Parabola and the age of cult brews

Parabola and the age of cult brews

John ShearlockAug 25, '23

There are some beers that seemingly inhabit their own alternative reality - and have in one way or another entered the lofty and somewhat ethereal realms of what might be called cult status. You know the ones; they typically achieve perfect scores on rating sites, are scarce and hard to come by and generally pass people’s lips as words muttered and not as liquid imbibed.

Today’s beer is certainly a contender for this exclusive niche but, happily, it’s available right here at the click of the button from the chilled shelves at Beer Cellar.

Parabola from Firestone Walker is a beast of a beer aged in bourbon casks and weighing in at a heady 13.5%.

It was originally brewed in 2005 as a component for the Firestone anniversary beer called 10, but became a beer in its own right and is now into its 15th vintage. Each one is made in a slightly different way using different barrels for ageing. This one has used Blanton’s eight year old and 12 year old Weller Wheated Bourbon barrels - which sounds like an interesting mix from the get go.

OK I’m dying to drink this beer so let’s open it up and taste it!

It pours almost pitch black with a tan head. The nose is monumental. You may as well open up an online thesaurus and enter the words “stewed fruits” and see what comes back. Figs, prunes and cherries are at the fore (with bright fresh notes popping up too) and accompanied by fresh coffee and malted cereals - it’s like a breakfast banquet at a health retreat. On the palate… well what can I say.. I could die right now a happy man, with a feeling of fulfilment. All the notes on the nose are there and layered with bourbon saturated oak and a lovely bitterness to balance the syrupy sweetness. The texture too is quite unreal - there’s a viscosity that coats the mouth in a sublime way, staining it with dark flavours. This beer has lived up to its lofty reputation!

Coming back to the notion of cult beers, I guess there’s a huge element of subjectivity in what is perceived as cult, and arguably, the cult beer is a very different proposition in the online age. Modern brewing (I'm trying to avoid the word craft here) has really riffed on the cult concept. The rise of the boutique microbrewery has to some extent brought the cult beer to the fore. Many decent beers are now made in such small quantities in a focussed seasonal window that they almost become cult by definition. The online word of mouth then disseminates these brews to the world, meaning we hear and read about them without ever getting to try them - which too, increases the perception of cult. But then if all beers are cult, surely none of them are too - as the very notion is one of a niche that avoids the mainstream? Yeesh - sounds like we’re being sucked into some sort of postmodern discursive whirlpool!

Coming back to the surface - I’d certainly urge you to try this beer. Cult or not… It's bloody lovely.

On special here.