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Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

1,159 Reviews
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Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

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: 1,159 | Ratings: 6,109
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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Photo of RLVineh
4.99/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Dark Black but not motor oil. Nice mocha color in the head. Smells absolutely amazing, Dark chocolate, bourbon and coffee with a slight hint of caramel. Taste is fantastic bourbon and dark chocolate blend well with the vanilla and molasses. Thick body to this beer, absolutely amazing, cant wait to have this with some age

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Photo of Chcshammonde
4.66/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

On tap at Ale Arsenal. Had this right after BCBS, interesting comparison. This was wonderful overall and rated slightly higher because it had more bitterness to balance the sweet malt and bourbon flavors. It was a pleasure to drink this, huge kudos to Ale Arsenal for stashing a keg of this; I don't think I would have been able to try this until next year!

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

I've been waiting to crack this sucker open for a few months. Couldn't wait any longer! 2015 vintage

Average aggressive pour yeilds about half an inch of tan head. Fades pretty quickly. Looks like its highly carbonated, tons of rising bubbles can be seen if held up to the light. Very very dark black in color.

Aromas. The best way I can describe the smell is chocolate covered bourbon soaked plums. Very very slight banana yeastyness. A little coffee, and maybe a bit of vanilla.

Taste: first sip..... The aroma misleads. I was expecting a bourbon bomb. Nice and smooth, almost "crushable", for the style, that is. Stone fruit, earthy barrel flavor, caramel dark chocolate truffles, with a bit of bourbon. As it warms in your mouth, the bourbon and barrel become more pronounced, finishing with a nice warmth/booziness. Mouthfeel is nice. Nowhere as near carbonated as it appeared.

If I had to describe this beer in one word: Smooth.

Overall, I haven't had too many BB stouts, but I can see why this is in the top 50 brews on this site. Super smooth, balanced, complex goodness, even for a " younger" 2015 vintage brew. Try it, 100%!!!

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

2014 vintage, pours a dark brown,black color with a small head smells of bourbon , vanilla oak and roasted malt, Taste follows the nose its just superb the BA notes in each sip is perfect its mellow bourbon so smooth so tasty with this stout some hops and roasted malts play in with some vanilla and oak, mouth feel is velvet smooth with notes of bourbon, abv is there but i found my self drinking this way to fast, again this is top tier for BA Stouts

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

L: Pitch black, thick, no head until you swirl you glass.
S: Bourbon soaked chocolate cover cherries!
T: Bourbon soaked chocolate cover cherries!!!! Holy amazing. The bourbon is not as in your face as BCS, but more so than KBS.
F: Very coating, flavor stick around long after you drink it. My only light knock is it's just not as thick as BCS.
O: Worth the search and hype, absolutely fantastic!!!

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Photo of Robomunky
4.99/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2015 on tap at the Beer Junction in Seattle. I always remember this beer being excellent. Then it comes back around and knocks me on my ass all over again. World class BA stout.

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

2014 bomber in a bourbon taster glass. Just everything about this beer is perfect. From the way it looks/pours to the way it smells to the way it taste and finally to the way it finishes. Its truly an experience. You simply end up wanting more after each pour. Firestone BA program is top notch and the best example comes from its Parabola. There is really nothing bad I can say about this beer other than you need to be on top of the release schedule for it at all your craft beer spots.

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Photo of GregJ
4.47/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown/black with a light tan head. Smells of bourbon, vanilla, caramel, sweet malt. Tastes of caramel, vanilla, bourbon, sweet malts, dark malts, some coffee. Bourbon and coffee. Medium/full body, medium carbonation.

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

Black with tan head, little lace; Caramel, toffee and chocolate aromas - there is a dank fruit nose here too; Caramel and toffee flavor a up front, cherries dipped in dark bittersweet chocolate, and a boozy finish; Rich velvety tongue coating, long lasting medium mouthfeel, with a little alcohol burn with dry wood linger; Overall so well balanced, the interplay between the toffee/chocolate malt and dark stone fruit, and earthy hop flavor is sublime.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 1,159 ratings.
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