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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: 2,034
Avg: 4.24
pDev: 9.67%
Wants: 372
Gots: 839 | FT: 132
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: 2,034
Photo of brentk56
3.83/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

2014 Vintage

Appearance: A massive mocha head forms on top of the dark chocolate colored liquid; nice retention and an interesting pattern of lace

Smell: Brown bread, chocolate and caramel, with hints of coconut, vanilla, oak and Bourbon

Taste: Chocolate and brown bread, up front, with the caramel, vanilla and coconut tones developing somewhat; the Bourbon appears in the finish, almost as an afterthought

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation; lacks the creamy mouthfeel I would expect from the oatmeal

Overall: I knew with an 8.5% ABV that this wasn't going to be a big stout but I was surprised at it, nevertheless; it's a decent beer but it lacked the depth of flavor and the mouthfeel I would expect from a beer so highly rated, let alone from a brewery that has always impressed me greatly

Thanks, fthegiants, for the opportunity

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Photo of kevanb
3.83/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Far Bar in Little Tokyo - snifter

A: Really lovely jet black color, fine hints of caramel brown in the light. Big thick coffee colored head, at least 2 fingers, really sexy looking stout.

S: Bourbon jumps out, but is a little weaker than I expected. Lots of oats and toasty grains, chocolate and mild vanilla with a faint bit of wood. It's not as clean and balanced as I thought, but it's still a pleasant aroma.

T: The oats and the bourbon weren't really doing it for me. Merlin is pretty heavy on the oats and toasty grains and the bourbon just kinda sat there and didn't compliment it at all. It was a bit disjointed, lots of bitter coffee and chocolates in the stout with a melange of oak, vanilla and bourbon kind of scattered around.

M: Nice and full bodied, not to thick and chewy and not too easy either. Great to sip or get a nice big gulp.

O: This was a bit disjointed for me, lots of strong elements and flavors, just not really working in harmony, maybe it needed more age, maybe it had too much age. Maybe the bourbon and oats just didn't mesh.

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Photo of prior2two
3.84/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

A - Black like night, with a head that dissapates quickly. It pours beautifly.

S- smells of oak and bourbon and roasted malt. Super aromatic

T- I was underwhelmed. For an oatmeal stout, it wasn't as creamy as I had hoped, and it was a little too astringent. Maybe a little over carbed or too much hop? Either way, I didn't feel the body held up very well. Had a "cola" flavor that I couldn't shake. The oak and bourbon came through nicely.

M - See Above. I thought it was a little too thin. Its only 8.5%, but I expected a little more body and creaminess from an oatmeal stout.

O - I enjoyed it. I wouldn't buy it again though. FW does some great stuff, but this wasn't a must have for me. Still, it's better than so many things out there.

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Photo of zhanson88
3.84/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Was excited to pick one of these up.

Appearance: Pours a thin-ish bodied dark brown color with about 1" of khaki colored head. Retention is good, and lacing is nice as well. Pretty nice looking beer, just a bit thin for the style.

Smell: Dusty cocoa and bitter dark chocolate scents come to mind immediately. Underneath that, a bit of barrel shows as well. A bit of woodiness, a bit of vanilla, and even less of a hint of bourbon. Nothing too crazy or overbearing, just very nice balance.

Taste: Tastes akin to a brownie in many ways. Cocoa and milk chocolate sweetness, with dark chocolate and perhaps a bit of coffee bitterness. Also, something that I did not catch on the nose in a hint of dark fruits. Again, the barrel is understated, with hints of barrel, vanilla and bourbon.

Mouthfeel/Overall: Mouthfeel is really my only gripe. Can't really describe it any other way than thin, with pretty high carbonation. I think this beer gets exponentially better with a bigger body. Overall, a really enjoyable beer that does not drink near its 8.5% ABV. Nice balanced flavors, with an appropriate amount of barrel that complements the beer nicely. Again, a heavier body would really bump my review score on this, but as is, a pretty nice beer that is certainly worth a try.

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Photo of TheSixthRing
3.86/5  rDev -9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Appearance - Poured into a snifter to reveal a blackened color with cola brown edging when held to light. The head is light tan and peaks at about a half a finger in width, then quickly dies down to form a webbing of surface suds and a thin ring around the edge. Lacing is small and spotty with decent stick.

Smell - At first crack I get hints of Black roast, chocolate and notes of deep, rich caramel. I could live off that caramel. As the brew warms hints of vanilla and bourbon sweetness begin to peek through, then strengthen. Strong toffee notes once the beer is fairly warmed.

Taste - Lighter in flavor than what the nose leads on. Touches on toffee, chocolate, bourbon and vanilla. Sweet with hints of heat. Light roastiness. Flavor nearly falls off the map in the finish, but leaves ghostly traces of chocolate and bourbon in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - Eh. Pretty thin, even for a barrel-aged brew. Low carbonation. A bit watery in the finish. Easily the weakest aspect of the brew.

Overall - Had this on tap last year and thought it was fairly disappointing. I'm not sure if this batch is any better or it's that my expectations aren't as high, but I'm not quite as down on it this time around, though that doesn't mean I'm still not underwhelmed. The aroma is amazing, but unfortunately the flavor and body don't live up to expectations. At $15 per bottle, this is one Firestone BA brew that I won't be buying a 2nd bottle of which to age. In fact I'm not even sure what aging could possibly do for this beer. There simply isn't enough here.

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Photo of twiggamortis420
3.86/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

22 oz bottle courtesy of BeerHatesRob pours a rich black color with a frothy tan head. Nice lacing and decent retention.

Nose is half chocolate milkshake and half roasty stout. Very nice.

Taste shows some bold barrel character to go along with a lactose-y sweet milk stout. Its smooth and creamy but I could actually use a little more chocolate and malt depth. Its not quite as good as I was hoping, the barrel seems to overpower the malt character of the beer.

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Photo of MasterfulIdiot
3.86/5  rDev -9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Super excited to try this! Thanks to Coirm for the bottle.

Appearance is pretty much black. A moderately thick coffee-colored head kicks up on the pour, but fades to a film and a frothy ring around the glass almost immediately.

Aroma is coffee, chocolate syrup, with just the faintest hint of vanilla. Bourbon and oaky notes aren't present at first, but begin to show up as the beer warms, along with just a touch of alcohol heat in there. It's actually kind of surprising that they got any alcohol heat to show up, considering the relatively low ABV, but I'm happy they figured out a way! All the flavors are working together really nicely, and it smells like it'll be right up my alley!

Taste is much the same, incorporating chocolate, coffee, oak, and bourbon notes all into one delicious whole. Nice bit of lactic tartness as well. As with the nose, there's a nice feeling of alcohol warmth at its relatively modest 8.5% ABV.

Mouthfeel is moderately thick, but I think could have stood to be a little thicker. Lots of carbonation. Moderately dry.

Overall, a really nice, smooth, and relatively easy-drinking beer. This is positively sessionable as far as barrel-aged beers go! Really well-done.

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Photo of srandycarter
3.87/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had this at a Firestone Walker tasting at Blind Lady over the weekend. It is not retired and there is a difference between the Merlin and the Merkin. Merlin is not barrel aged and is available in bottles. Merkin is BAed and is not available in bottle.

A - No head, dark, almost black, with amber notes.

S - cocoa, roasted malt, light wood.

T - Chocolate chip cookies, burnt coffee, bitter end.

M - Medium to heavy body, heavy bitter, slightly chaulky finish.

D - Though low ABV, flavors are huge palate killers and I would tire fast.

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Photo of sidetracked
3.88/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap at Acre for Faux-BAB.

Pours black with a lingering off-white head.

Aroma is some bourbon and wood notes, malty with some roastyness. The base oatmeal stout is evident, but leans toward a neutral malty smell that doesn't add much.

Upfront taste is bourbon, wood, roasted malts, a little chocolate, and a slight bitterness. Finish is more barrel-forward with bourbon, wood, and vanilla mixing with a light bitter chocolate flavor. Lingering bourbon and roasted malts.

Medium body and creamy with low to medium carbonation.

Pretty good. The base oatmeal stout still shines through the barrel aging treatment. Nice to see they didn't overpower the original beer's flavors.


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Photo of rfgetz
3.9/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours a dark, copper tinted black, modest cap of brown froth, gone quickly, spotty bubbling. First whiff was solid, but not as bold as expected... light charachter from the burbon and oak blend with light roasted malt, faint creamy sweetness, minimal notes of cocoa. Taste brings a dry, oaky flavor, bourbon is present but not a star, roasty, a bit of a hop presence, light cream and sugar, minimal cocoa. Medium bodied, not full and creamy like an oatmeal stout, dry. Was anticipating this one immensely and left somewhat disapointed, expected big and bold and i got softer and milder. Still a good beer, just not great.

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Photo of Premo88
3.91/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

22 oz. bomber poured into snifter
(2013 vintage)

L: standard black motor oil, big tan head at least 1.25 inches that doesn't stick or lace; no light can pass through beer, but it might be relatively clear

S: VERY boozy ... smells like whiskey mixed into dark malt ... what you'd expect with some dark dark notes of licorice; oak wood and whiskey take over as it warms, and it’s fantastic; really starting to get the coffee now, kind of an astringent bitter/sour coffee note like some of the central/south american coffees can get

T: loads of stuff here ... whiskey, vanilla malt, dark malt bleeding into licorice, kind of raisiny, very burnt up front or in the middle, but that smooths into a nice wood-char taste that lingers in the aftertaste, very nice; real dark compared to the velvet martin

F: mighty fine ... got lots of carbonation and not too thick, so it’s as drinkable as a pale ale

O: great sipping brew with good whiskey and wood notes; it’s pricey and I think I like the nonbarrel-aged version better, if that’s possible, but the 8.5% ABV is cool because most barrel-aged stouts are 10% plus and this is much less. i like that.

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Photo of kbwalters
3.92/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured cold into a Libby stout glass. Vintage 2014.
Look = 4.0 Pours a dark cola brown into an opaque black with lots of brown highlights. 1.5 fingers of dark brown head that fades to a light ring with good bubbly lace early.
Aroma = 3.75 Grainy, oatmeal aroma is most evident. Bourbon booze and roasted malt notes too but not much chocolate or coffee. Overall on the weak side.
Taste = 4.0 Muted chocolate and coffee notes; oatmeal and grainy taste. Bourbon and vanilla comes through on the back end. Bourbon notes are on the weak side.
Feel = 3.75 Medium to high carbonation on a medium body. Smooth but thin; more fizz than expected.
Drinkability = 4.5 Really easy drinking bourbon aged stout here; bourbon notes are far from overpowering.
Overall = 3.95 Highly drinkable BB aged oatmeal stout. Aroma and feel are lacking somewhat though.

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Photo of AgentMunky
3.92/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a tasting glass at the brewery. From notes. Reviewed 24 February 2013.

It smells of sweet bourbon. Like scotch and chocolate. The taste is like oatmeal with chocolate milk. Finish is ozone and chalky sweet. It's okay, but it really suffers from the mouthfeel -- it's thin and flat. Smooooth, but it kills the flavor. I'll try it again sometime, but this was not that impressive.

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Photo of dar482
3.93/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer has a good oak and aggressive bourbon note in the front. Sweet vanilla and chocolate. It then calms onto notes of the beer with roasted malt and slightly bitter chocolate clean up the beer on the finish.

The beer is barely fitting of the Firestone Walker name. It lacks body most importantly, and a bit of flavor. The smooth barrel notes exist, but the complete picture is just not there.

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Photo of jaasen64
3.93/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle poured into 18oz Funky Buddha snifter. '13 vintage, 3500 cases produced.

A- Pours a dark brown that appears a jet black in the glass, about a half-fingers worth of slight mocha head forms leaving off-white spotty lacing. Head recedes to just a wispy flat top.

S- Dark malts with a little bit of dark chocolate, licorice, lactose sugars, some faint toffee. About average aroma strength, pleasant smelling, bourbon doesn't come out too much. Overall a nice aroma with a little bit of complexity but nothing too memorable.

T- Nice lactose sugars mixed with a bit of dark chocolate, some light licorice, toffee, more dark chocolate comes out on the finish with a bit of milk chocolate, some light leather, very subtle bourbon, and more lactose sugars. Nice long enjoyable finish.

M- Fairly light for style, a little bit spritzy with a decent amount of carbonation, very drinkable though.

O- I enjoyed this beer but I don't think I'd say it lives up to the hype it has been receiving. There just wasn't anything that really stood out for me, maybe I just had too high of expectations loving Parabola and Sucaba. Definitely worth the try, but there is no way I'd pay $17 for another bottle (even at half that I'd be a little bit hesitant).

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Photo of roger617
3.93/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2013 vintage, reviewed 6/30/2014. Bomber poured into snifter.

A: Black in color, pours with a little over a finger of off-white head that reduces fairly quickly and leaves a medium sized collar. Not much lacing to speak of.
S: For a bourbon barrel stout, this comes across as pretty mellow. I get a little bourbon, a little roast, a little grains, and on the back end a pleasant and complimentary smokiness.
T: I get the bourbon up front, oats and grain in the middle, and a smooth mellow bourbon finish. That flavor is very smooth, and quite enjoyable.
M: This is a little more thin that I would hope for, but it leaves a rich feeling as an after taste that I really enjoy.
O: Firestone Walker never seems to disappoint, and this is no exception. Velvet Merkin is a well done beer that everyone should make sure to try.

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Photo of Darkmagus82
3.96/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 4

Poured from bottle into a pint glass

Appearance – The beer pours a nearly pitch black color with a thick and creamy tan colored head. The head has a fantastic level of retention, slowly fading and leaving behind a sticky looking lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma is big of a sweet oatmeal smell with a good showing of a woody and bourbon boozy smell. Along with these aromas comes smells of caramel and vanilla as well as a little bit of a more toasted malt and somewhat grainy smell giving a very nice warningly dark and sweet smell

Taste- The taste begins with a big sweet oatmeal flavor with a good and heavy flavor of oats and caramel as well as a bit of vanilla and some nice woody and bourbon flavors upfront. There is a decent showing of a more roasted and chocolate flavor upfront, but these pale in comparison to the sweeter oat. As the taste advances the woody flavors lessen a bit, but the sweeter flavors grow even more intense with quite a bit more vanilla and caramel coming to the tongue. All the while the more roasted flavors really start picking up steam more toward the end surpassing the oat flavor of the brew. While at 8.5 % abv., the alcohol is very well concealed and with the mix of flavors that is left at the end, a nice roasted and sweet, lightly woody and moderately oatmeal like flavor is left to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel-The body of the beer is on the thinner side for a oatmeal stout of 8.5% abv with a carbonation level that is on the slightly higher side. A thicker body and lower carbonation would have been much better for the oatmeal and sweeter roasted flavors of the brew, really giving support to these rich flavors.

Overall- A rather tasty oatmeal stout overall with a nice hit of woody bourbon flavor without a whole lot of heavy and hot booziness. A nice, oatmeal, semi-sweet roasty brew.

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Photo of gueuzedreg
3.96/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz batch one into a Goose Island glass.

A- Not quite jet black. On the sides of the glass when held up to light brown barely transparent through. Pretty thick. Minimal lacing with little retention.

S- Big oats/oatmeal upfront, with sugary sweet malts and little bit of dark fruit.

T- Slight oatmeal stout, not overpowering with a touch of booze heat at the end. I kinda wanted this to be a big bad bold oatmeal stout that has heat on the end. I know that this kind of stout would get thinner because of the barrel aging.

M- Pretty thick for a BA Oatmeal Stout. Not thick like Zhukov, and not as thin as Central Waters BB Stout, right in the middle of both.

O- I was not impressed with the hype behind this one. I probably will seek out one bottle next year, and not go overboard searching for it.

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Photo of PicoPapa
3.98/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

On tap at Top Hops. Pours a very dark brown with a 1/4 inch of head. Some lacing. Sweet aroma of vanilla, caramel, chocolate and some coffee. The taste is sweet caramel and chocolate with some vanilla as well. Some bitter dark chocolate towards the end. Boozey. Vanilla and caramel at the finish. Slick mouthfeel with a medium amount of carbonation. One of the boozier Oatmeal Stouts I've had. Overall, I'd get it again.

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Photo of billshmeinke
3.98/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Blue Palms.

Pitch black with a finger of off white head. Retention and lacing are fine for the style.

Smells of oaky vanilla, coconut, some chocolate, hint of alcohol, hint of cereal like oats.

Tastes follows smell, only more intense and complex. Tastes of bakers chocolate, rolled oats, really pronounced coconut note, oaky vanilla.

Medium bodied, well carbonated, some alcohol spice. Kind of expected it to be a bit more full bodied and sticky, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

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Photo of axeman9182
3.98/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

On tap and served in a goblet at Barcade's anniversary party.

Velvet Merkin pours jet black, with around half a finger of mocha foam crowning the beer. Head retention is surprisingly good, though there's very little in the way of lacing left behind. The nose isn't bad, though it's more barrel than beer. There's plenty of bourbon and wood, joined by more subtle aromas of vanilla and milk chocolate. The base brew shines through some more in the flavor profile, as rich chocolaty notes take the lead here. Vanilla is the main supporting player, though oak and a very mild bourbon flavor are also present. The body is velvety smooth and not at all heavy, and is paired with an appropriately muted carbonation. Picture perfect mouthfeel. I had supremely high expectations for a 100% barrel aged version of one of my favorite oatmeal stouts, and while Velvet Merkin might not quite live up to them, it's still a damn good beer.

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Photo of samtrillo
4/5  rDev -5.7%

Pours engine oil black with a small tan head.

Nose consists of wood, chocolate, bourbon.

Upfront the taste reminds me of dark chocolate brownies followed by a hint of bourbon, oak and vanilla.
I was hoping the beer would feature a bit bigger mouthfeel. That's the one drawback for me. Can't justify the price of this when I can get six packs of Merlin for under $10 and do my own experimenting with vanilla beans and whiskey.

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Photo of RickS95
4/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a luxurious dark brown, almost black color. Not something like from the middle of a black hole, but an extremely dark, rich brown, bordering on black color. The head is a coffee colored mixture of mostly uniform smallish bubbles. It lacks retention and doesn't provide much lace, but it leaves the top with a gentle film of lightness on top of the dark beer.

It's not an aggressive smell of anything, but you pick up slight notes of bourbon and vanilla. With each swirl, the head reemerges and up from it comes a waft of chocolate.

This beer tastes like a liqueur had sex with a stout, and this is the result. Oak and vanilla is prevalent, as is the bourbon. But it's just a bit of bourbon and not overpowering. They showed restraint in the barrels.

Very smooth and creamy feel, with a gentle graininess from the oak barrels. A splash of sweetness lasts throughout the sip with only the faint heat in the finish to cut through. Tastes like it should feel stronger than it is, but it's slightly thinner than you'd imagine.

A bit different than what I'm used to in oatmeal stouts. Everything about this beer is in moderation and that makes it a real treat.

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Photo of plaid75
4/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On draft at The Lark, East Northport, NY.

Poured a black hue with a two finger foamy tan head. There was decent retention and lacing.

The smell featured roasted malts a d a touch of charcoal.

The flavor was likewise roasted with a touch of sweetness and a hint of black licorice.

The mouthfeel was toward tge fuller side of the style.

Overall a tasty oatmeal stout.

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Photo of atr2605
4/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-pours black with a tan head with decent retention
S-chocolate, vanilla, roasted coffee, hint of sweet cream
T-lots of roasted chocolate flavors, like eating a dark chocolate truffle.
M-medium bodied with average retention
O-very solid beer, definitely worth trying

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