It’s rare when a beer gets discovered by way of cleaning the house. But there I was, ass up and head down in my closet to make room for new clothes. Reaching behind a shoe shelf, my fingers ran across four tall-thin boxes – I was miffed about what I had hidden back there. “Are these my old Parabolas?” I screamed with delight. “You’re that excited about mathematical plane curves?” replied my wife. I pulled each out one by one; 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 vintages. I must drink these today!
You see, I used to cellar beer in the hopes of actually evaluating them over time to see how they would mature. Often times, big boozy stouts would round themselves out and develop other nuances not seen on day one. Over the years, I’ve learned that cellaring beer is usually a waste when it comes to stouts, as more often than not they develop a paper-like off-flavor caused by oxidation called trans-2-nonenal. Although the perception of this flavor compound differs per person, I typically perceive it as a wet newspaper. That off-flavor can carry through the finish, which is what stamps the overall beer’s impression into memory.
I didn’t have high hopes with the 2013 Parabola variant as I tucked it in the fridge, and throught my lowered expectations might possibly reward me later on. And oh boy, did it. Six years in my closet, and this beer is still outstanding. Fresh Parabola is a straight-up bourbon barrel-aged masterpiece, where caramel, toffee, roast, toast, and bourbon marry together in perfect harmony. Over time, the beer developed a unique humidor-like character with juicy leaf tobacco notes. There are hints of sherry that poke through as well, with a bit of rich dark chocolate and some nutty nougat on the finish.
Although I’ve already dusted the newer vintages that come in 12oz bottle formats (2017-2019), this beer makes me want to start cellaring a select few again. Well done, Firestone Walker! Pick this beer up in select liquor stores, but one to drink fresh, and one to forget about!
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!