Why we're here...

Beer culture is coming of age. At any store, restaurant, bar, or friend's house you can now find at least a few good brews. In fact, there seem to be so many new beers, breweries and bars it's difficult to separate the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

If you're going spend $10 on one beer, what should you buy? If you're going to drive 2 hours to check out a brewery, what's worth your time? If you're going to plan a Friday night, what has a good selection and friendly atmosphere? We're here to help you answer these questions.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Parabola Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Parabola is a Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout by the Firestone Walker Brewing Company from Paso Robles, California. Barrel aging is becoming popular these days, especially with old bourbon casks, which Parabola was aged in.

I bought this at Taylor's Market for $14.99 for a 22oz bottle - it comes in a brown box and sits just outside the beer fridge. The ABV is 13%, which I didn't realize until after I opened the bottle by myself. It was an interesting night.

It pours black. You can hold it up to the light and nothing comes through. The head is milk chocolate colored, but short lived. It soon dissipates to nothing, leaving no lacings. The aroma is beautiful; bourbon sweetness, chocolate, with oak tones. The taste... whammy!

You're getting hit with the bourbon strength, but it quickly and gently gives way to the roasted caramel, chocolate and subtle oak. There are hints of coffee and dark fruits. The first sip knocks you back. But after that it's smooth sailing. A medium thick body, low carbonation, and a smooth, creamy finish. There is an immediate warming sensation from the alcohol that lasts and lingers. At first its a bit overpowering, but it becomes enjoyable after the first few sips. My eyes feel warm, interesting.

This is a Must Have It. Firestone Walker does an annual batch, each batch slightly different from the others. Because of the limited release and great taste, you should grab one. There is one exception: North Coast's Old Rasputin Barrel Aged.

Like Parabola its a Russian Imperial Stout aged in bourbon casks for up to a year. Its released annually and very hard to find outside of the northwest corner of California. Its even more pricy - $20 a bottle at the brewery itself. However, I think I prefer it slightly more than Parabola. North Coast found someway to reverse what Parabola has. Parabola is slight bourbon aroma, strong bourbon/alcohol taste. North Coast has a strong bourbon/alcohol aroma and slight bourbon taste. North Coast is a bit creamier and more smooth.

If you had to choose, I would go with North Coast, however that's an unlikely scenario since each brewery releases there's at different times of the year. Did I mention I feel like I just took a few shots?

One last disclaimer: if you don't like stouts or bourbon, this will not change your mind. If you're not a fan of these, go buy a Russian River Wine Barrel aged beers for the barrel aged experience.

One more disclaimer: if you like it, buy one more and save it for as long as you can. These barrel aged stouts get better with age. Challenge yourself at how long you can go.

Last, last disclaimer. Apparently if you drink half of the bottle of Parabola you will feel great and be ready for bed.

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