Style: Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout
Malts: Crisp Maris Otter Pale, Munich, Cara-hell, Carafa, Dark & Light Crystal, Chocolate, Oats, Roasted Barley
Hops: Bittering—Zeus; Late Kettle—Hallertau
From: Paso Robles, CA
Brewery’s Note: “One of our most aggressive and sought-after offerings. Bold bourbon, tobacco and espresso aromas and a hint of American oak greet the nose. Rich, chewy roasted malts, charred oak and bourbon-like vanilla fill the palate and create a seamless finish. A remarkably complex brew that offers a transcendental drinking experience – enjoy with good company. This year’s Parabola release was aged in an array of barrels from a number of Bourbon producers which held great spirits like Woodford Reserve, Elijah Craig, Buffalo Trace and Four Roses.”
The beer pours like thick, muddy motor oil. The beer forms a thin scrim of khaki bubbles, which settle into a nice ring. When splashed against the glass, the beer leaves tiny islands of lacing, which quickly slide away. Beneath the lacing sits a nice full set of legs, which slowly ooze out into the air. In body, the beer is dark and impenetrable, like the secrets of my youth… It’s opaque, but seems to be clear of particles. On the nose, the beer is fat and sticky with bourbon and bristling oak. Chocolate, touches of maple syrup, toffee, and then thick charred oak, vanilla, and tobacco that slowly begins to burn, all assail the nose. Faint dark fruit and spicy booze sit below the rest, along with notes of praline, which briefly suggests cinnamon to the nose. On the tongue, the beer tastes of hot booze, which is quickly drowned in sweet malt, though the booze manages to flail its arms as it is drowned, adding nice complexity to the sip. Bitter tannin prickles lightly in the middle and finish of the sip. The finish is long and luxurious, featuring sweet chocolate, just a touch of bitter hop/tannin, a ghost of booze, and just and after-image of dark fruit acidity. In flavor, the beer is decadent and layered, as might be expected from Firestone’s cellars. Creamy milk chocolate, Hershey’s syrup, and chocolate chip bread blend with a touch of tobacco. These are then blanketed with scratchy oak tannin, giving structure to the sip and allowing the tongue to pick out subtler complexity. The finish is straight Hershey’s syrup with ghosts of spicy booze, oaky barrel, and raisin. The aftertaste is a dying ghost of the Hershey’s syrup, with bourbon and oak coming out more dominantly. In the mouth, the beer feels thick in body, with a definite flabbiness, but this allows for a luxuriously creamy (nearly syrupy) mouthfeel. Carbonation is nearly nonexistent, but the beer manages to stay light enough to sip, and does not weigh down the palate. This is, of course, a bottle to share, as the palate will definitely feel fatigued and weighted after drinking more than a glass. When the beer has left, the mouth is left slightly sticky, with pouches of spittle in the sides of the cheeks, and a slightly charred feeling on the tongue, like after a good cigar. Overall, as you probably know, this beer is delicious. It stays light enough to easily sip, while weighty enough to make you happy with just 12 ounces. It will obviously age nicely, and it can be infinitely picked apart and deconstructed with all of its big and bruising flavors. It’s not subtle, but it is subtler than others in a style defined by smashing the palate with flavor, which I appreciate. I personally feel like it is a little flabby, and could use a little more attenuation, but those leftover sugars give a nice sweetness that I appreciate, too. The beer is good. You already knew that. Drink it when you can.