Classical Beer Review: Firestone Walker Parabola

Parabola is a supremely delicious barrel-aged stout that (in this author’s opinion) is worthy of its popular laudation. The 2017 vintage is a sticky delight that offers a rush of fudgey and chocolate-y goodness. Strong notes of dates, cherry, and vanilla complement the cacoa. Aside from the pleasant sweetness, the beer sets itself apart from other BA stouts by its balance: the sweetness is checked by both the roast and bitter components. Also, the subtle alcohol heat – never overpowering – lets the drinker know that this is a full and well-crafted beer.

The term “parabola” is most commonly used in mathematics to describe a type of (approximately) U-shaped curve. This type of curve is often created in physical form to take advantage of its reflective capabilities for enhancing light, sound, and other types of energy (e.g. headlight reflector on cars).

Because BCS specializes in beer in the Classical World, you have likely assumed that “parabola” is derived from a Greek or Latin word. “Parabola” is, indeed, from the ancient Greek παραβολή, meaning “setting things side-by-side.” The Greek word has various non-mathematical uses and can refer to a comparison, proverb or analogy. Even in math, it had uses that are alternate to its current use. Several early philosophers used it to represent mathematical division. Apollonius of Perga (late 3rd-early 2nd c. BCE) was likely the first to use the term “parabola” for conic sections and, in the third c. BCE, Archimedes articulated the properties of parabola segment (i.e. a segment from a cone). Why parabola for a beer? Perhaps, because the intense flavor of the beer is highly focused?

With the literal definition of parabola (i.e. “setting things side-by-side”), parabola (the beer) is also both naturally and linguistically suited for “vertical” tastings (i.e. tasting several vintages side by side). Surely, this should be called a “parabola of Parabolas.” We at BCS have resolved to do our ancient Greek duty and accomplish this. Unfortunately, such an occasion will have to wait a few years as we must get our hands on the next few (or past) vintages. But, when we do, you can be certain that we will arrange the tasting glasses in a U-shaped curve, for the assuredly-hubristic “parabolic parabola of Parabolas.”


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