Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

1,221 Reviews
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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: 1,221 | Ratings: 6,376
Photo of pepsican
3.62/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

tap at dld 08. Black, tan head. Aroma is buttered popcorn. Flavor is black jelly bean, bourbon, mollases, coffee, diacytal, a bit of hops round it out. Strong boozy finish, little carbonation

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Photo of Samichlaus82
3.62/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a black body with a finger-width, creamy, dark brown head that dissipates slowly and leaves lots of lacing throughout. Aroma is big, rich, smooth chocolates and caramels with a nice, roast and mocha backing. The bourbon and oak provides a solid addition without over-powering the big malt backing. Touches of vanilla, raisins, and a light alcohol hint. Flavor is similar. Rich, bittersweet dark chocolates up front with a good amount of roasts and caramel. The oak comes on with a lighter bourbon note as well as touches of vanilla, raisin, and licorice. Mocha, tobacco, and a bit more bourbon grows towards the end as this finishes rich, roasty, slightly ashy, and sweet with a nice bourbon warmth and dry oakiness. Lengthy aftertaste following a very smooth, mouth coating, full body and a soft, light carbonation. Overall, a very big, bold, rich, well balanced imperial stout with a solid barrel aged character. Not the most complex, but such a nice body and really enjoyable all-around.

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Photo of NoYouDidnt
3.64/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.5

Pours a black color with a two finger head. Aroma- a little bit of a Cherry and Bourbon. Soy sauce, chocolate, vanilla. Taste- more cherry and Bourbon. Dark chocolate and coffe in the back end. Mouthfeel- semi thick and coating. Overall- this is 2015. And I've pretty much only though... not as good as Bourbon county. Still good though.

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.66/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Mr. Chopin for sharing this one.

A-pours jet black liquied with a nice mocha colored head that is quite dense

S-the nose is quite big, nice dark chocolate up front, notes of smoke. the wood kicks in, hint of vanilla with a good bit of booze in the back.

T-the taste is quite nicely balanced. lots of roasted malts and dark chocolate. the oak comes in behind and shows signs of vanilla. hints of alcohol in the back.

M-the body is huge, thick, soft and and velvety. carbonation holds the body, a little chalky in the feel with a good bitey finish.

D-this is a nice imperial stout with some good balance between the roasted malts and the barrel aging. not hugely complex and a little boozy but not bad.

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Photo of 100floods
3.66/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5


Bottle is taken from Reserve Series No. 1

Pours a jet black hue with a fizzy bronze head that fades away to a finger's worth of head and lacing. I smell vanilla and dark fruits blended in harmony, some drier, perhaps malt notes of the roasted persuasion. The first sip has a burst of warmth from the alcohol and finished with and oily aftertaste. There's a distinct whiskey flavor, too. The malt is trying to push its way through the bigger flavors and seems to work, just enough to be noticed. There;s some dark fruit flavors that give way to the roasted malt flavors. There's some vanilla sneaking around as well. Very cream mouthfeel with just enough carbonation to keep things moving. I'm trying to decide whether or not this alcohol flavor is something from the barrel or the fact that it's 13%. Knowing the barrel aged beers that I've had from the brewery in the past I'm going to guess it's from the barrel. This is a diverse beer. Definitely a good one to spend time with. I'm not sure if aging this will do any good. It's very smooth for a beer this size. I'd give this beer some time and see how the malt character changes. Perhaps without the barrel aging this might taste a little better.

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Photo of JustinQ
3.69/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Serving type: 22 oz poured into Snifter

Appearence: Opaque black, no light can penetrate, decent head for style

Aroma: toffee, chocolate, vanilla and oak. slight alcohol and maltiness

Taste: roastiness, light oak background. alcohol aftertaste, no hops

Mouthfeel: dry, syrupy, and warming.

Overall: Great beer, Definantly a Sipper, Would buy another one but its a bit expensive. This one was a gift

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Photo of vinny21bal
3.69/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A very good beer here but a little over rated because of the alcohol in it. I have tried it multiple years and it just doesn't do it for me. I can understand how people can like it. It just isn't my thing. The smell is really good, and the appearance is amazing almost like motor oil. It is just a lot of booze flavor and to big of a beer to sit and drink.

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Photo of Rob23
3.7/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Not sure if I purchased a bad bottle or just did not care for it.The sweetness was way too much for my palate.It seems like sweet stouts are taking over especially in the BBA era.I may revisit it in the future to see any difference.

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Photo of waltonc
3.7/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Last evening I opened a bottle of Firestone Walker's Parabola, a barrel aged imperial stout. This is a stout near and dear to my heart, as father would often sit me on his knee and tell bedtime stories while sipping it during those cold winter nights of my childhood. Last eve, at twilight, I sipped it on the veranda while watching my grandchildren play on the south lawn; and Henrietta trussed the pheasant for our Thanksgiving meal. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it as much as I have in years past. A strong bitter (dare I say acrid!?) coffee note crowded out many of the fine qualities I recall in Parabolas of yore - a genteel balance of English toffee, Tahitian vanilla, old money bourbon, and mother's chocolate. To be sure, Firestone Walker occasionally produces tip top Parabola of the sort that can be said to resemble premium Indonesian chronic. However, this 2010 bottle reminds me instead of Black Xantus, an innoble attempt at producing a good barrel aged stout.

With my disappointment in FW13, Black Xantus, and now Parabola, I am rethinking the high pedestal upon which I place the Firestone Walker brewery and its pedigree. I may reallocate my portfolio to reduce my dependence on Firestone Walker, but will consult with Warren first for his wise counsel.

Perhaps a return to high class basics - with a strict Van Winkle aging program - would resurrect the great FW barrel aged brews I know and love? Should Mr. Brynildson wish to put this query to the test, I would be honored to place my distillery's resources at his disposal. Would that Parabola return to her glory.

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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 Sammy
3.71/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks Mikesgroove for indulging me. Pours thick black with nearly black head. This is a bourbon story. Bourbon hits you in the nose and is strong, with alcohol apparent, in the taste. I am Ok with bourbon in moderation, we are not a corn distilled fan nation, but it was too much. Cocoa powder and coconut was also experienced and not integrated. This is above average body, it was finishable, I owed it to the brewers. Not as great as many other RIS I have consumed of late, it is an example of what is turned out as a big beer.

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Photo of zac16125
3.72/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Firestone Walker Parabola
22oz bomber poured into a snifter
2012 bottle
150th BA review

A big thanks to Pelican5 for sending this one over in a trade.

A: Pours a dark cola brown with lightening on the edges and 1/2 fingers width of mocha colored head which dissipates down quickly to only an outer ring with inner whisp.  Lacing is effectively none, with only the faintest spotty patches left on the glass.  

S: Dark fruit, chocolate, oak, and vanilla come out in that order.  It is also boozy with subtle bourbon notes, with aromas of black coffee and roasted malts. Could be richer.

T: Initially there is a heavier bourbon presence on the tongue, which is quite nice but unfortunately this takes a backseat to a huge bitter component and booze.  There are also notes of roasted malt and a hint of dark fruits, but again these are overwhelmed by a  bitterness consisting of hops and bitter dark chocolate.  Not bad, but too boozy and too bitter, and the booze is not a smooth bourbon booze but a harsh cheap vodka booze.  The potential is there but I don't drink beers for their potential.  

M/D: I wouldn't say it's particularly thick or smooth for the style.  Over carbonated, which when combined with the bitterness, give it a biting quality. Finishes quite dry.  Drinkability is below average, mainly due to the dominating bitter quality,  plus the ABV isn't particularly well masked.  

O: Overall, this is a pretty middle of the road RIS in my opinion.  Some age could do this wonders I suppose, but as is, this one is a pretty big disappointment.  I am a huge fan of barrel aged stouts but this one is far too bitter and a touch too boozy. The bourbon is masked by an almost grain alcohol character, and the rest of the flavor profile is dominated by the bitter qualities.  I would like to try an aged one to see how it develops, but the fresh one is rather meh.  No where near the level of many other big RIS's I've enjoyed, and also no where near as enjoyable as Sucaba.  

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Photo of jbertsch
3.72/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

2011 vintage.

Wow, I can smell the booze as soon as I open the bottle.

Pitch black. A little half-finger head sticks around for a little while before fading.

Underneath its boozey aroma I get significant oak, vanilla, and chocolate.

It's flavor is a seedless meld of dark chocolate and French vanilla coffee. Bourbon soaked cherries come to mind. Alcohol is NOT hidden. Milk chocolate and hot booze sticks around on the finish.

Full bodied, a little syrupy, with a prickly finish.

Enjoyable, but not a breeze to drink. To be honest, i think the bourbon hurts this beer. It's a bit too hot for my personal tastes. There are other RISs that I enjoy more. So I was let down a Little. If I think of it as a beer, I'm not a huge fan. If I think of it as an after dinner cordial, I'm a fan. It has its place but you have to be in the mood. I just feel that the bourbon barrel aging added an unnecessary element to a beer that was probably perfect in the first place...and took some of its greatness away.

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Photo of Karnivool1
3.73/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Kind of a letdown. Was expecting a way more dark and thick brew. The bourbon amount was perfect, but this looks and feels more like a porter than a stout. A good beer, but way overhyped. My mouthfeel wanted more after each sip. Good, yes. Great, not close.

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Photo of chugalug06
3.73/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Very little head; expected due to high ABV... Head that does pour is light chocolate color. Brew is dark as night. No lacing.

S - Lots of coffee and big chocolate. Some vanilla, and chili too. Disappointing for all the hype it's been getting...

T - HOLY HEAT! This brew is not nearly as good as the Abyss... Lots of dark roasty coffee, almost tastes like it got burnt... Not too sure what everyone been getting excited over. The flavor is pretty smooth considering.

M - The HEAT is on!!! Lots of sweet bitterness. perfect carbonation.

O - This brew needs a few years to mellow and relax... I still have two more shipped directly from Cali, this one was snagged in Denver... I'll be anxious to re-review if worthy.

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Photo of readbaron
3.75/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Snifter served at local option.

I've had this one a few times now and it seems different each time - and for some reason that I can't quite identify it isn't a beer that does all that much for me.

Pours a dark, dark brown with a tiny bit of mocha foam.

Initially smells of a lot of espresso, some vanilla and bourbon sweetness, before finishing with anise and some hoppy/burnt bitterness. As it warms more bourbon sweetness and booze shows up.

Flavors follow the nose - coffee, vanilla, bourbon, anise and a hoppy bitter finish. A bit sweeter as it warms. There are also some tobacco and leathery qualities. It's pretty well balanced - flavors blend fairly nicely - but aren't quite as smooth and well integrated as they could be. Despite the different flavors, it doesn't quite feel complex. Maybe a little time will help.

Mouthfeel is good - a bit creamy - but a bit thin (I like my stouts hicghly viscous).

A tasty beer that doesn't quite live up to the hype (for me).

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Photo of Phenom
3.75/5  rDev -17.4%

Smells and tastes like many another barrel aged stout. It is quality, but nothing remarkable. Could use a little more carbonation to cut the sickly sweetness. Too boozy, not enough oak flavor to really be special.

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Photo of caskstrength
3.78/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours dark. Who would have thunk it.

Smells are pretty typical bourbon stout smells. Baby brother GI BCS is what comes to mind.

It tastes like a slightly watered down GI BCS. no unique flavors here. Chcolate, vanilla, tobacco, etc. With bourbon notes throughout. Flavors mush together, nothing really pops on the tongue.

If I want a thick, high ABV bourbon barrel stout, there are other (better) options closer to home. A good beer, but I wanted (expected) something really good.
I think this beer is likely better fresh. This one was about 10 months old.

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Photo of AdamBear
3.79/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A-black with a creamy dark tan head. has a perfect lacing that coats the glass.

S-dark bittersweet chocolate. smells creamy. moderate strength

T-wow this is a beer that fights back! it comes in with a very strong taste of baking chocolate and alcohol with a bitterness that stings the tongue. its a sweet and powerful taste that lasts! it has a long lasting after-taste that is mostly made of dark bittersweet cocoa powder.

M-very smooth and creamy with a creamy finish. has some alcohol bite to it.

O-a very tasty and a very serious stout. its definitely something that will both wake you up and then put you to sleep. its not very drinkable, in any way. this is a sipper that i'm glad i tried, but i won't be craving this any time soon.

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.79/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Extreme Beer Fest 2/15/08: I thought this was a very complex beer. Initial taste was of a stout, with notes of smoke, roast, bitterness. Then the bourbon started to kick in, followed by a sweet chocolate finish. I thought the bourbon complemented this beer very well.
8/3/8/4/16 (3.9/5)

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Photo of BarryMFBurton
3.8/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On a dark and stormy night…actually, it’s pretty clear on this Halloween evening - it’s the Parabola in my glass that’s so dark and foreboding. I’m really glad that I have the chance to try this one out, especially living in Indiana; thank you once again to tripelhops, that badass trader.

Brewed approximately five months before the date of this tasting (June 2011 Vintage).

A: I have never seen a darker beer; there is literally no light shining through this. The texture looks thick as ever, adding substance to the darkness. The head is dark tan, pretty stable at a half-finger, with a superbly creamy look – looks silky smooth. Its pitch blackness gives the foam even more contrast, calling attention to an awesome shininess of the lacing as I swirl the glass. This one’s an eye-catcher, for sure.

S: Barrel-aged spirits are strong and upfront: vanilla, oak, brandy, woody bourbon. The alcohol is strong, fiery even in the nose. Malts are thick and creamy: bitter dark chocolate and graham cracker breadiness. Interesting aromas of baked desserts on the end: fresh-baked brownies and cinnamon apples. In all, it’s rich, with big emphasis of caramel and barrel-aged alcohol. Complex; lovely.

T: Fiery, roasted, and surprisingly bitter. The alcohol is huge, playing with the strong bitters to pull off some strange tastes: a bitter, herbal fruitiness of sherry, dark roasts (almost burnt at times), licorice, a slightly-off hop taste, and a medicinal alcoholic tinge. It’s a bitterness that I’m not sure I like, almost acrid or artificial-tasting. The roasts aren’t even that – they overwhelm what little coffee tastes are there with burnt barley. It throws the balance off a bit. The aftertaste is pretty peppery and dry, with a light vegetable taste. Was this beer aged in corn whiskey barrels? It has that kind of taste.

M: Oddly thin at times, but with a more-than-ample showing of carbonation. I’m not getting a mouth-coating texture, but there’s a good fiery feeling on the way down. Feels like an “RIS Light,” almost.

O: Well, it’s different, I’ll give it that. Maybe I got a bad bottle, but I didn’t think this beer was incredibly satisfying. I understand that new, interesting flavors are the goal, but sometimes they can expose the tastebuds to an unpleasant palate. So, as it stands, there’s a dozen other stout’s I’d have before this; I’m still open to tasting other bottles, though, just to make sure I’m not crazy.

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Photo of Centennial
3.8/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle, split into snifter.

A.Dark, black and on the thick side with nice legs.

S. Light rum raisens and roasted chocolate malts with mild roasted espresso like aroma.

T. Roasted Chocolate, hint of charred bitterness, oak and vanilla are nice, not as much bourbon as I expected.

M. Slick but smooth, wish it was a little creamier.

O. Very good barrel aged imperial stout, not sure if it makes my top 10 though.

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Photo of BearsOnAcid
3.82/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

Parabola poured out pitch black with a very small mocha head. I was surprised not to find that this beer had some oxidized/cardboard aroma that I find in their anniversary beers. Lots of sweet roasted malt and a light soy sauce aroma lifts out of the beer. It tries really hard to hide the alcohol in the beer. Very well rounded at this point.

Flavor is deeply roasted malt, sweet, and some hoppy bitterness. Mouthfeel is nearly the same as the anniversary beers. For a stout, this is considered watery. It feels more like a porter which I find to be the major fault in the beer. Other wise this is an extremely well balanced and flavorful stout. The barrel aging does not seem to take a huge role in this though. I'd be interested to so if this could stand on it's own without the barrel aging.

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Photo of tastyville
3.83/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

I had it with a bottle share with the Art and Craft Brews club. I knew what to expect from a bourbon barrel aged oatmeal stout. I was a bit disappointed at how unfriendly this beer drank. Everyone I spoke to about it says that it gets better with time. Shouldn't it be outstanding now and extraordinary later?
It poured dark like oil with very minimal head and very sexually. I wish these guys could figure out a natural additive that would make the head hang out a bit longer in these high ABV barrel aged stouts. The aromas were intense which is always a good thing but along with the rich bourbon, chocolate, slight vanilla, smoked caramel, berry medley and oak was the very apparent scent of alcohol. A renowned beer is great because the alcohol is invisible and you can really get into it. This one it is dead center and you enter with a state of mind that speaks moderation which is not good. The flavor was an alcoholic punch to the mouth that left a very nutty aftertaste that coated my mouth for a long time afterwards which was very good. Awesome in fact. I wish the dynamic of flavor profiles was a smooth transition. All the greatness is there but it should be a bit friendlier. The chocolate, vanilla, roasty, dark fruit notes are very distinguishable and enjoyable once you jump the alcohol hurdle.

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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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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,376 ratings.
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