Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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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 Buļ¬€alo Trace.

Added by largadeer on 03-26-2008

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Ratings: 6,467 |  Reviews: 1,235
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4.5/5  rDev -0.9%

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5/5  rDev +10.1%

Photo of magictacosinus
4.51/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Finally found an opportunity to open up a bottle of Parabola I have on me. I've been very impressed overall with FW's barrel aging program, and this lived up to my expectations. 2013 vintage (in Four Roses barrels!!). I actually had the chance to take a sip of this vintage a few months prior to this review, and although the bottle in question had been opened 3 weeks before I tried it, it was STILL impressive in spite of its flat and old feel. Poured out of a 22oz bottle into a tulip wine glass. Split with others for obvious reasons anticipating inebriation.

Pours an extremely darkened (yet not totally opaque) black color, complete with a lovely head that's mocha-brown tinged that rises about 2-3 fingers high in the glass. Other than relatively large tears, this leaves behind scattered patches of lacing, although not as much as I'd expect as this doesn't seem to be bottle conditioned. It DOES however maintain excellent head retention when considering the ABV at hand, and the color never seems to let go in the same vein of an excellently brewed espresso. Quite eye candy from the very start - leaves you excited to try it.

The aroma is even more exciting - big yet boldly refined notes of bourbon sweetness and roasted stout characteristics that are both rich and refined. At first, the bourbon immediately comes through, displaying notes of vanilla and coconut shavings, as well as caramel and light leather and tobacco. Soon, however, it dispels slightly to reveal wonderful notes of dark fruit, ranging from raisins to dark ripe cherries, all topped with molasses, cinnamon (the largest spice, actually), brown sugar, and light anise. The roasted notes are a little buried under the sugar and spices, but it's most definitely there - roasted oats, light coffee, cocoa nibs, and light dust and earth. Extremely complex, but the bourbon is rather strong at times. Still, ranks up there as one of the most memorable aromas I've come across on a bourbon barrel blended stout.

At first, you're immediately washed with notes of sweet bourbon, with vanilla, coconut, caramel, and light butterscotch, but very soon it fades away and the roasted, oat forward malty notes, as well as barrel spices, start to come in to create something truly beautiful. The best way I can describe drinking this is the equivalent of chewing on bourbon toasted chocolate caramel covered espresso beans. Roasted notes of coffee and chocolate cut the sweetness dramatically, and hide the ABV in order to create a more refined drinking experience. Tobacco, cherries, leather, and floral textures follow, as well as the wonderful caramelized cinnamon and maple syrup flavors that complete the journey. Silky and velvety, with excellent carbonation and thickness that makes this comfortable and delightful to sip. A true pleasure overall.

Without any doubt, this vintage may be the best one FW has developed in their line of barrel aged beers, and the drinkable qualities of this are absurdly superior. Sadly, I don't think this would age very well, as I feel the roasted, fresh herbal notes are what make this unique, and it would most definitely lose them over time. I'm going to experiment with aging this for a year and see how it holds up. No matter what, however, this is a true treasure. Lives up to the hype, and is totally worth tracking down. I haven't had the opportunity to try or to crack open any other significant amount of widely considered world class bourbon aged stouts so far, but I'm wondering if most people should bother even MAKING any when we have FW's barrel program. This is amazing stuff - completely exceeded my expectations with its complexity.

UPDATE (1/6/2014): Damn the hype! This is amazing stuff, no doubt, but after pitting it in a bourbon barrel stout blind tasting some time ago, this didn't even make the top. Very sweet compared to other offerings of its kind, but perhaps the best one that's easy to get. Gets a lot of those bourbon sweet oak notes that I find a little difficult to wade through. This is best fresh - once it loses that roasted character, it gets a little too putrid, herbal, and sweet. Still, phenomenal stuff, but let's not forget to be objective even about our favorite beers.

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4.46/5  rDev -1.8%
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4.75/5  rDev +4.6%

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4.5/5  rDev -0.9%

Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,467 ratings.
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