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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: 1,180 | Ratings: 6,231
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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Photo of claspada
4.32/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2011 Version.

Pours almost black (darkest brown ever) with a nice tannish brown small foam head that sticks around with a bit of lacing.

Aromas begin with a ton of bakers cocoa powder. Dry, roasty bitter chocolate. Next I get a lot of the barrel; oak, vanilla, charred wood and some booze. As it opens up more I get some more of the sweeter dark caramels, nice sweet vanilla and surprising nuttiness in the background; really inviting.

The taste begins with a lot of dark and milk chocolate flavors; next I get the darker roasted malts, not coffee per say just like a roasted nuttiness mixed with caramelized, borderline burnt sugars. Vanilla and oakiness and more subtle barrel flavors emerge as it warms a little more. There is a solid toasted, graham cracker underlying toastiness which I really like. As it continues to warm the charred barrel and roasted flavors dominate the finish. No heat or alcohol flavors which is always appreciated for beers of this magnitude.

Mouthfeel is full bodied but not too thick, syrupy or cloying by any stretch. Adequate carbonation which helps to balance the heft in this delicious monster. Finish is nice and dry (for the style, not compared to normally crisp dry hoppy ales or pilsners). Not too boozy but the heft is evident as you slowly consume the 22 ounces.

Overall this beer is stellar. Firestone Walker is definitely winning with their barrel aging series of beer and I have loved Abacus, the anniversary series and now Parabola. Definitely recommended for fans of barrel aged beers and big boy stouts. I am going to call this a sessionable Barrel aged Imperial stout as it is really balanced and blended so well you almost don't recognize the boozy barrel flavors initially. Basically, yum.

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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 Satchboogie
4.28/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle (batch 2) poured into a snifter:

A: Pours pitch black with about 1 finger of frothy mocha brown head that fairly quickly dissipates to a thin film with espresso-like bubbles. Decent lacing and alcohol legs.

S: Oh what have I gotten myself into! Bourbon soaked chocolate fudge cake, vanilla, coconut, toffee maybe a touch of espresso, a hint of dark fruit, bourbon-like alcohol notes. A little on the boozy side.

T: The bourbon is right up front and a little hotter than I expected, but not overpowering. Tons of chocolate flow right behind the bourbon with all the nuances of the barrel aging. Vanilla, oak, coconut, molasses, hints of char and dark fruit. Finish is warm with just a touch of bitterness, the alcohol has a little drying effect though there does seem to be plenty of residual sweetness left. Charred wood and bitterness come through stronger in the finish.

M: Full body, Moderate to slightly light carbonation. Extremely smooth and velvety texture. It is still a bit hot though.

O: A solid BA RIS that might be amazing with a little more time. It's a bit hot and bourbon forward right now, but otherwise a really solid RIS with a good bit of complexity.

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

Pours super thick black i mean black! Carmel color lacing wrapping the sides of the glass which diss very quickly.
Aroma strikes totally boozey but nicely with a sweet toffee smell.
Taste tingles the tongue and hits hard with bourbon. I get more toffee some vanilla and chocolate, mixing perfectly with the bourbon maltiness of the beer
aftertaste is quite nice linguring on my tongue for a while
overall an amazing ba russian imp, you can pretty much gurentee any of the firestone brews are gonna be solid!
Im looking forward to ageing this beast for a couple yrs and trying again, i can only imagine it will get better

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Photo of justintcoons
4.97/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: Pours an impenetrable pitch black with a thin brown head that dissipates quickly. A layer of film clings to the side of the glass along with sparse lacing.

N: Highly aromatic nose. Huge, sweet bourbon, very fine dark chocolate, sweet toffee, coconut, vanilla and hints of oak.

T: Oh my God! Rich, chalky dark chocolate, toffee, bourbon, creamy vanilla and coffee grounds upfront. This is followed by liquid dark chocolate, espresso, truffle and notes of cherry. Finishes with lingering vanilla, bourbon, oak, toffee, dark chocolate and a hint of coconut.

M: Medium-full bodied, chewy, soft, silky, creamy, sticky, warming and dry.

O: Absolutely phenomenal! Just the right amount of bourbon. Not too overpowering with fantastic vanilla and oak flavors. Complex, rich, thick and deep in flavor. Almost no alcohol presence. Makes an excellent desert beer. Save this one for a special occasion.

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Photo of Briken
4.05/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Deep brown and tight brown head with good retention. Chocolate alcohol and oak. Rich chocolate and roasted balance with alcohol. Finishes with barrel aged rum, vanilla, and light peat with a rather high hop content. Thick robust and smooth.

Good balanced flavor with alcohol enhancing it. Roasted a little high and there are some nice notes but they are more at the end rather than throughout the beer. It’s extremely easy considering the beer with a great smooth flavor but, honestly, somewhat disappointing. My expectations were unfortunately high.

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

Poured into a Smuttynose Big Beer tulip

A: Beautiful brown two fingered head with a creamy black body. This is exactly how I want my stouts to look.

S: OH MY GOD. I can't stop smelling this beer. Chocolate, sweet tobacco, coffee and a slight smokiness. If they made air fresheners that could copy this, I'd buy them out. As the beer warms, the chocolate really comes out as the forward aroma.

T: As the beer warms, the taste gets better. Alcohol is very well hidden by the chocolate, dark fruit, and coffee flavors. As it warms the chocolate goes from sweet to bitter. I'm also getting some cherry that I assume is from the barrels.

M: Good body and carbonation considering the ABV. Nice and creamy.

O: This beer has ruined other Imperial Stouts for me. This is probably one of THE best stouts I've had. I can't wait to see how this beer develops over time.

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Photo of Ralphs66
4.12/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Candied bourbon...this is a great boozy RIS. Normally I struggle with an alcohol as apparent as this, but for some reason this works for me. The bourbon is prominent, but there are many other complexities here. Vanilla and some barleywine on the nose. Caramel and molasses on the palate. Sticky and sweet, and of course the booze. Very warming and a true pleasure to drink. This is a really fine liqueur, riding incognito as a beer.

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Photo of YouSkeete
4.37/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: Very dark and deep brown, black appearance. Short dark tan head with some nice lacing on the finish of the pour.

S: Thick chocolate and coffee malts, molasses, bourbon and alcohol. Hints of coconut, vanilla bean and some more subtle notes of caramel and sugared fruits are present.

T/M: Big creamy mouthfeel with heavy and rich notes of chocolate and espresso on the initial sip. The coconut flavor is a beautiful touch. Bready malts and sweet vanilla go really well with the rest of the body. Maple and caramel sweetness are also some nice features. Burn of alcohol is not necessarily hidden, but not as intense as i would expect. Exceptionally smooth, rich and full overall body. Mild carbonation.

D: Fantastic. One of the most well-crafted beers i've had in a while. Easy drinkability for a very full bodied brew.

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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,231 ratings.
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