Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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4.61 w/ 6,533 Ratings

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 Buļ¬€alo Trace.

Added by largadeer on 03-26-2008

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Ratings: 6,533 |  Reviews: 1,252
Photo of daron7
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

Photo of mattycasey
4.75/5  rDev +3%

Photo of kaleodrum
5/5  rDev +8.5%

Photo of Linos510
4.25/5  rDev -7.8%

Photo of mmars010
5/5  rDev +8.5%

Photo of Brian_Holter
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

Photo of KYGunner
4.4/5  rDev -4.6%

Not as viscous as I expected it had a deep deep brown color that allowed a bit of light to pierce the edge. The head foamed to a light brown cap but then collared quickly.

Brownie, raisin, chocolate, maple and coconut meet the nose as this has glimpses of a barleywine.

The flavor is all barleywine with dark fruit, raisin, chocolatey sweetness, caramel malt, toffee malt, barley and wine. Vanilla begins to form on the palate as it warms.

The feel is velvety, with a slight alcohol heat and a touch of alcohol tang. It has a nice thickness to it as well.

Very good beer but I thought I was drinking Bourbon County Barleywine the entire time, which isn't a bad thing.

 671 characters

Photo of Petegrieco
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

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4.25/5  rDev -7.8%

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4.75/5  rDev +3%

Photo of RonBurgundyDF
5/5  rDev +8.5%

Photo of snowmageddon
4.75/5  rDev +3%

Photo of Nolen12
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

Photo of Liam4123
4/5  rDev -13.2%

Photo of randyb0007
5/5  rDev +8.5%

Photo of jkball01
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

Photo of BullDoza
4.86/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

My first Parabola called for my first rating. 2014 poured from bottle to glass.

A: Very deep, dark brown with a reddish tinge where the light hits toward top and bottom of the glass. The red tinge is subtle, but enough that I can't call this Black; maybe a few shades darker than cola. 3/4 finger, khaki, roasted tan head. Head diminished quickly to only a thin film atop the beer.

S: Wow. Depends on the stage of temperature...this one changes that much. Fresh from the pour, it was not at all what I expected. Whiskey, not bourbon is what hit me in the face. Chocolate and toffee was very faintly present. First thought was: watered down whiskey/cola drink. First thought, based on this, was along the lines of, "I let the hype get me, and this is going to be a let down." NOT SO FAST!! This one morphs as it warms; quickly, at that. What I described as "whiskey" quickly evolved into sweet bourbon, vanilla, and wood. This is what I expected! The chocolate and and roastiness remained as the vanilla became more pronounced. Amazing.

T: based on my initial "nose." I did NOT expect what I tasted. Unlike the whiskey/soda nose, a wave of chocolate and roasted malt hit me. Just as quickly, it fell and finished clean with sweet vanilla and faint toffee. This one changed and presented me with something new as it warmed, and with almost every sip. The bourbon and vanilla/woody tastes became more and more apparent as it warmed. Hints of dark fruit are detectable as well; fig? Dark chocolate and roasted malt linger in the aftertaste. The faintest bit of oatmeal and toffee remain. Vanilla, bourbon, wood continue to dominate 40 minutes later. Could swear there was some caramel in there too. Exceptionally complex beer!

M: this is where the beer could have been a tad bit better, in my opinion. The mouth feel was, though silky and smooth, lighter than anticipated. While not all bad, it wasn't as full bodied as I would have preferred. Was hoping for more "oomph"...thicker and chewier. While not what I was expecting, it certainly wasn't a bad mouth feel.

Overall: this is by far the most complex beer I have had to date. The aroma, the number of favors I picked up as the beer warmed, and the way it all worked was phenomenal. So complex, yet so well made. No one aspect of this beer felt out of place or overwhelmed any other No matter how much, or how little, each piece contributed...they all worked together to create a master piece.

If looking at style, this one tops the List of BA beers I've had to date: Black Note, KBS, Uncle Jacob's (2012), Black Crack, among others...none are this good. Wow...

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Photo of aoampm
4.9/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter. 2017 vintage.

Pours a complete black with a head that completely vanishes in under a minute. No lacing at all.

Smell is huge on the bourbon! Some chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and roasted malt on the nose.

Taste is the bomb. The chocolate bourbon flavor is right there at first and then some vanilla, coffee, molasses, and an oaky spice in there also.

Feel is everything you want in a BA Stout. Thick, chewy, not very carbonated. Drinks heavvvvy.

Overall this is a perfectly executed BA stout in my book. Incredibly well done and always a treat to have.

 593 characters

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4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

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4.75/5  rDev +3%

Photo of DogfishJoe
4.75/5  rDev +3%

Photo of Brew_Bear
4.83/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Parabola 2011, tasted on June 28th, 2014.
This beer is very very special for me. Some background is required (jump to TASTING if you don't care).

First off, I discovered Parabola in spring of 2011 or 2012, as part of a flight of imperial stouts in a bar. This changed my life. Before tasting Parabola, I had no idea about the world of vintage beer, barrel aged beer, and most importantly, how an imperial stout could be good. Before that I cared more or less for stout, but now I was in shock. It's afterward that I started buying and aging beer at home. It's been my favorite beer since then, and I don't hesitate to drive for hours and spend lots of money to get some.

Anyway, forward to November 2013. I'm at Boneyard Bistro in Sherman Oaks (CA), and surprise, they have a vertical flight of Parabola: 2011-2012-2013. I'm freaking out!! The 2012 and 2013 vintage were excellent, as usual, but the 2011 vintage.... HO. LY. SH*T. It was like 10x better. Oh my god.

So much in fact, that I declared on several occasions that I would pay good money for a bottle of 2011. Well it looks like the universe heard me! Few days ago I was in Las Vegas, and oh surprise, Aces And Ales is selling the bottle for $75, which is what I was expecting. I thought screw it, it's now or never. I brought the bottle home, and opened it last night. And then...


First off, it's an incredibly complex beer. It's hard to describe it in few lines. Furthermore, my impressions evolved during the tasting. Although I will present each sensory aspect separately, in reality I took notes on those aspects throughout the tasting: smell, taste, smell, taste, repeat for an hour and half.


The beer pours an opaque black color, topped with a rich mocha head. Swirling the beer in the glass shows thick viscosity that sticks onto the glass wall. Promising!


Initially, Parabola lets out smells of malt, lots of licorice, as well as molasses and dark fruit: prune and red raisin, with a touch of blackberry. Those aromas combine marvelously with an impression of brown sugar, typical of the Firestone vintage beer (I strongly suspect their British house yeast).

Once passed the first impression, I realize that the beer has definitely maderized. Very soft aromas of fortified wine and port caress my nostrils.

Then the dessert side of the beer imposes itself smoothly. First, a note of cola. Yes, sweet cola! There is a candy character that's hard to define, something like toffee, truffle, and very subtle chocolate.

It is late that the roasted malt manifests itself, via a subtle coffee aroma, accompanied by black cherry.

The barrel qualities are pratically absent from the aromatic profile. The wood and bourbon are so timid that I didn't really get them. No worries though.


Madera and a note of port wine welcome my taste buds. Another sip, and molasses and licorice show up. A solid start.

Oh hey, the wood and bourbon of the barrel finally show their nose! It was about time. The bourbon is however closer to whiskey than bourbon. A very dry quality, less sweet than bourbon.

At last, the dessert persona arrives. It's like I'm drinking sugar pie (a French Canadian specialty dish: brown sugar, butter and cream, mostly) spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. Wow. After swallowing the ichor, caramel and toffee linger for a while. It's later, when the beer has warmed up in my glass, that dates and vanilla softly augment an experience that is already rich and fabulous.

It is very late that I detect the nuances confered by age, via subtle notes of tobacco and leather.

Overall, the flavor profile is incredibly balanced, very smooth and mellow. Sometimes, bourbon barrel aged beers are too "bourbonny" for my taste. This is not the case here. The wood and bourbon take a back seat, letting the other comedian express themselves freely. A perfect harmony.


Toward the end of my first sip, a sensation of rough texture manifests on my tongue. I would describe it as when when you eat waffle cookies, and lingers a little bit. The sensation amplifies during the finale. Surprising, but not unpleasant. However, this sensation completely goes away after few sips.

A chewiness, typical of imperial stouts, accompanies the rough texture. Contrary to that texture however, the chewiness doesn't go away. The beer is completely round. I suspect the use of oats grants it great velvety quality. The beer coats my tongue and leaves a soft viscous impression.

The heat from the alcohol warms up my throat during the finale, but is not burning. Very pleasant.


A spectacular beer, nothing less. Very mellow, very smooth, yet bold, complex and multi-faceted. No aroma or flavor is competing with another, nothing feels overwhelming or off-balance. It completely deserves it's rating, and then some.

 4,828 characters

Photo of KevinGordon
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%

Photo of Corbin19
5/5  rDev +8.5%

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5/5  rDev +8.5%

Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 98.2% out of 100 with 6,533 ratings
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