Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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6,656 Ratings

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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Ratings: 6,656 |  Reviews: 1,268
Photo of beerwolf77
4.69/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottle courtesy of chswimmer. A cali BA that sadly no longer exists. Shared with the tickeratzi.

A: Pitch black hue. Quick burst of mocha hued head. Tiny amount of soapy lace. Small cap.

S: Sweet chocolate syrup, roast black coffee, caramel, molasses, tiny wisp of campfire. Almost no trace of the abv can be found.

T: Dark chocolate and black coffee are the most dominant. Much more bitterness in the flavor than the nose. Black licorice and molasses. Hints of campfire. Again almost no trace of the high abv.

M: Thick chewy body. Very mild carbonation.

D: Overall a great Double Stout. Super drinkable. FSW hit this one out of the park.

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Photo of Metalmonk
4.35/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Sent by msubulldog25, to whom I give eternal gratitude, for this beer and the many others he's sent me over the years. This, my 1300th review, is for you buddy!

A marvelous coal-black liquid pours into the snifter. As it was pouring, the light revealed some deep ruby/burgundy-like highlights, but now that it's in the glass it's total black hole time. The head is a toasted brown beauty, but it gets scared away quickly by that 13% alcohol thing.

The label doesn't make clear what kind of barrels this was aged in, and from the aroma, it's hard to discern if the barrels held whiskey in their former lives or not. Such a thing is usually pretty clear, but here I get some charred wood aroma, and a peculiar boozy-plus-vanilla-plus-soggy dark fruit flare that could be showing the ghost of whiskeys past, or just be that big ABV talking. Either way, it's subtle, especially for the strength, with tiny nuances deep beneath the surface.

Mmm...mellow, mellow, mellow, with dark bittersweet chocolate, serious dark roast coffee, and alcohol-soaked wood all woven together. Plum, fig and raisin are threaded into all of this, and they become more prominent with warming. Of course this can't escape without some heat, but for the strength, the alcohol level is just right. The heat is a warming, soothing one, far from some kind of aftershave disaster. As with all other elements of Parabola, the keyword here is "balance."

As the taste is triple-mellow, so the mouthfeel is smooth, smooth, smooth. Silky, slick, and carbonated just enough to add textural brightness, this wins because it's so approachable. With the mellow, nuanced taste, and the high alcohol, something thicker would have been overkill and/or out of place.

For a barrel-aged 13% imperial stout, it really doesn't get much more drinkable, or accessible, than this. Obviously one to take slow and savor, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it's just too good to drive down quickly. What a start to the weekend...

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Photo of nkersten
3.98/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes, shared generously at a Chicago tasting. Pours black with a tiny tan head that fades leaving little trace. Smell is mostly oak and light hops, sweet dark malts and vanilla. A slight metallic smell as well. Taste is bourbon and carmel up front, heavily roasted malts and a bit of alcohol in the finish. Mouthfeel is lighter then i would have expected, medium to heavy with a light carbonation. Overall drinkability for the style is pretty good, but this one could use a little time.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.45/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Insane intensity and full of character, this Imperial Russian Stout is one for the ages.

Dark, dark brown (nearly black) with almost complete opaqueness, only admitting light around the estreme edges. Froathy tan head formation leads to average retainage (falters underneath the thinning of 13% abv.). Light on lacing but moderate on classic brandy legging.

Deep and complex aromas start and finish with brownie-like chocolaty notes that are decorated with cherry, sherry, soy, grape, dates, figs, caramel, vanilla, and aged woods. With all that going on, the beer's aroma is all about the bittersweet chocolate and French roast coffee.

Chocolatey early, the beer morphs into Irish Coffee flavors (think whisky and cream), and fruitness that comes equally from fruity esters and alcohols. Again, aged and dehydrated fruits of cherries, apples, figs, dates, raisons all give a rum-soaked fruitcake flavor that carries through to the finish and aftertaste.

Full and rich early, the beer breaks early to finish with an alcohol thinning texture and ultimately warm, maybe hot finish. Very drinkable because it doesn't start too thick but doesn't finish thin, fusal, or abrasive.

Very well balanced throughout, Parabola demonstrates all of what is prominant about the spread of flavors that make up the Russian Imperial Stout profile. All of this manifests in a beer that reviels new flavors with each warming sip. Delicious and succulent from sip to finish, this beer drinks much more easily than it should.

Thanks Auroracrisis!

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Photo of Mora2000
4.35/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to thirdeye11 for sharing this bottle. This has been on my wants for a long time.

The beer pours a dark brown to black color with a tan head.

The aroma is a mix of licorice and roasted malt. The beer's aroma reminds me of Ten Fidy and is a little disappointing.

The flavor more than makes up for the slight disappointment in the aroma. I get a ton of roasted malt, chocolate, vanilla, bourbon and maple. The flavor is very complex and all of the flavors meld together very well, with none of the individual flavors stomping on the others.

Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation.

This is how you do a bourbon barrel aged beer. Excellent.

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Photo of akorsak
4/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A bottle shared at Al's blow-out.

A: The imperial stout sure is imperial looking, dark and black. A moderate-sized head, a tan color, stands out against the darkness.

S: The nose is nutty and roasted, plenty of malts to go around. Call me an outlier, but I wasn't impressed with the bourbon presence.

T: The roasted flavors consume the stout, burnt and bready, well toasted. Nuttiness matches the dark stouts, a sweeter flavor that puts a few dents into the roasted depth. Again, the barrel aging isn't very dominant. Instead the malt profile is left to fend for its own. Some oak comes through late, but the oomph of bourbon seems to be lost on me. Anyone wanna send me another to try?

M: The mouthfeel is that of an imperial stout, sweet and deep, burnt and full. Much more stout than bourbon, at least what was in my glass.

D: Big and bold, a mouthful of a stout. Only problem is that is like every other imperial stout, dark and warming with plenty of roasted flavors.

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

Review #400

A: Pitch black. Opaque. Big beige head that has the look of wet sand on the beach. An ideal appearance.

S: Huge roasted malt presence with very prominent bourbon aroma.

T: Absolutely fabulous. Everything I love about barrel-aged beers is embodied in this beer.

M: Rich and full-bodied with a great, warming lingering finish.

D: An awesome beer that I highly recommend. One of the best barrel-aged imperial stouts I have ever had.

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Photo of billab914
4.62/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 22oz bottle into my Stone RIS glass. It poured pitch black with a thin tan head to it. After a few minutes the head had all but retreated to the edges of the glass, where it left just a bit of lacing.

The aroma shows a lot of dark chocolate coming through. Oak wood with a bit of a bourbon alcohol and vanilla flavor come through as well. Very flavorful and complex aroma to it overall.

The taste has a lot of really great flavors to it. Dark chocolate mixes with a pretty big barrel aged, vanilla and oak wood flavor. Towards the finish more of the bourbon notes come out along with some coffee and bitter chocolate. Just a bit of some cherry flavors pop up and add a nice chocolaty cherry aspect to it. Fantastic flavor overall and perfect barrel aging for my taste. It doesn't get better than this.

The mouthfeel is on the thicker side with carbonation being low. Drinkability is great for such a high alcohol beer. The flavors all came together excellently. The barrel aging really enhanced it and gave it some fantastic depth instead of overpowering it. World class beer overall and one of the top of the style for sure.

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Photo of mjn5036
4.08/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled opened and poured into a large snifter. A black hole of a beer. The pour is dark, thick; a vicious appearing beer unrelenting and uncompromising in its attempt to keep out the light. A small, one inch head arises, initially light in color but darkens into a nice mocha/caramel color as is subsides into a thin ring clinging desperately to the side of the glass. On the nose I am picking up on strong fig, lots of bourbon, vanilla and a nice oakiness that gives way to booze and more booze. Taste is right along the lines of the nose, in addition to a really pleasant presence of thick caramel; chocolate covered toffee, cane sugar and toasted grains. The mouth feel is medium to heavy, at times almost seeming to be too much at once. The moderate amount of carbonation helps the drinkability. A good beer overall. This is a beer that demands your time and attention; sip it slowly and reap the benefits.

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Photo of mikey711
4.32/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Dark brown near black with a small mocha colored head. it doesnt hold all that much but it doesnt bother me all that much

S: Lots of caramel notes upfront which is very pleasnant almost like a twix bar with some cookie and chocolate notes as well. nice vanilla notes and some woodiness. The bourbon adds a nice bit of spiciness as well

T: Again the caramel and toffee notes mix with an almost cookie like flavor. Nice oak notes that bring out some vanilla and chocolate sweetness. the bourbon is very prevalent and both sweet and spicy

M: there is some heat and it is a bit thin for 13% and actually a bit more like a strong ale. it is not very coying

D: A slow sipper for sure and best shared, but overall a great beer that i wouldnt mind getting more of

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Photo of JAXSON
3.6/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours black with a mocha head that fades to a ring. Nose is roasted malt of the burned varietal. Typical FW anise, almost mint-like barrel notes shine in. That was part of what I loved so much about the FW13. Bitter baker's chocolate. Mouth is almost numbing, very heavy, that burned malt playing with dark fruits like dates, raisins, still that nice herbal quality. Boozy and fairly hot. Heavy and unfocused to my taste. Has good qualities but this is a bit much on its own. I much prefer it in the anniversary blends.

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Photo of deltatauhobbit
4.47/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tasted at the local SMBDC meeting, got a decent serving size in a taster glass.

Pours a dark brown/black color with a nice viscosity to it, the size of the glass makes it difficult to produce any sizable head but there is some small bubbeage to it.

Smell is a beautiful mix of dark roasted malt, chocolate and just the right amount bourbon, some dark fruit notes linger about as well, from the bourbon you can pick up that it could be a little hot.

Taste isn't as overwhelming with the bourbon that I thought it was going to be which also means that it isn't overly hot like some similar beers, in fact all the flavors meld quite well together, the dark bitter chocolate is probably my favorite part about this beer, good stickiness in the mouth as well, not overly syrupy and not cloyingly sweet which makes this beer all the more respectable.

Didn't think I would enjoy this one as much as I did, a top notch example of the style. Something I'd like to try again, hopefully from a larger sample.

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Photo of srandycarter
4.17/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

1000th review!

A - Black, of course. Small tan head after hard pour. Thin ring left with not much lace. EDIT: Subsequent hard pour delivers better head.

S - Yum. Every open a bar of really good dark chocolate and shove your nose in it? Booze and wood notes in the smell. Malt in there trying to say something... anything... over these other loud mouths!

T - Beautiful. Chewy. Chocolately. Booze and wood very evident. Little anise and molasses in there too.

M - Thick, low carb, coating and finishes still thick on the palate. Understandable for this one.

D - Hell no. Sipper and good night!

Good stuff!

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Photo of steve8robin
4.6/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Got this as an extra in a trade. Thank you so much Dave. 22oz bottle, 2010 vintage. Very excited to try this one...

A: A beautiful thick deep dark pour with a 1 inch deep mocha colored head that fades quickly to a nice mocha foam atop the brew. Very good.

S: I get some nice sweet bourbon chocolate upfront quickly blended a nice dark fruit raisin scent. I get some nice coffee roast notes in the middle with some creamy dairy on the backend. Almost like a fig and molasses scent blended in there. There are a lot of different scents bouncing around. Very good.

T: It's a brew where I get some many flavors in the first sip all at once. There is not one specific pronounced flavor. I get a blend of cocao, vanilla, bitter chocolate, a perfect spot for the warm bourbon, followed by some awesome creamy milk chocolate. As I drink more, the more it tastes like a perfectly balanced milk stout. I start to get some port notes blended with some booziness and dark fruit. This is my idea of a stout. Perfect!

M: Full bodied with a very nice carbonation balance. Very good.

D: The drinkability on this one is quite good. Goes down good once you get a handle on all of the flavors bouncing around. Good.

All in all, bravo Firestone Walker! This is my idea of a fantastic stout. Definitely worth hunting if you like deep, thick, creamy, dark stouts to try and grab some to age. One of my new faves for sure!!

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Photo of JohnGalt1
4.5/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Inflatablechair busted this one out at Eric's a while back... just getting around to entering in the notes.

Pours with a thick brown head... great retention and lacing...

Nose shows more wood than bourbon but with a good roasty background that carries a subtle sweetness reminiscent of dark dark chocolate.

Flavor is immediately drier than the nose made me believe.. bits of vanilla and sweet cigar wrapper envelope waves of great complexities.. a bit boozy with warmth.. and the malts open up to be a bit sweeter as the temperature rises.

Smooth but present carbonation with a pretty full decadent mouth coating body.

Thanks Sammy.... I really need to try and score some of these before the wells run dry.

4.5 across the board.

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Photo of hophead247
4.62/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a pitch black color with a brown highlights and a tan 1 finger head. Poured into my Surly Darkness glass. Have heard how good this beer is and really am trying to not be dissappointed if it doesn't reach the level of goodness I have heard so much about. Coffee, bourbon, and cream type notes in the aroma. This is a very complex beer with lots of aromas and tastes. I taste dark chocolate, coffee, bourbon, and some hop bitterness. I would say this is a very balanced and complete Imperial Stout well worth the praises I have heard. Medium/heavy mouthfeel. Very rich and good. It doesn't really get much better than this.

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Photo of TKEbeerman
4.68/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Firestone Walker Parabola courtesy of coryking:

A: Poured into my Firestone Walker Pint Glass (purchased for me by my beautiful girl friend) this brew pour an extremely dark black with an extremely impressive, almost 2in, chocolate milk bubble colored head that refuses to bow down and leaves some of the best lacing I've seen on a beer glass (let alone @ 13%) ever.

S: The aroma is almost perfect. Were those barrels made of chocolate? Seriously there is a heavy amount of biter sweet chocolate in this brew. Molasses and slight espresso with whims of whiskey make up the nose.

T: Upfront chocolate dominates the flavor. Vanilla is present and really does an excellent job smoothing out and combining everything present in the brew. As far as Bourbon barrel aged stouts go, this brew has note more along the lines of Whiskey, and it is a slight accent that just gives this beer more depth. Molasses and a little hop bitterness wrap up the profile of this stout. As the brew warms, whiskey becomes a more dominate flavor note and chocolate starts to take a back seat.

MF: The mouthfeel is good without being spectacular. Like many barrel aged beers (especially Bourbon) I've had, I've begun to notice the barrel aging really does a job of thinning the mouthfeel just a tad to much. Still this brew is silky smooth and excellent.

D: Drinkability at 13% is superb. This stout is a little more filling then most.

Overall, I am very grateful to coryking for a trade I thought I could not have completed with the beers available in my area. Parabola is a stout worthy of its place amongst the best.

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Photo of davod23
4.55/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

I finally broke open the case of Parabola I have sitting in my cellar. I've had this a few times before, but never reviewed. It was, at one point, my favorite beer... I'm looking forward to this.

Pitch black, viscous, but not chunky pour. Dark tan head billows up, but fairly quickly dissipates completely. A swirl coats the interior of my Bruery tulip in brown. This is a really nice-looking stout - I wish the head stuck around a bit longer, but hell, this is a 13% barrel-aged stout, I can't expect miracles.

Smell is delicious. Great balance. Huge chocolate, coffee, and roast. Touch of smoke, vanilla, brown sugar, and anise. All of this backed up by the bourbon barrel, which thankfully does not overpower the brew.

Taste follows the nose for the most part. Bourbon plays a bit bigger role here. Chocolate, coffee, vanilla. Oak. Molasses. A sweet beer, but not overly so. Alcohol is present, but very, very well hidden considering the ABV on this brew. Bittering hops in the finish balance this out nicely - I recall this on tap at the release being a bit astringent in the finish, but that's either not present in the bottled version or it's mellowed out in the time since the release. Either way, I'm happy. This beer is a flavor monster.

Mouthfeel is awesome. Thick, syrupy, but with a surprisingly dry finish. The end is as clean as you can possibly get with a stout of this magnitude.

Drinkability is tough. It's not easy to drink a ton of this stuff - I had about 3/4 of the bomber, and that was enough for me. I kinda wish this was in smaller bottles, like 2008 Bourbon County.

Nevertheless, this beer is awesome. Highly recommended, if you can find it.

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Photo of Spica66
4.53/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Received in trade from Darkrthebettr. Thanks, Erik!

Poured into tulip with Fr. Ian and Tom Taylor.

A: Black as the night is long. Beautiful brownish head. Absolutely perfect looking stout.

S: They named it right. Dark chocolate, dark fruits, dark caramel.

T: Just like it smells. Bitter chocolate, dark figs, really Imperial Stouty. No gimmicks, just huge, dark flavors.

M: Creamy with the just right amount of carbonation. No stickiness. Really, really nice.

D: Alcohol hits a little hard in the chest on the way down, or else I would have given a 5.

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Photo of punkrkr27
4.4/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

nky black pour with a small, off-white head. Intense black coffee aroma, with lots of dark chocolate, molasses, brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla, and smoky, heavily charred oak. Heavy, bitter black coffee falvor with dark chocolate, lots of charred oak, and lots of dark fruit. Chalky assertive hops on the finish. Creamy, full body with soft carbonation.

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Photo of ToasterChef
4.12/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from my tasting notes of a decent sized sample I consumed at an epic tasting event held with the members of the SMBDC.

Dark brown liquid is capped with a slight skim of tiny brown bubbles. Cocoa and bourbon make up the very appealing aroma. The beer tastes chocolately, with a strong bourbon finish. Although the flavors are there, the alcohol is well-hidden. There isn't burning or a warmth to the swallow. Medium body and low carbonation. Lots of coating. The flavors stay with you a while, so you don't feel the need to grab another sip as soon as you put the glass down. A note on the bottle recommends you share, and I agree, but I would want a large pour. This is a good beer!

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Photo of MbpBugeye
4.75/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Another blind beer sent to me by AleWatcher. It calls for a snifter and it says be careful not to look at the cap when opening. Its got a very unique foil on the top, much like bottle of wine. This is making me think Firestone Walker...

A- Super black and thick looking. Not much of a head, it really takes a heavy pour. The head is wet sand colored and short lived. This is about as thick and black looking as any beer can get.

S- Imperial stout for sure, and a BIG one at that. Lots of alcohol, licorice, dark berries like currants, super rich and bitter black chocolate, port wine and some oak. Its hot 'n heavy.

T- Oh man, oh man, oh man. This is getting a 5 for taste. So complex but its not all over the place at all. It has an agenda. Loads of dark chocolate right off the rip. It then moves into a rich black currant and vinous place. Then there is molasses, brown sugar and more cocoa. A little bit of licorice and a lot of alcohol bring things to a close.

M- I would say this beer is right around the 12-13% range. Its warm, sometimes hot, but never offensive. The body is so thick and full, carbonation is low. This makes for an unstoppable creaminess. With a body like this the ABV could be 25% and it would still drink smoothly.

D- Drinkable? Uh yeah, Ive savored this for the past hour and I want more.


FIRESTONE WALKER PARABOLA!!! I feel bad now. What did I do to deserve this? This beer was on my most wanted list in my profile. I was thinking about trading off my Jackie O's bottles for one. HUGE thanks to Jeff.

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Photo of Jmoore50
4.38/5  rDev -5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Yes, this beer is right up my alley. It was good also that I drank it on a colder night, so it was just the right beer to warm me up.

The appearance is, 'dark as night'. It pours with a fluffy brown head that is small and leaves fast. What a dark menacing beer I had in my glass.

The smell is of roasted grain, lots of chocolate and Tootsie Rolls, some caramel and toffee. Awesome.

The taste is awesome, and I picked up something that I didn't find in other reviews. I picked up loads of chocolate and espresso, toffee and caramel and some. . . spruce? I picked up a somewhat earthy spruce or light mint flavor that was awesome. It reminded me of a chocolate covered peppermint candy, a great treat.

The mouthfeel was silky smooth and lightly carbonated. It was such a deep, dark, thick, and drinkable brew that I wish it was more available. Delicious beer.

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Photo of hansgruber
4.7/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Black, thin layer foam with plenty of light carbonation and a ring of foam throughout. No lacing.

Coconut, bourbon, and coffee notes with chocolate in there too.
Sweet malt. Not an overpowering or exceptional nose but very good. 

Bourbon, slightly sweet, roasty, coffee, chocolate, and coconut all harmoniously blended. Nothing dominates. Fairly strong bitterness that's noticeable on the long finish. 

Nice fairly thick mouthfeel with a good level of carbonation.
Immensely drinkable. Not hot whatsoever. A very good beer. Shared with three great friends. Glad to have more of this to drink in the future. 
Highly recommended. Thanks to whitebricke and wavers1 for the bottles!

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Photo of mothman
4.47/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to kbutler1 for sharing this.

Poured into ccb snifter

Pours a light layer of brown head. Color is an oil black.

Aroma: Oak, vanilla, whiskey, coffee, chocolate, and light cherry flavors.

Taste: I get more of a bourbon flavor here instead of the whiskey I picked up in the nose. Dark chocolate, very sweet. Roasted malts, oak, vanilla, cherries, raisins, and coffee. Just a tad boozy.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy. Full bodied with a medium amount of carbonation. Ends warm and a bit dry, but clean.

Overall, a very nice imp stout. Good -bal aging notes. Good flavors and the drinkability is nice on this one. Solid stuff.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.61 out of 5 with 6,656 ratings