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Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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1,173 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: 1,173 | Ratings: 6,190
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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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.

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Photo of Hyptochrons
4.48/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2014 vintage. excellent looking stout. aromas of oak, bourbon, alcohol, light vanilla, caramel and toffee. on the palate is a rich chocolate, pronounced dark fruit note, getting raisins and plums, sticky caramel, boozy bourbon. mouthfeel is almost perfect. overall this stout is excellent, but seems a bit over rated, the booze was more apparent compared to other top stouts, even after some time in the cellar.

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Photo of Amguerra305
4.59/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I have had this beer multiple times and participated in a flight from 2011 to 2016. Definitely not a beer that ages well as it seems to lose quite a bit with time and you are just left with booze as the predominant taste. Pours a tad thin when young and only gets thinner with age. you can almost always see light passing through around the edges. Smell is always barrel forward and the booze is almost never hidden with strong chocolate notes. The taste tends to follow the most with booze and chocolate. A slight sweetness is present with hints of raisin and the beer often feels tastes fudgey. Vanilla also comes through in the taste. Feel is a tad light for the style, especially if it has some age on it. Overall this is an excellent barrel aged stout that does not hold up well to aging. give it two year max in your cellar; it starts to precipitously degrade after that.

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Photo of Rogerlb
4.43/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Got on tap in Waltham/Boston area at Bison County restaurant. $11 for what must have been a 8oz pour, which was steep but I don't see this around so I ordered it.

Dark with slight ring of a head. Smell is dark fruit, hops, coffee and chocolate and some booze.

Taste is coffee and bourbon-y (there is that bourbon barrel), toffee, some slight baker's chocolate, sweet fruit (chocolate covered cherries), and also some coffee bite. All the flavors you expect, not a lot of char or ash which makes it quite pleasant. The heat of the 13% is there but not at all off-putting. (Bottled is apparently 14%?) Sweet esters and warmth, relatively thin mouthful makes this very easy to drink. If it wasn't $11 I'd have had 2.

Very well balanced Russian Stout, the barrel aspect works perfectly here. Firestones tend to be one-note for me, this shows much more nuance and a great drink, better than Old Rasputin in my book.

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Photo of Mahern55
4.81/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Finally! I did have to pay up for it at a bar, but it was worth it. The depth of flavor from the barrels was particularly noticeable (2013 vintage) and enjoyable.

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Photo of colts9016
4.77/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I landed one of my wants on my lists and it was worth it. The dark brown nearly black beer that is opaque. Has a one finger tan head with good retention. The head left some lacing on the glass.

N: Strong coffee, roasted malts, caramel, toffee, molasses, biscuits, yeast, chocolate, vanilla, wood, citrus, and some floral.

T: Strong roasted malts notes, coffee, caramel, toffee, molasses, a burnt character, yeast, vanilla, wood, citrus, chocolate, and some floral,

M: smooth, creamy, sticky, warming, chewy, and full body.

O: A huge beer the alcohol is fairly hidden with wisp of warming. The beer is seriously balanced well. When I want a thick dark chewy beer this fits the bill so very well. There is nothing short of Amazing. I need to get a couple bottle of this stuff.

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

This was my first shelf whale since I just became a fan of craft beer. And I have to say now I'm hooked thanks to this experience. I never knew a beer can be so creamy, full of flavor, and gets you drunk quick. I love the smell of coffee and how it goes down without any bad metallic after taste. Remember to share because this is a strong beer.

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Photo of ragnar3
4.42/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2016 Vintage on tap. Nice combination of bourbon, dark fruit and bakers chocolate. Solid mouthfeel, smooth and very drinkable. Looking forward to trying other vintages!

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Photo of ADM_Crunch
4.17/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Nice and thick with a beautifully colored head. One of the very few barrel aged beers I thoroughly enjoyed and would absolutely buy again. Firestone has yet to fail me.

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Photo of PDXAmbassador
4.09/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2013 vintage, enjoyed summer 2016.

Poured pitch black, no head, a little thin looking. Smell is very similar to aged BCBS -- bourbon, booze, dark fruit, bit of dry dog food. Good not great.

Taste is strong roasted grain, bourbon, still some alcohol warmth, cocoa powder. Lingering taste of espresso coffee grounds, sticky noble hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel is rather light, spritzy, drinkable but thin.

Overall, liked it. Didn't like it as much as BCBS or some other BA stout standbys. Appreciated the balancing bitterness and coffee tones, but could use a bit more body if I were to nitpick.

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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!

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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.

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

Had this one with only a few months of age so it's fairly fresh. Strong smoke in smell and bourbon is stron in taste. Very nice beer but bourbon and aftertaste is a little overpowering. I'm betting it's better with a year or 2 of age on it. I'll try to find another to sit on.

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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.

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Photo of DaveBar
4.38/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Got on trade! 650ml bottle served at 14deg C in a challis. 2015 vintage

A- Opens well and pours a the tiniest of heads that is gone is seconds. Super dark brown colour

S- Good bourbon

T- Complex. Licorice, chocolate, coffee, bourbon and other spices. Some brown sugar or molasses. Good balance but would enjoy more bourbon.

M- Creamy going down but dries right out afterwards

O- Nice brew. Not great and is a nice to try. Just does not have the depth and thickness I am looking for in a higher priced brew. Don't get me wrong it's good but just for me I know of way better

Food Pairing

As usual with bourbon barrel aged stouts this one is difficult to pair. Sorry but I have to go with the best there is on this one....... Chocolate cake with chocolate icing or brownies. Either or is great!


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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.

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Photo of Newbeergeek1
4.69/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Had a couple of friends for a tasting at my house last night and Tyler brought this RIS. It is something I'd never heard of as his contribution. WOW is the operant word for this. My contribution were a couple of CigCity hard to gets but Tyler's was the clear "winner". Amazing color, lacing, complex tastes that just blended incredibly well. Likely my one and only but if I ever see it again I will get it in a heartbeat.

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

Pours dark and rich. Nice head. caramel, mild coconut, vanilla, dark roast coffee, rich dark chocolate, fudge, some dried black cherries and fig, brown bread, some charred oak, can taste the different barrel aging. Exceptional. Very young no aging though. Would be a lot better aged I feel.

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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.

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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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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,190 ratings.
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