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Velvet Merkin - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Velvet MerkinVelvet Merkin

Educational use only; do not reuse.

272 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 272
Hads: 2,031
Avg: 4.24
pDev: 26.42%
Wants: 367
Gots: 829 | FT: 131
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: 272 | Hads: 2,031
Photo of lordofstarside
4.24/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bomber to a snifter, batch 001 of the 2013 vintage. Giving this ~20 minutes to warm up out of the fridge

Pours pitch black with dark brown hues around the bottom meniscus of my snifter. A finger of mocha brown foam has died down pretty quickly, leaving a frothy ring as what's left of the foam breaks down into bubbles in the center. Mild carbonation on the sides of the glass, good lacing also. Great looking beer

Giving this a minute or two to breathe. Smells strongest of chocolate and oak, followed by a very sweet smelling bourbon/toffee blend. Dark fruits, coffee and a bit of vanilla come through at the back, finished by a touch of alcohol. Not as complex as parabola, but still miles a head of your average ba stout

Taste has all the nose but in different strengths- upfront dark fruits, oak, chocolate, bourbon, coffee, toffee, vanilla, and roasted malts finishing with a splash of alcohol. Not as sweet as the nose, fruits and malts are more dominant with a nice oak tinge. Good none the less, falls a bit short in telemetry of the smell though

Feel is a thick full body, creamy with a bit watery of a finish. Alcohol is concealed well, it's pretty drinkable. This area could use some work

Overall a really good beer, good fresh but it will be interesting to see how this guy ages. I have three more in the crawl space under my house, I'll come back to this when it gets older

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Photo of warnerry
4.23/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Notes from the Parabola release in May

Pours deep brown black with thin ring of tan head.

Relatively subtle aromas of bourbon, chocolate and roasted malt.

Interesting addition of borrbon to an oatmeal stout. Maintains the character of an oatmeal while adding bourbon and a nice amount of vanilla.

Very creamy mouthfeel. Feels like on nitro but I don’t think it is. Slightly thin.

Easy drinking flavorful barrel-aged oatmeal. Glad I got to try this.

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Photo of stortore
4.23/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

22 ounce bottle, 2014 release into a snifter.

Pours very dark and thick looking, medium head, some foamy lacing. Smell is rich malts, a good amount of vanilla, chocolate, bourbon- more as it warms, oak. Nice. Taste continues the malt, more chocolate and less vanilla than the nose, bourbon, oak. A slight bitterness towards the end. Very creamy and smooth, generously carbonated. Seems a touch thin, but that could be because it seems like a bigger beer than it is designed to be.

A very enjoyable beer, complex and flavorful. Worth a purchase every year.

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Photo of AndyAvalanche
4.23/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

22 oz. batch No. 001 bottle poured into a Duvel Tulip style glass. Liquid comes out cola brown during the pour and gets darker as it rises in the glass. A little bit of light sneaks through on the sides at a deep brown/red, but not much. Tan colored head, small bubbles, and I'd say average lacing. The head sticks around for quite awhile though.

Smell is pretty good, not as big as I expected, but then again, this isn't a big beer like Parabola. Some sweet, dark, chewy malts, some vanilla and bourbon oak (blended together it almost provides a hazelnut characteristic), and there's some slight hints of dark dehydrated sugar coated fruit (raisons/figs).

Taste is a slight step up from the smell. Vanilla, oak, slight light cocoa mixed with a bit of dark bitter chocolate, and caramel. Nice dark roasted, close to toasted, blend of mostly dark but some paler malts as well. Sweet but not overly sweet, sort of like coffee with cream sweet (I prefer my coffee black, so I guess I'm a little bias). Overall everything meshes really well. It hits all of the desired components of a good barrel aged stout.

Mouthfeel is unique to many barrel aged beers and in my opinion the best part of this beer. Its only medium bodied, yet the flavor lingers longer on the palate than you'd expect based on how light it feels. There is a light airy carbonation and it really does have a light feel to it, like a barrel aged stout designed for a hot summer day. Barrel provides a dry bitter finish and really only a little bit of heat. Great drinkability and not too filling even if you finish the bottle on your own. Not my favorite, but Firestone Walker is still one of my top go to breweries for barrel aged beers.

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Photo of larryi86
4.23/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bottle poured into a teku

A- Black with a three finger light mocha head.

S- Bourbon, some vanilla, oak, cocoa powder, slightly metallic, some coffee, and sweet oats. Metallic notes are kind of off putting, if they weren't there I would rate the smell at least 4.25.

T- Mild bourbon, hints of oak and vanilla, cocoa powder, fairly sweet, some coffee, some nice oat quality, nicely balanced, no hint of alcohol at all.

M- Smooth, creamy, medium body.

O- Bose throw me off but the taste is great. Didn't feel it would be great to age, but I really enjoy how it tastes fresh, can't wait to get more next year. Bourbon is a nice added flavor but not a big flavor in this beer.

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Photo of abeeronthebeach
4.23/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A - Looks pretty inviting, although at 8.5% it's neither motor oil black, nor motor oil thick.

S - The nose is awesome! Vanilla and cookies. Bourbon is subtle.

T - Could use a little more chocolate. The vanilla notes are pleasant but faint. Bourbon character is similar.

M - Super smooth but still quite thin.

O - At roughly $18 a bottle I did not really feel this was a big enough beer to justify the price tag. It's a nice beer for sure, but I'd only go here again if it were about half the price.

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Photo of brandonwnw
4.22/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

Very good BA beer, but I understand the mixed reviews. The relatively high carbonation is the biggest fault here. My best description is a lite BA RIS, which is still great, but falls short of the full bodied wonder that is Parabola. However, I will say that the lower ABV makes this a beer I'll revisit if I want solid BA taste, but don't want to share. - Cheers

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Photo of fox227
4.22/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Velvet Merkin poured into my mini snifter with about a half-inch of tan head with mostly fine bubbles and some large. The black liquid underneath is very dark as expected. The beer smells of oak, bourbon, possibly sherry, and milk chocolate. The first sip revealed mostly bourbon and unsweetened cola, but as the beer warmed, milk chocolate, oats, and the rest of the nose are revealed to this drinker. Each component seemed in proper balance, as the bourbon does not dominate. Sweetness is lacking, which is fine, and the mouthfeel is medium/full bodied with a bit of a dry finish.

Overall: this is yet another bourbon barrel beer in what seems to be an endless selection of these days, but Firestone, as to be expected, deliver the goods with a nearly spectacular beer.

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Photo of Barnoloid
4.21/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Rating of the 2013 vintage.This is a fine barrel aged stout. There is a little smoke and cocoa on the nose. Mouthfeel is fairly light, with the accent of the bourbon coming through fairly pertinently. A little dark fruit comes in on the back end. A fine sipping beer.

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Photo of Chico1985
4.21/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 Batch 001 bottle shared by Cam. Thanks Cam! Had this EBF the weekend before too, happy to get to review it now.

Appearance - (Not quite) black pour into a snifter, beige head retains well as a swirly cap, some lace left.

Smell - Oatmeal forward along with really nice coffee, bran muffin, vanilla, chocolate chip cookie goodness. Breakfast and dessert feel without being too sweet. Just a bit of bourbon spice noticeable, not much bourbon here.

Taste - More bourbon but overall somewhat of a step down from the scent for me. Oats, chocolate, caramel, coffee w/ cream, vanilla, light roast along with some toasted bread. Still noticeably an oatmeal stout which is nice. Bourbon flavor is still kinda understated but good, not much oak.

Mouthfeel - Smooth, well-carbonated, low heftiness. Pretty easy drinking and not alot of booze present.

Overall - Love the lighter feel bourbon stout while maintaining its oaty self. Delivers all around, very good.

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Photo of neurobot01
4.21/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Updating review for 2015 vintage (previous review below; previous rating 4.05). Bomber into a Teku at cellar temp on 9/18/15.

Look: dark brown, a bit thin looking. Big head with a vigorous pour that quickly fades to a faint light tan ring.

Smell: like you put Velvet Merlin on your morning bowl of Cocoa Puffs. Huge huge powdered chocolate.

Taste: basically exactly like the smell. The bourbon is a lot more present than in the aroma, but the chocolate leads the way. Lacking most of the typical FW barrel characteristics (toffee, coconut, etc).

Feel: definitely a bit creamier than I remember VM being in the past. Still light bodied.

Overall: if this were released as a special version of Merlin, it would be great. As it is, it is inevitably compared to the rest of the Proprietor's Vintage series, and it just doesn't stand up. This beer isn't meant to emulate Parabola, so people come in with that expectation and are disappointed. If you come in expecting an amped up oatmeal stout, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

---Previous review---

2014 bottle at fridge temp into a snifter, allowed to warm.

Looks lighter in body and color than most BA stouts. Initial taste is basically Velvet Merkin Plus—almost a cola flavor profile going on. A hint of bourbon, but very mild, and few other barrel characteristics. The aftertaste is amazing vanilla/graham cracker/milk chocolate/toasted marshmallow. The mouthfeel is pretty thin. Overall, I remembered this as being better from last year; looking forward to updating this review once I crack my cellared '13.

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Photo of McD0uche
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on tap (tulip glass) at Firestone Brewery on Feb-04-2012.

A: Thick black with a good, frothy, two-finger head of coppery brown bubbles. No lacing to speak of. Retention is excellent.

S: Roasted malts up front with coffee and oat notes. Maybe a hint of dark fruits.

T: Massively huge roasted malt flavor, and the coffee and oats play in the background. The bourbon is present and distinguishable. Excellent.

M: Light carbonation, heavier body. Finishes light and a little wet. Compliments the style.

O: I really enjoyed the Velvet Merkin. It's a shame they don't let you take some away in a growler or else I would have been all over this one.

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Photo of Kegatron
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at The Stone Brewing Bistro & World Gardens on 11/13/09 during their Firestone Walker 13th on the 13th event. Served in a snifter.

Pours black, with a thin frothy covering of mocha colored head. This stays rich when swirled, leaving a strong latticework of spotty lacing behind. The aroma is quite tangy (and even a little meaty) smelling with big notes of smoke, chocolate roast, burnt wood, and coffee. Some fresh floral tannic character gives this a distinct layer of earthy depth.

The taste is similar, with a sweet smokey tang to it from layers of chocolate, coffee, roast, a tiny bit of dark fruit, and naturally, the bourbon. This has a definite ripple of earthy feeling tannins that run through it, leaving a strong woody dryness in the finish. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, with a fuller creaminess to it form the oats but also retains a considerable amount of barrel-induced slickness.

I really liked how the barrel-aging worked with this. The bourbon wasn't in your face, instead working with the malts to impart that deep smokey tang, while the barrel gave the overall profile an earthy and green feeling mellowness. Really interesting and fun drinking stuff from Firestone.

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Photo of Treyliff
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%

2013 Vintage, poured into a snifter in celebration of my 10 year high school reunion

A- pours a nearly pitch black color with a small khaki colored head that reduces to a ring around the edge, with a bit of lace left behind as it settles 4.25

S- aroma of chocolate walnut fudge mixed with sweet caramel/toffee malt, lots of bourbon juice aroma mixed with some oaky vanilla, smoky roasted notes with toasted marshmallow 4.25

T- dark chocolaty malt base up front with a nice smoothness from the oats, the barrel provides lots of barrel juice flavor with hints of oak, vanilla and caramel. Nutty sweet finish with mire bourbon on the linger 4.25

M- medium body with low carbonation leads to a slightly foamy mouthfeel and finish, just a bit thin overall 3.75

O- lots of bourbon coming from this one, even after a year of aging. Perhaps due to the base beer being a bit lower in alcohol. Still a nice chocolaty bourbon bomb that is a slow sipper for sure 4.25

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Photo of TheBrewo
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

We peel the foil and pop the top on a bottle of 2013 stock. We pour a beer of burnt chestnut brown into our Founders snifters. A one and a half finger tall head of oily chocolate milk colored bubbles. This dissipates on the quicker side, settling into an oil slick across the top of the liquid. Lacing is specked, but highly mobile and truly formless. No haze or sediment is noted, and carbonation appears to be active. The nose is beautifully warming and rich, even when at the coldest of fridge temperature. We meet notes of raw licorice, vanilla-rubbed woodiness, sweet but intensely buttery diacetyls, dark chocolate sugars, black pepper spice, chocolate covered espresso beans, light balsamic vinaigrette acidity, toasted oats and black malts, chemical bite of nail polish, aluminum foil, ashed cigarette tobacco, and buttercream cheesecake frosting. The taste follows the nose very nicely, but gives up a little robustness that we had hoped would carry through. Coming through is a clean blend of soured and acidic oak, soft and melty mallo sugars and milk chocolates, warming bourbon wash, dried raisins and black cherries, vanilla milk shake, light vodka boozy kick, cinnamon and crushed Graham cracker crumble, light bubblegum esters, medicinal phenol spice, watered charcoal, mildly bitter cocoa, and dusty basement muskiness. The body is the lightest shade of medium, and the carbonation is more solidly medium. The liquid moves easily around the mouth, leaving a cooling and lightly palpable coating of sugary stickiness. Slurp, smack, cream, froth, glug, and pop each contribute nicely. The abv is appropriate, and the beer drinks back nicely, although due to its whale status, you want to take your time.

Overall, best…name…ever. Oh so seductive!! Actually, that last part is a true statement about the aroma. It floats out of the bottle, and just like the smell lines of a pie will lift any cartoon character right off their feet, pulls you firmly in. The bourbon is delicate but expertly represented, giving all of the essence without any of the nasty. This blends with the oddity of the malt base, which is oat, setting the stage for a markedly complex presentation. Things are going great at this point. Then, you sip. It would be a crime to say that the beer takes a wrong turn here, but, it just isn’t quite what we were expecting. Remember, this is an oatmeal stout. This is NOT your typical hulked-up American imperial. This is velvet. The flavoring comes across, due in part to the sweetness of grain, wood, and chocolate, much like a milk/sweet stout, with high residual sugars. Once you accept this fact, you will have a much better time, and you’ll enjoy the beer much more. We were so, so excited when we found this beer, and while it doesn’t disappoint by any means, we had hoped it would be a little more bold. That is in our failing of false expectations, not the beer’s or the brewer’s, as the final product presented is worthy of all its accolades.

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Photo of GJ40
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%

Beautiful with a big black color and a sturdy tan head. Awesome aroma with bourbon, vanilla and cane sugar. Smooth flavors follow led by a well behaved bourbon aspect. Maybe a little thin for a bigger oatmeal stout. But I really enjoyed this one.

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Photo of Tucquan
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this on 2012-12-08 at TJ's pub in Paoli, PA for their 9th anniversary celebration.

A - Black or very dark brown with a 1/2-finger dark tan head and mild lacing.

S - Dark roasted grain, spice, light bourbon, coconut.

T - Rich medium-dark roasted grain, toasted oats, coconut, vanilla, illusion of chocolate, bourbon. Nice amount of bitterness in the finish. Delicious.

M - Medium body and carbonation. Not overly creamy.

O - A very fine oatmeal stout although I like Founders Breakfast Stout a little more.

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Photo of stephenjmoore
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a cola color that settles into the glass as a near black. Head is an off-white that settles quickly and leaves a ring around the top. Aroma is roasty malts, sweet oaky bourbon and a hint of coffee. Flavor includes many of the same flavors with the bourbon coming through nicely and a nice coffee element. The feel is on the thin side, but perfect carbonation. A really nice change of pace BA stout.

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Photo of hopsputin
4.18/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a: dark black with some murky brown notes coming from the bottom. small finger beige head that fades rather quickly and leaves some bubbles on top

s: milk chocolate, tons of oats, sweet vanilla, coconut, almonds, toffee, bourbon soaked prunes, raisins, and a smooth hint of bourbon. i am admittedly not a huge fan of bourbon barrel aged beers, but this smells incredible

t: creamy oats, lots of milk chocolate, sweet toasted malt, coconuts, vanilla, raisins, chocolate syrup, decadent fudge, caramel, and a hint of oak. everything in this is so smooth, and blends so well together. each flavor melts into the next very nicely. also call me freaking crazy, but i feel like i taste some cucumber in here. i have no idea why, i know its insane to think

m: medium - actually not as heavy as i expected. light carbonation. its got a rich, silky mouthfeel

o: what i like best about this is that the bourbon is not overwhelming. all the nice oatmeal stout flavors are allowed to shine, and the bourbon is there to cut some of the sweetness. this is definitely a sipper, and would be a great beer to share amongst friends

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Photo of mactrail
4.18/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Dark color best described as raw umber. The foam is beige and not overly high in the St. Bernardus globe. Splendid scent of something more like rum than the usual bourbon blast. Slightly sweet with a lively mouthfeel and not so thick on the tongue. A delightful spritzy sensation with the touch of booze and a little cocoa.

Really a fragrant nose and flavor as well. Well balanced with just enough hoppy bitterness to go with the malt. It's all quite refined and mellow. Even the alcohol is restrained. Long, smooth whiskey aftertaste with the alcohol finally providing a nice burn for the finish.

More light and lively than than the imperial stouts by far. An excellent dark brew and probably my favorite Oatmeal Stout ever. From the bottle bought at Bottlecraft in San Diego.

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Photo of t0rin0
4.18/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On cask at Blue Palms last Friday. There is a bit of confusion but I am now sure that the other Velvet Merkin on BA is not barrel aged.

Poured pitch black, even in the light. At first my snifter was completely filled with foam. Never had a cask over carbonated before. Lots of beautiful brown foam, very silky, great retention and great lacing.

Aroma was chocolatey, and roasty but mild in those aspects. The oak and bourbon were stronger in the aroma. Well balanced (almost) and no alcohol in the nose. Mild overall.

The flavor was so smooth it was almost rediculous. Chocolate, oak, vanilla, roast(medium), and bourbon all played a part. The oak and bourbon were heavier but not overpowering. Going to guess 8% abv on this one. Mild bitterness.

Body was very heavy, very carbonated but it didn't last. Very very drinkable and very enjoyable. At the risk of getting harassed, this was my favorite beer of the night and that includes the X, XI, and XII as well as the bravo, oaktoberfest, lil opal (probably 2nd favorite), and saucer full of secrets.

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Photo of AdamF625
4.17/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

A- dark muddy brown pour with a two finger khaki head, settles black with a milky lacing
S- toasted oats, bourbon, honey, vanilla, hot cacao, bit of brown sugar
T- milk chocolate, bourbon, oak, vanilla, honey, oats
M- medium body and carbonation, tilts towards the creamy side, dry on the finish.
O- very smooth and drinkable for a bourbon barrel aged beer. Take it for what's it worth, an oatmeal stout. Lacks complexity but doesn't need it.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.17/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Pours a dark brown color with a thin tan head and a few spots of lacing. Nice collar as it goes down. The nose brings a good contingent of roast and chocolate alongside the really nice barrel notes. Fantastic amount of bourbon plus some oak and vanilla. The flavor brings smooth bourbon as well as oak, vanilla, chocolate, and moderate roast. Medium body that is quite creamy with really nice barrel qualities. Very, very well done. Not surprising coming from Firestone.

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Photo of Vixie
4.17/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a very dark brown, only light getting through is on the edges. Not a large head, not the darkest beer I have seen, but not much light through it either.

Lot going on in the smell department. It starts out a bit candy like, with chocolate, caramel, coconut, and a hint of alcohol.

Very complex beer. Tastes a lot like it smells, there's chocolate, coffee, caramel, coconut, vanilla, and a slight booziness at the finish.

The feel is smooth, but not quite as thick as I was expecting.

Definitely a nice beer here. It has a nice smell with a taste to match. For being a big beer, it goes down easy, I'd easily drink more of this.

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Photo of stx00lax
4.15/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Drinking a 32oz growler to myself. Weeee!

A- Looks a bit thin as it pours into my glass, light khaki lacing around the edges.

S- Smells like a mellow, aged version of Merlin, light barrel aroma.

T- Very good. pretty straight forward, light roast and chocolate without being too complex. the barrel is perfectly integrated letting you taste Velvet merlin with a subtle lingering vanilla-bourbon presence at the finish.

M- A bit thin, but nicely carbonated and not too hot. Still full bodied.

O- If you like Velvet Merlin, you will like this. Its not as amazing as parabola, but still a great example of the fine barrel-aging Firestone does. very enjoyable

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Velvet Merkin from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
94 out of 100 based on 272 ratings.