In the craft beer world, Black Friday is best known for the annual release of Goose Island Brewing Co.’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, but last year Firestone Walker Brewing Co. decided to get in on the action.

Firestone Walker Parabajava bottle

The beer the brewery decided to release was Parabajava, a 14 percent ABV imperial stout that uses the Paso Robles, Calif.-based brewery’s popular Parabola (14 percent ABV) as its base before adding Intelligentsia Coffee Co.’s “El Diablo” espresso blend. The beer was was originally a draft-only option created for Firestone Walker’s Father’s Day brunch in 2013 held at Lot 613 in Los Angeles, Calif.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that Intelligentsia coffee has been used in a beer,  as the aforementioned Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout (13.4 percent ABV) has incorporated it into its brews since 2010. In fact, the El Diablo espresso blend was also used in the 2013 draft-only version of Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout.

In terms of the release, Parabajava was packaged in 22-ounce bottles ($20.99) and only 600 cases were available when it went on sale at both the main brewery in Paso Robles, Calif. as well as Barrelworks in Buellton, Calif. on Nov. 27, 2015. There was a four bottle limit per person on that Friday with a two bottle limit per person starting on Nov. 28.

Firestone Walker’s Parabajava pours a very dark brown color with half inch of mocha head that retains its cohesiveness for quite a while after settling into the glass, eventually leaving a fairly thin khaki lacing. Aroma coming from the glass is a combination of strong espresso beans, vanilla, oak, dark chocolate, fruit and fudge.

Firestone Walker Parabajava

The flavors follow the aroma almost exactly, with a dominant combination of both rich espresso and dark, bitter chocolate, interspersed with creamy oak, vanilla beans, fudge and slight tobacco. The bourbon is noticeable, but never close to a major player in the profile,  and I am getting some nice dark molasses sweetness on the finish that really sets the flavors off. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy—albeit a bit thinner than Parabola—but not distractingly so, and the carbonation is one the low end, perfect for this beer.

Firestone Walker Parabajava
BREWERY: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Pasa Robles, Calif.
STYLE: Imperial Stout
ABV: 14 Percent
IBU: 53
PRICE: $20.99
RELEASE DATE: Nov. 27, 2015
AVAILABLE IN: 22-ounce Bottles
Balance, balance, balance. The Firestone Walker Parabajava had this attribute in spades, a sometimes dicy thing to get right in espresso and coffee stouts. The profile is both rich and dense, with a wonderful roasted coffee flavor added to the already excellent base beer that bumps up the depth and complexity noticeably. Yes, the mouthfeel feels a bit thinner than regular Parabola, but that is a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent beer. Believe the hype on this one.
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