Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

1,196 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: 1,196 | Ratings: 6,315
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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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
4.53/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | 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, quite perfectly mat he'd, and 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 SpauldingSmails
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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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,315 ratings.
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