As always, brewing this massive barrel-aged Russian imperial oatmeal stout continues to be a challenge—“It’s like extracting liquid from a big oatmeal cookie,” says Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. The recipe is unchanged, but the 2013 vintage comes with a fresh twist on the barrel-aging front, specifically the incorporation of retired bourbon barrels from Four Roses Distillery in Kentucky.
“This is the best Parabola we’ve ever made,” Brynildson says.
The 2013 vintage marks the fourth release of Parabola, which belongs to Firestone Walker’s Proprietor’s Reserve series, and which was originally developed as a component of the brewery’s annual Anniversary Ale blend.
The 2013 Parabola is limited to 3,500 cases of 22-ounce bottles. Parabola currently ranks ninth on the Beer Advocate’s list of top 250 beers worldwide rated by users, and has an overall score of 100 on RateBeer.
Below are additional details on the brewing, barrel aging and tasting profile of the 2013 Parabola:
The Cookie MonsterÔÇª
Brewing an imperial stout is one thing, but incorporating oats adds another layer of technical difficulty for the brew crew.
“The oats turn into this thick gelatinous pain in the ass,” Brynildson says. “By the time we get to lautering, we’re dealing with this big cookie. It takes a lot of attention, effort and patience to get Parabola through the brewhouse without crashing the proverbial plane into the side of the mountain.”
Why bother? “The oats just lend this cool full-bodied texture and mouthfeel that I think pairs really well with imperial stout,” Brynildson says. “It’s worth the extra work.”
For the first time, Parabola features batches aged in barrels from Four Roses Distillery in Kentucky. “The Four Roses barrels layer in yet another interesting note to the complexity of the beer that differentiates it from previous years,” Brynildson says.
The Four Roses barrels were acquired through Ryan Ashley, one of the distillery’s production managers. “Ryan was a brewer at Mickey Finn’s on the north side of Chicago back when I was a brewer out there,” Brynildson says. “We’ve been using a lot of barrels from Elijah Craig, and some from Van Winkle, and those impart this deep boozy bourbon quality along with that dank, deep Kentucky cellar component. The Four Roses barrels now layer in this well refined, rich and pure oak aspect.”
“But it’s not all about the barrels,” Brynildson says. “It’s about making a well articulated imperial stout that’s got enough bourbon and oak character to make it interesting. We haven’t changed the recipe at all—but it has become this massive 30 Plato stout that really mellows after a year in the barrel, and that is both drinkable and ageworthy upon release.”
2013 Parabola Tasting Notes
Bold espresso and dark chocolate coupled with fresh tobacco and bourbon-soaked dark fruit greet the nose. Rich port wine texture full of roasted malts, molasses and charred oak flavors flowing into barrel-driven vanilla, dark caramel and toasted marshmallow notes. A remarkably complex brew that offers a transcendental drinking experience — enjoy with good company.
ABV: 13% IBU: 82 Color: 167SRM
Malts: Crisp Maris Otter Pale, Munich, Cara-hell, Carafa, Dark & Light Crystal, Chocolate, Oats, Roasted Barley
Hops: Zeus (bittering) Hallertau (late kettle)
Aging: Barrel aged for one year on average in retired spirits barrels
Production: 3,500 cases (22-ounce bottles)
Retail: $16.99 (22-ounce bottle). Available while supplies last in CA, NV, OR, WA, AZ, CO, MO, Chicago, MA, NJ, NY, VA, PA, DC, and MD.