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Velvet Merkin - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Velvet MerkinVelvet Merkin

Educational use only; do not reuse.

297 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 297
Hads: 2,121
Avg: 4.24
pDev: 25.71%
Wants: 384
Gots: 916 | FT: 140
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.
View: Beers (83) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 297 | Hads: 2,121
Photo of jeff1973
4.12/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a Stone IRS tulip. Bottled in 9/13, so around a month old? Bought at Whole Foods Newport Beach for $14.99.

A - Pitch black, no sign of red on the edges. Khaki head leaves nice lacing. Looks thick.

S - Slight vanilla and coconut. Followed by a milk chocolate and slightly ashy smell. Smell is not overwhelming.

T - Great balance. Smooth, creamy milk chocolate w/ a nice vanilla and coconut finish. Everything is subtle and blends really nicely.

M - Medium to full mouthfeel. Very smooth and creamy. Medium low carbonation that fits the style.

O - Really nice beer. The smell is a little muted, but the taste and mouthfeel make this a great beer. The price is a little steep for the enjoyment factor, but I would still categorize this a "great" beer.

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Photo of Phelps
4.12/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

That’s right: Velvet MERKIN. Barrel-aged goodness. Though I’ve been told a portion of the regular Merlin is aged in barrels, I never get much of it, so I’ve been looking forward to this. According to the Firestone rep on call for tonight’s tapping, Merkin is four times as expensive to make as Merlin and aged 6 to 8 months in Heaven Hill and Four Roses barrels. It wasn’t even supposed to surface in Arizona this year, but the Firestone guys owed the owner of Flanny’s a favor, and here we are.

Dead black, without a hint of light coming through. The airy, sand-colored head gets to be about an inch tall before receding quickly, leaving behind some thin lace trails and an impressive ring of froth.

Amazing aroma. The usual barrel notes of toasted coconut, charred oak and buttery vanilla are all here. Backing them up is what makes Merlin great: roasty, chocolatey goodness. Cocoa nibs, dark chocolate, marzipan, toffee, coffee beans. So smooth, so sweet. Damn near perfect.

The flavor's a bit of a letdown after that performance. It starts with sweet toffee and vanilla bean, followed by definite alcohol notes and oodles of vinous new oak. A simple wave of poor quality chocolate rolls in mid-palate, and notes of bitter coffee and sweet toffee settle in the back. Soft oats join after the swallow. There’s not quite enough of the stout flavor to back up the whiskey — which actually seems lesser quality than what it is. Overall the flavor’s still very good — it’s just not as outrageous as the nose promised.

Some fumes come through my nostrils, but overall the booze is very well-hidden. Body is just under medium, but has nice viscosity, like heavy milk. Mild, tiny fizz bubbles; sweet, nearly tangy finish.

Merlin is world-class for its smoothness and subtlety, so it might not be the best venue to showcase bourbon-aging. I wish just a little bit more of the base beer came through. Very good, not great.

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Photo of Sparty1224
4.13/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 4.25

Serving: 22 oz. bomber poured into a snifter. 2014 vintage with no obvious bottle date.

A: You know when you hear the description of some BBA stouts as pouring like "thick motor oil"? Ya, this isn't that. Pours more like Coca-Cola. Once it's in the glass, though, it's not too bad. Dark brown-black body, minimal tan head.

S: Very nice aroma. Hit with the bourbon right up front. Very clean, lots of vanilla, some almond nuttiness. Just a hint of chocolate in the background. Fair amount of oak and barrel character.

T: A little underwhelming. Soft notes of vanilla, oak, flourless chocolate. A hint of toffee near the back end. Whiskey comes through strongly in the finish, but it's nicely balanced.

M: Disappointingly thin. Very, very watery for a BA stout.

O: So my expectations for Merkin were low because I wasn't a huge fan of Merlin. I thought the base beer was unimpressive, very thin and watery, and weak in flavor. So I wasn't sure how barrel-aging would help that. For the most part, it's an improvement. Wonderful flavors of vanilla, oak, almond all come through and the beer is very balanced and drinkable. The bourbon character is very nicely wrapped around this beer. However, a thin base beer leads to a thin BBA beer and the look and mouthfeel are just so unimpressive and leave a lot to be desired.

Recommendation: Not a must-try if you don't care for Velvet Merlin, but definitely still worth seeking out just for the fact that FW is so good at barrel-aging beers.

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Photo of snaotheus
4.13/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into four disparate samplers.

Pours very dark -- but not opaque. Small creamy head. Very little carbonation. Smell is smokey, coffee. A little chocolate and vanilla.

Taste is mild compared to Bourbon County Brand Stout. No alcohol bite. Smooth, and surprisingly drinkable. Creamy. Like a super milk stout. Slight bourbon flavor.

Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth. Overall, very good.

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Photo of gopens44
4.14/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Not the most picturesque beer nor does it go much deeper than the bourbon on the nose, but the complexity in taste make up the difference. Bourbon opens up into the vanilla and coffee masterfully before a thin bitterness rides out.

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Photo of Samuel906
4.14/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 4.5

Well, I feel honored to have the first review of the first bottle release of Velvet Merkin ever, something I have been looking forward to a lot longer than I'd like to admit. And here it is, straight from the brewery in Paso Robles, Batch No. 001, 2013.

First, a note on appearance going beyond just the pour: I really like what Firestone has done this past year and for most of their reserve and limited releases. The box design and bottle design has been very consistent with the only major change between brews being color accents. It makes their bottle collections look very handsome and tasteful.

As for the beer... Pours black, very black, with only some minor hints of reddish tinge on the fringes when light is shown through. Light khaki head with some retention; no effervescing visible.

The smell... mmmm the smell. My very first impression was a breakfast setting of coffee and oats, rich and full. Further inspection will reveal coconut, graham crackers, vanilla, and dark chocolate. Being able to smell the toasted fresh grains is delightful. One of my new favorite smelling beers; I seriously just sniffed for a good 10 minutes before diving in any further.

The tune changes a bit for me once we start drinking unfortunately. I'm going to skip right to mouthfeel because it was the fist thing I noticed. It is very, very thin and watery and not what you may expect from an Imperial Stout. Carbonation is light. But don't despair, the full rich flavor makes up somewhat for what the body lacks.

When they say bourbon barrel aged, they aren't kidding. Aged bourbon is going to be at the forefront of the flavor cascade. Vanilla, oak, chocolate, with a strong oat background that finishes strong. Not super-complex, but the flavors all work to complement the bourbon leaving you with the lingering warmth that spirit typifies.

Overall, a terrific beer with my only real qualm being that it is much too thin. A must try for any Firestone enthusiast, bourbon enthusiast, or fan of the style.

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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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Photo of rlee1390
4.15/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A-Black in the glass, clear brown around the edges, one finger brown head.

S-Bourbon, chocolate, oats, roasted malt.

T-Starts with some bourbon, mild oats, good deal of chocolate, some bitterness.

M-Heavier, creamy with some carbonation.

O-Need to try this one again, it was a good beer, but compared to the Utopias that night it couldn't compare.

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

Tap at EBF from keg.

Creamy light head, brown molasses darker colored but not very dark.

Nose light bourbon and oak, oats, hint of fruit, brown malts, chewy malts, light barrel and vanilla aromas, touch of chocolate and caramel.

Taste creamy, oats, light oak and vanilla, light bourbon, brown malts, hint if molasses, bit of dark malts with hint of roast and caramel, toffee, and just a touch of chocolate.

Mouth is creamy and smooth, lush, fuller bodied, with decent carb and just a hint of booze.

Overall pretty good, wish I could have sat down with a full pour to get more out of it, but still a pretty good beer.

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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 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 mschrei
4.18/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into Pipeworks Tales from the Oak snifter. Dark brown, tan head that's healthy on pour but dissipates quickly. Little lacing, but the light discoloration on the edges makes the sight of this beer its' highest quality. Not much smell on initial pour other than barrel and booze, but after sitting a sweet smell is most prevalent.
Taste was initially very thin, some sweet tang upfront but not much other than a boozy aftertaste to follow it. After sitting, it's got some sweet syrupy qualities to it. Not a bad beer, but wondering if I should have cellared longer or not drank cold. Live and learn.

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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 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 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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Velvet Merkin from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
94 out of 100 based on 297 ratings.