A “parabola” is defined as a symmetrical open plane curve formed by the intersection of a cone with a plane parallel to its side. The path of a projectile under the influence of gravity ideally follows a curve of this shape. Perhaps the name was chosen due to the annual nature of this imperial stout from Firestone, coming around only once a year like some celestial wonder in orbit… or perhaps, it has more to do with the sheer gravity of this 14% apv heavyweight and the sheer volume of its flavor. Whatever the reason for the name may be, this special release is itself a thing of wonder.
Inky black and utterly intense, the rich and robust nature to this imperial stout is one which is found within the folds of a balanced smoothness. Possessed of a silky mouthfeel and lingering, malty aftertaste, the Parabola is another complex and powerful bit of brewing, which rightfully can stand shoulder to shoulder with other annual specialties such as the Founders KBS or Brooklyn Black Ops. Accenting its malty and slightly nutty flavor, a respectable IBU rating of 82 offers a subtle bitterness which almost serves to elevate the stouts other aspects. The high alcohol content is also almost impossible to miss upon each sip.
Due to each of these factors, the malty bigness of it, the bittersweet undertones, impressive overall body and heavyweight alcohol content, the Parabola obligates you – upon popping its cap from beneath its foil wrapping – to sip slowly and linger on each of its complex notes. Between the weighty boozy feel and biting maltiness, this spectacular stout drinks somewhat akin to a barley wine, with the heavy overall feel and slightly stinging high volume alcohol presence each thrusting themselves upon your palate with each little sip.
Now an hour into this bottle, my glass remains half full. The implied optimism of this statement aside, the slow nature to this sip-and-savor stout is something that only the foolish and foolhardy could ignore. Between sips, an anticipation for the next taste is tempered by an implied demand to stop and ponder the complexity of the last. As your approach the end of the bottle and foresee the final few sips remaining, such comes as a mixed bag of remorse and relief, knowing that while this beauty of a beer will soon be gone, the marathon that your taste buds and bloodstream run together is almost over. The experience of this stout with its weight, its alcohol and its dynamic, layered flavors, is very much like an endurance race.
Making your way to the bottom of their glass is a thing which, while euphoric in its sensation, takes time, patience and appreciation for the reality of what you’re doing. This is, without a doubt, a special sort of brewery magic which, should you be lucky enough to find, you’d be foolish not to partake in.
Nicholas Goroff is a beer lover, writer, actor, ex-political professional and devoted anti-ideologue. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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