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Velvet Merkin - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Velvet MerkinVelvet Merkin

Educational use only; do not reuse.

273 Reviews
no score

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Reviews: 273
Hads: 2,041
Avg: 4.24
pDev: 26.42%
Wants: 370
Gots: 844 | FT: 134
Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Oatmeal Stout |  8.50% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: t0rin0 on 11-20-2008

Our decadent Oatmeal Stout lovingly aged in Bourbon barrels. Beautiful chocolate, espresso and vanilla-bourbon aromas hold your nose hostage. Rich dark chocolate truffle, bourbon and espresso create a dangerously smooth and incredibly drinkable barrel aged Oatmeal Stout. Hoarding tendencies may occur.
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Reviews: 273 | Hads: 2,041
Photo of ttp86
2.38/5  rDev -43.9%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 1 | overall: 1.5

Opened a 2014 bottle and it was way over carbonated and thin, there was a constant 2 inch head in the bottle. Even with the issue the beer still tasted pretty good. Hoping to try a good bottle next time.

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Photo of themind
2.92/5  rDev -31.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

a 96??? after having BCBS, Devils Due, Backwoods Basterd and a host of other BB beers recently, this beer is truly a disappointment. The aroma is weak, the carbonation is fizzy and the taste is below par for the standard these days. A thin mouth feel just adds to the many short comings of this beer. I am shocked as this beer to me gets smoked by many so called " shelf turds " out there. If your seeking this out, save your money. The only redeeming factor of this beer is the ABV is hidden, but it's not very hard at 8.5%

Bottom Line: Not buying this again.

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Photo of santomark
3/5  rDev -29.2%

A - Pours a coca cola colored body. Mild off white head, about a nickels worth. Hues of brown.

S - Maple syrup, toffee, coffee, malt, fig, dates, darker fruits, splash of that classic bourbon taste.

T - light coffee up front, that watered down mocha, that iced latte taste. This empty presence in the middle. Finish with that bourbon taste.

M - Very light, silky, smooth.

O - I'm not buying another beer from this company again. No offense, but at $16 a bottle, I'd expect this to have a bigger profile. Moreover, the body is too weak for the bourbon characteristics. At times, this taste like the last few sips of a jack and coke, with a breathe of coffee to come back up. This is so weak, words cannot tell you how disappointed I am with this brew. I'm debating regurgitating what I swallowed, putting it back in the bottle, and asking for a refund. It's not bad, it's just absolutely disappointing.

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Photo of StinkyFishBoys
3/5  rDev -29.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

#carbonationcity if this was a boy it would be like those old super carbonated bubbly flavored waters boys. This is a trade beer. This is a "happy birthday dad" beer.

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Photo of brystmar
3.22/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

On tap for Barcade's 8th anniversary.

Dark brown pour, minimal tan head and lace. Traces of bourbon mix with the roasted malts for a pleasant aroma.

Gotta start by saying the body is unacceptably thin -- especially for an oatmeal stout. Roasty malts prevail in the flavor, somehow hiding most of the bourbon. Kinda watery throughout, but somehow finishes really strong with a bold rush of hazelnuts. Yum.

Pretty disappointing overall.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.3/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.25

Thanks to Nick Swinford for the 22 oz bottle! Poured into a wine glass; from yesterday.

A: Pours a very dark brown color; it certainly doesn't have the opacity of other big 8%+ stouts. There's a finger worth of light mocha colored head. The retention is poor and minimal lacing is left behind.

S: At first, the aroma is quite mild - this one needs time to open up. Once it does, though, it brings notes of bourbon, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and oats.

T: The best part of the brew. It starts off with a one-two combination of vanilla and chocolate on the taste buds. Gradually, it will develop some mild oat flavor, then transition straight into pure bourbon. A touch of alcohol burn is prevalent in conjunction with the bourbon/oak note, but it's hardly bothersome. The bourbon - while showcased well - more or less swallows the base brew whole. I could use more complexity as well.

M: Very thin, almost intolerably so - it feels genuinely insubstantial. There's nice carbonation to bring the flavors to the palate, though. The finish is sweet, sticky, long, and tannic; it's an easy brew to sip at least.

O: This isn't a bad beer at all. But given it's reputation and semi-rarity, it should have been better. It's thin and simplistic - two things I don't want from a barrel-aged offering. Honestly, I think I'd like the regular Velvet Merlin more...but we don't get that in Maryland (seriously, WTF? Maryland gets all the barrel-aged offerings from FW, but not Pivo Pils or Velvet Merlin?)

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Photo of buyyourfreedom
3.31/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I was really looking forward to this beer but came away underwhelmed. I felt the flavors were too subtle, particularly since it is barrel-aged. Also, it was entirely too thin for my taste.

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Photo of RandomExile
3.33/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

A: opaque black; no head; gothic spiderweb lacing
S: sweet, sharp bourbon barrel, tobacco
T: decided oatmeal on larger pulls, a sweet bourbony flavor reminding me of a candy from my childhood I can't quite place ... I understand why others are citing coconut and vanilla, but disagree that they overshadow the bourbon.
M: Medium-light for a bourbon, dry side of sweet
O: Fine for a bourbon barrel. Not my variety, but this has no dischordant notes, has that decidedly sweet/caramel flavor people are looking for in this style, and can easily stand up to the richest of soups or meats.

12oz / Tulip Glass / VGP, MD

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Photo of denver10
3.36/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

Pours black with a big marshmellow mocha head. Aroma is smooth bourbon and its barrel, caramel, chocolate, and a kiss of vanilla. Flavor was a bit disappointing for a FW barrel aged beer; smooth bourbon barrel comes in as I would like but the rest of the beer is quite lackluster. A little roasted barley, some caramel, and chocolate as well, and some of the sugars from the oats. A creamy, medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, I would probably have been far more lenient on this beer if it came from just about anyone other than Firestone Walker. However, knowing the magic these guys can do I was quite underwhelmed here. Not bad, and I easily finished my pour, but I would not come back to this one.

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Photo of lafoodie8808
3.4/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This beer is a whisky bomb when cold, but that improves as it warms. Unfortunately not enough to make this a winner. Not a bad beer, but doesn't live up to how amazing the rest of this series is.

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Photo of Dominic_Decoco
3.41/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Thin mouthfeel, boozy/hot flavor, oaky smell. A big disappointment from FW, was hoping it to be on the same level as Parabola but not even close. I guess it's because it's an oatmeal stout rather than a RIS

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Photo of cjelden
3.44/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I love FW beers. I go nuts over them. But Velvet Merkin didn't live up to the reputation for me. I drank this after drinking another local stout and it just showed how light on all fronts this beer was. Not a lot in the nose. Not a lot in flavor. I wish it had more bite to it's flavor and mouth feel. If you want real real smooth then you would like this more than I did.

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Photo of LordofWord
3.45/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.75

"Creamy"? "Smooth"? Definitely. This beer is what it is. But based on the $15 price tag, I will only make the mistake once. Never again. Solid but unspectacular. There just isn't enough improvement over the base oatmeal stout to warrant the cost.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.48/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle $14.99. I was real excited to try this as I like velvet merlin a lot but I will say I was quite let down. I guess I was expecting something more rich and decadent. This truly tasted like Velvet Merlin with hints of bourbon and it was kind of thin. Aroma was bourbon, a little oats, eh. Flavor was more of the same. Honestly I was expecting something like Parabola but different and this falls short. Just too think and too much like the base beer, I didn't feel like the time in the barrel changed it enough to make it worth my money.

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Photo of greenhorn
3.51/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

2013 vintage, poured into oversized wine glass. Nice head on this one, more black than brown. Not much of an aroma - what’s there is almost off putting. Creamy taste but very little coffee and bourbon presence. I do get the chocolate and vanilla. Body is lighter than I expected and wish it was a little thicker. Overall, I expected more from this one but still a tasty offering.

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Photo of dirtylou
3.51/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

2013, batch 01

When a FW brew comes in a box, you expect great things - aroma of toasted oats, touch of chocolate, some malt. Very light bodied - thin flavor profile - oats, cocoa, some hops. For FW, this is terribly disappointing and downright boring

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Photo of BeerForHokie
3.54/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had on tap at Varga during Philly Beer Week in a 10oz chimay glass. Not at all what I expected but not necessarily a bad thing. My friend described it best, close your eyes and sip this beer and you meet think you were drinking a not so hoppy IPA. This stout was quite hoppy, bitter and a bit on the warm side--perhaps from being aged in e bourbon barrels. However, I did not taste any bourbon or traditional notes of coffee or chocolate usually found in a stout.

Overall a decent beer, although a bit of a let down (wish i would have tried the Parabola) and definitely not to be drank as a dessert or nightcap.

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Photo of Sludgeman
3.55/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a snifter at Rustico Arlington

Disappointing, over hyped - 3.5

A - Black, minimal tan head 3.75
S - Bourbon, sweet, a faint spiciness, and some roasted malt but the barrel overwhelms everything. 3.75
T - Heavy on the bourbon, a bourbon bomb but not hot or solventy. 3.5
MF - Not particularly smooth for an oatmeal stout. Thinner than expected. 3.25

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Photo of antott0523
3.56/5  rDev -16%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.5

$13.99 at Fanwood Liquors in Fanwood, NJ

A: Opaque dark brown with a light brown head that settles to a thin layer with a fair amount of lacing. No visible carbonation.

S: Great nose with notes of vanilla and toffee. Freshly ground cocoa nibs and coffee beans. Sweet, smooth bourbon. A bit of roasted malts.

T: Semi sweet flavor profile with notes of cocoa, with faint notes of vanilla and bourbon. Semi dry finish with a mild amount of bitterness and a touch of black licorice.

M: Well carbonated and relatively thin.

D: The great nose has left me yearning for a bit more. Yes, the beer is highly drinkable. The 8.5% is imperceivable by any sense. However, the lack of flavor complexity and body leaves me wanting more.

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Photo of marieli
3.57/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Draft. Dark brown. Coffee, bourbon and oak were the dominant smells and flavors. A bit on the thin side. I can see why people would be attracted to this stout but it's not quite my cup of tea.

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Photo of popery
3.57/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Served on tap at City Beer Store in San Francisco.

I don't know anything about this beer besides a vague awareness of some internet hype, and for some reason, the store listed the abv as 10%, which I'm very glad to see is incorrect. I would like to try the non-barrel aged version for a point of comparison and highly recommend seeking out a cask version. I can imagine thoroughly enjoying the beer served from a cask, but on tap, something was off for me. The beer pours an opaque dark-brown with highlighting along the edges of the glass. For a decidedly unhelpful point of comparison, it was nearly a dead-on match for 21st Amendment's Back in Black. The aroma, unlike the flavor, was fantastic. There are notes of chocolate, coffee, roasty malt, dry oak and a well-balanced bourbon flavor that meshed very well unlike some bourbon barrel-aged beers. The taste had all of these flavors, but they were far more muted. The bourbon flavor became almost watery. The feel may have been the real culprit. It was much too thin for a stout, much less a barrel-aged stout. A cask would likely bring out the creamy lush mouthfeel of the oatmeal stout. At any rate, it was still a good beer, and they get points for not overwhelming a relatively small stout with bourbon barrel-aging. So, seek it out in a cask if you can.

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.6/5  rDev -15.1%

Pour is black with a light brown head. Nose is bourbon, light wood. Assertive malt of brownie and bakers chocolate. Taste falls a little short on the richness. It tastes as it smells but a bit watered down. It has the bourbon and wood up front, some fudge notes with some sweet malt berry sweetness. Body is a touch light and thins in the back. The finish had some roasty barrel notes but a hint empty.

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Photo of maximum12
3.62/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to analogchainsaw for the first of two rapid-fire trades that brought sunny California to Minnesota (without, y'know, the sun, warmth, ocean...OK, just the beer...OK, just a couple of them). Popping this to celebrate the arrival of box #2 tomorrow. 22 oz. bottle, batch #1, split with my wife.

The pour is you-are-dead black, with appropriate minimal carbonation. Bringing the blessed liquid close to two of the openings in my face. Smells like whiskey & sweet malts. Enough of this crap, let's drink.

Velvet Merkin hits the first word dead-on, but I'll have to look up the second. First impression is the smooothness. Smoother than my chest fresh from waxing, the beer creates almost no friction in the throat. The beer needs to warm; cold, it's tame & lifeless. Warming, it delivers classic oatmeal stout, grainy, smoooth (did I say that?), nice vanilla, touch of bourbon. A little thin; I know of 8.5% beers that hold their barrel well, this one doesn't quite perfect that.

I've come to expect the world from Firestone barrel-aged beers, & this one didn't turn my crank quite so hard. A good beer, but not as dead-center as pretty much everything else they do.

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Photo of artoolemomo
3.63/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance- Pours up a finger or two of head but it dissipates rather quickly. The head is a dark beige/ mocha while the body is a dark chocolate black. A few spots of lacing. Repours show substantial sheeting above the brim.

Nose- A little disappointing. I guess that this is typical of an oatmeal stout but after drinking KBS, I want more delicious scents. Slight caramel and chocolate from the bottle. Faint hint of smoke and roasted malts but this is so faint I feel like I'm making it up.

Taste- Fortunately, this is much richer than anything that the nose indicated. Bourbon and oak hits you first. It would seem that an oatmeal stout is too plain a canvas to bourbon barrel age; it seems dominated at this point. Heavy notes of oak and vanilla. Some coffee notes but they seem to be more an expression of the oak more than anything else. I wish there were more alcohol in the actual beer to press up against the bourbon presence. Hints of tobacco. Some chocolate but it seems to be overwhelmed by the vanilla and oak. I do appreciate that this is not an oak bomb but the barrel aging seems to disrupt the sublimity of the oatmeal stout style. This seems to be more reminiscent of DDBA rather than Abacus, Parabola, and the Anniversary beers. Some licorice and cinnamon. If you're going to use an oatmeal stout for this type of beer, I think you need a bigger malt bill. And I almost never crave a bigger malt bill. In each drink, I'm trying to search for more depth, for an inkling of the oatmeal stout that it once was- oh, Velvet Merlin, what have they done to you? I think I would rather have that beer. The deep bourbon and oak only make me wish that I was drinking the real thing. Or the easygoing Merlin. Still a good beer and a solid beer but in no way, a 15 dollar beer. I don't think Parabola or Abacus cost that much. Why should this? It does mellow a bit and reveal a slight cherry note. Starts to show some raisin.

Mouthfeel- Medium bodied but a little thin for the style. Some grittiness but really not enough.

Drinkability- Lots of bourbon. The patinage of alcohol makes this a little more formidable than some of its higher gravity semblables. But even if it were 20 percent and had this flavor profile, I would still want my money back. It's at 40 percent where the money worries seem to dissolve. I could almost buy a bottle of Bulleit for this price, however.

Overall- Good, solid beer but in reality, this is a failure. I appreciate the fact that FW has to charge this price because it's been on barrels for x amount of time. What I don't appreciate is the fact that they didn't choose a beer robust enough to stand up to the treatment. My complaint is measured though- my enjoyment of their beers surpass my slight disappointment with this beer and DDBA. I will still buy their next barrel aged. Unless it's a pilsner. Fuck that. (Although I do wonder what a barrel aged imperial pilsner/IPL might taste like. Oh, oak. Yeah, I get it now.)

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Photo of papat444
3.64/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Looks great, maybe a tad too much foam and aroma has a nice soothing bourbon mixed with oats but the flavor and feel leave to be desired. Too much carbonation makes the mouthfeel uneven and prevents the flavor from fulling shining through. A disappointment for me.

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Velvet Merkin from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
94 out of 100 based on 273 ratings.