Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

1,194 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: 1,194 | Ratings: 6,295
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.

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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.

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

Enjoyed draft pour into an aluminum cup at the Brash Brewing opening party. My kind of stout - inky black, rich mouthfeel, balanced chocolate, touch of vanilla, and sweet but not cloying. Lovely!

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

2015 vintage, split between 2 people for my graduation party.

Aroma is of strong molasses, tobacco, dark chocolate, and an alcohol heat.

Taste is very thick and rich. Beautiful molasses, dark chocolate, vanilla, and pipe tobacco marry together initiatially. This lasts for half the sip, then a slight hop bitterness plays through. It's surprisingly bitter, but it isn't unwelcomed as it prevents the beer from being too sweet. It sucks the saliva right out of the mouth. The finale is a cumulation of the bitterness, molasses, and alcohol heat.

Overall, this is a great beer. I like bcbs a little better. I think the beer has a little too much bitterness, but it is still fantastic. I reccomend drinking this beer plain, as to prevent mixing of flavors; it deserves it. It gets a 96/100.

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Photo of bennyman12
4.52/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2014 bottle.

Appears and smells like it should: Black, bourbony, barrelly.
The taste: hot! Whoa! The bourbon is quality, though, and does that coconut to banana finish that pappy does that I just love. And there are stout flavors too, locked in carnal embrace with the bourbon. Downright pornograpic, this beer.
The body isn't super thick, but I don't mind that too much. The carb is fine enough to give it a creaminess.

Overall a very sexy beer. in fact, my favorite ba stout. Boom!

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Photo of TheElectricOne
4.88/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 2014 bottle into a tulip:

Appearance: Pours somewhere between black as hell and as black as it can get. Thin, dark-brown head that dissipates quickly into a ring around the edge of the glass. Small specks of lacing left behind.

Smell: TONS of bourbon, along with lots of roasty coffee and cocoa. Smell gets better and better as the beer warms. Incredibly decadent and pungent.

Taste: Layer upon layer of sweet chocolate and bitter nibs, along with lots of espresso-coffee flavors. Very little heat for a BBA stout at 14%. Smooth, complex, and delicious.

Feel: heavy-bodied, with a thick, fudgy mouthfeel. Taste leaves dark chocolate lingering for a LOOOOOONG time.

Overall: It's one of the best BA stouts on the market, and is worth seeking out/trading for if you haven't had it.

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Photo of SoCal_Matt
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2015 vintage served in a Teku.

Pours a very dark brown with minimal head. Bourbon, coffee, and chocolate on the nose. The taste is dominated by dark chocolate with a bit of vanilla. The barrel comes through nicely on the finish. Having had this on draft and from the bottle, I found the bottle to be far superior. This is definitely a top notch BA RIS.

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

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.

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

POURS a deep brown with average head and decent lading. Aromas of toasted coconut, malt and bourbon dominate this one. Flavor similar to aroma with lots of coconut, toasted malts, bourbon and oak coming through. Mouthfeel is heavy, yet pleasing and the balance is spectacular, with all so many flavors coming through to make this beer so, so awesome !!!!

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Photo of YodersBeerEmporium
4.46/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Was able to try this 2014 vintage at a recent text thing and it lived up to the hype. One of the best beers I've had that is reasonably priced and easily accessible....Nice deep dark chocolate notes and good bourbon finish

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Photo of Alpha309
4.45/5  rDev -2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22 oz bottle into a tulip.

Pours a dark opaque nearly black color. Head is very thin almost nonexistent. Settles as a very thin caramel colored halo around the edges of the glass.

Smell is of molasses and bourbon.

Strong bourbon flavors over top flavors of oat, molasses and a hint of spiciness.

Very low carbonation and very thick mouthfeel.

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

Pours nicely but not as thick as i thought it would be. smell is quite enjoyable. A nice oaky woodiness with slight vanilla, faint dark chocolate and coconut, and some booze.

Taste hits with tingles of carb followed by some booziness. As soon as the booziness fades you get a nice roasty chocolatey vanilla RIS with mild barrel sweetness. The booze carries through but it's still an enjoyable beer.

Mouthfeel is lighter than i want from a 14% abv beer but i believe it is just a tad over carbed giving it that trait.

Really glad I got to finally try this one but would say this is the first FW Reserve series that hasn't lived up to the hype for me.

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Photo of danh53
4.54/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

From 2014 bottle. Pours pitch black with a thin, tan head. The aroma is bourbon barrel, toasted coconut, coffee, dark chocolate, and dark fruits. Taste is rich and complex with bourbon barrel leading the way. I definitely feel the alcohol and it stops just short of being boozy. There's so much going on in the rest of the beer that I don't mind the slight alcohol burn. I get rich, dark chocolate and even some coffee. The sweetness from the chocolate and bourbon is balanced by roast, licorice, and slight notes of ash which give this beer its edge and really help to set it apart from other barrel aged stouts. Dark fruits like fig, raisin, and maybe some cherry linger in the background adding complexity. Mouth feel is thick without being chewy and really compliments the beer. Overall this beer is definitely worth the hype and my score seems conservative.

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Photo of Jimmys
4.33/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Notes from a vertical tasting on 8/28/15. 2012, 13, and 15.

A: they all pour the same, dark brown. deep. clarity is very slightly improved in the older samples. all have rested vertically in the same cellar.

S: the younger the brew, the more ethanol presence. definitely mellows out with age. as does the bourbon character diminish. dark chocolate and brown sugar across the gamut. I found a mild smoke note on the 2012 which I enjoyed.

T: similar to the nose, the booze is definitely most present in the 2015, but regardless of how age each has an alcohol heat. each also has a distinct licorice flavor. ash, dark chocolate. each years has a decent amount of lingering bitterness in the finish as well.

M: 2015 was the most syrup-like, while the 2012 had more of an effervescent character and was a bit thinner. thinner than the 2015 that is, this is certainly not a thin brew regardless of age.

D: overall, I think they really each brought something different to the table and it is difficult to pick a favorite. however, if you are reading this far, that is a lame conclusion. so in that case, I think the 2013 and 2012 had the best complexity while keeping some of the heat at bay. giving this some time allows for the heat to diminish and thus some of the bourbon character with it. such a complex brew, grab a few and find your personal sweet spot.

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Photo of chrisjws
4.76/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

On tap at California Craft Beer in Fremont, CA. 2015 edition, served in a snifter, poured rather full.

A: Extremely dark, some light the edges give off a more moderate brown cola type color. Minimal head, what there was is medium brown in color, dissipates really quickly. No alcohol legs, but you can see by the oily appearance that it is indeed very high alcohol.
S: Oh my. Lots of bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, roasted malts, figs, molasses, dark chocolate and a faint woodyness from the barrel. Very pronounced, but still very inviting and not intimidating.
T: Follows the nose well. Lots of dark chocolate upfront mixed with bourbon and molasses. Raisins, toasty malts and some dark fruit appear in the finish, especially as it warms up. Aftertaste is full of bourbon and molasses. Packed full of flavor but manages to avoid being boozy.
M: Big mouthfeel, not quite what I'd describe as "chewy", but close. Minimal carbonation doesn't come into play too much in the mouthfeel. Coats the mouth and lingers for minutes after each sip.
O: This one is right up there with BCBS and the best of them. Absolutely awesome.

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

This, to me, is the best "widely available" bourbon barrel-aged stout. What separates it from BCBS, for instance, is that it is less sweet and less overwhelmed, heat-wise, by the bourbon barrel. It's softer, and easier-drinking, but richer and more complex. FW has a world-class barrel program, but this one, every year, is the best of the lot.

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Photo of anteatr23
4.24/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured a 2015 bottle. Pours black and thick/syrupy. Smell is mostly strong of booze and earthiness, with some roasted coffee aroma. Taste of rich dark chocolate bitter stands out and first with very present bourbony booze and roasty/toasty coffee notes and malts on the back end. This stout looks strong, smells strong and tastes strong. Flavor really is complex and the body is thick. I was lucky enough to try a bottle, so I don't want to miss the mark on this well-respected Imperial, but it was a little too intense for my typical liking. I fully respect Parabola, but pull this bottle out when you're really ready for a hearty beer that you've got the time to really dissect and appreciate.

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

Absolutely spectacular, in every way. Cellared for about a year, I couldn't wait any longer to open this bad boy. The smell is intoxicating (literally and figuratively)-- the booze that comes off of this will put: hair on your chest, lead in your pencil, or any other borderline derogatory saying from the Baby Boomer generation you'd like to substitute. It's like one of those fairies from a Disney movie is dangling this delicious brew in front of my unconscious body in a dream-state. My ability to ignore this beer is as strong as Jordan Belfort's ability to steer clear of quaaludes and money. Alright, back to the beer. Parabola's bouquet is definitively bourbon-forward, but remains balanced with incredible tobacco and vanilla scents making themselves known. Like the Toucan from the Fruit Loops ads, the flavor follows the nose. And although the mouthfeel is heavy, it is perfect for this brew. Black as night, you want to sip on this like a fine Scotch. Preferably with a beautiful view or with some good fireside conversation. Worthy of incredibly praise.

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

I would say at this time this is my favorite beer, and the closest beer to deserving straight 5's and a perfect score. I will revisit and add a particular review the next time I have this. This one was special enough for me that I bought one for my wedding a year ago, and was as blown away as ever!


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Photo of chrismann65
4.82/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

This is the 2015 : This was my 2nd time trying the 2015 . ! have a few put away for a cold winter night !
Pours a deep thick black , like oil ! Smell: like dark fruit plums, figs, dark sweet Chocolate !! Taste: Deep,
toasty malts, bourbon, Raisins, molasses , Wow so good !! Will, only get better as it ages.!!! This is a
sipper take your time & let it warm up. As you drink this the beer it open's up very nice !! Share this with
A Friend.!!! Lions , Bears , And Beer ..!! Thanks Adam, Matt, David - Great job on the 2015...!!

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Photo of ChrisP802
4.64/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2015 Parabola No. 006
Aroma - bourbon, maybe a bitter dark chocolate, and vanilla
Pour - Black with a slight hint of brown, very small brownish head that fades fast
Taste - toasty malts, bourbon, something sweet
Feel - kind of heavy
Drinkability - Sip throughout the night or share with people that deserve it

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

Had the 2010 version (001 batch) from a cellared bomber from a store in the Socal area near to the brewery.
This was trully amazing - just the right amount of age and hit right on every point.
If I could rate it higher than 5 on all accounts I would!

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

Received in a trade, along with Heady, Pliny, and Cellarman Batch 3 for a LOT of Pipeworks and some other Midwest beers.

Drank in a Pipeworks Tales from the Oak 10 oz snifter.

Appearance: If you believe the theory of The darker the stout, The better, than this would work for you. Worked for me.

Smell and taste: Perfectly balanced. So many different notes and flavors, yet nothing overpowered anything else.

Feel: sublime, warming, filling. Just about hit every taste bud it could find and some I didn't know I had.

Warmed up wonderfully, and was an excellent companion to two and a half hours of late night reading of Hunter S Thompson's biography, "Gonzo".

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

Just an amazing beer. Rich barrel flavors. I prefer this with at least 6 months of bottle age, as the heat and from the barrel flavors tend to not be so overpowering. This is the standard I judge other BBA RIS's by.

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Photo of SensorySupernova
4.62/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: Black. Had a little bit of tan head, but that didn’t last long.

Smell: Raisins, molasses, dark bread, bourbon.

Taste: Hits with a lot up front. Malts (roasted, but not smokey or like burnt coffee at all), brown sugar, wood. Sweet throughout; just enough bitterness to balance. Ends with a nice burst of bourbon.

Mouthfeel: Very thick with low carbonation. Left my mouth with some alcohol vapors to remember it.

Overall: Definitely deserves the Imperial label. I drank 10 ounces over the course of an hour; fortunately it tastes just as good as it nears room temperature.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,295 ratings.
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