Posts filled under: California
Firestone Walker Parabola, 2012
Oak-aged Imperial Stout
12.5 % ABV
Another review, another Firestone Walker beer. As a fan of imperial stouts, especially huge ones, I had been anticipating the release of this beer for quite some time, so when my store finally got some in I made sure to buy a bottle. Then another for aging after someone and his friend snatched nine of the twelve bottles. Once only used for blends and not bottled, Parabola has generated enough interest to warrant distribution by itself, albeit in very limited quantities (3000 cases). Firestone says of the beer:
Parabola has been a major component of past anniversary blends and is one of our most aggressive offerings. This beer features bold bourbon and tobacco aromas and a rich dark chocolate, charred oak flavor. Parabola is best enjoyed in moderation and is a perfect beer to pair with those chocolate dessert favs.
Parabola is very likely one of the darkest beers I have ever seen. Pours, as the bottle says, midnight black. 167 SRM, to be exact, which is pretty astronomical. I can’t really get into the science behind SRM values, but I will put it this way: held directly in front of my halogen desk lamp, I did not see any light coming through whatsoever. This beer is an abyss (that is not light going through the beer in my photo, but instead just reflections off the glass). The head is rather thin and khaki-colored.
The typical imperial stout aromas are present in Parabola, and in huge quantity. This is not a bad thing. Tons of ultra-roasted malts, coffee, chocolate, oak… oh, man. A little bit of dark fruits come into the mix, but it’s mostly the aforementioned.
And, yes—this beer is amazing. Chocolate, coffee, some smoked oak flavor in the background. I’m not going to disagree with any claims of tobacco taste, though I cannot exactly confirm/deny that. Bitterness in the finish, though I cannot pinpoint whether it’s from the roasted malts, hops, or oak. Regardless, this is extraordinarily delicious. Wow! This certainly is no subtle beer, but it is an amazing one.
As expected, the mouthfeel of this beer is thick. “Really really thick,” as per my notes. The carbonation is light and foamy and gives it a velvety texture. More or less perfect.
Basically, my verdict is as follows: If you like stouts—big stouts—this is a must, if you can find it. Buy as many bottles as you can afford and store the rest. It does not come particularly cheap, but it’s well worth the cost. I can only imagine what some aging will do to this beer and I eagerly await that time, whenever it may come. Though having drunk this bottle myself, it must be said that its thickness and strength was a force to be reckoned with—by the end of it I didn’t want to see another stout for who knows how long. It’s an immense beer. Still, it’s up there as one of the best stouts I’ve ever had. Highest recommendation.
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
Black Rye IPA
Despite generally hearing wonderful things about Firestone Walker’s beers, I have never drunk one. I bought their barleywine, §ucaba (a.k.a. Abacus prior to some weird legal nonsense I don’t understand), but I have left that to age in my basement before I’m going to touch it. I have consistently been tempted by their Double Jack, but a relatively high price and the fact that they for the longest time didn’t date their bottles turned me off (they have since started dating their bottles—other breweries please take note). I had been anticipating this one for a while, though, so the moment my store received it I was sure to buy a bottle. Relatively reasonable in price, too—much more so than Double Jack. Having loved both rye IPAs I have tried, Sierra Nevada’s Ruthless Rye and He’brew’s Bittersweet Lenny R.I.P.A., I had great expectations for this beer.
Of Wookey Jack, Firestone Walker says:
Wookey Jack is our first foray into the dark outer world of black IPAs. Rich dark malts and spicy rye careen into bold citrus laden hops creating a new dimension in IPA flavor. This brew has been left unfiltered and unfined to retain all of its texture and character. At 60 IBUs, Wookey Jack is gnarly on the outside yet complex and refined on the inside.
Wookey Jack pours exactly as it claims—black. Not as dark as, e.g., an imperial stout or anything, but of course. The tan-colored head is relatively thin, but its retention excellent. Very appealing beer.
Semi-surprisingly, there is actually very little rye smell to this beer, at least not to my nose. Make no mistake: Wookey Jack is first and foremost an IPA. Citrusy, grapefruit hops abound. I suppose this came as a slight disappointment to me, the lack of rye, but who am I kidding—this beer smells delicious nevertheless.
The taste follows the smell. Hops upfront. Nice, citrusy hops. Exceptionally tasty. I sensed a faint rye taste or spiciness in the background, but overall the taste was still very overwhelmingly “IPA” or “DIPA”. A customer had told me that the rye gave the beer a slightly rustic taste, which is indeed a very vague description of flavor, but one that I must agree with anyway. Wookey Jack ends with a nice bitter finish. It is a very well-rounded beer; it is neither too bitter nor too sweet.
The mouthfeel is great: a little bit sticky and a lot of smoothness. Carbonation is very nicely in the middle. Lots of lingering bitterness even after the beer has long left your mouth.
In summation, this is an exceptional beer. To be quite honest, however, if I were blindfolded while drinking this beer (and had no prior knowledge of what it was), I don’t believe that I would have guessed that it is both a rye-based and black IPA. Depending on one’s perspective, this may be either a blessing or a slight disappointment. In my case, it’s slightly more a disappointment, as I loved the strong rye flavors in Ruthless Rye and was hoping for more of that in this beer, but it’s hard to be disappointed for very long at a beer this good. I highly recommend seeking it out.
It does what the name says. A completely unbalanced hop bomb, bitter to no end. I have not decided if this is a good thing.
EDIT: I don’t think it is. I really want to like this, but I just cannot.
Sierra Nevada Hoptimum
“Whole Cone” Imperial IPA
Sierra Nevada has done me well as of late: 2011’s Celebration was one of the better Christmas/winter beers I had this past year (and certainly the best value); the new-to-2012 Ruthless Rye IPA was also wonderful. Sierra Nevada continues this trend with Hoptimum, as well as the trend of squeezing as many ‘hop’ puns as linguistically possible for the names of hoppy beers.
Sierra Nevada says of Hoptimum:
A group of hop-heads and publicans challenged our Beer Camp brewers to push the extremes of whole-cone hop brewing. The result is this: a 100 IBU, whole-cone hurricane of flavor. Simply put—Hoptimum: the biggest whole-cone IPA we have ever produced. Aggressively hopped, dry-hopped, AND torpedoed with our exclusive new hop varieties for ultra-intense flavors and aromas.
Basically, one should not approach Hoptimum with any expectation of subtlety. I’m somewhat unclear as to what “exclusive new hop varieties” means.
The beer pours a nice amber color with a very decent white head. Quite a bit of lacing left as the head dissipates. Almost a syrupy, oily pour. Smell is largely that of piney hops. Little bit of malts and sweetness, but not much.
Taste doesn’t disappoint given expectations. That is, huge on the hops. Bitter, a little bit spicy, a giant hop bomb dropped from the heavens. Some caramel malts underneath the bitterness. Since it is a Double/Imperial IPA, there’s also a good deal of sweetness as well, but not enough to exactly start calling the beer “balanced” by any means. Make no mistake: this is a hoppy beer. Considering Hoptimum’s ABV (10.40%), the alcohol is relatively well-hidden, though it’s definitely noticeable, particularly as the beer nears closer to room temperature.
Hoptimum has about medium carbonation. Medium-heavy in body—this is a substantial beer. True to the pour, it has an almost oily, resinous feel in the mouth. It’s pretty wonderful. It has a relatively dry finish. The bitterness is there to stay, combined with a bit of alcohol warmth?
Overall, this is a really good DIPA. At $10 a four-pack, it’s neither cheap nor outrageous, especially taking its alcohol content into consideration. There are two main things I can see deterring people from enjoying this beer: (i) The obvious—not liking hop bombs, and (ii) those who desire their IPAs to be refreshing. Hoptimum is simply too huge to offer much of that. I definitely recommend this beer—one of the outright best I’ve had from Sierra Nevada.
Note: I do intend, in the future, to include photographs with all of the beers I drink, but since I drank this one a couple nights ago, this will not happen for this particular beer. I left a few notes on this, so even though I’m partially going by memory, it shouldn’t be too bad a review.
Stone says of the beer:
There is of course the implicitly posed question of what exactly the Belgian/Belgique/België influence is. And “yeast” is the answer. We carefully selected a Belgian yeast strain that illuminates a fascinating new aspect that is otherwise quite simply Stone IPA.
The result is both completely new and different, while still being recognizable as a Stone brew—and Stone IPA in particular. Think of it as an otherwise identical twin to Stone IPA that was raised in a Belgian culture. Literally.
You don’t need to know a whole lot more in order to have an imagination capable as to what this beer is like, but I shall go on:
Firstly, it should be noted that I have never actually had Stone’s regular IPA. I think Stone is a wonderful brewery, but I haven’t ever felt the need to go with the normal IPA. As such, I cannot make any direct comparisons between the two. I think I know enough nevertheless.
The Cali-Belgique IPA pours a pretty light yellow with a substantial white head. I was actually a bit surprised at the lightness. Smell was mostly dominated by the ‘Cali-’ and ‘IPA’ parts of the beer’s name, i.e. that common hoppy, citrusy, piney smell. Some malts and a bit of the Belgian yeast influences found their way into the mix.
Taste is where the Belgian influences show up most: West Coast-styled IPA hop flavor upfront, but with some Belgian yeasty flavors underneath. Lighter fruits/banana, that vague Belgian-styled kick. Delicious. Pretty medium-bodied. The Belgian yeast aspects round out the expected bitterness we often find in a Stone brew, making it very drinkable.
Overall, it’s best to go into this beer expecting an IPA with some Belgian influences rather than a hoppy Belgian. The IPA is certainly the dominant part of the equation, but the unusual (for the style) yeast strain gives it a unique flavor I’ve yet to experience in an IPA. Even people who aren’t huge on IPAs may like this beer, as the usual bitterness is toned down.