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 Buļ¬€alo Trace.

Added by largadeer on 03-26-2008

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Reviews: 1,189 | Ratings: 6,272
Photo of OlieIPA
4.66/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a Bruery tulip glass at approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

A: Just like any good imperial stout, Parabola poured black and viscous into my glassware. Was soon followed was a dark mocha head that dissipated into thin foam layer, even after a few vigorous swirls. The lacing was on the thinker side, but did leave a trail of brown stickiness along the sides of the tulip glass.

S: Woody and subtle dark fig aromas at the front end that eventually conceded to the robust amounts of chocolate, brown sugar, and molasses. The cocoa quality really jumped in after the few seconds and was really the showcase of the overall smell.

T: The initial flavor is mild molasses with a coffee bitterness character that was once again, backed up by huge amounts of chocolate flavor. The wood flavor crept up towards middle palate and lasted throughout the finish, which helped add some complexity to the bold cocoa flavor. The fruit flavor never seemed the surface, but there was other minute aspects to Parabola that wasn't able to determine.

M: For an imperial stout, the carbonation was on high side which may have added to a slightly dryer finish than I expected.

D: Simply wonderful! One of the best beers I've had the pleasure of trying. Really wish I was able to acquire some bottles for myself...cause honestly, I could of polished this bomber off in 20 minutes. It's that good!

Overall: Easy to see why this is one of the most sought after beers around. A must try! Cheers!

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
4.66/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2011 - 22oz bottle served in a snifter.

L - black with a tan head that thinned to a ring.

S - sweet bourbon and brown sugar with espresso coffee in the background.

T - roasty dark chocolate with a light bourbon taste finishing with espresso coffee bitterness.

F - full bodied and silky smooth.

O - a very good example of the style.

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Photo of Axnjxn
4.66/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

tap at Mekong. snifter.

pours a pitch black with a small beige head. big chocolatey nose...boozy too. you can tell this'll be a big beer. taste is a perfect blend of chocolate, malt, bourbon...just excellently blended together. just lovely. so smooth. full bodied with low carbonation.

overall, one of the best RIS in the world.

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Photo of snpub540
4.66/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep black with hints of brown at thee bottom and when held up to light. A vigorous pour yielded a one finger head that was a coffee brown and quickly turned into a very small ring of bubbles.

Aroma was slightly faint I thought for sucbh a big beer. Aromas of oak, coffee, roasted malts and a hint of the alcohol held within were present.

The flavors during my first sip were incredible. A complex mix of coffee, vanilla, roasted malt, dark fruit, and black licorice. As it warmed the roasted malts and coffe got stronger and so did the bitterness. With all that going on, there was hardly a notice of the alcohol content unless I took a really big gulp.

The mouthfeel was pretty much perfection. Smooth and thick like velvet. It was pretty much like drinking off of cask. Drinkability was great for such a big beer, but next time I'll probably spli the bottle with someone. This was outstanding and I'm glad I got a few more to put down.

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Photo of jbaker67
4.66/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Black pour with small brown head and patchy lacing. The aroma is rich with roasted malts, dark chocolate, burnt wood and light bourbon. Similar flavor with some vanilla, light coffee and faint dark fruits. It hides the alcohol rather well. Full body with a soft and smooth velvety feel. An excellent sipper and a truly incredible beer.

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Photo of frenchblood21
4.67/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2012 bottle poured into large red wine glass. Date of review is 5/2/14.

Appearance- WAY more head then I expected from a two year old BA Stout. WAY more carbonation too. Poured exactly like a Pepsi. Maybe about 1% light gets through when held up to a bright light.

Smell- I get bourbon and vanilla right away. Chocolate covered cherries is the next round of delicious scents. If the taste is anything like the nose, I am gonna LOVE this beer.

Taste- WOW! Taste like drinking bourbon infused caramel. There is also dark chocolate, vanilla and cherry. Awesome flavor! Very similar to BCBS, but maybe just a bit better.

Mouthfeel- So thick and luxurious! This is exactly what a barrel-aged stout should feel like in your mouth. This beer could be an expensive cognac, and no one would ever know.

Overall- This beer is world class and must be sought after at all costs. I will be ISO of Parabola.

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

Poured a deep brown/black with a slight red tinge when held to light and a thin ring of off-white head. Not as pure black as some Imperial Stouts, but beautiful. Scents of oak, coconut, bourbon, faint coffee hints of alcohol and a bit of sweetness. Very nice, definitely an oak aged RIS, rich and boozy. I love it. Flavor starts with roast malt, black coffee, oak, bourbon and sweet malt, with very faint hints of alcohol. The finish brings forth bittersweet cocoa, sweet chocolate and alcohol that carry into the aftertaste. Very good. Deep and strong in flavor, with all the notes of barrel aging and a good RIS as well. Mouthfeel is thick and heavy bodied with moderate carbonation, a smooth feeling and a slight hint of alcohol burn. Very easy to drink, hiding the 13% ABV quite well. Overall this is an excellent RIS. It's got the nice barrel aged quality and the core strengths of the style to carry it and it is just plain wonderful to drink.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appearance: Well, the lights are off so I'm not entirely sure. Most reasonably-minded people would turn the lights on at this juncture but, well, I don't put that much weight into a beer's appearance, and certainly not enough that I'm willing to allow reality back into the room.

Smell: Like a maltings. Actually, like a distinguished gent in a trilby who's enjoyed the finest of bourbons being doused on his person, and has subsequently taken to rolling about on the floor of a maltings. Also, vanilla and over-ripe bananas. In a word: divine. In two words: it's divine.

Taste: Where to begin, where to begin. Vanilla, cherry liquor, heavily roasted malt, 80% cacao chocolate, the liquid soap you find in hospital bathrooms, exotic woods, vague hop bitterness, your mother's hugs.

Mouthfeel: Thick. When this bad momma' jamma' glugged out the bottle I half-expected it to re-form in my glass as the T1000.

Overall: A delightfully rich, chocolatey romp in the mouth. The bourbon/vanilla notes are spot on and make this beer something akin (I think) to Goose Island BCBVS.

Thanks to alfrantzell for the beer. And to think all he made me do was tongue kiss him for a bottle.

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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.

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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.

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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 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 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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,272 ratings.
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