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 and roasted coffee—yet each annual release also bears its own subtle imprint. For the first time ever, this year’s edition was aged for 12 months in an equal mix of bourbon, rye and wheat whiskey barrels, accentuating the beer’s signature richness and intensity with vintage-specific hints of black pepper and cereal grain.

Behind the beer with the Brewmaster

Watch now as Brewmaster Matt Brynildson takes us behind the beer with each vintage of new 2021 Parabola variants and showcases the power of our signature imperial stout aged for a full year in premium bourbon barrels.

Also available now are two extremely limited variants: Amburana Parabola –incorporating bold Amburana wood spirals, and Double Barrel Parabola – a version that sat in two different sets of fresh whiskey barrels for a year each.

We sat down with Barrel Program Manager Eric Ponce to talk about this year’s releases.

Parabola Brew Day

Parabola has always been one of the most challenging beers for us to brew, and one of the most rewarding. Eric shares:

“If we’re brewing a batch of Parabola in the brewhouse, you don’t want to be the brewer that day. It’s a lot of heavy lifting – multiple 50-pound bags of specialty malts – the beer has a huge malt bill and we pretty much fill the mash tun to its capacity. I mean, this is a beast of a brew.”

Parabola was formulated to spend time in wood barrels for years. It’s fermented in stainless steel, and at this point Parabola is extremely rough, astringent, and very bitter.  The time in spirit barrels allows those elements to mellow out and create a smooth sipping experience.

“The difference between Parabola pre-barrel and post-barrel maturation is night and day,” says Eric. “It’s pretty interesting. Out of all our vintage beers, this is the one where you see the most change and flavor from start to finish.”

A Subtle Twist

Each year our Parabola release has spent around twelve months in 100% bourbon barrels.  This year we tried something a little different. The same base beer was matured in equal thirds bourbon, rye whiskey and wheated bourbon barrels, then blended together.

“Brewers associate rye as bringing really great black pepper notes to beer, along with a rye bread character,” Eric says. “The wheated bourbon barrels add a sweeter mouthfeel, and a cereal grain character which comes through as well. It just adds a layer of depth and complexity even deeper than Parabola already had. “

Eric also revealed the pedigree of barrels used in Parabola’s latest vintage.

“This year, the blend is eight-year Buffalo Trace bourbon, twelve-year Weller wheated bourbon and six-year Templeton rye whiskey barrels. I think people are really going to be stoked about this year’s beer. We work to keep on upping the ante, and this year we set an even higher bar.”

Amburana Parabola

This year also sees a few extremely limited Parabola variants, beers that can be found at our locations and online shop.

The story of our first limited release began when we selected a special lot of Parabola that had aged for 12 months in premium eight-year-old bourbon barrels. Next, we racked this lot and circulated it through spirals of Brazilian Amburana wood, which is prized for its beautiful baking spice flavors.

“Amburana is one of the most exotic woods out there, and only a handful of people can get their hands on it,” Eric shares. “Amburana is native to Brazil and the exotic smell of spices that just radiates from the wood itself will blow you away.”  Eric goes even further – “The first time I smelled Amburana, I knew I had to use it, and I knew it had to end up in Parabola.”

Cinnamon and vanilla are some of the first flavors that come to mind. Eric recalls fondly: “When I was a kid, I would get a vanilla waffle cone at the ice cream shop. I immediately think of those childhood flavors with Amburana. Everyone will be asking how much cinnamon and vanilla we added; it’s all purely from the wood.”

Special barrels of Parabola that showcased vanilla, dark cherry and bittersweet chocolate notes were handpicked as the foundation.  Adding the right amount of Amburana character was a balancing act; Eric had a few sleepless nights: “We wanted to add Amburana wood spirals without extracting any wood tannin astringency, so we monitored the beer night and day until it reached the perfect level of flavor. This beer is definitely going to turn people on to how special Amburana is.”

Double Barrel Parabola

We doubled down on Parabola for our second limited small-batch release. While Parabola is historically aged for one year in premium bourbon barrels, we transferred this edition to a separate lot of wheat whiskey barrels at the 12-month mark for an additional 12 months of aging for a total of 24 months of barrel aging. Eric illuminates:

“The inspiration came from one of my favorite whiskey’s – Weller 12. It’s a wheated bourbon which has recently been difficult to find.  Just over a year ago I was able to secure some of these barrels and I wanted to do something special. I had a selection of Parabola barrels that were tasting phenomenal at the one-year mark but thought could go even further. And that’s where double barrel came to be – we emptied Parabola out of eight-year Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels and moved it into these 12-year Weller wheated bourbon barrels.”

Parabola is initially brewed to be around 11.5% – and this year it came out of the barrels at 13.6%.  After this second fresh set of barrels, the ABV climbed even further to 15.5%. “Still, it’s such a smooth, almost dangerous beer,” Eric says. “That additional barrel & extra time creates this beautiful, creamy mouthfeel with just a touch of mild oxidation which smooths out the high ABV character. There’s also an added dimension of chocolate fudge and cereal grain-goodness.”

At 15.5%, Double Barrel Parabola is also the highest ABV beer that Firestone Walker has ever released.

“We never want to get complacent with anything. I always want to push new boundaries and try new things,” Eric says about Firestone’s barrel-aging program. “Double Barrel Parabola is exceptional, and there’s no doubt in my mind, the world’s going to freak out. For sure.”

Bottles for Sale Now

Parabola 2021 is now available for sale through our online webstore (CA-only) and national retailers. Use the Beer Finder to pick up a bottle closest to you.

Amburana Parabola and Double Barrel Parabola are both California-only releases. Visit one of our three brewstores in Paso Robles, Venice and Buellton or shop online. Limited availability, stock up while supplies last.