Parabola | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: Russian Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 14.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
This Russian imperial oatmeal stout is aged for a full year in a blend of bourbon barrels from Elijah Craig, Four Roses, Pappy Van Winkle, Woodford Reserve, and Buffalo Trace.

Added by largadeer on 03-26-2008

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Reviews: 1,189 | Ratings: 6,271
Photo of jsanford
4.72/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into a Firestone-Walker Snifter. 2010 vintage.

A - Dark, inky black with a short-lived mocha-colored head that recedes to a slight ring and wispy haze.
S - Dark chocolate and roasted malt with huge caramel, vanilla, and oak aromas from the Bourbon barrels. Incredibly dark and complex!
T - Oboy. Tons of dark chocolate, espresso, malt, and molasses with a strong Bourbon character. Deep, sweet, and pleasantly boozy, this is what a BA Stout should be.
M - So smooth, velvety even, with a creamy mouthfeel, full body, and nice prickly carbonation. Superb.
O - Easily one of the best Barrel-Aged Stouts I've had, this is an exceptional beer!

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

a-black as night with an inch of tan head. Not much lacing down the glass.

s-coffee, chocolate, wood, and roasted goodness. As it warms it gives more and more of its nose.

t-follows the nose and had a lot of depth. The malts are backed up with a lot of good hops. There is a deep rich coffee and chocolate flavor that finishes forever on the palate. The finish has some bitterness that balances things out. There is a little alcohol heat here, but nothing that is bad.

m-creamy and rich. The carbonation makes this so good on the toung.

o-beautiful RIS with a lot of potential to age. Cannot wait to taste with a few years on it.

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

2011 vintage

A. Solid Black with a tan head that dissipates quickly, some spotty foam remains on the surface.

S. Chocolate, roasted malts, bourbon, vanilla, oak all brought together by a lingering sweetness.

T/M. Wow, amazing. A full bodied beer that gets into every taste bud. The alcohal is very well hidden for a 12.5% beer The first flavor you get it Bourbon and it is great. Followed by bitter chocolate, espresso, coffee and vanilla. Im getting a little of the tabacco taste on the finish I often get after smoking a great cigar. The oak is always there as well but never prominent. This one is world class.

O. This is a special beer. I am glad I have a few more to crack open in the next few months and years. It will always be for a special occasion because this is a beer that deserves it. This beer was not over hyped it deserves all the hype and praise it gets because wow it keeps getting better with every sip and blows away ones expectations. Buy/Trade or do whatever you need to do to get your hands on this one because you will be kicking yourself if you dont.

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Photo of Beejay
4.45/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

My 600th Review!!
2011 Parabola, Reserve Series 2, 300 Cases Produced.

A: Deep dark black in color. The head is soft and a coffee and cream in color.

S: Sweet and bready smells come out right away. Followed by molasses, dark chocolate, and coffee. The bourbon aroma is always present with notes of vanilla and spice.

T: It starts sweet and smooth, with vanilla and oak flavors, the finish turns a little more mean with a significant hit of bitterness and malty tannin. There are some berry notes as well as a touch of booze. Some nice oak notes in there. Definitely an interesting tasting brew, atypical of a lot of other brews in this style.

M: Thick and syrupy. The carbonation is there but simply can't stop the thickness that this has. It clings to your mouth after you swallow, coating your mouth with a syrupy feeling.

O: Overall very good. Interesting flavor, and presentation, but it lacks grace. Definitely a great beer, but the finish comes on a little strong for me. Still... damn tasty.

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Photo of Kinsman
4.2/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

From the June 2011 bottling:
Pours and absolute pitch black with 2 fingers of thick and sticky dark tan colored head. Fades a bit quickly but leaves a nice sticky residue behind.

Vanilla, oak, and bourbon greet the nose and seem to dominate the aroma. Little room is left for roasted coffee notes and a slight hint of fruit.

First sip reveals a complexity of flavors that are all fighting for your attention. Roasted barley, chocolate, and dark fruit are overlaid by the barrel flavors which are heavy on the oak and vanilla notes. Tobacco and molasses also add to the complexity before a bit of leafy hops rounds it out. Bourbon/alcohol flavors make this one a bit hot at this relatively young age.

Creamy and velvety smooth texture with a heavy bodied mouthfeel. Overall, Parabola is wonderfully complex barrel aged stout and it will be interesting to see how these flavors integrate over time.

2014 Vintage: Just as good as ever. Maybe even better this time around. Not quite as much heat on this one. Bourbon comes through nicely but will plenty of room to let the stout shine

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

A: Silky black body, very thick. Nice one finger dark tan head with good lacing. This is what a stout should look like

S: Getting a lot of vanilla, bourbon and coffee in the nose. Very, very sweet smell with a bit of alcohol in there

T: Very roasty, a lot of complexity on this one. Getting a very dark, almost like baking chocolate flavor first, which transitions into sort of vanilla and coffee. Then the barrel flavor hits and I absolutely melted. I am picking up the bourbon, but not too strong and it accentuates the roasted malts to make a perfectly balanced imperial stout for the gods.

M: As noted in the body, silky. Liquid velvet. Nice and thick with little carbonation and a nice warm finish courtesy of the bourbon barrel

Overall there is not enough praise I can give this beer. This is a picture perfect RIS, and without a doubt the best one I have had to date. I would gladly buy it by the case if it was easier to obtain. My hunt for this most elusive beer was well worth it.

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Photo of DrewShal9
4.95/5  rDev +9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A: dark as night with a khaki brown head
S: upfront vanilla and coffee notes along with a bourbon/buttery finish
T: intense and complex flavors of semi dark chocolate, butter, coffee, char, bourbon, and vanilla. As this vanglorious concoction warms up more of the bourbon barrel aging is prevalent and be reassured that this gets better!
M: thick and chewy, almost viscous like motor oil yet thins out as it warms up
O: 1st taste if parabola and I'm lucky to have gotten a few extra bottles. Amazing is the only word I could use to describe it. Tastes great and the booze at 12.5% is not noticeable until halfway through the bottle as it is very drinkable.

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Photo of xnicknj
4.32/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into snifter

Pours an opaque blackness with a thin dark tanned head, which quickly dissolves into clouds of filmy retention. Some spots of lacing left on the glass while drinking.

Soft, fragrant, yet very enticing nose, filled with oaky bourbon and wood, touches of vanilla with cocoa powder and caramel. Decent alcohol warmth but not overwhelming, plenty of roasted malts and some dark sweetness character as well.

Large roasted malt presence up front with cocoa, dark chocolate, and hints of molasses. Spike of dry hoppiness is apparent. The barrel character is right up front with some boozy notes and oaky wood, although not over the top. Some sweetness from vanilla and caramel. Finishes boozy and warm with another dash of hops.

Full, luscious, creamy body that slides across the tongue, nicely carbonated. Excellent taste and feel on this one, and I'd really like to see how this does after another 6-12 months after the hops die down a little more.

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Photo of Gmann
4.27/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a very deep brown color, almost black. The brown head is short with fine carbonation bubbles, which settles into a light ring.

The aroma is of semi-bitter chocolate, vanilla, and wood. There is a subtle hint of bourbon and I think I detect some smoke. The overall aroma is not overpowering but its quite pleasant.

The taste starts off with a bitter chocolate and a strong roasted malt flavor. Some caramel and char from the malt as well. This is then followed by the barrel aging characteristics; vanilla and bourbon. The barrel flavors aren't too strong, where it dominates the flavor. It mixes well with the RIS base.

The feel is very thick but it is smooth and velvty. The carbonation is light but prickly. The stout starts off sweet but finishes with a roasted bitterness. A bit sticky and hot in the finish.

A very good stout; big and roasty. The barrel aging adds a nice flavor without overpowering. Impressive.


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

2011 vintage. Batch 002. Poured from a bomber into my Founders snifter.

A: Pours a jet black. There is no way light could even dream of entering this chamber of emptiness. A 2 finger dark brown head shines on the pour with a great liveliness. Frothy and bubbly, the head leaves some nice sticky lace and has some legs to boot.

S: I pick up the bourbon right away with a the great oak barrel as well. Light vanilla with a light alcohol complimenting it as well.

T: Incredible flavor combination. I get the bourbon right upfront which smooths out to a great woody barrel barrel and light hoppiness. The finish consists of some sweet vanilla, light chocolate and a warming alcohol with a touch of heat. Just really hits all the notes.

M: Very smooth and incredibly warming down the throat. Heavy bodied with little carbonation, but just enough make it alive down your through.

O: I thought this was a great barrel-aged RIS. The flavors all meshed wonderfully and I wonder how good this could be with a little bit of age on it.

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

A: Black with a 1/2 finger tan head.

S: Chocolate, toasted coconut, port and some oak. Smells like a dark chocolate mounds bar.

T: Tootsie roll, roasted malt, milk chocolate, dark chocolate covered raisin, leather, mocha, a bit of smoke and just a little booziness. Amazing. I would love to have some more of this.

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Photo of AleWatcher
4.4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

On tap at Finnegan's in Plainfield.
Served in a snifter.

Chocolate and coffee with a nice roasty malt profile. Wow this is nice.
Dark brown with a deep cinnamon colored head of 2 fingers. Nice lace and retention.
Body is full and creamy. Very solid.
Overall-- this review got rushed despitethe fact I had 2 glasses... Stupid conversations!
In any case-- this is a fantastic beer. I had 2 glasses for 3 reasons:
1). I had a festina peche while I reviewed the liquor store I had just stopped at.
2). I had a life and limb because I missed out on bottles!
3). The tap handle said "robust porter" and I hadn't looked at the menu, so I didn't know it was on tap!
Had I known, I would have had 4 of these!

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Photo of ehammond1
4.92/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottle (2011)

Cardiff Seaside Market
Cardiff, CA

Dark as night black with a thin brown head. This beer looks shiny, oily, menacing, and splendid. Spotted lacing down the glass.

Incredible, complex, and perfect aroma. The rich bourbon, vanilla, and wood come flooding forward first, followed by sweet caramel and toffee, and an underlying yet powerful scent of freshly baked coconut macaroon cookies. As the beer warms, more and more layers open which include sweet, rich, sticky molasses, gingerbread, chocolate, and char. Simply phenomenal!

Rich bourbon flavors, including the oak barrel, earth, and vanilla are the initial invaders, followed by more and more coconut as the beer warms. Sweet caramel, toffee, molasses, and gingerbread are present, though the roast and chocolate and a mild bitterness keeps the rich dessert sweetness in line. A slight alcohol warmth and burn as this beer goes down adds to the overall flavor. Brilliant!

Medium to thick mouthfeel and a touch oily--absolutely coats the mouth.

A stellar beer. True perfection.

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Photo of JohnPPutz
4.77/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A-Jet Black head with a thick brown head that dissapates quickly.

S-Bourbon, roasty malts, vanilla, cocoa and coffee.Very pleasant.

T-Boozy but very well hidden for the 13%, oak, bitter chocolate, molasses, vanilla. Sweet but it all ties together perfectly.

M-Pretty viscous, but not as think as you might think from the appearance.I could take down a bomber alone for sure.

O-Another home run for FW. Fantastic brew. I can't wait to let a few bottles from the newest batch age, because batch 001 was amazing.

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Photo of garuda
4.18/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A - Pours black, with a thick tan head that has good retention and actually laces quite a bit better than I had expected.

S - Bourbon notes hit first, then rolls into rich baker's chocolate and a little bit of roast.

T - Cold, the bourbon is muted a bit with bigger notes of sweet chocolate and a little roasted malt. Finishes warm with the bourbon coming through again. After it warms up for a few minutes, the bourbon becomes much more prevalent.

M - Full body, low carbonation, thick and chewy. Doesn't finish great with some residual sugar left coating the mouth after the finish.

O - I'm generally not a fan of bourbon barrel beers, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The bourbon is not overpowering, and compliments the heavy chocolate notes well. Alcohol presence is hidden extremely well. A nice treat, but at this price, I probably won't seek it out again.

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Photo of s1ckboy
4.42/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Black with a decent amount of brown head. I would say the color was around 167 srm's.

S - Booze, chocolate, coffee.

T - Good amount of bourbon, chocolate, coffee, buttery(?), very smooth, good amount of malt. Flavors blend very well.

M - On the thicker side of medium, right amount of carbonation for me, again very smooth.

O - Very good, one of my favorite bourbon aged imp stouts.

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Photo of mactrail
4.2/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vast, boozy, but pleasing black concoction. Maybe it's the color, but I think of tar and liquorice. Rather sweet, like whiskey, but more of a candy taste. Quite hot and tangy with alcohol, like a liqueur. Malt is a big wall of taste with that sweet Sugar Daddy flavor all the way to the aftertaste. Hops are robust enough to stand up to the sugar and barrel flavors. Intense is the word.

Sippibility is good, if you're in the mood for a strong dose of hootch. Label says this is 2011 batch.

June 15, 2012 update - tried the 2012 version. Lovely aroma of Yukon Jack, and that hot malt is endlessly tasty. But it still tastes like something that squirts in your mouth out of a liqueur chocolate.

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Photo of beerandcycling88
4.57/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from a 22oz bomber into a snifter

A Pours a dark black color with a thin mocha head that dissipates quickly.

S The nose is strong with a lot going on. There are notes of bourbon, vanilla, licorice, oak, and booze. Quite nice and complex, I could spend a long time smelling this one.

T Equally as complex as the nose with each sip revealing something different. There are notes of chocolate, oak, bourbon, vanilla, a slight dark fruit note, a hint of smoke and a lot of alcohol.

M The mouthfeel is thick but not syrupy and is accompanied by a long lasting warming feeling.

Overall this might be the best Russian Imperial stout I have ever had. I am so glad I have another bottle of this one.

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Photo of meatyard
4.49/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours an opaque black with a short-lived tan head that falls to a sparse cover.

The smell is a spectacular roasted malt and bourbon aroma that improves as it warms.

The taste includes bourbon and cocoa and licorice and vanilla. It is in the complex area more so than adding up it's parts to make a great beer. Very, very tasty.

Mouthfeel is thicker at first then tends toward medium as it warms.

Overall: This is a really great beer especially at the high ABV that doesn't feel like 12%. Highly recommended and I wish I had more.

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

Batch 2 bottle poured into Tulip.
A-Beer pours a very deep black with a finger tan head that eventually reduces to a lasting ring.
S-The smell is very strong and powerfull. Chocolate, coffee, toasted malt, bourbon, and a slight vanilla.
T- A sweet yet bitter start, lots of malts, lots of chocolate and coffee flavors oats, hint of vanilla, bourbon and a little bit of heat from the alcohol.
M- This is a big beer and you can feel it on your palate, its thick and creamy.
O- Amazing beer that is defenitly a big sipper, lives up to its rep and defenitly satisfying. Share this one.

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

2011 release. luckily found this just sitting on a shelf. picked up 2 bottles, left a few for others.

pours jet black, as expected, with a sizable dark mocha head being the result of a rigorous pour. the head recedes semi-quickly and laces pretty well.

lots of molasses in the aroma with some vanilla, cocoa, dark roasted coffee, oak, and a touch of char.

boozy molasses flavor is most dominant, with vanilla, soy sauce, coffee, cocoa, oak, a bit of dark fruits, some dark rum, plenty of booze. sweet, roasty and boozy.

pretty full-bodied and syrupy with some prickly carbonation and a significant alcohol burn.

very good beer. doesn't quite meet the expectations I had, but one that I would drink again. Definite candidate for cellaring, and I put my other bottle away. Will revisit in a year or so. I think some time will put this beer into the upper echelon.


though there are people who say Firestone's barrel-aged beers don't age well... the alcohol burn in this one subsides significantly after just 6 months. I wouldn't age it for years though. 6-9 months seemesto be the sweet spot for this one.

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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 Eriktheipaman
4.75/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a SOLID black. A tan head at first but fades due to the high ABV.

The smell is oak, vanilla, and a ever so slight hint of alcohol.

The taste is bold. Lots going on here with mostly chocolate on the tongue with a lot of oak on the back. A dark chocolate flavor hangs around for awhile as well.

The body is one of the heaviest I've encountered. Almost desert like.

Damn fine beer!

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Photo of Gavage
4.23/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: pours a black color with a 1/2" head which falls quickly to a spotty surface foam.

Smell: roasted malts, dark chocolate, and some fruit sweetness are up front. Some vanilla and alcohol round it out.

Taste: big roasted malt flavors, chocolate, vanilla, prunes, a bit of coffee , and alcohol. Very complex and flavors improve as it warms.

Mouthfeel: heavy in body. Smooth throughout. Long lasting aftertaste.

Overall: very slow sipping but very flavorful. This would be better aged as it is a bit boozy now.

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Photo of bobhits
3.95/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Medium black, seemingly flat in the pour but eventually nice 2 finger head forms and seems to linger well. Not overly dense or motor oil like (shucks).

Black cherry, coffee, chocolate, and bourbon aromas.

What an interesting beer. It has notes of bourbon, but the fruit aromas are certainly in the flavor and rather strong. I believe they hinted at red wine barrel aging? I think that has to be this fruit flavor. Regardless of how they did it, they have crafted a full complex and rather interesting beer. This embodies those complex floral notes that Russian Imperial Stouts should have intermingled with the chocolate and coffee roasted flavors of a stout. Chocolate and roasted notes are the biggest show cases here though. That sweet floral flavor is a background note near the end as it warms, but up front it is pretty damn powerful.

Thick and creamy, yet not motor oil thick. I nice balance is struck here, but it lacks that perfect carbonation to round things out. Good but not great.

I’ve only had a few firestone walker beers, but all have been outstanding for their styles and simply showcase level beers. This one…well it is competing with perhaps my favorite beers so it is hard to compare. It isn’t the coffee forward beer I had been lead by reviews to believe I was about to enjoy. It has barrel aged but really it reminds me more of non-barrel aged Russian imperials. All that said for the 25th best beer in the world, I’m a bit unimpressed. A perfect 5 in complexity, but is complex enough? Very very good, but truly great? Maybe a hair short. e

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