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): 13.00%

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.

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User Reviews & Ratings
Reviews: 1,351 | Ratings: 6,937
Photo of floyd_pugman
4.23/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2018 batch. Pours a deep chocolate fudge color with minimal head. Nose is chocolate, caramel, roasted malt, and fig. Palate is caramel, fig, chocolate fudge, and roasted malt, with some rye spice, plum, and a smidge of coconut emerging. Not bad, but a little more body and sludginess would do it wonders. I’ve been blending last year’s version into other, heavier stouts that I feel would do better with these flavors, and will likely do the same with this year’s.

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Photo of oberon
4.36/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2018 Vintage No.009.Pours into a goblet jet black with a pretty thin tan colored head that is gone pretty quickly.The deep bourbon notes give off some caramel and vanilla,a bit dark chocolate comes thru as well but the bourbon steals the show.A thick chewy feel is just right for this beer,very decadent in the mouth.Flavors start out with dark fruits and caramel,I get a hint of roasted nuts as well,the full on bourbon never really takes over but it's obvious it's the main component of the beer.More tootsie roll-like flavors emerge as it warms giving some nice chocolate flavor to the profile.It's damn good,one of the better beers of 2018 for me but maybe not quite as good as the rating...for me.

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Photo of Thomas_Wikman
4.59/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I finally got to try Parabola from Firestone Walker, and I was not disappointed. It really is a great stout. Wonderful flavor.

Look: dark brown almost black with a half inch fluffy mocca colored head

Aroma: bourbon, roasted malts, caramel

Taste: The flavor is roasted malts, caramel, dark fruit/figs, it is sweet and with significant bourbon, milk chocolate and vanilla, maybe some coffee. It's complex but it has a great flavor.

Feel: medium to full body, silky and smooth

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Photo of Ahypercube
4.27/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Been looking forward to running into this for a few years now. Not disappointed whatsoever. This is hands down the best RIS I have had that did not include coffee as an ingredient. Just had a Sucaba, and I thought it could have used a little more bitterness of some sort, preferably roastiness. That is exactly what this beer delivers: an almost identical, but darker version of their barleywine.

L: Claims an srm of 99.0? Didn't think that was possible for a beer. Looks somewhere between 36-39 to me; a good source of light can penetrate through about an inch of liquid. Barely any head. Very low carbonation.

S: Divine. Molasses and dried dark fruits (mostly cherry and plum) are first again, with bourbon, vanilla and coconut filling out the middle and hints of leather and tobacco before a chocolate syrup and buttery toffee finish that has a satisfying charred oak note to cap it off.

T: Upon sipping, I find it uncanny how similar this is to Sucaba. It is literally the same beer with more bourbon barrel and more charcoal: which makes it a slightly better beer. I could still imagine this style done better. Molasses is too prominent in it, for my taste.

F: That little bit of extra bitter on the finish makes all the difference when sipping. I do not find this one at all cloying, while I thought the Sucaba was a touch too syrupy in the balance.

O: A fantastic Imperial Stout from a recipe that is tried and true. Hey guys, wanna try adding some coffee??

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Photo of ichorNet
4.41/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I've had this beer a few times (as well as I think four of the Anniversary blends which typically have a decent amount of Parabola to their individual lineages), but don't seem to have ever reviewed it. Now that it's available in single 12 oz bottles, I can crack one and give it a review without having to split it with anyone else! Hallelujah!

Parabola pours a very dark color but it stops fairly short of being pitch-black. A deep brown color holding up a rather small and demure head of khaki foam, this brew is stately in my glass and doesn't delve into the depths of insanity that some other big stouts tend to. It just looks the part quite well and doesn't initially scare me off, in other words. There are some small islands of suds on the surface, but overall this is just a remarkably clear and straightforward imperial stout pour.

I allowed this about 5 minutes to open up once poured into my glass, and I'm glad I did. I noticed a slight bit of metallic-ness right away, but it peters out quickly, revealing layers of rich coconut, tannic bourbon whiskey elements, intense roast character, charred dark fruits (plum, specifically) and a bit of ethanol heat. A little bit of interesting, rye-like spice here as well, which I find to be pretty characterful but which I can also see not being up every drinker's alley. Some brandy and/or rum-like molasses/brown sugar coming across as it warms to the 55F serving temperature suggested on the bottle. Very complex and deep.

Raisin, brown bread, roasted malts, prune and plum fruitiness melding with some coffee-like elements and oak woodiness. Tannins are surprisingly not as stiff as expected here; this is very smooth with a lot of fruitiness and dark chocolate coming together really well. Balanced as hell, with an earthy hop bite toward the finish of each sip, as well as more coconut, light vanilla and layers of whiskey sweetness from the barrel aging. I don't think this is the best-tasting BA stout I've ever had, honestly, but it is probably one of the most complex considering it doesn't use any adjunct ingredients. There's just a little too much fruitiness and esters from the English ale yeast for me. However, I do really like it. A pure, bold and excellently-sipping BBA imperial stout.

The feel is silky smooth, as expected. There's very little carbonation to this one; it almost comes across as a few steps removed from being a cask ale in that sense. The finish has a little heat, but it's really well-tempered for being close to 13% ABV. I can see very little reason to age this one to any real extent, as opposed to the bottle of Bravo I had last year that was really hot right off the bat. This is just about as drinkable as FW's other most well-loved BA beer, Sucaba. Hope to find a few more bottles of this, but I might be too late.

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Photo of sulldaddy
4.41/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sampling a cellar temp 2017 bottle poured into a snifter. The beer pours a light chocolate brown color with a khaki colored head of 2 cm. The foam is dense and fades slowly to an edge layer. The beer is not as dark of a pour as I expected from the beer. THe aroma is roasted malt a bit of dark chocolate mixed with some molasses and no hints of any hops. The beer is a little boozy and some black pepper notes poke through to make me know this is a sipper beer.
First sip reveals lots of dark malt and chocolate with molasses and bourbon. NO hops show through and the alcohol is noticeable on each swallow. Takes a bit to finish the bottle, but it is enjoyable . The texture is very smooth and carbonation is almost nonexistant.
This is a nice robust imperial stout and certainly worth a shot, but it does pack a bit of a kick as I am certainly feeling it by the end of the bottle.

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Photo of Wolvmar
4.72/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 12oz 2018 Vintage No. 009 bottle into a tulip glass.

Pour: deep, rich black with no light penetrating. One finger, tan head that quickly dissipates to a thin ring. No lacing; somewhat surprising relative to other big rich BA stouts. This is a good looking beer but not exceptional.

Nose: bourbon, vanilla, caramel, dark fruit sweetness are all readily apparent. Not overwhelming but really nicely balanced. Could smell this all night long.

Taste - sweet bourbon, vanilla bean, caramel, dark cherries, brandied fruit, brown sugar, and dark chocolate all work together beautifully. Finishes with a slight dark chocolate, hops bitterness. This is a symphony of well balanced flavors. One of the best.

Mouthfeel: smooth, milkshake like viscosity. Moderate carbonation. This coats the tongue, but finishes fairly clean. Really outstanding.

Overall: this is one of the best BBA stouts I’ve tried. More balanced than KBS, at least on par with Black Note and Bourbon County. Along with Bourbon Paradise, an ATF.

One left in the cellar. Look forward to trying it in a year or so.

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Photo of Tony210
4.7/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2017 vs 2018 vintages

2017: pours a deep mahogany color with nominal mocha colored head.
2018: pours a similar dark color with much more foamy head that quickly recedes.

2017: massive aromas of barrel, chocolate, coffee, anise?, boozy, caramel, tobacco, old leather.
2018: Not as big of an aroma here. Has that same boozy aroma; lots of fresh bourbon barrel, blackstrap molasses, but missing many of the other aromas listed above, except that interesting anise smell - bordering on eucalyptus / menthol.

2017: big and boozy, lots of bourbon barrel flavor, loads of cocoa, tons of coffee, ample molasses and caramel Towards the end. Sweet but an espresso bitterness on the finish cuts the sweetness short.
2018: incredibly sweet, borderline cloying. Lots of roasted malts, sweetness has a marshmallow quality to it. Brown sugar, dark corn syrup. A lot of the above flavors are masked by the sweetness. Has a similar bitter espresso finish.

2017: fairly thick and syrupy, light carbonation.
2018: I was expecting the younger version to be a lot thicker and more full-bodied, but this is not the case here. Slick and syrupy, a little oily, a little creamy.

2017: very smooth, abv is very noticeable but doesn't get in the way of all the complex flavors. I am looking forward to drinking this vintage in another year.

2018: I am surprised that the beer with a lower abv is sweeter, but it may be due to its relative freshness. I am curious to see what a year of aging does to it. I have several bottles of each vintage...

12 oz bottle
2017: 14.5% abv
2018: 12.7% abv
I enjoyed the 2017 vintage the best
4.75 rating

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Photo of dafla67
4.99/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

One of my favorites. Deep black color. An incredible smell of chocolate, vanilla and bourbon. The taste is amazing. An incredible balance of the chocolate, vanilla and bourbon aging. Overall, and with no exaggeration, I think it is one of the best stouts. Certainly, underappreciated.

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Photo of DenverHopHead
4.4/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz 2018 Vintage No. 009 bottle into a snifter.
Appearance- a deep black that only lets a hint of light at the bottom of the snifter and along the top of the beer where some carbonation bubbles are seen; no head and lacing is nowhere to be found.
Smell- bourbon, vanilla, caramel and black licorice mesh to form a mouth watering blend!
Taste - delicious bouquet of bourbon, vanilla bean, dark cherries, dark chocolate and caramel candy working seamlessly to put my palate in a trance!
Feel - the immensely flavorful blend and mild sweetness take any edge off what the 12.7% booze might otherwise present and makes this an incredibly easy sipper!
Overall- Parabola has eluded me for far too long, but certainly worth the wait; this is supremely crafted as I find myself emmerced in the dance between bourbon, vanilla, caramel and dark chocolate covered black cherries!

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Photo of gopens44
4.54/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thick, foamy beige head that draws back to an even curtain of lacing. Nose big on molasses, maybe just a bit boozy but the bourbon isn’t overwhelming. Taste is simply terrific, with equal sized waves of rich coffee, vanilla and bourbon with a molasses finish dressed in a thick, silky body. Aftertaste is a sweet, maybe a finish similar to how it feels after drinking bourbon.

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Photo of GuyFawkes
4.67/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bottled 1/16/17; drank 4/16/17 @ the Yarchives.

Black/brown appearance.

A violent pour yielded a big tan head; frothy lace.

Fresh cream, oak, milk chocolate, mild vanilla & faint booze heat notes in the nose.

Creamy medium thick mouthfeel.

Cream, milk chocolate & mild coconut flavors up front; oak & faint booze heat notes on the finish.

Incredibly easy to quaff 3 months in - dangerously so, considering the ABV. I return to this beer yearly & it's one of the few that never disappoints. Stout perfection.

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Photo of AyatollahGold
4.24/5  rDev -8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass.
Pours out very dark brown. And once the glass is filled, it looks black with brown highlights. A thin but dense tan colored crown sits on top.
The smell is bourbon first, then a lot of dark fruit, vanilla and oak.
The taste is chocolately with the bourbon and vanilla. More chocolate than I expected. The oak and barrel qualities are nice.
The mouthfeel is warming from the bourbon. This doesn't really seem "full bodied" for a Russian imperial stout. It's not thin, just thinner than expected for the style.
Overall, it delivered on being solid and balanced, but not gonna lie I did expect more from this.

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Photo of Claude-Irishman
4.77/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a Spieglau stout glass, 1" khaki foam head which quickly dissipated,very little lacing. Looks deep dark mahogany red. Smells of chocolate,berries,burnt vanilla,must,oak. Taste is similar with a berry/cacao going on.Feels pleasant almost dry, well carbonated finish. Booze is evident (not a 14% as the header says) my 2018 vintage says 12.7%. These Firestone Walker vintage editions are all world class in my opinion. These are 10$ a bottle. Boxed individually. Overall I wish I could buy them all without feeling like a beer hoarder.

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Photo of gr0g
4.83/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2018 vintage, 12oz bottle. Black with a tan head of fine, frothy bubbles. This has a more impressive head than any other barrel-aged stout I can recall. Effusive aroma that initially suggests vanilla and toasted marshmallows. There's a distinct note of bourbon-soaked wood, but the aroma here is far from being excessively hot and boozy like with some barrel-aged beers. Ripe dark fruit notes (raisin/currant) as well, similar to Bourbon County Brand Stout in that respect.

Flavor profile is rich and sweet with a touch of alcohol on the finish. A fair bit sweeter than the KBS I had just a week ago, though I'm enjoying this at closer to room temperature. Personally, I think the sweetness suits this beer nicely, but it's just a bit much here. While I've never had this, I have had Sucaba, and the two are similar in how much residual sugar is present. The mouthfeel is just about perfect, though. It's just impossibly smooth and totally devoid of any harshness, yet not flat-tasting. Tons of rum-soaked fruit character here, comparatively little roasted malt character or other typically stout-like flavors. It's really more of a barleywine-like flavor profile overall.

For years, Parabola has eluded me. I finally got my hands on a bottle, and now I wish I'd gotten more. The reviews don't lie - this is a world-class beer.

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Photo of JBowenGeorgia
4.65/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown almost black with half a finger of tan head.
Smells of bourbon, dark fruit, chocolate, caramel, a hint of vanilla.
Taste follows, very barrel forward.
Chocolate, dark fruits, caramel, and vanilla.
A little thin but not overly so.
Overall a great BA stout.

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Photo of Holderness
4.41/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2018 vintage

L — Surprising body that I was not expecting: very deep amber with near-total clarity. Phone flashlight easily passes through the glass. Finger of tan head produced with moderate pour. Minimal retention and spotty lacing
S — Tons of sugar-coated dried dark fruits, bourbon barrel character, dark chocolate, butterscotch, hint of maple
T — Sweet dried dark fruit, lots of bourbon heat, bittersweet chocolate, brown sugar, hint of char.
F — Dense and viscous. Minimal carb, huge mouthfeel. Very similar to BCBS in that it doesn’t have much velvetiness while still having an overall nice feel
O — Tasty and potent BBA stout. I can certainly see the comparisons that many have made between it and BCBS. The appearance is my only complaint


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Photo of Mmcpartlon
3.41/5  rDev -26%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Beer was bottled less than a month ago. I hope I just got a bad bottle... the nose is reminiscent of the water collector of a dehumidifier. I also get a more than subtle note of wet dog. You can smell this thing from across the room.
Unlike the nose, The taste is surprisingly good. boozy, bourbon, toasty malts, and some sweetness. The booze is not well hidden.
Body is decent, a bit light for an imperial stout. Looks/feels more like a porter. Hope I just had a weird batch.

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Photo of morimech
4.1/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2018 Vintage

Looks like an imperial stout. Nothing remarkable. Aroma is full of anise with hints of yeast esters, bourbon, and oak. Flavor of licorice, moderately roasted malt, vanilla, and bourbon. Alcohol is well hidden with just a gentle warming in the finish. Smooth and full textured body. This and Sucaba have the same underlying licorice flavor.

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Photo of Zythophile
4.43/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle Date: 2017
Palate Contaminants: other beer

The color might seem black, but it's fairly easy to get bits of super-dark brown. There's a minimal amount of head, and not much resulting lacing.

Smell has tons of anise. There's also cola and cilantro. Very thick sorghum.

First of all, it's a sipper. Very intense. If I could sum it all up concisely, it's like a coffee-flavored dark rum. Toasted sugar provides the backdrop for everything else. It's beyond toasty, even, all the way to smoky. (Not quite all the way to charred barrel though.) Anise and cilantro are dialed way back. The coffee flavor isn't as fresh as some that I've had. Bits of both coconut husk and fine tobacco.

I can't tell that this is a fifteener; the alcohol is very well hidden. Minimal carbonation. Medium-heavy for the type. Aftertaste is sweet and smoky, along with an herbal element that's not overly strong.

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Photo of AdmiralOzone
4.51/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours the darkest of brown with a thin khaki cap that leaves minimal lacing. The aroma is bourbon, chocolate, and roasted malt. Vanilla, oak and brown sugar join in with those in the flavor. The feel is a bit thin, but overall a fantastic beer.

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Photo of matcris
4.63/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

LOOKS: Black with a small tan head. Good looking carbonation when I rock the glass.
AROMA: Big dark chocolate, bourbon, oatmeal, vanilla, and molasses.
TASTE: All of the above, in spades.
FEEL: Plenty of carbonation, smooth and pretty viscous.
OVERALL: Reminds me of BCBS, so, this is great stuff.

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Photo of goodbeergoodfood
4.41/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Look is that of a cola not very thick will some light penetrating the edges. Can't generate much head small creamy bubbles modest carbonation.
Smell is coconut ,brown sugar, cherry ,small amount of bourbon.
Sweetness followed by some hoppy undertones. Nothing really seems to dominate the flavor profile it all Blends together perfectly. There's cherry, coconut, vanilla, bourbon, brown sugar, Hops and maybe like a caramel malt.
The feel is a bit then to be honest there's more carbonation than you might expect but it's disappointingly thin.
Overall this is a very well-crafted beer period thinner than you might expect and more carbonated than you might expect but with an amazingly Blended profile drinking this pretty fresh so it may be a bit hot Pierce to see how it ages

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Photo of Apellonious
4.49/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On draft at Brawley's, once again proving to be a key point to bringing delicious beers to my taste buds. This beer is one of the best barrel aged RISs I have ever tried, if not the best. The barrels come through, blends well between the sweet and the dark chocolate.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.15/5  rDev -10%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Graciously sent to me by Hinda65.

2017 version, collab with Boulevard, 14.5% ABV

This beer pours a "darker than some, but not all" black body with chocolate edging. The head starts off at 1/2 finger and recedes to a thin ring of beige.

Aroma slaps you in the face immediately with sappy, rich caramel; piping hot fudge; bourbon; vanilla; with faint dark fruits and tobacco lingering in the far background. It invokes a saliva pool in the mouth. I'm just spending minutes smelling it. It's so great.

Flavor has a little bit of wet cardboard action, just a touch oxidized but seems to be limited to just my bottle as I've had other samples of Parabola that have been fantastic. Some oak, antiseptic whiskey, ghost notes of black cherry, tobacco, and vanilla. The bourbon heat practically wells up and burns the nostrils as the beer is swallowed.

Feel is slightly thinner than I'd like but not terrible. The whiskey really thins the beer out. It's got a subtle roasty character with lots of heat, some slight parch.

Overall, very much like drinking straight whiskey. Not a bad thing, but very strong. Will try 2018 (or even more 2017) if I can find/trade for some to see if it's a little tamer.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.61 out of 5 with 6,937 ratings