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Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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1,173 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: 1,173 | Ratings: 6,195
Photo of RandyV
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Smells of bourbon, molasses and maybe some chared wood greet the nose. Taste is bourbon/oak forward with the barrel aging dominating, in the best way possible. It is what you expect from this beer. In the background, there's some black/dark cherry and espresso, adding extra bittersweet to the profile.

This is a top notch beer from a top notch brewer. If I could make a beer like this, I'd be mighty proud.

 408 characters

Photo of bum732
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

S: Rich cake batter, chocolate with an undercurrent of oak and bourbon, bready and yeasty.

L: Thick black with a creamy tan head that dissipates slightly. Good lacing.

T: Very rich, bready malt with a prominent chocolate note. Medium low bitterness with some bourbon oak following closely. Some roastiness follows with slight alcohol burn. Finishes slightly dry.

M: Creamy body, alcohol slightly detectable.

Just an awesome beer, Firestone has this ability to balance every single component in a beer, this is no exception. One of the best bourbon oaked aged beers i've ever had.

 583 characters

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 Axic10
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Shared with a life long friend for his 30th birthday. Split from a 22oz bottle into tulip glasses.

Appearance: Deep dark blackness with a finger and a half of smooth mocha colored head.

Smell: Great nose. Hints of bold roasted coffee, dark chocolate, fudge brownie, vanilla, oak and some booze.

Taste: Following the nose, sweet chocolate and vanilla, oak, fudge, and coffee.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied and extremely creamy. Does not seem like it is over 7%.

Overall: Wow, I've been impressed with every Firestone Walker beer I've had so far, but this one blew the rest out of the water. Glad I have more of it.

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

A: Pours a deep, viscous black, capped by a frothy two finger mocha colored head. Retention is good as the head settles down to one finger of tight carbonation and dissipates slowly from there, leaving scant lacing down the glass.

S: The most evident aromas up front are caramel, roasted malts, dark chocolate and vanilla, but none of these overpower each other, nor any the supporting smells. Moderate bourbon notes, light oak - including somewhat of a burnt wood character - some coffee, and faint notes of tobacco and leather. Amazingly complex and well integrated.

T: Starts out with caramel, dark chocolate and vanilla before moving into bourbon, light oak and light tobacco on the mid-palate. Moderate coffee and roasted malts come up and add some bitter notes before receding, revealing some dark fruits - cherries and perhaps a touch of plum. Finish maintains some of the dark fruits and brings back dark chocolate and vanilla.

M: Full bodied with low to moderate carbonation...it occupies the perfect spot between creamy and chewy, smooth and viscous.

D: The alcohol is kept firmly in check, manifesting itself only in the bourbon notes...dangerously drinkable for such a big beer.

 1,194 characters

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

Poured into a portsmouth snifter, shared with my beer sensei. big thanks to Chazmo for this amazing extra!!

A- beautiful, super dark with no light coming through the edges. pours a thin dark brown layer of head that goes to a thick ring in about ten minutes.

S- Holy roasted everything batman! roasted wood, coffee, and a little chocolate. a little bourbon and vanilla at first (fridge temp). as it warms to proper temp, bourbon blooms, and sweet vanilla comes out more. caramel makes an appearance to. great friggin' smell!

T-really good... a cascade of like ten flavors all within about 4 seconds, then bourbon washes them all to aftertastes... freekin great! most prevelent are a smokey caramel (not over-sweet though!), with oak and vanilla hints as well! bourbon hits at the end and sticks around long after the swallow. Just a little hot (a good thing)...super compex without a sweet overload!

M- Great thickness, creamy and silky, dig this one out of your teeth 2o minutes later!

D- damn smooth and never harsh

 1,022 characters

Photo of Stoneman78
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On draft at O'Brien's for the CBC/WBC

Appearance is a dense and dark brown hue, thick brown pillowy head, thick lacing on the glass

Smell is a delicious and complex range of aromas: bourbon whiskey, oak, vanilla, cherries, chocolate and coffee malts, sweet milk, brown sugar/molasses

Taste is initially smooth milk chocolate malts that transition quickly to boozy whiskey and wood, tones of vanilla and dark fruits, opens up to grainy oatmeal malts, finishes sweet and dry

Mouthfeel is full-bodied, creamy smooth texture is very pleasing and well-crafted, moderate carbonation

Drinkability is high, delicious and well-balanced barrel-aged stout, great malt profile and creamy texture, good oak presence that accents without dominating, sweetness fluctuates between milk chocolate and dark fruits, absolutely a wonderful beer and a must-try for any beer fan!

 862 characters

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

Poured from a bomber into my Deschutes tulip...

A - Pours dark as night, with a thick creamy 1 finger brown head. Fades to a thin head, leaving spotty lacing.

S - The smells are so wonderfully combined, of coffee, dark chocolates, burnt toasty oak, and ever a little bit of black licorice.

T - Dark chocolates hit the tongue right away. The middle gives way to vanilla, and a chared woodsey flavor. Very warming as it goes down. The taste is just as complex as the smell is.

M - Nice and thick, full-heavy mouthfeel. Perfect amount of carbonation for an imperial stout.

O - This is a very well crafted imperial stout. It's everything a stout should be, thick, complex, robust. It's all here. I can't wait to see what some aging will do to this...

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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 321jeff
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes.

Pours black as night with a milk chocolate colored head. Lots of lacing is left as it fades and a quick swirl reveals some serious legs. This is a really nice looking beer.

Where to start with the aroma... so complex... Lots of oak and bourbon but I'm also getting notes of licorice, leather, tobacco and some charred wood. Seems like a lot going on but the aromas are all very well integrated and work perfectly together.

The taste follows the smell with tons of oak, vanilla, tobacco and roast coffee. Lots of flavors, and exactly what you'd expect from a barrel aged imperial stout.

It smells and tastes great, but the mouthfeel may be the highlight. So velvety smooth with just the right amount of carbonation. This is a big, complex sipper of a beer, but wow is it good and it goes down way to easy. Looking forward to tracking down more of this.

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

I had this on tap at Finnegan's Irish Pug in Plainfield, IL. The two amazing things about that statement are: Parabola "on tap" and "Finnegan's" which is about to go under. Anyway, I tasted this with a beer guru buddy and cherished every drop. From my notes:

A= This stout poured pitch black with a super dense dark tan head that rose just 3/8" and then stuck there for a good while. Once it settled, it left a small bit of lacing on the glass.

S= The aroma was incredibly complex. Sweet dark molasses, roasted grain, chocolate, leather, a hint of tobacco, vanilla, oak...Christ it had it all!

T= Much like the nose indicated. Super complex, with wave after wave of flavor. Lots of rich sweetness up front, but never cloying. Roasted notes were firm and bitter without being too much. Hops were in there with an earthy presence that helped to balance everything without getting in the way. The boozy bourbon, vanilla, and oak character was there but never too much. This was honestly one of the better balanced barrel aged RIS' I have ever had.

MF= Full body with a fairly low carbonation level. Slick and pleasant across the tongue.

D= Its a sipper for sure but a damn fine one that I would go a long way to get more of.

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Photo of MaartenvanDoorn
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: Good, nice and dark. Looks more like coffee than beer, actually.
Smell: The smell is nice. Coffee-like. Also hints of chocolate.
Taste: Very rich taste. Hints of caramel, nuts, coffee, vanilla and also a very nice alcohol taste. Not too heavy, the balance is perfect.
Mouthfeel: my favorite part. Very well balanced. A sweet, thick beer. Very nice thickness.
Overall: awesome beer!

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Photo of SickBrew
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Had this beer on date night at Saraveza in NE Portland along with a few other tastings from Firestone. They hit the nail on the head with this one. I think it's a notch above The Abyss! It seems to be perfectly balanced among the style characteristics with no major flavor attributes sticking out in front of others. Well frick'n done!

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a very dark brown-black with a half-finger of frothy chocolate colored head. The head fades down fairly quickly leaving behind some lacing.

S - Aroma is a mix of roasted chocolate malts, dark fruits, vanilla, toasted coconut, oak, Bourbon, and a bit of booze.

T - Starts off with dark chocolate and roasted malts with vanilla and some dark fruits. Through the middle, the Bourbon and oak comes through with some toasted coconut and molasses. The finish is a mix of dark chocolate, molasses, tobacco, vanilla, oak, Bourbon, and dark fruit with a bit of booze.

M - Medium-full bodied with light carbonation. Feels smooth and a bit creamy with a sweet and warming finish.

D - Very drinkable. Amazingly smooth for how big and bold the flavors are. The balance is really spot on and the Bourbon comes through really nicely.

 832 characters

Photo of Knapp85
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Capone's Black Friday event, this beer poured out as a very dark black color with a thin tan head on top. The smell of the beer was roasted and sweet, some aromas of wood and sweet bourbon on the nose. The taste of the beer is just stunning... I really couldn't believe how nice this tasted. The sweet bourbon flavors come out perfectly in this brew. The mouthfeel of this beer was thick and oily just like it should be. Overall this brew is special. It's very very good!

 481 characters

Photo of BuckeyeBeers
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Amended rating: Just tried a 2012 bottle and it was a dramatic difference from the relatively fresh bottle consumed last fall. Despite what some folks have said, age made a great beer an extraordinary beer.

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Photo of SoCal_Matt
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2015 vintage served in a Teku.

Pours a very dark brown with minimal head. Bourbon, coffee, and chocolate on the nose. The taste is dominated by dark chocolate with a bit of vanilla. The barrel comes through nicely on the finish. Having had this on draft and from the bottle, I found the bottle to be far superior. This is definitely a top notch BA RIS.

 353 characters

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.

 1,076 characters

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

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a tulip. Thanks to goodstrongbeer for bringing this over.

Appearance: My glass is a thick looking mahogany color with a very thin brown head that reverts to a collar rather quickly.

Smell: My nose is filled with notes of roasted malts and coffee, some tobacco, smoke, dark chocolate, molasses, vanilla, oak, and bourbon. No one smell really dominates, making me think that I am in for a treat.

Taste: Parabola is a demonstration of brewing excellence. There is a confidence that a nuance will be noticed and no flavor must bludgeon you with its strength. Up front, roasted malt takes on a lightly charred character, and semi-sweet dark chocolate and a bit of molasses add further flavor and sweetness. Roast coffee and vanilla add some more delicate flavor, with a bit of oak and bourbon hardly noticeable at the end.

Mouthfeel: The full body of this beer works well with the light to medium carbonation to create a decadent and creamy feel. The thickness is necessary to provide a reasonable base for such a rich and complex beer.

Overall: This is a beer that definitely lives up to the hype. A bourbon barrel stout that still manages to be delicate and complex is a rare find. I will definitely try to stock up on this beer and look forward to having it again.

 1,302 characters

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

A: a dark brown almost black with a brown head.

S: i get a lot of chocolate and bourbon. there is vanilla and some oak. caramel, roast malt, and hints of coffee and toffee.

T: i get bitter dark chocolate, bourbon, oak. i get some burnt malt and toffee, with hints of coffee. there is dark fruit and molasses. there is a touch of sweetness and brown sugar.

M: it has a thick body with medium-low carb.

O: a great beer. I would never pass this beer up.

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

Tastes are smoke, a humidor, cigars, dark chocolate, hops, wood fire, British crystal, bourbon, oak, oats, dark fruits, (alotta) booze, fastly-warming heat, a little milk sugar/lactose, menthol, vanilla beans -- strong, caramel-covered apples, tea leaves and silk.

 264 characters

Photo of TKEbeerman
4.68/5  rDev +3.1%
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.

 1,599 characters

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.

 1,309 characters

Photo of beerhan
4.68/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2012 Vintage-22oz bomber to myself.
I am finally getting around to reviewing this and will preface by stating that I think this may be the best vintage yet for Parabola.

A-Jet black, thin light brown lacing that remains after a one finger head lingers for a minute. I would not expect anything less.

S-Dark chocolate, figs and grain. Not a very aromatic beer in my opinion.

T-Lots of bourbon up front but not overpowering. Very mellow woody notes followed by an intense dark chocolate, cocoa, and caramel onslaught.

M-Very smooth and without a burn. Oily and sticky with a syrupy feel that hides the alcohol.

O-Truly one of the best big stouts out there. A little more vicious and less balanced than others but delivers a high abv punch that is hidden rather well. The carbonation was dead on this year whereas last year I found it to be a bit high.

My one complaint, I have to say this about a lot of bigger beers in large format bottles, it would be nice if they took the route of making this in smaller bottles. It is a fantastic beer but I can't always find someone to share the bottle with especially during the week. It is a heavenly elixir but a big beer so be ready for it.

 1,190 characters

Photo of breadwinner
4.68/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Rightfully one of the standard bearers of the style, it is a lovely synthesis of coffee, dark chocolate, roast, bourbon barrel/char, and maybe the slightest hint of dark fruit. Absolute classic that'll warm you right up.

 220 characters

Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,195 ratings.
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