the brink of char and stop short. Nothing burnt here. Smooth, creamy, chewy, full mouthfeel. Exceptional smoothness. The molasses takes over the palate as this finishes with bourbon getting lighter and the dark fruits getting stronger.

A slightly boozy finish takes hold at the very last moment of the swallow not with a big taste of alcohol but with a warmth like a smile from a gracious host who is sincerely happy to have set all this before you. The alcohol leaves a bit dry and fully engages the senses one more time before it's done.

Drinking this beer is like doing something you know is wrong and loving every minute of it.

 1,815 characters

Photo of Heatwave33
5/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Look- Creamy black silk that is only found inside the deep crevices in California.

Smell- Dark chocolate aged in roasty bourbon barrels for her pleasure.

Taste- As if the whiskey barrel creamed in my mouth!

Feel- Creamy, smooth, refreshing and hoping for a call the next day.

Overall- The first time a met her we made love all night. I told myself not to jump straight into the sack with this and build respect for a well founded relationship. But I couldn't help myself. My animal magnetism took over and I did what felt right. I'm thankful she still answers the phone when I call.

 586 characters

Photo of smb
4.86/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Memories of the aroma and taste often hit me at random times in random places. An exceptionally crafted and balanced BA stout. One of the greatest. Thank you Matt Brynildson.

 174 characters

Photo of ChristianAlexander
4.9/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

A parabola is a curve on a x, y graph which, if you imagine striking lines through it, will have points of contact that are of equal distance. I picked up this definition in college. Thinking of parabolas in real-world terms as the trajectory of a ground-launch missile or gravity's rainbow, from a dense high-brow Pynchon novel, I also picked up in college. But my favorite Parabola is this boozy 14% ABV Russian Imperial Stout with its oatmeal taste, and vanilla raisin fragrance. Firestone Walker Brewing Company has concocted a real treat and it was while in college on Spring Break, a break from my studies on Shakespeare, Eisenstein montage, Brando-bravado, D.W. Griffith's racist apologetics, that I and a few thespian friends wandered into this brewery. They have a location in northern and southern california and surprisingly I found myself in the northern one for my first encounter. Drug dealers will tell you expanding your post to multiple areas helps with distribution, helps with profits, so it's no surprise when breweries say this as well. The biggest thing I picked up in college was my fine-tuned tongue for beer (because, and everyone knew, my gifted abilities at acting I already possessed on my first day of college (still had to pay that loan though)). Young and already drunk almost to the point of poisoned, we walked into Firestone Walker and was served the Parabola. On first taste I felt the curvature, starting point then up the y-axis, along the x-axis, seconds later down the y but still along the x. It was an experience. An experience which when I look back I can only recall portions of, like feeble lines striked through, only getting two points of contact, not the whole curve. I and my friends, we drank and drank this beer down and down and when the ambulance arrived to take our unconscious bodies to the ER, we did not cooperate, we were not appreciative. We were young and dumb and didn't understand. But also, we know these medics, fresh out of 6-months of EMT training, did not understand what we did. Which is how good of a beer this was.

 2,084 characters

Photo of MadScientist
4.81/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Rich whiskey and dark roast malt aromas dominate with some dark fruit and caramel notes.

Bourbon, vanilla oak flavors and a medium amount of sticky caramel sweetness dominate the flavor. There is a moderately-strong hops bitterness and some alcohol as well countering the sweetness making for a beer that somewhat bitter on balance. The finish is slightly sweet with aftertastes of caramel, dark roast, and dried dark fruit.

 426 characters

Photo of obiwan_k3n00bi
3.25/5  rDev -28.4%

One of the first craft beers I ever had, and for some reason I kept one from that same time.

Genuinely bad idea, tasted like old salty raisons.

144 characters

Photo of Jeffreysan
4.99/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

22 oz bottle, poured into a goblet

Appearance: Pours a gorgeous, completely opaque, pitch-black color with a finger of caramel/chocolate-colored head that quickly dissolved away into a thin lacing of foam that completely covered the top of the beer.

Aroma: Wow! Very aromatic, with tons of rich, earthy, roasted malt, which imparted aromas of freshly toasted dark bread, boozy bourbon with lots of dark stone fruit, tobacco, hints of vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate, oak, and dark molasses and tons of caramel. Smells inviting and delicious!

Taste: Wow! Just…wow! Holy shit, actually!! Absolutely delicious! Tons of roasted malt up front, followed by lots of boozy bourbon which imparts lots of dark stone fruit, tobacco, hints of oak, vanilla and lots of brown sugar-like sweetness. Awesome, spectacular, incredible, world class!

Mouthfeel: Chewy an extremely smooth as there is no carbonation what-so-ever. With an ABV of 14.0%, there is a pleasant alcohol warmth on the palate, and a very, very long finish.

Overall: Wow, just…wow! Holy shit, actually!! I totally understand and see why this beer has such a world class reputation! Next to BCS, this is one of the best beers I’ve ever had! Absolutely world-class!

 1,245 characters

Photo of HopHunter19
5/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A - dark brown black with mocha head that fades quick (high ABV), looks like motor oil. 
S - bourbon, oak, smoke, dark chocolate, espresso, vanilla, toffee, caramel, toasted coconut, big roasted malts
T - Super smooth, chocolate, coffee, bourbon, oak, smokiness, tobacco, leather, roasted malts, nice barrel flavors, caramel, coconut, burnt marshmallow
M - super thick, alc covered, aftertaste is coffee, bourbon, roasted malts, smoke, and oak barrel flavors. 
O - I've heard this is the best of all the batches so far. I can't argue with that. Probably THE best barrel aged imperial stout that I've had. Hands down amazing. Have had on tap twice and out of the bottle twice and it never dissapoints.

 702 characters

Photo of stortore
4.59/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 ounce bottle into a snifter, 2014 edition.

Pours a very dark and opaque brown, small head, some foamy cling. Smell is lots of bourbon, roasted malts, oak, vanilla, some chocolate and molasses. Smells great. Taste pretty much follows with lots of bourbon, roasted malts- but not as heavily as many for the style, more vanilla and chocolate than the nose, oak, molasses, a little coffee, light alcohol. Some bitterness on the back end, not much. Smooth, full bodied, a real tongue coater, taste lingers.

Truly one of my favorites, a classic that everyone should try, if they can. Full, rich, flavor, expertly blended. Still pretty hot after a year, as well.

 666 characters

Photo of CHickman
4.76/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

2016 Bottle: Pours pitch black color with a thick foamy 1 finger tan head that faded very slowly and left very good spotty foamy lacing.

Smells of molasses, dark chocolate, tobacco, burnt coffee grinds, caramel, peat moss, brown sugar, bourbon, red wine or a merlot, oaky notes, light piney hops, roasted malts, earthy tones and a malty sweetness that cuts through and lets the bourbon tie it back together. Very complicated and the sweetness is stronger than expected, but tamed by the smoky/earthy notes. The barrel notes are intense and I found it very hard to distinguish any real essence of each spirit barrel used for this blend, but that's what makes it so damn interesting and enjoyable.

Tastes like it smells with molasses, dark chocolate, tobacco, cocoa powder, burnt coffee grinds, caramel, peat moss, toasted coconut, vanilla, brown sugar, bourbon, red wine or a merlot, oaky notes, light piney hops, roasted malts, earthy tones, soy sauce, sherry and a real sweet, syrupy finish that gets better as it warms and only lets a little bit of the ABV through with the extreme complexity of this brew.

Really, really tasty at this stage of the bottle's life, looking forward to trying a well aged bottle to see if it lives up to the hype. A lot smoother than it should be, it's chewy and viscous with a nice heavy body that slides down with ease - incredible ease actually. A smoky and sweet aftertaste lingers with a touch of bourbon, a dash of hoppy bite and a slight bitterness. Excellent at this point, I'm sure it can (and will) only get better. World class indeed.

 1,581 characters

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

Delicious Delicious Delicious. Smells of Vanilla, Chocolate, and a little bit of coffee. One of the best smelling beers I've had. Viscosity is perfect. Not too syrupy. Definitely strong hints of Oak in the taste. Strong Coffee flavor with hints of vanilla and caramel. Simply F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C. Had the 2016 vintage. Saving one of them to be aged for a couple of years. Can't wait to see how it tastes later.

 408 characters

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

2014 bomber in a bourbon taster glass. Just everything about this beer is perfect. From the way it looks/pours to the way it smells to the way it taste and finally to the way it finishes. Its truly an experience. You simply end up wanting more after each pour. Firestone BA program is top notch and the best example comes from its Parabola. There is really nothing bad I can say about this beer other than you need to be on top of the release schedule for it at all your craft beer spots.

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Photo of Sparty1224
4.55/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Serving: 22 oz. bomber poured into a Founder's CBS snifter. No bottled on date, but this is roughly 4 months old at this point.

A: Not super thick, pours a medium-body, pitch black with a light brown head that sticks around the edges.

S: So for the style, this one is very, very boozy and with a ton of oak, char and barrel characteristics. Underneath that first layer is more tobacco and smoke, followed by a dark chocolates and vanilla notes.

T: Right up front you're just hit with booze and alcohol. Very hot. Middle of the mouth is your chocolate and vanilla notes, but not too strong. Finishes quite sweet with hints of coconut and dark cherry.

M: For as thin as the appearance is, it's a bit more fuller in the mouthfeel. Decent carbonation. Tons and tons of booze and heat with the burn all the way down your throat.

O: After hearing so many rave reviews for this beer, it just doesn't live up to the hype for me. I can't get away from how hot and boozy it is, making it seem really unbalanced. It's very, very aggressive. At 4 months, I thought this was ready to go, but maybe not. Right now, BCBS is still the winner, and even Black Note and BB Plead are a touch higher for me. This beer is still great, and a nice representation of the style, but this year's vintage is just a bit too strong and unbalanced for me.

Recommendation: Even though it's not the best of the best for BA Imperial Stouts, it's still worth fighting for to try at least once. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.

 1,504 characters

Photo of Uscjojo
4.75/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

What a way to celebrate Father's Day. Parabola is an amazing Russian Imperial Stout.
It pours black. The smell is Bourbon, vanilla, dark fruits, and dark chocolate.
The taste was amazing. It was 53 degrees out of the fridge and the flavors took off from there. Sweet vanilla, dark fruits, malty, and chocolate. As the stout warmed to room temperature, the sweet dark chocolate came out. The bourbon was very consistent thru out. One of the best I have tasted, next to BCBS and Black Tuesday.

 492 characters

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

Exceptional beer. I split a bomber of this one with a buddy after we found one for $20 a couple of years ago in upstate NY. Such a dark, robust flavor with a smooth, creamy, rich mouthfeel and incredible warmth on the way down. Highly recommended to all as it is one of my favorites.

 283 characters

Photo of 303beer
4.84/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2015
O.G. 32.74
IBU 82
British Ale Yeast
No. 006
Pours black. The nose is light barrel and stout. It has a thin tan head that turns into a ring. The first sip has coffee characteristics. Then I get some hint of cherry at the backend. Looking forward to the next sip. Still has lots of coffee flavors going on. Then a bit of slight bitter. This is really complex. The texture is smooth and silky. The third sip has more chocolate notes. This is so awesome. I have had the pleasure of some sours that change flavors as you work down through the bottle but never a stout like this. This is the second special beer i have had from firestone walker. Both were so amazing. This company is known for ipa's but not to me. Not anymore.

 726 characters

Photo of superspak
4.4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Got in a trade with cyde. 22 ounce bottle into snifter; 2013 vintage, bottled on 3/18/2013. Pours pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass, with a moderate amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of milk chocolate, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, toasted coconut, toffee, oak, bourbon, tobacco, light char, and roast/oak earthiness; with some light alcohol/booze. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roasted malt and oak barrel notes; with solid strength. Taste of big milk chocolate, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, toasted coconut, toffee, bourbon, oak, tobacco, light char, and roast/oaky earthiness. Fair amount of roast/oak bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of milk chocolate, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, toasted coconut, toffee, bourbon, oak, tobacco, light char, and roast/oak earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible complexity and robustness of dark/roasted malt and oak barrel flavors; with a great malt/barrel balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. A very slight oak astringency was present but not detrimental. Light-medium carbonation an full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy, and fairly slick mouthfeel that is fantastic. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a light warming present after the finish. Overall this is an absolutely incredible barrel aged imperial stout. All around outstanding complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt and bourbon barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the big ABV. An insanely delicious offering as I expected.

 1,627 characters

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

2016 Vintage poured into a snifter.

Definitely a great balance between the base beer and the bourbon. The brew is very similar to KBS, but quite a bit sweeter, which I like. There is absolutely no booze in the taste, but the burn is there on the swallow.

Highly recommended if you can find a bottle. It has jumped to #2 on my list of favorite BA stouts.

 358 characters

Photo of barreldawg
4.8/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I've had the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. This beer begs to be aged... at least 2 years (if you can keep it that long). I had the 2012 back in 2013 and at that time, the 2013 seemed a tick better. I saved one bottle of 2012 that I opened in the summer of 2014 and it really improved. Unfortunately, I drank all my 2013 as well. I do have a couple 2014 and 2015 bottles that I won't touch until at least next spring or summer.

Parabola and Bourbon County (Goose Island) are the best that I've had and it's tough to rate one better than the other.

 544 characters

Photo of Masonz223
5/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Smell: loads of chocolate milk chocolate bakers chocolate slight dark chocolate vanilla oak rasin coconut some booziness.
Taste: I'm blown away! upfront you get milk chocolate a lot of the barrel notes creamy vanilla oak middle of the mouth brown sugar burnt molasses rasin coconut Slight dark chocolate a big sweet Carmel malt note some dark coffee roastiness and a cherry flavor that lingers into the finish. Finishes with a big sweetness and is quickly balanced out with a big boozy heat.
Feel: huge! Full bodied creamy slick mouthfeel.
Overall: this is right there with BCBS as the best BBA stout I've ever had! I really don't know which one is better. This is sweet and boozy but the balance each other out beautifully! This is a huge beer. Not for the faint of heart!

 775 characters

Photo of LAp
4.63/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served on tap in a snifter. Pours a thick, motor oil black with only the faintest traces of a brown/mocha head (a little more would be appreciated though). The nose is pungent and earthy. Bourbon right off the bat is followed by dark fruit (black cherry). The palate accepts the same bourbon-to-cherry intro but these are accented with notes of oak, molasses, and the slightest trace of licorice. I'm unfortunately writing this a day after trying it, so the full spectrum of flavor is fading from memory - this is a beautifully complex Russian Imperial Stout however. Mouthfeel is thick - really thick. This is an unmitigatedly incredible RImpStout.

 656 characters

Photo of luisitoelmatador88
5/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Ive had a fresh 2015 parabola last year and it was unbelievable. This was before I was even into stouts to be honest and nonetheless this absolutely blew my mind. Parabola may be the reason I started getting stouts, in particular bourbon barrel ages stouts.

I had 2012 Parabola a few weeks ago. This thing was probably better than 2015. After 4 or so years of aging this beer lost none of the complexity of a fresh parabola possesses. There was so much going on and it remained drinkable, not hot (alcohol-wise) and absolutely exquisite. This beer is world class for my preference and palate.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,231 ratings.
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