Big stouts invade Los Angeles from the north and south

Stone Brewing's Imperial Russian Stout and Firestone Walker's barrel aged oatmeal stout Parabola will be released Monday.
(John Verive)

Monday sees the release of two of California’s most respected and coveted imperial stouts: Stone Brewing’s Imperial Russian Stout and Firestone Walker’s barrel-aged oatmeal stout Parabola.

Stone Brewing releases their “IRS” beer every April 15, and this year they are adding an “odd beer for odd year” variant that adds espresso beans to the mix. Russian Imperial Stouts -- so named because the first of these highly alcoholic stouts were exported from Britain to the Russian court in the 18th century -- are rich and bold beers with strong roasty, coffee and dark chocolate flavors. The style often commands a premium price because of the expensive ingredients and lengthy brewing process, but Stone’s version is not only a benchmark among imperial Stouts, it’s a bargain at $7 for a 22-ounce bottle.

The Stone Brewing company store in Pasadena will also offer growler fills of both versions of the rich brew on Monday.


Firestone Walker’s Parabola is a different beast than Stone’s imperial stout. Parabola spends a year maturing in various bourbon barrels, and the result is a 13% ABV elixir that melds vanilla and bourbon with oak and roast coffee. To achieve the beer’s luscious, full mouthfeel the brewers use enough oats to cause technical challenges during the brew.

Brewmaster Matt Brynildson says, “The oats turn into this thick gelatinous pain in the ass.... We’re dealing with this big cookie. It takes a lot of attention, effort and patience to get Parabola through the brewhouse without crashing the proverbial plane into the side of the mountain.”

The attractive boxed bottles of Parabola retail for around $17, and only 40,000 bottles were produced. Look for it at Whole Foods and fine beer retailers over the next weeks, and remember: This is a great beer to hide a bottle or two of in the closet for next year. It’s delicious fresh, but it mellows a bit and evens out with some time in the bottle.

Both of these beers are special treats that only come around once a year, and they’re best shared. So break out your snifters, and call over a friend.


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