Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

1,220 Reviews
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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: 1,220 | Ratings: 6,371
Photo of mwa423
3.85/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

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

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

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

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

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Photo of homebrewhawk
3.85/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2012 vintage. 22oz. bottle served in a snifter. Poured a deep brown/black with a thin tan head. Chocolate, vanilla and a little alcohol in the aroma. Full bodied and rich. More chocolate and roasted barley in the flavor. I found this to be a little hot. Really long dry malty finish. I expected more barrel, but it was nicely balanced. Would have benefited from some age.

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Photo of NiceTaps
3.86/5  rDev -15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz botle into a fine stemmed tuplip glass.

A- Pours a true opaque black color with a mocha-brown head, just about 2finger due to a healthy pouring. That head fades to a lip that will not go away.

S- BOOZEY right away, and strong. Once past the booze, there are notes of creamy vanilla, smokey oak, anise and cocoa.

T- Smores roasted over the fire, simply put. It tastes like it smells.

M- so smooth and velvety, great full and creamy body. But the booze just won't quit. No sign of the IBUs, either.

O-I'd like to see the ABV toned down or at least masked, and more than a bit. For me, I expect more balance in a RIS, but it's certainly not bad.

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Photo of Gfunk720
3.9/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of ne0m00re
3.91/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(No date... sometime in the Summer of 2011)- Review of a No. 002, 2011 22oz.
A: Black with a good cream lacing.
S: Caramel oatmeal, milk chooclate and raisins and rum barrels (oddly).
T: Tastes just like a chocolate chip cookie or brownie with oatmeal and whiskey raisin. Good, but very sweet.
M: Thicker chewy and creamy good strong chocolate stout.
O: Good, but nothing mindblowing. Maybe I'm not the biggest fan of Firestone Walker.

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Photo of froghop
3.91/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours a midnight black with a small brown head, and great lacing.

smell is of nuts, bakers chocolate, licorice, some sour malt, and hops.

taste is thick, cocoa, nuts, and some sour malt, ends dry and nicely bitter.

overall a very good imperial stout. nice chocolate flavoring.

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Photo of glazeman
3.92/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Split with airohead2001. I had high expectations for this beer, as I enjoyed a sample at FoBAB and enjoyed FW13.

A: black in color with a ½ finger mocha head that fades fairly quickly into a crown and oily film. There's minor lacing.

S: There's a little bourbon and then some alcohol that comes through as a windex type smell. I don't know if my nose is just off tonight, or if this beer just doesn't have a smell anywhere near the taste. I was worried I had a bad bottle at first smell, but the taste is spot on.

T: There's a nice balance of milk chocolate, a little bit of roast, and a little bit of coffee. The bourbon comes through up front and is just the right strength, as it adds to the overall profile without being overpowering. This is an excellent beer for this style, but not quite my favorite. My only complaints are I would have liked a little more smoothness and a little more dark fruit flavors.

M: The beer has an above average viscosity for the style, which I like. The carbonation is appropriately low and the aftertaste is great.

O: Overall, an excellent beer. Not quite in my top 5 stouts, but probablyly in the top 10. The beer is balanced, tastes great, and has great drinkability for 13%.

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Photo of HuskyinPDX
3.92/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into a snifter glass.

A - Motor oil black with a tan head forming only at the edges.

S - Booze, oak, chocolate, and coffee.

T - The flavors roll onto the tongue in the same order, and are very pronounced. Booze, oak, chocolate, coffee.

D - A slightly bitter finish, but I was surprised by how balanced the mouthfeel was.

O - A complex RIS, very nice and warming.

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Photo of Skunkdrool
3.93/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2016 vintage in tulip

It has the color of something you'd regret drinking in 2003. Ruby edges, and nothing deep; reminding of that shitty home brew you had in 2002 that was super awesome at the time. Smells like booze and brownies. By booze I mean 2am shots of cheap bourbon. Not exactly pleasant, but super fun and something you'll do again. It tastes like bad sex. It was good, fun, and something you'll revisit. But it's not an ass you wanna stick your tongue up.

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Photo of Khazadum
3.95/5  rDev -13%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A- Thick creamy emulsive head of deep chocolatey brown. We are talking long lasting, low frothing from carbonation, sticky lacing. Very appreciable and inky dark. No fake out edges, no almost stout appearance. This is Steee-out!

S- This smells like cheap espresso, but its delightful. I don't need no starbucks, intelligentsia "shi shi" coffee aroma today. This nails it. You couldn't mistake espresso if it came up and bit you in the ass. Sweet lactose sugar makes me think of a nice latte. There is a bit of sharpness to the back end. Like a middle of the road spirit. A bit of darkened fruit, similar to dried cranberries. There is the bitterness of crushed beans that have oxidized for a week or so. Altogether, very enjoyable.

T- Oo, biting alcohol. Its bitter, sharp, and a tad bit hot. Is that bourbon sweetness on the opening? Like a... earthen sucrose and brown sugar mix? The bitterness is both in acrid burnt grain but also in black coffee. Nothing superb or complex, just a cup of joe you could throw together on Saturday morning with the right effort.

So, initially its a smash of alcohol harshness, followed by sweet dark fruits. Plums and cranberries. After that is a noticeable roast flavor, but its all about old coffee flavors in terms of bitterness. Its like an aged coffee stout without all the flavors dropping off. 8 months? Not sure how to gauge this one. There is lactose sweetness that perks up occasionally. The finish is what you would expect. Bitter grains and coffee grounds.

M- Like before harsh alcoholic flavors, 10-12% burn. Biting bitterness. The creamy opening can be attributed to the carbonation being low, well placed. It helps attenuate some of the alcoholic problems. Sticky flavors and an overall creamy but medium body present an altogether tasty beverage.

Good, not great. Would drink again, but it really goes downhill after the first two senses are tickled.

Coffee RIS? Barrel Aged Coffee RIS? I don't think I've had this one, and if I have its been a long time since I have had it.

Reveal is... Parabola! Oh cool! This is nothing like I expected it to be. After loving Abacus and XIV and XV this should have been amazing.. Kind of dissappointed, but still a good drinking beer regardless.

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Photo of callmescraps
3.95/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

On-tap for the bottle release (kind of ironic) at the Goat.

Appearance- Black. About a quarter inch of dark brown, mocha head. Settles into a ring. No lacing to speak of.

Smell- Subdued. Roast. Coffee grounds. Some burnt char. As well as some bittersweet chocolate. Toffee.

Taste- Roastiness. It's pretty hot, could certainly use some time to mellow out. Hint of sweet cherry but it's lost behind that roast. Oak and lots of char, like the barrel it was aged in was burned. Similar to the 13th Anniversary, for obvious reasons, but it's less sweet/balanced. There's a reason that beer is blended, because by itself the Parabola is a little intense. Bitter chocolate lingers.

Mouthfeel- Silky smooth. Coats the tongue beautifully. The best part of this beer for sure.

Drinkability- The first third of the pour was very pleasant, but it became a chore to finish. Probably took about 45 minutes. It was quite intense. It tasted like burning. The alcohol really kicks you in the teeth.

This beer needs some time to mellow out. It's pretty hot right now, and the roast is intense. I'd love some more bourbon or vanilla or something to even things out. Basically, I want it to be 13, which it isn't. On it's own it's a good beer, but I just know how much better it could be.

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Photo of bobhits
3.95/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Medium black, seemingly flat in the pour but eventually nice 2 finger head forms and seems to linger well. Not overly dense or motor oil like (shucks).

Black cherry, coffee, chocolate, and bourbon aromas.

What an interesting beer. It has notes of bourbon, but the fruit aromas are certainly in the flavor and rather strong. I believe they hinted at red wine barrel aging? I think that has to be this fruit flavor. Regardless of how they did it, they have crafted a full complex and rather interesting beer. This embodies those complex floral notes that Russian Imperial Stouts should have intermingled with the chocolate and coffee roasted flavors of a stout. Chocolate and roasted notes are the biggest show cases here though. That sweet floral flavor is a background note near the end as it warms, but up front it is pretty damn powerful.

Thick and creamy, yet not motor oil thick. I nice balance is struck here, but it lacks that perfect carbonation to round things out. Good but not great.

I’ve only had a few firestone walker beers, but all have been outstanding for their styles and simply showcase level beers. This one…well it is competing with perhaps my favorite beers so it is hard to compare. It isn’t the coffee forward beer I had been lead by reviews to believe I was about to enjoy. It has barrel aged but really it reminds me more of non-barrel aged Russian imperials. All that said for the 25th best beer in the world, I’m a bit unimpressed. A perfect 5 in complexity, but is complex enough? Very very good, but truly great? Maybe a hair short. e

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Photo of crossovert
3.96/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2010 vintage. 650ml black foiled and boxed bottle.

It pours a thick, viscous black with a large dark tan hea that slowly recedes.

The smell is rich and chocolatey, chocolate seems to be the main smell my nostrils are picking up. It is big and luscious with a hint of roastiness. There are notes form the barrel aging with some vanilla and oak.

The flavor is a bit boozier, but very nice. It is chocolate and caramel with a big dose of coffee, oak, vanilla, dark fruits, and alcohol. It isn't ultra-complex at first, but then as you drink more and more of it subtle flavors come out.

The mouthfeel and drinkability could be better, the alcohol is a bit cloying and sweet.

A solid imperial stout from a fantastic brewery.

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Photo of drumminbrewer
3.96/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A second shipment seems to have come into Illinois, picked up 2 bottles last night, should be about 4 months of age on it by now. Poured into my St. Bernardus glass.

Thick, viscous pour. Huge, creamy head that nearly toppled this glass. Not much lacing...strange.

Nose - Alcohol first...hmmm....cocoa, nibs, some vanilla. I'm a bit nervous, I don't seem to remember it this way.

First sip. Goodness this is rich. Strong dark chocolate and espresso are dominant. A bit of alcohol on the back palate.

Body is chewy and rich...yes, rich rich. Loads of vanilla after it warms and I've taken in a bit more than a sip. This thing is massive (yes, that's what she said). BCS without such a bourbon onslaught. Enormous chocolate character. Is that bit of red wine in the background? Yes...almost like Cab. Sav.!!!!

Finish sites back palate. Long, with warming alcohol ending.

This stout is huge...absurdly huge. I can't imagine how much malt was used to make this beast - the Midwest/Great Lakes area is lucky to finally have it here. Fans of chocolate bombs should seek this out. Splendid stuff.

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Photo of ColdPoncho
3.96/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 vintage

A - this is one of the darkest beers I've ever seen. Black pour yields black body. Medium brown ring of foam with a thin film and pack of bubbles in the middle.

S - Hot bourbon! Super Boozy! Vanilla and wood. Banana. Smoked meats. There are some good bourbon barrel notes and some good stout notes beyond the alcohol.

T - Lots of alcohol here too. Not as dominant though. Wood and smoked meats on the forefront, dark malty flavors, vanilla and bourbon sweetness throughout. But man, that booze really lingers.

M - This is a huge and beautiful mouthfeel. It's very smooth, very full. Only problem is the alcohol numbness that lingers when the beer is gone.

O - Well, I wish I had saved it longer. It seems like this would be exquisite with subdued alcohol notes. I guess some might call it a boozy mess. It's more of a boozy delight.

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Photo of drpimento
3.97/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Let this bottle warm some out of the fridge. Poured with a tan, smallish head and a little lace. Color is an opaque brown black. Aroma is mild, malt, roast, wine, yeast, dates, figs. Flavor's like nose, bittersweet up front, enough carbonic tang to balance. Finish is boozy and the alcohol is striking. killer brew.

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Photo of olympuszymurgus
3.97/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A fine stout, a good showing from the boys in cali. The roast is big, the fruits present, it feels lacking though. I want more vanilla, more licorice, more fire. Stupidly smooth for such a virginal imperial stout, take that as a positive or negative or moot point from whatever your vantage.

I think my hesitation with this beer is the lack of identity. Its like so many other RISs, its just a fairly smooth one. A fine showing, but not one I would put in a fancy box and charge too much for.

I like it, I like it a lot in fact, I just would rather have an abyss.

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Photo of Lapalou
3.97/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2014 vintage poured into a snifter. Jose is great, silky bourbon. Taste is bourbon notes on top of a standard stout. Mouthfeel is lacking, it's pretty highly carbed for an imperial stout that has been ages in barrels this long. It's solid but not spectacular and certainly doesn't live up to some of the ratings here compared to its peers. They did a great job with the barrel but the base beer lacks creaminess and or any other complimentary flavors, no chocolate or deep malt here. It's truly just a conduit for the bourbon. Good beer, not great and certainly doesn't belong with its peers in this category.

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Photo of nkersten
3.98/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes, shared generously at a Chicago tasting. Pours black with a tiny tan head that fades leaving little trace. Smell is mostly oak and light hops, sweet dark malts and vanilla. A slight metallic smell as well. Taste is bourbon and carmel up front, heavily roasted malts and a bit of alcohol in the finish. Mouthfeel is lighter then i would have expected, medium to heavy with a light carbonation. Overall drinkability for the style is pretty good, but this one could use a little time.

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Photo of RamyG4
3.98/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle. Pours black with a small brown head. Aroma is bourbon, coffee, strong oak, a little alcohol. Taste is very sweet, dominated by bourbon, some vanilla, chocolate, with a roasted background. Finish is roasty and a little alcoholic. Very full bodied, syrupy, soft carbonation. Big big beer.

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Photo of velosuds
3.98/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22 oz. bomber into a clear pint glass. Paid $14.95 at Corvallis Brewing Supply, the most I have ever expended for any beer.

A-Pours a midnight black. Very dark. No light gets through this beauty. A two finger, dark tan head slowly recedes into a modest lace.

S-Alcohol from the bourbon barrels is the predominant aroma. Very fragrant. Vanilla and raisin notes are also present.

T-This is definitely a bourbon stout, and probably deserves its own style classification, as it is very different from non-bourbon barreled double stouts. I admit it is not my thing. Bourbon whiskey from 90 days aging in bourbon barrels is the most dominant flavor profile. However, there are some very nice stout beer flavors in the background like brown sugar, bittersweet chocolate, and dried fruits, especially raisins. Taste definitely improves as it warms, and becomes very sweet. The alcohol adds to the flavor rather than detracts from it.

M-A bit too astringent from the alcohol and too thin for style, i.e., not nearly luxuriant enough.

O-This is a decent beer. Best enjoyed by sipping. Didn't live up to the hype for me.

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Photo of decadance
3.98/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Very dark black, and pleasantly shocked at the amount of tan head this holds and retains through out the glass.

S - Up front you get the bourbon and a bit of brown sugar. While I think there are other smells there, all I can discern is bourbon and sweet.

T - Not my favorite of the evening, but not bad either. Its mainly bourbon on the palate with a some toffee. A bit too sweet to be honest. Borders on Batch 9000 sweetness.

M - This completely coats the palate. Quite pleasant. Just the right about of carbonation. Low, but ideal for the style.

D - Honestly, the abv is a bit high to drink multiples and the sweetness might linger after a couple of these.

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Photo of MaximalC
3.99/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From Notes (3/22/14):

Pours pitch black with a skim khaki head that settles into swirling wisps. Flavor features oodles of bourbon and vanilla along with dark fruit, coffee, maple syrup, and marshmallow. The vanilla-laced sweetness is almost cloyingly strong, though the complexity of the subtler elements is enjoyable. The alcohol is present, as is to be expected at 12.5% ABV, but not distressingly so. The texture is slick and smooth on the palate.

Overall, this is a rich, smooth, flavorful imperial stout with plenty of flair for the bourbon fans. With that said, it doesn't quite live up to its exceedingly lofty hype in my estimation. There are more balanced imperial stouts, barrel-aged or otherwise, that don't lean so heavily on a nearly candied sweetness.

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Photo of tjthresh
4/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I tried this beer at The Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer 08. This beer pours black with a brown head. The aroma is light toast with plenty of chocolate and fruit. Well balanced bourbon, oak, and chocolate flavors. The mouthfeel is oily and the finish is sweet.

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Photo of akorsak
4/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A bottle shared at Al's blow-out.

A: The imperial stout sure is imperial looking, dark and black. A moderate-sized head, a tan color, stands out against the darkness.

S: The nose is nutty and roasted, plenty of malts to go around. Call me an outlier, but I wasn't impressed with the bourbon presence.

T: The roasted flavors consume the stout, burnt and bready, well toasted. Nuttiness matches the dark stouts, a sweeter flavor that puts a few dents into the roasted depth. Again, the barrel aging isn't very dominant. Instead the malt profile is left to fend for its own. Some oak comes through late, but the oomph of bourbon seems to be lost on me. Anyone wanna send me another to try?

M: The mouthfeel is that of an imperial stout, sweet and deep, burnt and full. Much more stout than bourbon, at least what was in my glass.

D: Big and bold, a mouthful of a stout. Only problem is that is like every other imperial stout, dark and warming with plenty of roasted flavors.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,371 ratings.
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