Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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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: 1,169 | Ratings: 6,172
Photo of OddNotion
4.2/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Split the bottle with my lovely girlfriend. Poured into my DFH Signature Glass.

Appearance: Pitch black with a one half finger tan head that recedes to a lacing.

Smell: Chocolate and coffee notes, brandy/bourbon, and heavy barrel scents dominate the nose. Smells very sweet.

Taste: Very good taste. The barrels play a major role but find the perfect mix where the beer still stands out on its own. It is very chocolate and coffee forward though neither are added. I want to say there is a good amount of Brandy and Bourbon presence, both of which work great in a beer like this. It is a little sweet and a little boozy but I feel that some time can take care of this.

Mouthfeel: Nice and thick which I like, slightly too carbonated but not overpoweringly so.

Overall: Lives up to the hype and I am so glad they distribute near me. Very solid beer and I am glad I have a vertical started as I would love to see how this ages over the years!

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Photo of muttyd
4.25/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Huge thanks to Jon over at Kappy's on Rt 1 in Malden for this one. Bottle for now, bottle to age.

Poured gently into a large Tripel Karmeliet glass. Pitch black with a faint, spotty tan head. Great lacing and sticks to the sides of the glass very well. Very viscous looking.

Aroma hits you right away with a deep, dark chocolate candy bar sweetness. Roasted malts, toffee, and oaky vanilla all there as well. Some slight warming alcohol comes through more and more as the beer warms up. The flavor is very similar to the nose but has a strong dark fruity/fig sweetness that mixes in well with the dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel and coffee flavors. Very big, bold imperial stout. Leaves a sticky coating on the palate and finishes with a warming alcohol presence.

Excellent offering from FW. Really enjoyed this beer.

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Photo of Vonerichs
4.25/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is one I've been dying to get my hands on for a couple years now (ever since it was on tap at Two Bros For the Love of Hops and it ran out as I was in line, before it was distributed in IL.)

Pours a pitch black with a finger of cinnamon head that dissipates in a matter of minutes.

Smells of oak, vanilla, and toffee.

The taste is very robust and vivid. The vanilla and oak hit first followed by toffee and light chocolate. There is a dark roast finish, but it's subtle.

The mouthfeel is very thick and creamy. The alcohol gives off a fairly heavy burn, but it plays well with the oak and vanilla. I'd imagine this would drink extremely well with a year or two on it, but I appreciate it young, too.

This is a top notch imperial stout well worth the hype and deserves to be in the discussion with the big boys.

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Photo of nicnut45
4.65/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Presentation: 2011 22 oz. Bottle poured into a chimay chalice. Batch No. 002.
A- Dark tan head upon a mild pour. Head fades to a very faint almost not even there head. Its as black as can be and no light will pass through this beer. Head seems to awaken as this beer sits and warms up, though its still not very much.

S- Seems a bit muted upon first pour though charred wood and rum raisins strike me first. Really opens up upon warming.
Sweet bourbon smells are mixed with choclate covered cherries and other sweet aromas. All these compliment well with the charred oakiness. A pleasure to smell.

T- Buttercream frosting sweetness upfront melds to sweet cherries. All this is abruptly pushed out of the way by a charred smokey bitterness. Alcohol is evident and hot tavelling down the gullet. Leaves a dry charcoal taste in the mouth. This is very fine, like sipping on a fine bourbon. And tastes better as it warms up.

M.F.- Thick and creamy. Like whole chocolate milk. Alcohol and carbonation provides a nice bite that doesn't leave the sweetness clinging to you your palate. Has a nice clearing effect.

O- This is wonderful and will get plenty good with time. I suggest letting it warm up past 55 as it only seems to taste better the warmer it gets. This beer is still young, but its roughness is pleasent and reminiscent of sipping on a fine bourbon. Well done.

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Photo of LaneMeyer
4.75/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from a bomber into a tulip. Damn this beer is tasty!

A- black black, one to one and a half fingers of mocha head

S- Pepper, vanilla, fig, date, plum, coffee, caramel, toffee, raspberry, cherry, mocha

T- pepper, vanilla, cherry, coffee, alcohol is quite prominent, fig, date, mocha

M- a bit hot, a nice medium bodied beer, nice carbonation, coats the tongue and mouth vigorously

O- Truly an amazing RIS. It could use a little aging but I have not had a better example of this style.

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Photo of emmasdad
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks so much to my friend Ken for bringing this one over last Friday night. Poured a deep, opaque black color, with a nice tan head. Aromas of oak, black licorice, bourbon and dark chocolate. On the palate, this one is full bodied and boozy, with flavors of bourbon, dark chocolate, oak and vanilla. Excellent; welcome to Colorado.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
4.75/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Ok, had this on draught the other day, now time for the bottle.

Fancy cardboard 'case'. Nice looking bottle, love the label.
Pours black, dark ruby tints around the rim. Nice off-brown, dense head. Love it. Solid, rich, smooth

aroma differs from the tap version a bit. This one has more of a chocolaty foundation. The leather, baked caramel, vanilla and wood are in there, but not as prominent. It's a smooth chocolate, not too sweet. Black plums and anise.

yeah, taste is more chocolaty, too. It's complex, but not as much as tap version I think. The carbonation doesn't life the flavors up and around. Still, the black strap leather, plum, raisin, coffee, vanilla, and caramel.

Feel is drier than tap, and it was fairly dry. Some tannin and velvet-ness at once. The chocolate gives way to a prune-like finish. Still smooth and darn tasty

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Photo of 1Adam12
3.71/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 batch 2. Pours dark black with huge white head, brown lacing. Smells of bourbon, oak, malt, vanilla, chocolate, and a bit of cherry. Taste is mostly bourbon, followed by a sweet malt, chocolate, then comes the vanilla, and then slammed with more bourbon. Everything seems kind of meshed together though. Not layered very well. Burning in my nose from the bourbon. Mouthfeel is full bodied and creamy. Bourbon burns my cheeks. Kind of a funny finish on this. Overall, this dude is way too hot. It just tastes messy to me. It's good, but not what I was expecting at all. Very underwhelming from the reputation, and the rating, IMO. This was hard to get, and I've had better beers that are easier for me to get. I do have 2 bottles left, and I'm not touching one at all for at least a year. I'm hoping the bourbon mellows and there will be less of a mess.

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Photo of cccarson
4.34/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

On tap at Map Room. 10oz pour into a snifter.

A: The appearance was really the only unremarkable thing about this exceptional brew. That is, if you are of the traditional mindset that stouts (and especially imperial stouts) should be jet black. It actually was more of a very dark brown to light black, almost maroon-colored at the top when held up to the light. A surprising amount of dark tan head disappeared relatively quickly (expected), with minimal lacing on the snifter.

S: The bourbon hits you first, but is not overpowering. Raisins, cherries, caramel, and dark chocolate follow in a perfect harmony, all with an underlying oak base. A magnificent smelling beer. I would have given this a 6 out of 5 if possible.

T: Chocolate-y, raisin-y, dark fruits and bourbon. The bourbon is amazingly not too hot. Instead it is perfectly woven into the beer. At 13% I fully expected this to be way too boozy. I was glad to be proven wrong. I remember Goose Island's BCBS to be a hot, boozy mess at 13%. A lot of reviews indicated a vanilla taste - I did not perceive this. Perhaps this is something that is more present in the bottled version of this beer. Complaint: too much of a soy sauce presence in the taste.

M: Viscous and thick. Syrup-y. Often beers are described as "milkshakes" - this is definitely like a shake in every bit the best way.

O: Deceptively drinkable at 13%. Actually dangerously so. The beer got better and better as it warmed. Cut out the overpowering soy taste and this is a home run.

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.85/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a solid black with a creamy fluffy coffee colored head that sticks around for a bit. Smells of coffee, chocolate, licorice, with hints of vanilla, oak, sweet bourbon and alcohol. Thick like maple syrup body has a creamy smooth mouthfeel and a light level of carbonation. Wow this one has some residual sugars that's for sure. Taste starts out with licorice and chocolate but they are assaulted with bourbon, vanilla and oak very quickly. Coffee and chocolate step in but disappear as the whole thing turns into an oddly dry finish. Long lingering alcohol heat and earthy hop bite rolled in roasted grains. This is a big beer that is tasty. I find it a bit hot in the finish, I'm curious to see what a little age does to this one.

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

Incredible brew.

a nice medium of aged Founders KBS and goose island Bourbon County Stout,

This beer exceeded all expectations.

great small great mouth feel taste is 2 nd to none. Definitely the best stout i have tasted in a long time.

I have not tasted such a complex beer in a long time.

Bought the rest that was on the shelf from the only craft shop that carried it.

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Photo of nerow
4.85/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Serving Container: Deschutes Tulip.

A- Pours a tarry black with a deep bronze head. Head retention is minimal (as is expected with a beer this heavy), and quickly recessed to a ring that clung to the sides of the glass. Beautiful.

S- Bourbon-y. Lots of vanilla, Almond, toffee, black licorice and hints of black cherry and expresso. Brilliant stuff.

T- Rather sweet to begin with, notes predominantly of bourbon and chocolate. As the middle of the beer approached, I began to taste more carmel, molasses and vanilla, along with the faintest hints of toasted almond. The back end continued this trend with a fulfilling, slightly hoppy aftertaste that harbored traces of black cherry. Finish lasted for a good half minute.

M- Creamy, with only a slight alcohol presence at the very end. Nearly flawless.

O- Bloody Brilliant. I could wax poetic about this beer for hours. Only minor flaws mar what was an otherwise fantastic tipple, flaws which will probably be eliminated after a year or two of aging. If I were king of the world, I would drink this with and for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Photo of SkiBum22
5/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A - Dark as night, absolutely viscous appearance. Very minimal head with strong lacing on the glass.

S - Chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, dark fruits, coffee, oak. You can barely smell the alcohol.

T - Sweet roasted malts and chocolate up front. On the back coffee, toffee, caramel, and vanilla. You can barely taste the bourbon.

M - Very good smooth feel. A lot softer then I would have guessed. Just like velvet.

O - Wow, that was the first word that came to mind after the first sip. This beer is as close as excellence can get in my opinion. By far the best beer for me this year and definitely in my top 5 all-time. Thank god I have one more bottle aging!

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.22/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a Dogfish Head shaped pint glass.

Big thanks to the Central PA group of the Gang Bang BIF for this bottle!

Another big Want brought forth thanks to this BIF. Good times. It pours a straight onyx topped by a finger of tan foam. The nose comprises chocolate syrup, roasted malts, molasses, very light oak, vanilla, and caramel. The taste holds notes of dark chocolate, roasted malts, molasses, light vanilla, very light coffee, and an even lighter touch of char. The body is a hefty medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a kinda chewy feel. Overall, a great impy stout, one that seems to warrant the hype it receives. Get some.

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Photo of jonvan04
4.77/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I stalked the forums on this site for weeks and was lucky to grab a bottle at Hawthornes in the one day or so before it sold out. This beer poured black with a thin tan head. The aroma was of bourbon and oak, with notes of vanilla. The taste was a mix of notes of whiskey, brandy, raisons, and vanilla along with with some hop bitterness and alcohol burn in the finish as it warmed up. The mouthfeel was creamy and relatively light considering it's a 13% RIS. There's definitely a lot going on with this beer so it's better to sip it slow so you don't miss anything. This was a phenomenal beer and was worth all the effort it took to get it, and also worth the $21 I spent on the bottle. At this point, I'll try anything that this brewery puts out.

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Photo of axeman9182
4.52/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle of the 2011 batch, allowed to warm significantly before being poured into my Duvel tulip.

Parabola pours an impenetrable black. The dark caramel head ends up at three fingers of height. The foam shows good staying power, but lacing is a bit on the light side. The nose is very good, but not great for a barrel aged stout. Sweet milk chocolate with a vanilla base is the predominant aroma, but there are also background notes of coffee and a smooth bourbon presence. That set the expectations for an above average beer, but the flavor profile blows right past that en route to legendary. The entirety of the nose is present, and in addition, caramel, cherries, and marshmallow can be appreciated on any given sip. There's so much going on with this beer that not everything gets to shine through each time I raise my glass, but it's all here and it's all delicious. The body is as rich and full as I could possibly want, with carbonation that just cuts through the sweetness and preserves the beer's malty nature. I'm not sure that I'm ready to declare Parabola my favorite barrel aged stout (hi Bourbon County Vanilla, Rare), but if it's not it's surely in the pantheon of great beers, and more proof that no one is consistently brewing big beers to the quality the Firestone Walker is

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Photo of WankelEngine
4.77/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from a 22 ounce bottle into a snifter

A: Completely opaque black. There is not even any hint of light around the edges when held up to a very bright light bulb. When I poured it, there was a very thin head, more of a cap, of tan foam. This quickly dissipated into a small ring around the edge of the glass which left very light lacing.

S: The smell is sweet and dark. I’m getting a lot of fruit smell, primarily raisins and cherries. There is a powerful backbone of sweet roasted malts which give the smell a lot of its heft. Alcohol is a notable smell and it blends well with the bourbon scent.

T: This is a big beer. The first thing I taste is a lot of dark roasted malts which give an almost sweet taste to open up with. The quickly moves into a warm, boozy bourbon flavor. The fruit scents from the smell are here as well and smell slightly lighter with an emphasis on cherry and wine. The oak flavor is very strong and becomes even more noticeable as the brew warms, complementing the spiciness of the bourbon and alcohol. Throughout the drink I can taste a sweet vanilla flavor. There are also notes of coffee, dark chocolate and toffee. What is fantastic about this beer is the balance. I can taste all of these things at once as I savor and focus on individual flavors. Nothing here is too dominant and everything comes across clearly.

M: Thick and full-bodied. Not too syrupy and the alcohol is moderately well hidden.

O: Unquestionably one of the best stouts I’ve ever had. Incredible range of flavors that somehow remain balanced and appreciable.

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Photo of aficionado
4.09/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Parabola 2011 looks black, thick, and syrupy, but that syrupyness does not translate to the taste or the mouthfeel; it's drier than you would expect. The bourbon soaked wood hits you... and burns you. It's not as balanced of a beer as KBS flavorwise and a little too hot with the bourbon. I feel myself wanting more dark chocolate, better quality coffee flavors, and less bourbon and oak. Hints of Madagascar Vanilla bean shine on the palate, but the smell of Parabola is better than the taste for me.

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Photo of r0nyn
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into my DFH snifter. Shared with fellow BAs infi, brun and several others.

Pours that thick, dark inky blackness of all good imperial stouts. Impossible to see through and that's just the way it should be. Dark cream-colored head rises to about half an inch before receding, leaving really sticky, spotty lacing. It's really easy to see the legs on this brew too, they're quite present and possibly sexier than a supermodel's. Smell is full of that amazing buttermilk aroma that is only present in the rarest and greatest of imperial stouts, so this is definitely a good sign for Parabola. Dark cocoa follows that up, along with a smattering of roasted malts, dried dark raisins and dates, and that assertive bourbon. Wow. Just nothing short of exceptional.

The dark roasty malts are evident right from the get-go, providing a sweetish introduction into the big bourbon kick that follows. Lots of boozy warmth overrides the palate, but it's never overpowering and serves as a complement to the other flavors, which is a great thing because those others are hints of vanilla, dark baker's chocolate, dried fruits and toffee. In other words, some of my absolute favorite characteristic components of imperial stouts. All the nuances are balanced very well, allowing you to enjoy all of them to the fullest. Finishes with a drying, coffee twang and some more bourbon goodness, along with a little bit of oak as well. Mouthfeel is full, with just that right amount of weight on the tongue. It's coupled with a velvety smooth texture and chewiness that's just sublime.

Parabola really is a fantastically amazing beer. Very few things live up to the hype, but I'm glad to report that this particular brew not only delivers, but sets the bar so high for other beers of its style. So glad Firestone Walker is distributing on the East Coast now, allowing me and my fellow Mid-Atlantic BAs the opportunity to taste this superb drink.

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

This beer poured jet black with a thin brown head. the head faded fast, leaving no lave.

This beer smelled strongly of vanilla. I also got some oak aroma, mixed in with some bourbon. Sweet caramle and molasses were alos poesent. A slight chocolate note mixes in as well.

This beer tastes like it smells. Sweet caramel with a healthy dose of vanilla. Bourbon as well, but more subtle.

This beer very smooth. It leaves a vanilla like aftertaste. The alcohol is well hidden in the aroma and the flavor.

This beer might not make a good session beer because it is pretty high in alcohol.

Overall: I had this at Howie and Sons in Visalia. I have had it before, and I have always loved it. This is probably one of the best bourbon aged beers I have ever had.

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Photo of unitmonster
4.82/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

on tap at Hollingshead's and Beachwood BBQ. Also have had in a number of bottles, 2011 release only.

A - Viscous and dark as night. Very little head and strong lacing on the glass.

S - The smell of this beer changes with the temperature. Colder temperature you'll pick out more of the coffee and oak character, but as it gets warmer you'll start to really notice the chocolate and bourbon smells.

T - All I have to say is wow. This might be my favorite "rare" beer of 2011 due to its availability and cost. The taste is phenomenal! Chocolate, coffee, oak, bourbon. The alcohol is barely detectable.

M - Viscous and syrupy. Definitely something you want to drink before having other beers.

O - As stated above, this might be my favorite stout of the year that's widely available. It's just a great beer for a great price and can be had without standing in ridiculous 4 hour lines at brewery releases.

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Photo of Gritch
4.76/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bought on 7/21/11, and tasted on the same day. Poured it into my trusty Shakey's Mug, and it poured jet black with a nice tan head on it. I have to say that I was unimpressed with the smell. I tend to like the molassesey smelling stouts. Once I took a taste of it my opinion quickly changed. This is one fantastic tasting stout. I really liked the after burn in your throat you get about a minute after drinking it. It tastes of strong coffee, and dark chocolate. It has an after taste of bourbon to it. I have been eating a Chocolate Crisp Bar, bought at Aldis, with each stout that I drink to see if it brings out the chocolate taste. I can say that this one goes great with a piece of chocolate when you drink it. This one has been the tastiest by far.

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Photo of kawilliams81
4.45/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a 16 oz. snifter.

A- Pitch black with one finger light brown foam, and good lacing on the glass.

S- Chocolate, oak, vanilla, dark fruits, coffee, bourbon, and you get just a hint of alcohol.

T- Sweet roasted malts and chocolate, followed right away by coffee, vanilla, and oak. Dark fruits, bourbon, and bitter chocolate/coffee at the finish. Surprised how well the alcohol is masked, although it is more noticeable as the beer warms.

M- Full bodied. Has a bit of an oily feel to it. Slight dry finish with alcohol present, again more so as it warms.

O- I would say Parabola lived up to the hype. Abacus has a slight edge in my book over Parabola both Parabola is one of the best Imperial Stout's I have ever had. Can't wait to try this on tap somewhere.

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Photo of 05Harley
4.85/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottled on 4/25/11

Purchased @ Johnsons Market Place, New Durham NH
That's right, off the shelf in NH!!!

Price - $13.49/bomber

This bad boy pours midnight black with a creamy one inch tan head. This beer is dark and sticky with polka dotted lacing staining my Imperial Stout snifter. It simply looks dark and delicious.

The aroma is strong in the nose with bourbon, dark chocolate, burnt wood, tootsie roll a hint of honey and a whole lot of sweetness. The scent is powerful and addicting which keeps me sniffing the glass before each sip.

The flavor is close to a masterpiece. A wonderful balance of malts and hops that just blows my mind. Chocolate, molasses and caramel followed by vanilla bourbon. Unlike other bourbon beers I've had this one is much more subtle in the flavor and not overdone.

The mouthfeel is thick and sticky with an amazing balance between sweet and bitterness. The finish is both smooth and peppery as the vanilla and bourbon tear into the taste buds.

Overall I really dig this one. I'm confused with the release date though but at the same time delighted. I only wish I could get this on a regular basis.

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Photo of InebriatedJoker
4.7/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured form bottle into pint tulip - bottle date 4/28/11.

A: Poured a deep black with three finger head that dissipated into a thin frothy tan lacing, good carbonation - Great looking stout.

S: Rosted barley with slight molasses , anise, bourbon, chocolate, toffee, caramel.

T: Roasted malts and barley , bitter chocolate with slight molasses,anise hints, coffee ,toffee and caramel, vanilla hints as well slight bourbon.

O: Overall this was a wonderfull RIS ,Just made my top five,
The sweet lip smacking taste was extremely well blended and balanced with great and complex flavors. Will definitely seek this one out again.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,172 ratings.
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