Firestone Walker’s beloved Parabola, the crown jewel in their Proprietor’s Vintage Series, is back for 2023, and it boasts an impressive origin story sure to excite bourbon fans and beer drinkers alike. Continuing a trend of using older bourbon barrels to age its iconic stout, Firestone turned to Buffalo Trace to craft this year’s release and secured 8-year-old Blanton’s barrels and 12-year-old Weller barrels. I can almost hear the exhilarated gasps now from the bourbon hounds. And the price-gouging store owners.
But that’s not all, folks. Parabola is joined again this year by a small batch spinoff dubbed Paraboloid, available only at the brewery’s three locations and online. We missed the first release of this one last year, which was aged in 14-year-old Old Fitzgerald bourbon barrels and exceedingly rare 18-year-old Sazerac rye barrels. The 2023 release is no less exotic, having been aged for over 18 months in 20-year-old Elijah Craig barrels.
I hesitate to drink barrel-aged beers out of a Glencairn, but I think these both demand a little pomp. And small servings. Thoughts follow.
Firestone Walker Parabola 2023 – As with all previous iterations, this latest Parabola offering pours dark and thick with a thin tan head that clings to the inside of the glass. The aroma is, at first, big and boozy with dark, toasty malts and notes of black licorice, cinnamon muffins, and cocktail cherries. As it opens, the alcohol subsides somewhat, making way for the arrival of milk chocolate, desiccated coconut, and milky coffee. The palate is characteristically creamy with a balanced sweetness that’s kept in check by the slightest malty bite. It’s quite chocolatey, as well, with indulgent notes of Belgian chocolate and gianduja. I even detect a hint of wheated bourbon sweetness in the chewy dark caramel notes that build as it warms in the glass. The finish is silky and long with more chocolate sauce, vanilla bean, and a mildly tart cold coffee note. Not quite as complex or bold in flavor as the 2022 release, but exceptionally balanced and equally enjoyable. 13.5% abv. A / $11 per 12 oz. bottle
Firestone Walker Paraboloid 2023 – Paraboloid is something of a departure from the original. It pours the same deep, motor oil hue with a soft coffee-colored head that also leaves quite a bit of lacing on the glass. But that’s about where it ends. The nose is thick with exotic high-cacao dark chocolate that’s almost fruity at first nosing, with hints of currants and dark cherry. The oak also presents with more intensity — not surprising given the age of the cask — offering an unusually dry profile with subtle notes of smoke and char. On the palate, dark malts and thick, sticky chocolate fudge carry the day with a bit of split vanilla bean, dark roast coffee, and walnut sprinkled throughout. It’s a big, exuberant beer, but still not as creamy or even as boozy on the palate as the standard release, with more of that classic dark stout character shining through. The conclusion showcases mildly bitter malts and fading notes of chicory, chocolate, and black licorice. An excellent stout that’s a bit outside the Parabola mold and worth exploring if you’re lucky enough to snag a bottle. 13% abv. A- / $11 per 12 oz. bottle