Reviewed: Firestone Walker Parabola 2022 + Paraboloid 2022
From the editor: We are bringing a very special side by side review of this year’s vintage of Firestone Walker Parabola along side a small batch variant known as Paraboloid that was released at the same time as this year’s vintage. We hope you enjoy the break from the norm and encourage you all to have fun tasting your beer as much as we do.
Of all the beers in our Proprietor’s Vintage Series, Parabola is the most notorious. It is always a beast of a beer, with intense flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, vanilla and roast coffee– yet each annual release also bears its own subtle imprint. We took the extra step of aging the beer entirely in 12-year-old bourbon barrels for this latest edition. These older-stock barrels accentuated Parabola’s signature richness with vintage-specific notes of stone fruit, fudge, and tobacco.
This year, Parabola is joined by Paraboloid, a limited small-batch variant aged in an equal selection of rare older-stock barrels from premium spirits producers – specifically 14-year-old Old Fitzgerald bourbon barrels and 18-year-old Sazerac rye whiskey barrels.
Both served out of 12 oz bottles in a 12 oz tulip glass. Parabola 2022 abv. 14.1%, Paraboloid abv 15.0%
Both are completely opaque when held up to bright light. It appears Parabola has a darker shade of foam than Paraboloid, though both have only so-so head retention.
Parabola: Dark fudge brownie, mocha coffee, hint of vanilla bean, and wisp of licorice. The way the barrel and base stout are integrated is staggering.
Paraboloid: Intense spirit character: amaretto liqueur, cherries, espresso, and a little earthy. I get less of the base beer, but still hangs in the background, supporting the spirit character.
Parabola: High bitterness paired with bourbon caramel sweetness and vanilla. As it lingers on the palate, more of the chocolate and pipe tobacco comes out. It has a lighter body than modern hype-whale stouts, leaving some dryness on the palette. For me, Parabola sets itself apart by the complexity of the barrel blend, the integration of the pieces to be greater than the whole. This 2022 vintage shows us just how far Firestone’s skills have developed.
Paraboloid: If Parabola has been a journey of integrating specific cask flavors with the base beer (think coconut, vanilla, fruit), Paraboloid is angling to let the spirit shine. The flavor has a ton of cherry, baking spice, and mocha coffee. The increased spirit presence dries the finish out more than Parabola. Paraboloid presents me with a pervasive earthiness and strong spirit flavor, which is inline with my experience of rye whiskeys. When laid on top of a beer, the darker fruit of the base stout comes out a bit more, rather than coconut I get from just bourbon barrels.
15+ years of barrel aging experience puts Firestone Walker in the OG club of beer barrel aging professionals. Given the heritage of barrels for Paraboloid, it’s clear they were entrusted to Firestone Walker based on a commitment to excellent craft beer. Declaring them aged in Sazerac and Old Fitzgerald barrels comes at an interesting time in the craft beer arc: 1) Years ago, FiftyFifty Brewing put up a high watermark with the Eclipse series, declaring which brand of barrels they were aging in, and others saw that opportunity. Of course, intellectual property is never free. 2) Craft spirits are experiencing a glow-up within the craft beer enthusiast sphere; I know I started eyeing bottles of these spirits to give them a try. While on the boozier end of FW barrel portfolio, this stands out above some of the other Parabola variants over time. While I think Parabajava might be their best, Paraboloid is up there with my favorite single year vintages of Parabola (I am looking at you 2011).
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