In May, Firestone Walker released Napa Parabola, a brand spanking new addition to their Proprietor’s Vintage Series. This release sees their standard Parabola imperial stout, a much-loved brew that’s normally aged in bourbon barrels, matured instead in red wine barrels, reportedly from one of Napa Valley’s most prestigious “cult” wineries. Suspicions abound, but the brewery is tight lipped about exactly which winery contributed the barrels or how long they were used to age the beer. They did, at least, say what kind of barrels were used: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Let’s dig in!
The beer pours jet black with an amber tinge and almost no head (never mind the photo). The nose holds plenty of familiar Parabola elements: dark malts, dried tobacco, vanilla custard, and burnt sugar. Woven in, however, are softer notes of grape must, dried berries, and currants, which give the aroma fantastic complexity and depth. The palate is rich but with a light, velvety texture. It’s definitely more lightweight than the standard bourbon barrel-aged Parabola.
Speaking of barrels, the wine cask influence seems to come in waves with this one. In one sip, I get almost all wine-forward flavors, like prune, raspberry, and boysenberry jam. On another, bitter baking chocolate and coffee grounds dominate. Firestone Walker encourages you to let this one warm in the glass (as they do with all of their Proprietor’s Vintage Series beers), and it definitely improves the experience on this one, integrating all those disparate flavors. In time, things coalesce into dark chocolate-covered raisins, berry custard, and Nerds candy. The finish is creamy and long, lingering with a slight roasted bitterness, vanilla cream, and grape soda. It’s a fun rendition of a great stout and proof that Firestone Walker isn’t slowing down on its barrel-aging innovations any time soon.
A- / $15 (per 12 oz. bottle) / firestonebeer.com