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 Buffalo Trace.

Added by largadeer on 03-26-2008

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Reviews: 1,189 | Ratings: 6,271
Photo of SFGuy187
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2011 version, acquired from the Firestone Walker brewery in Paso Robles. Massive props to my mom for picking this one up for me on her way to SF! The bottles states 12.5% abv.

A: Dark motor oil with minimal dark chocolate head. No light penetrates the glass ... beautiful.

S: Intensely complex. Oak, vanilla, roasted caramel, bourbon and subtle hops.

T: Very palatable for such a high alcohol beer. The bourbon character from barrel aging is well-balance. Layers of complexity one would expect from a world class barrel-aged imperial stout. Impossible to describe but it is massive and dangerously drinkable. I imagine the flavors will meld and the hops will mellow in time ... will probably be a 5 with a year of cellaring.

M: Surprisingly light ... I don't get any of the syrupy/oily aftertaste one might expect, which is a good thing.

O: This is one well worth seeking out, although I suspect many will be disappointed with its availability, especially us in CA. I didn't give it a 5 because this will only get better with age. However, it is outstanding right now.

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Photo of Ynot2
4.77/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2011 vintage On tap at the release at the brewery into a 6 ounce sniffer

Pours a deep deep dark brown, with a slight mocha colored head.

The nose is out of this world, chocolate brownie or fudge followed with carame, toffee and oak.

The taste follows the nose perfectly, chocolate and vanilla with toffee tossed in. A mild oaky bourbon flavor towards the end, the alcohol taste does not indicate 13%.

The mouth is smooth and oily. A nice thick texture.

An amazing beer that should really age well.

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Photo of MrVonzipper
4.68/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Today was a good day!
Yesterday on the official release of this '11 Parabola, I didn't have time to stop by Firestone on my way to a wedding in San Luis Obisbo. But I'm glad because today we stopped by and took our time and was able to enjoy a meal as well as this phenomenal beer.

From the tap to a snifter tasting glass:
Poured a beautiful thick pitch black color. Nothing visible while held to light. Light frothy khaki head. Very little head retention.

Notes of deep chocolate/cacao, rich bourbon, roasted malt, leather and a little roasted nut.

Deep, dark full flavor with the Same flavor notes for the most part. Nice chocolate flavor up front with sweet/dark maltiness, nice alcohol-bourbon and a little oaky.

Smooth and almost creamy mouthfeel at first to the bourbonny alcohol zip. And that nice chocolatey bourbon aftertaste. Low carbonation.

The only reason I did not give this beer a perfect score is because it will be absolutely perfect after some proper aging. All the extra levels of flavor will open up that much more to make this beer a life changer. It is crafted So Well. So Balanced. Not overwhelming in Any way. I got 2 bottles for myself and can't wait for the right time to enjoy this Perfect Imperial Stout again.

Smooth and silky with the alcoholic zip. Low carbonation.

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

Vintage 2010 Poured into a snifter

A: looks thick, it pours black so black maybe the blackest beer I have ever seen brown head looks so good glugging out of the bottle.

S: Rich sweetness deep caramel brandy notes bourbon notes chocolate and vanilla complex and very great smelling beer even maybe some dark cherry in there wow! no alcohol to speak of and I am drinking this thing warm almost room temp

T: Rich complex up front slight tartness on the tip of your tongue lots of bourbon and brandy character with chocolate. vanilla and cherry with roasted malts. 13% and no alcohol wow

M: super thick, one of the thickest beers I have ever had.

Overall: This is the best imperial stout I have ever had, Thanks FSW for making this crazy ass huge beer that is crazy good.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.35/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle into Portsmouth snifter. 2010 vintage, split with mjyoung.

A: Pours pitch black with a finger of dark brown head that faded into a thin collar leaving soapy spots of lacing down the glass.
S: Super dark and rich notes of black licorice, spicy bourbon, caramel, and dark roasted malts.
T: Follows the nose with big notes of licorice, bourbon, roasted malts and maybe a hint of chocolate and coffee. The finish is full of vanilla, marshmallow and latte foam. The aftertaste is extremely roasted, smoky and lasts forever.
M: Full bodied, thick mouthfeel with soft carbonation. Super rich and creamy feeling. For 13% the alcohol is barely noticeable.
O: An amazing amazing brew. I liked this with a year on it better than I did fresh on tap.

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Photo of waltersrj
4.62/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 Batch 2 Bottling.

Pour: Jet black with a one fingered dark tan (espresso) head that lingers for a few minutes then turning into a small bubbled edge clinging head.

Nose: Fudge brownies, vanilla, charred oak, toffee, caramel, slight hops, espresso, slight alcohol and marshmallow. The bourbon character seems very smooth and well integrated into the beer. Very complex.

Taste: Fudge brownie, vanilla, charred oak, thick molasses, slight alcohol, bourbon (toasted coconut, charred oak, toffee and caramel), marshmallow and espresso. Also, a nice hop profile comes into play at the end of all the massive chocolate and bourbon notes.

Mouthfeel: Thick and oily, tongue coating (hell, mouth coating). This is a beer to bs respected.

Overall: I absolutely think FW has it going on here. An incredibly crafted stout that is underrated as far as I'm concerned. It's better (IMO) than The Abyss, Dark Lord, Speedway, MZ, etc. Absolutely amazing.

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

This is my second review. Met David Walker as he handed me a snifter of Parabola and 12th Anniversary each during Seattle Beer Week. Chocolate, oak, vanilla, coffee, toffee, and bourbon flavors. This is the second year bottling. Exceptional RIS. My favorite.

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

Appearance. Pours a deep, deep brown, close to black. Looks thick and viscous with no head and just a trace of carbonation.

Smell. Heavy chocolate and booze. Maybe a little oak and vanilla.

Taste. Chocolate. Lots of chocolate. A little oak. Some vanilla and brown sugar. Less booze than expected from the smell, but still present.

Mouthfeel. Full body. A little sticky. Ultra smooth, light carbonation.

Overall. Awesome stuff. The only complaint would be a little heat, but a few years should help that.

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Photo of Brabander
4.3/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

We had a beertasting at Beerpirates place on sunday the 15th of may 2011. Jeffo, Claark13, Bierschenker, beerpirates and i drank a whole bunch of beers. Thanks for your hospitality Wim!

Poured in my Westvleteren tasting glass this beer looked very nice, the oily lacing sticks to the glass. Head is low. Far away in the taste you can get some hops. Vanilla is also to find in this chocolat dark beer.

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4.83/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2010 Bottle:
Darkest shade of brown possible just before black. Big creamy espresso brown cap. Sticky organic film of lace coats the interior of the glass.

Sweet rich caramel and molasses. Roasty dark chocolate and coffee. Oak and vanilla, charred wood, earthy tobacco, and Bourbon. A touch of dark fruit.

Roasty coffee and dark chocolate. Molasses and clove spiced bread. Charred smokey earth and wood. Vanilla and caramel Oak. Boozey bourbon kick with a big bitterness.

Chewy thick syrupy full body. Smooth, creamy, and velvety. Low carbonation enhances the creaminess.

Drinks big and bold. Complex and tasty as fuck. While booze is apparent, maybe doesnt feel quite like 13%. One of the best barrel aged stouts I've ever tried.

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Photo of Sean9689
4.47/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle, 2010 vintage, split amongst "the crew".

A - Pours black, light tan-colored head, nice thick collar, bubbles around the sides of the glass, no lacing or retention.

S - Dark fruity sweetness, chocolate, oak, honey, with a nice smooth boozy alcohol heat. Very sweet, but the alcohol helps maintain some level of balance without being too hot.

T - Smooth boozy chocolate, dark fruits, honey, oak, some vanilla. Nice level of sweetness and booze. Very rich and dessert-like. A nice dose of booze, but there's no way I would be able to guess it's 13%.

M - Full, rich and smooth, nice light carbonation, creamy finish.

O - An excellent BA stout. It's truthfully hard to find something wrong with this beer, besides the looks. Some of those who had this fresh said it's really settled down over the year (or so) it's been aging. Recommend, the 2010 vintage is drinking wonderfully now.

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Photo of DaveHS
4.5/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Batch #1. This one's about a year old.

A-Gorgeous jet black with 1/4 inch of chocolate milk colored head.

S-Bourbon oak, vanilla, caramel. A little boozy, but nothing significant.

T/M-The first thing that strikes me about Parabola is the wonderful silky mouthfeel. It coats the palate, allowing the full range of flavors to creep in slowly. Lots of bourbon oak, obviously. The requisite caramel/vanilla flavors are well integrated. This is a really great BA stout. The finish is warming and boozy. Never gets too sweet, which can be a problem with other beers in this style. The finish reveals a light roasted coffee bean flavor that I didn't catch right away. Full bodied with low carbonation.

O-Great stuff.

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Photo of cbutova
4.55/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Chico1985 busting out another big gun! Thanks as always, reviewed from notes last night. Bottle dated 05/05/10 (05+05=10).... reviewed on 05/06/11 (05+06=11), weird number patterns, maybe were in for a treat!

A- Pitch black oil comes out of the bottle and a dark mocha colored head forms on top of it. A nice size and good retention. Frothy cloud and ring leave a nice coat of thick lace.

S- Bourbon and very rich chocolate. Pretty much no alcohol. Good oak notes. Smells like a very decadent chocolate cake dessert, yummy.

T- Roasted malt and rich chocolate followed very nicely by whiskey, toasted oak and vanilla. Cherry, raisins and dark fruit add a good dimension once it starts to warm up a lot. A tiny hint of earthy hops as well.

MF- Thick and almost chewy feel with a very silky smooth level of carbonation. Just a bit of warmth from alcohol.

Amazingly hidden ABV and a very rich flavor make this one drink dangerously. A really nice blend of flavors come in this bottle, anyone who likes big stouts needs to try this.

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Photo of Chico1985
4.72/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bomber shared with cbutova. nerd sent me this as an extra in a trade, much thanks! This was exactly 1 year, 1 day old and I didn't even know it until I had already opened it, awesome.

Pours black as black. Small brown head turns to ring eventually leaving some lacing.

Smell is rich chocolate cake and roasted malt, not much bourbon barrel. Simple but great scent, gains strength with warmth.

Tastes like fudge brownies, vanilla, oak and bourbon are on the light side but balanced excellently. Big on roasted malts, smoky almost. Has the feel of a very traditional imperial stout with a good, not overpowering bourbon taste which is awesome.

13%, wha wha? Insanely hidden, goes down so easy. Lowish carbonation, thick mouthfeel, great balance. 13% here is a magic trick.

Comparing it to other bourbon stouts, it doesn't have the complexity of The Abyss, but this is WAY less harsh and more balanced than 1-year old Bourbon County Stout. Great beer, hope to get another bomber.

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Photo of ktrillionaire
4.47/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Big thanks to Beerzebub for getting me this one, some time ago.

A - It pours a deep brown-black, and is capped with a tight tan head. It looks quite a bit like a FES; more so than RIS. Nice, regardless. Not so much lace, (or retention) but the brew shows legs to atone.

S - The nose is intially very basic heavily roasted stout character, with small hints of sweetish wood impartation. As it opens up I get wildly ranging notes including soy sauce, charcoal, cocoa, vanilla, caramel-toffee, and pipe tobacco.

T - The flavor is quite deep, favoring heavily roasted barley, coffee and chicory, and dry-drying oak notes (in contrast to the woody sweetness offered in the nose.) As it airs out, notes of vanilla, burnt sugar, dried medium- and stone- fruit, and booze are increasingly evident. I am left with the impression that this is intended to be a rather traditionalist take on the style (a la Stone IRS), as opposed to brews like BT, DL, Hunahpu, BCBS, et al. which eschew preconceived notions. As such, it is a resounding success.

M - The feel is kind of like a FES; it is somewhat too easy-drinking for the style?!

O - This is a rock-solid brew. Firestone Walker has impressed me with their steadfast grip on the fundamentals.

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Photo of nhindian
4.38/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into a Southern Tier tulip. Bottle courtesy of thedindaniel, thanks Daniel!

A - Pours a midnight black, there's no way to garner anything through this opaque deluge of liquid. It actually has a good amount of chocolate highlights, dancing around the edges and offering the any visibility in this beer. There's a nice 2-fingered, dark mocha head, quite dark and thick and composed of tightly bunched bubbles. It has some of the most sporadic lacing I've seen, spattering haphazardly around the glass. Decent alcohol legs as well.

S - The nose is very robust and complex, bringing rich aromas of chocolate, anise, slight dark fruits, and alcohol. The malts play a huge part in this beer, bringing a bit of roast, a thick fudge-like chocolate characteristic, and the licorice is quite strong. There's a little alcohol astringency in the back-end.

T - The first taste brings a huge rush of flavor that it's hard to categorize everything. At first there's huge chocolate and fudge notes, mixed with bourbon and vanilla. The bourbon is a complement to the flavors here rather than driving it, which is how I prefer my bourbon-aged beers to be. The roast is here as well, but doesn't give off much coffee notes, just some bitterness and a feeling similar to tobacco. The licorice is here is well, but more subdued and melds well with some of the other dark fruit here. The alcohol astringency is back here, but serves more as a reminder that this beer is 13% rather than something that makes this unenjoyable, as that is certainly not the case.

M - Mouthfeel is moderately heavy-bodied with pretty low carbonation. Acceptable carbonation for the style and it feels a bit syrupy in the mouth. Leaves a heavy coating on the palate and keeps injecting flavors in the aftertaste well after I put the glass down.

D - Drinkability is high. This is an excellent barrel-aged beer and certainly a great introduction to Firestone Walker. I'm a sucker for the chocolate fudge taste and smooth bourbon in stouts so this is definitely a favorite for me. I will definitely be seeking out further releases and try to cellar some!

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Photo of Jayli
3.35/5  rDev -26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Acquired from beerbeerbeerbeer so a big THANK YOU goes out to him!

Consumed 4/19
Poured in to my Portsmouth snifter

A: This beer pours an opaque deep brown with a one finger brown head. Head recedes quickly leaving small spots of lacing.

S: Nose is sweet, toffee, molasses, brown sugar and a bit of roast.

T: Taste starts with a sweet vanilla and toffee flavoring. Middle has a roastiness where a hefty dose of alcohol flavoring takes over. Helloooo bourbon! More oaked vanilla notes and bitter bakers chocolate are present in the background.

M: Medium body, medium carbonation, a bit thin and slightly prickly.

O: Goes down alright, somewhat tasty, somewhat filling, decent kick, ok representation of style. I was really looking forward to this beer, and although it's not undrinkable, I would opt for others of the style. Perhaps aging a bit would enhance this beer.

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Photo of Arenbeer
4.42/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle into a Goblet glass

2010 Vintage at Fridge Temp

A- Pours a viscous solid black with a real thin less than a finger khaki head that dissipates to nothing more than a small rim around the edge of the glass. Leaves sticky splotchy lacing and some really nice alcohol feet on the side of the glass.

S- Smells really good and inviting. Up front is a strong bourbon, oak, and vanilla from the barrels. Behind that are tons of subtle chocolate, coffee, and dark fruit notes in there. Definitely some alcohol present in the nose as it warms.

T- Wow so much going on here. Roasted burnt malts hit the front of the tongue that's followed by a nice blend of dark bittersweet chocolate, a nice array of dark fruits, and slight coffee. As it warms the bourbon heat comes out more as well as some really nice oak and vanilla flavors. Alcohol is extremely well hidden even at room temperature, the complexity of the beer makes it invisible.

M- Full bodied with moderate carbonation and I nice dry finish

Overall this is an extremely complex and well crafted Imperial Stout no doubt. I am really interested in tasting this vintage in a couple years and seeing how it changes.


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Photo of nightwing002
4.18/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured into my Bruery tulip glass. this was a reserve series no 001 bottle that was brought to a recent tasting.

a - poured jet black into my glass. gave a slight tan head that dissipated fairly quickly.

s - great smelling beer that has a lot of scents given off. the use of different barrels is apparent with its aroma. scents that stand out are chocolate, oak, roasted coffee, and a hint of vanilla.

t - the number of flavors tasted are numerous just like it's scent. tastes of bitter chocolate, coffee, dry oak, vanilla, and a hint of a red wine undertone. the flavors become more detectable as the beer warms.

m - medium bodied but thinner than i was expecting for a stout. good carbonation.

d - this is a very flavorful stout from FW. the use of blended barrels is very noticeable with the smell and taste of this beer. easy to drink especially knowing that it is 13% avb.

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

Pours a very dark brown with a gorgeous red tint around the edges. A it of lit brown head. Very pretty. Smells cry bourbon heavy. Maybe a bit astringent on the nose. Tstes dry and sweet. There is a wonderful bitterwsweet chocolate malt as well as some solid vanilla as it warms. Maybe a touch of coconut as well. Very sweet but dry. Overall, a solid barrel aged brew

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Photo of brew3crew
4.35/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-black in color with no head whatsoever
S-mellow bourbon and a little vanilla
T-alot like it smells. Very smooth alcohol burn down the pipes
M-very mellow and sweet. Medium bodied and smooth
O-very good beer. Glad I have one to try with some age on it

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Photo of jcnd9803
4.42/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to trappistlover for this!

(A)- Thick and pitch black. Initially produced a good brown colored head, but that left pretty quickly.

(S)- Very rich. Molasses, caramel and chocolate sweetness, with some coffee. Amazing bittersweetness. Also smells strong.

(T)- Follows the smell to a tee. Coffee, chocolate, molasses and caramel, however I'm now catching that light vanilla that makes bourbon aged stouts so wonderful. You can taste the heat, but the heat tastes good!

(M)- Very thick and rich. I wish it had just a bit more, or really any, carbonation.

(O)- It's strong and rich, but I could easily throw this whole bomber back myself.

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

A: Standard pour yields a 2.5 finger dark, frothy, mocha head with fantastic retention. Beer pours thick and oily, hiding its carbonation well with a dense, pitch black color. Lacing is stringy and spotty with great stick and thick legs.

S: Nose is vanilla, chocolate, honey, booze, fudge, dark fruit, prunes, plums, and sweet soy sauce. Very aromatic and deep.

T: Opens maple syrup and a slight bit of toasted malt. Chocolate, vanilla, prunes, and sweet soy sauce in the middle. End is a slight twinge of booze and heat miced with coarse brown sugar. Finish is fudge, chocolate, roasted malt, and sweet soy sauce with a cocoa powder aftertaste.

M: Medium to full bodied and moderately carbonated. Oily and silky in the mouth and very smooth going down. I'd give the feel a 5 just on the finish alone. Super smooth with a pleasant yet subtle aftertaste.

D: For a 13% ABV beer, you can barely taste the heat at all here. Deliciously full flavored with a feel that's unmatched. Do what it takes to seek this one out. It's worth it.

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Photo of glazeman
3.92/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Split with airohead2001. I had high expectations for this beer, as I enjoyed a sample at FoBAB and enjoyed FW13.

A: black in color with a ½ finger mocha head that fades fairly quickly into a crown and oily film. There's minor lacing.

S: There's a little bourbon and then some alcohol that comes through as a windex type smell. I don't know if my nose is just off tonight, or if this beer just doesn't have a smell anywhere near the taste. I was worried I had a bad bottle at first smell, but the taste is spot on.

T: There's a nice balance of milk chocolate, a little bit of roast, and a little bit of coffee. The bourbon comes through up front and is just the right strength, as it adds to the overall profile without being overpowering. This is an excellent beer for this style, but not quite my favorite. My only complaints are I would have liked a little more smoothness and a little more dark fruit flavors.

M: The beer has an above average viscosity for the style, which I like. The carbonation is appropriately low and the aftertaste is great.

O: Overall, an excellent beer. Not quite in my top 5 stouts, but probablyly in the top 10. The beer is balanced, tastes great, and has great drinkability for 13%.

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Photo of airohead2001
4.02/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I distinctly remember the day when my buddy and I took a break from Step 1 studying to discuss the means by which we would procure some Parabola. I've had Firestone 13 and Firestone 14, but this is my first tasting of Parabola.

Appearance is nothing special. Black. One finger brown head that quickly fades. Not too viscous.

Smell is good - booze, dark fruits, some cinnamon, and some mild roasts that remind me of a porter. These blend together to make a nice scent, but again, nothing too special.

Taste, on the other hand, is outstanding. Warm vanilla bourbon up front with plenty of booze. Finish is harsh, tobacco roasts that linger until the next sip. The sweetness of the vanilla mixed with the harsh roasts blend together nicely. This beer doesn't have the chocolate or coffee overtones that make many bourbon stouts special, but really it doesn't need it.

Mouthfeel is very good - sticky and thick.

Overall this beer was great and incredibly drinkable. The ABV is noticeable, but the taste is so rich that I can't keep the glass down. Well done.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,271 ratings.
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