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: 1,194 | Ratings: 6,295
Photo of stonermouse
4.72/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2011 vintage.

I grabbed three bottles of this beauty, and couldn't resist trying a relatively fresh one.

Pours "midnight" as it is described on the bottle. Not quite a jet black- a little dark brown creeped in. Head is cocoa and minimal, yet a bit dense for what sticks around.

I know from the aroma that I'm going to love this beer. Big bourbon right away, with faint hints of chocolate and the littlest amount of coffee. Heavy, thick aroma.

I am admittedly biased when reviewing bourbon barrel brews. I love bourbon, and I love them fresh and boozy. This one has booze in spades. Quite smooth and a bit sweet- perhaps some dark berry flavors here. Some sweet chocolate as well, but very light. For a bourbon nut, this one hit the spot. I wish I hadn't shared it ;-)

Mouthfeel is solid, complimentary to the flavors, and true to the style. Some might want it a bit more viscous, but I thought it hit the mark pretty well.

I loved this beer fresh, in all its boozy glory. I imagine this beer will mature into something quite complex, but I'm considering drinking my remaining stash sooner rather than later.

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Photo of jamescain
4.47/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a sniffer.

Appearance: Pours thick and black with a mocha colored head about a finger thick that fades into a thin ring around the side of the glass.

Aroma: Notes of vanilla, oak, bourbon, chocolate, licorice, raisins, and a touch of alcohol. Very complex, I could smell this one for a while.

Taste: Chocolate, oak, vanilla, bourbon, with a touch of coffee. Definitely complex and could also use a little more time to develop.

Mouthfeel: Thick and rich, a sipper for sure, with a slight sweet alcoholic finish.

Overall: An exceptionally good beer. The only down side was the noticeable alcoholic finish, but with time that should mellow out.

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Photo of joefuzz
4/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Batch 2 poured into snifter.

Pours jet black with a tan small tan head. Smell is a huge bourbon presence some nice roasted malts. Big vanilla and milk choclate on the taste some slight toffe sweetness. Mouthfeel and carbonation are pretty spot on. Great sipper but nothing mind blowing.

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Photo of JohnnyChicago
4.15/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a stemless snifter.

A: Pours a deep chocolate with a full latte-coloured head.

S: Dark roasted malts, chocolate, a bit of bourbon and spicy hops dominate the aroma.

T: Very good. It lacks some of the complexity of the smell, but is just laden with flavour. Dark chocolate, raisins and the familiar vanilla-oak-heat of the barrels shine through.

D: Not exactly chuggable, but it is perfect for the heavy, boozy, syrupy animal that it is. They should really release this in the winter...

Overall: Another great beer from FW and a classic barrel aged stout. However, this one seems a little hyped. It doesn't come close to Bourbon County and I found Abacus to be much more complex and original...still a great beer though.

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Photo of bennetj17
4.2/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage. Jet black, looks to be kind of syrupy, but not overly viscous. Thin head of dark tan foam. Leaves a nice ring. The aroma is quite hot. Apparently 15 months in the bottle is not nearly enough time to mellow the alcohol on this beast. Dark chocolate, touches of licorice, and more alcohol fume. Not alot of complexity yet.

The roasted chocolate flavor is smooth and rich, and balanced well by the booziness. It's more mellow than expected from the aroma. After a few sips a bourbon-like presence begins to dominate, especially after the finish, with notes of oak and vanilla. The bitterness is only slight at the back, giving way more to the sweet alcohols. The mouthfeel is definitely syrupy, not too heavy. Adequate subtle carbonation.

Overall a tasty barrel aged Imperial Stout. I'm wishing I had waited at least another year to open this though, and that is just what I will do with my other bottle. Hopefully the extra aging will make it that much better...

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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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Parabola from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.54 out of 5 based on 6,295 ratings.
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