Velvet Merlin - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Velvet MerlinVelvet Merlin

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BA SCORE
90
outstanding

2,626 Ratings
THE BROS
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no score

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Ratings: 2,626
Reviews: 609
rAvg: 4.01
pDev: 9.98%
Wants: 209
Gots: 430 | FT: 6
Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Oatmeal Stout |  5.50% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: largadeer on 11-13-2008

A decadent oatmeal stout. Velvet Merlin offers robust cocoa and espresso aromas with subtle American hop nuances. Rich dark chocolate and roasted coffee flavor with a creamy mouth feel and wonderfully dry finish create the perfect balance in this full-bodied stout. Ideal for sipping in the winter months or at the end of a meal.

Original name was "Velvet Merkin", but name was changed when it began to be bottled in 2010.

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Ratings: 2,626 | Reviews: 609
Reviews by AKuehn47:
More User Reviews:
Photo of UCLABrewN84
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep, dark brown bordering on black with a 2 inch tan colored head. Lacing is spotty on the glass on the drink down. Smells of roasted malt, oatmeal, and weak coffee. Taste is of dark roasted malt and oats with a slight bitter coffee flavor. Bitterness is slight after each sip. Good carbonation with a medium body. Very easy to drink. A good dark sessionable beer clocking in at 5.5% ABV.

Photo of tectactoe
3.82/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Black. Black as black can be... Surprisingly black, actually, with another surprisingly deep brown and tainted mocha colored head that foams up to a few fingers quickly, and then hastily retreats to a weak film stretched across the black hole. A few splotches of tan lacing are left near the top of the glass and that's about it. I know it's an oatmeal stout, but I wasn't expecting this level of darkness.

The aroma ventures into the cream and silky chocolate range with a mild oat undertaking and plenty of dark and lightly roasted malt. The darkness and roast don't come without a somewhat out of kilter, but nevertheless balancing, creamy sweetness - the beauty of sweet/oatmeal stouts, right? The nose shows just a touch of dark fruit in the finish... Not as captivating as I was expecting, but a decent smelling oatmeal stout nonetheless.

Velvet Merlin tricks me a little bit, as the taste is definitely more roasted than you would ever be able to anticipate just from taking a few whiffs. Lightly charred malt is met by a quieter, softer prune and dark fruit sweetness that lends every hand it has in an attempt to balance, and eventually does a respectable job of it, even if not immediately.

More milk chocolates explode about halfway through, flowing into a graciously soft and dry oat filled finish. Sweetness is contempt, yet notable and overall balanced pretty well with the roast and the dry oats. The mouth feel of this beer doesn't swoon me with its sexy silkiness like oatmeal stouts should (and like many of them do), so I must dock it a few points in that regard.

Velvet Merlin is a pretty good oatmeal stout all around, but it really wasn't a mind-blowing or incredible experience for me, and there are certainly some options that are more local to me that I'd take over it (New Holland's The Poet, or even Rogue's Shakespeare, as much as I hate Rogue and their business practices... but that's neither here nor there). Really good, but not legendary.

Photo of mikesgroove
4.5/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

completely opaque liquid coming forward in front of me. Rich dark brown notes, with a good sized head of maybe an inch in height coming over the top of it. Nice settling left behind a thin layer and a good amount of side glass lace.

The aroma was your typical oatmeal stout, though a touch more bitter then what I was expecting. Nice notes of lactose, chocolate and vinous hops. Some light grain notes as well in the finish. Rich, though not terribly filling. Lots of burnt and roasted malt flavors in here. Not as sweet as the aroma would have led me to believe it would have been, still though very solid in both bitterness and malt profile. Light notes of chocolate floating around, but again nothing terribly too swee

Photo of metter98
4.04/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: The beer is very close to being jet black in color—only slight traces of dark brown are visible near the edge of the glass. It poured with a quarter finger high dark beige head that died down.
S: Light to moderate aromas of oatmeal, dark malts, and roasted malts are present in the nose.
T: Similar to the smell, the taste has flavors of dark and roasted malts along with notes of oatmeal and slight bits of sweetness towards the finish. Some hints of coffee beans are also perceptible.
M: It feels light- to medium-bodied and very smooth on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation. Faint amounts of dryness are also noticeable.
O: For a lighter oatmeal stout, this beer still offers some complexities in the taste that makes it interesting to drink.

Serving type: bottle

Photo of huntley101888
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%

Aroma - smells sweet with notes of coffee and toffee maybe a bit of chocolate, but mostly the first two. 11/12

Appearance - Inky black color. No light is getting through this thing. Half a finger of tan head dissapated very quickly to a thin ring of foam around the surface of the glass. 3/3

Flavor - The obvious flavors are coffee and bitter chocolate up front. Those lead to the oaty sweetness that you'd expect in an oatmeal stout. I'm going to sound crazy here, but the sweetness taste reminds me of the smell of pumpkin puree. Please don't interpret that as this is a pumpkin beer, but that's what's in my brain. 18/20

Mouthfeel - lightly carbed, which is appropriate for style. Creamy mouthfeel - not too heavy but not too thin. 5/5

Overall - This is a very good oatmeal stout and is true to style. If you're looking for a good stout, try this one. 9/10

Photo of Flounder57
4.03/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle was poured into a nonic glass.

Appearance: A one finger mocha head was poured that reduced to a thin layer. It is a pitch black color with no vision of anything.

Smell: Sweet and bready oats, vanilla, milk chocolate, roasted coffee, char, smoke, and earthy aromas.

Taste: Same as above. Nice sweetness and bready oats. Very tasty oatmeal stout.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, some silky and creamy notes, light bodied, and a little chewy.

Overall: Pretty nice oatmeal stout. I wouldn't mind trying out the big daddy version. I am content with this one for the time being.

Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.95/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Burnished walnut brown with burnt orange edges and a lack of opacity... which is no sin in beer of this style and ABV. The lovely looking lid of golden ecru colored foam that was created on the pour is becoming soft and creamy as it melts. Nice lace too.

A small percentage of bourbon barrel-aged Merlin was combined with non-bourbon barrel-aged Merlin to create Merlin. Make sense? There's almost no whiskey in the nose, just the usual roasted and chocolate notes of the style... but it's enough.

As always, my taste buds are more sensitive than my nose. Still, this is not beer that will scare away those who don't care for the taste of America's finest spirit. That particular characteristic is subtle, which is exactly what is needed in a 5.5% oatmeal stout that doesn't otherwise poleaxe your palate with malt flavor.

Specific flavors include bittersweet chocolate, charred coffee beans, burnt sugar, and a complementary tea leaf bitterness from U.S. Fuggles. Barely more than 3 months in the bottle ensures that this is still relatively balanced beer. More bourbon would've been a mistake.

The mouthfeel is the only (slight) disappointment. It's a fraction thin, doesn't hang on like it should, and the carbonation could add more lift and expansive creaminess. Not bad at all, it just doesn't keep pace with the other attributes.

Firestone Walker is a good-to-great craft brewery. Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout is closer to good than great, which is fine with me. Here's hoping this is a year-round release.

Photo of weatherdog
4.67/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a tulip glass

Pours a deep black, mocha dense head dies down to a thin layer of bubbles. Minimal lacing.

The aroma is of grains. Like freshly mashed dark grains it's inviting and roasty but not over done with just a little back end sweetness and vanilla. Its simple and to the point.

Taste is just outstanding. Roasted barley in the forefront, a mild coffee bean flavor and then it finishes with just the smallest amount of plum fruit. The finish has a lingering bitter /roast that is welcomed. Mouthfeel is medium light but the oats give it a silky impression that makes it feel fuller bodied without knocking down the drinkability.

This is seriously a great beer. One of the best simple no frills stouts that I've ever had. Truely impressed.

Photo of SanFranJake
4.13/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I really liked this beer. Poured into a plain ass snifter and was great!
Beer buying (not yet drinking) a lot of their beer lately (five XVI's, Parabola and DDBA's as I find) and had to try.
Pours a deep dark brown with great head that slowly dissipates.
Usual aromas of coffee and chocolate as expected but suprisingly drinkable and not the least bit filling as I expect a stout to be.
Great aftertaste and overall, if I'm looking for a drinkable stout that isnt barrel aged or fancy, I think I've found it.

Photo of NWer
4.05/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Promoted as a Merkin @ local joint known for small number but top quality tap line.
Couldn't wait.
Enjoyed the beer enough but where was the bourbon? I reviewed it as a Merkin & blamed the thin taste on too cold serving temperature.
Elliott Bay Pizza later tweeted that it wasn't a Merkin at all but a Merlin.
That's better. Explains the taste but still doesn't excuse the serving temperature.
Still, I have the growler to go & can give it an updated rating on my terms in the future.
With the $10 price tag for the growler, not complaining at all. Should have known it was too good to be true. They're allowed to screw up once in a while. They're still my go-to local place for pizza & killer beer.
As a non-bourbon barrel aged oatmeal stout, this is excellent and more in line with what I expect from FW not the disappointment when I expected it to be a Merkin. Deleted my Merkin review.

Photo of Beaver13
3.38/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle. Pours dark brown with a big creamy light tan head that retains well and laces the glass a little.

The aroma is roasted malt, oatmeal and some coffee.

The flavor is a little on the mild side - some sweet chocolate and caramel malts with some earthy coffee notes. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and fairly watery.

Overall, a decent oatmeal stout, but a little on the mild and sweet side. I slightly preferred the Slow Elk by Big Sky which is very similar.

Photo of mverity
3.3/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Bottle courtesy of a BA trade. Pours inky black with tan colored head that went away almost immediately. Good legs, okay lacing. Aroma is faint. I'm only getting deep malt with a touch of brown sugar. Taste is much different, still the heavy malt character, interesting oat flavor, faint hop earthiness, brown sugar/caramel. Mouthfeel is surprisingly thin. Not nearly as syrupy as I was hoping for from a oatmeal centered stout. I'm surprised this beer becomes so damn tasty in the barrels. Merkin is considerably better. Maybe I shouldn't have aged this one. Who knows?

Photo of Billolick
3.94/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout

12 oz. bottle ,Bottled on dating ( "01/09/14") etched onto the neck of the bottle.

Pours near black, mocha head, stays nicely and leaves low sheeting and thicker strands of lace.

Chocolate and some vanilla on the nose.

Thick and flavorful, with more milk chocolate and smooth dark malt notes. Dry finish but maintains a quite moderate hop presence. Nicely done and well worth a try if ya see this available in your local area.

Photo of ElSid
3.93/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The Beers of California

#21

Bottled Date: 9/27/12

A: Deep black with a light brown head of foam which dissipates to a faint layer of bubbles.

S: Smokey with dark chocolate and hints of espresso.

T: Bittersweet chocholate with hints of smokiness, vanilla, and espresso. Smooth, dark, sweet bread foundation. Some earthy bitterness and warming alcohol in the finish. Great flavor profile with complementing characteristics.

M. Full, creamy, and velvety smooth with good carbonation.

O: A great, smooth stout for the cold winter nights. Simple and balanced with good drinkability.

Photo of tigg924
4.05/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Had on tap at New World Tavern.

Appearance: moderate carbonation, minimal head, clear, dark brown in color

Smell: roasted malt, toasted malt, and oats

Taste: oats, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate. The milk chocolate is stronger than the dark chocolate.

Mouthfeel: sweet with slight roasty bitterness, medium body, moderate carbonation

Overall: An excellent oatmeal stout. Nice and chewy with malty complexity. Great brew for a winter's day. I will look for this in bottles.

Photo of magictrokini
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tap @ O'Brien's. Pours dark brown with a medium tan head. Nestle Quik cocoa, malted milk balls, leather, vanilla, and roasted coffee in the nose. More malted chocolate and oatmeal in the taste, with a strong cherry pop towards the finish. The cherry sweetness came out of nowhere, was out of character for the beer, but kind of nice. Almost like a German chocolate cake taste. Good beer.

Photo of kingcrowing
3.83/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12oz stubby bottle poured into a Duvel tulip, thanks so Stawn for hookin it up!

Pours a dark ruby brown from the bottle, but it's lookin black in the glass. Nice big 2 finger light brown head. Nose is the most oatmealy of any oatmeal stout I've had, fairly dry and toasty.

Taste is a bit mellow, very well balanced though. It's creamy and rich and that oatmeal character is coming through quite well. Mouthfeel is soft and smooth. Quite an easy drinker.

Photo of dogfishandi
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

thank to LaChupacabra for the extra!

12oz bottle at fridge temp poured into a snifter. bottled on 10/24/2011.

pours out almost completely opaque black, no light coming through at all. a nice big 2-3 fingers worth of khaki colored head off the pour that within a few minutes settled to a retentive ring. only some spotty lace from a swirl of the glass.

bitter roasted malt and bitter dark chocolate coming through the aroma the most. also some coffee and a touch of toasted malt and fruits.

again, lots of bitter roasted malt and bitter dark chocolate. some nice slightly fruity toasted malts as well, coffee and a nice bitter hop finish.

a nice slick, somewhat oily/ creamy mouthfeel from oatmeal, medium to light bodied, ample carbonation.

spot on oatmeal stout, a great example of the style. i could see myself drinking this again.

Photo of ehammond1
4.02/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

On Tap

Patrick's Irish Pub
Poway, CA

A nearly black beer with a thin light brown head that fades quickly. Leaves significant and sticky lacing on the glass.

Very impressive nose on this one! I smell loads of coffee and chocolate, makes me want to jump in!

An unaggressive and very balanced oatmeal stout. Some bitterness but the taste is mainly of sweet coffee and chocolate. Uncomplicated.

A somewhat thin mouthfeel. Not as smooth, full, and decadent as my favorite stouts.

An extremely drinkable and accessible oatmeal stout. I would use this to introduce the style to someone. Any coffee or chocolate lover who might also be interested in beer should seek this one out.

Photo of Jagen
3.58/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed from notes taken 11/7/12. Nitro-tap at The Map Room in Chicago. 12 oz pour into an orval glass

A - 1 Finger light, white-brown head. Very black beer. Looks just about how a stout should look

S - Subtle oatmeal notes. Very weak smell. I like the smell but it is very weak...smells very sweet and inviting/

T - It tastes really delicious. Milk-chocolate. Late oatmeal taste. I don't taste any Bourbon at all. It tastes really good but isn't bold enough for the style.

M - Nitro-goodness. Kind of light. Smooth and silky. Surprisingly light for the style...maybe light due to the nitrotap? Enjoyed the feel, though.

O - A really tasty beer. I wonder if this was mid-advertised and is actually the 5% non-bourbon aged version? I would have liked this to be much more bold and the flavors to be much more prominent. I enjoyed it but it tasted like a watered-down version of what I expected. It was advertised as 'Velvet Merlin', 8.7%, bourbon aged...I think it was just the normal 5%-er that they bottle

Photo of Beerandraiderfan
3.91/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark brown pour, tan head, this is a looker. Plain aroma, roast, oats taming it down.

Taste, richly smooth, great work with the oatmeal here. Not harsh at all, a great session stout. All the harbingers of a good stout, coffee, chocolate, vanilla, none of them in your face, just mingling in the background. Easy to see why this was a component in the anniversary beer.

Beer provides a good coat for the gullet. Stays away from being anything extreme. A good, dry, sessionable oatmeal stout, nothing pretentious about it, does the job quite well, even if it might seem thin at times for peeps always looking for a RIS or a double/imperial stout. Just the right amount of hopping to keep it lively, but not be astringent or out of style parameters.

Photo of chinchill
3.8/5  rDev -5.2%

12 oz bottle consumed in Redwoods Park.

Opaque black-brown; good tan head that leaves layered lacing.

Aroma: dark bread with hints of molasses and dark fruits

Flavor: Follows the promise of the aroma. Moderate level of dark roasted malts flavor. Faint coffee in the aftertaste.

Feel: soft medium carbonation. Medium-light body.

O: good for style.

Photo of hagbergl
3.84/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A buddy of mine and I spotted this in six-packs at the local store and he decided to buy it for the Ravens-Patriots game. As a big fan of Firestone Walker's other beers, I was excited to try this. Served in a big old mug. Review is from notes.

Appearance (4.25/5): A moderately hard pour produces a huge, billowy khaki head. The luxuriant head sits atop a pitch black body of beer. Plenty of soapy residue lines the sides of the glass. Looks pretty great.

Smell (4/5): Very aromatic. Oats, grain, cereal, malty, light milk chocolate, black coffee, roasty. The oats give the aroma a slightly acidic twang. Basically everything you would expect from an oatmeal stout in terms of smell. One of the beer's stronger suits.

Taste (3.5/5): Black coffee, roasty, some nice dark chocolate notes arrive late and recede shortly thereafter, oats and grain. Dark maltiness borders on richness but doesn't quite cross the threshold–this is a fairly restrained and mild stout. While certainly flavorful, it doesn't approach the decadence of its bigger Russian Imperial and American Double cousins. I'm not enamored by the flavor here. While this is pretty good, there is nothing that stands out and 'wows' me–it features a fairly simple flavor profile and does it well.

Mouthfeel (4.25/5): In my opinion the best feature of this beer is its creamy smoothness. Velvet Merlin indeed. Very drinkable. Nice medium carbonation and medium body. These qualities almost make up for its shortfalls in the taste department.

Overall (4/5): Velvet Merlin is good, not great. Firestone has brewed a very drinkable, though simple and mild stout. I prefer my stouts to be a bit bolder. I know some people (weirdos, all) that would prefer this approach. But if you're an oatmeal stout aficionado, maybe you'll find virtues in Velvet Merlin my palate doesn't appreciate as well. My own stylistic preferences asides, I do think this is still a very respectable beer even if it's not by any means a show stopper.

Photo of glid02
4.15/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle shared by Jeremy – thanks!

Pours one shade from black with a one-finger tan head. The head recedes into a thin layer on top leaving decent lacing.

Smells of smooth roasted malts with good amounts of sweet oats and light chocolate aromas.

Tastes similar to how it smells. Lightly roasted malt flavors kick things off and are joined quickly by moderate amounts of light chocolate flavors. Midway through the sip the flavors sweeten a bit with slight amounts of oak and hints of toffee. The sweetness fades out near the end of the sip, carrying through to a moderately bitter ending.

Mouthfeel is very good. It’s got a smooth thickness with grainy carbonation.

Drinkability is also very good. I finished my glass quickly and could easily have a few more.

Overall there wasn’t anything that stood out about this beer besides the mouthfeel but everything worked well together and this is a smooth beer. This beer reminded me of their Reserve Porter but with a heavier mouthfeel and slightly sweeter. Well worth a shot.

Photo of rhoadsrage
3.9/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

(Served in a snifter)
Bottled 12/04/12
A- This beer pours a get black body with a thin wisp of tan head and a glowing walnut brown hue at the base.

S- The inky black malt aroma has some earthy tar notes and a deep coffee hint comes through. There are some nice graham notes that come through as it warms

T- The big black earthy inky roasted malt has an almost smoky quality it is so dark and some slightly sweet malt finish that is pretty clean in the aftertaste.

M- The medium mouthfeel has a slippery texture and no alcohol heat noticed

O- This big black malt flavor is nice with some inky qualities but the finish and body really get thin a lot as it opens up and there isn’t much to support that big malt flavor. It would be nice to have some alcohol or hops or sweetness to finish what the flavor starts.

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Velvet Merlin from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
90 out of 100 based on 2,626 ratings.