Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Velvet Merkin | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
342 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Velvet MerkinVelvet Merkin

Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: Oatmeal Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.50%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by t0rin0 on 11-20-2008

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 342 | Ratings: 2,314
Photo of VelvetExtract
4.67/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A-Pours a very, very dark brown with only minimal light penetration. The head is a thin accumulation of sand colored bubbles and foam. Dots and waves of lace.

S-Interesting! I find it to be noticeably nutty. Almost like a nut flavored coffee. Toasted coconuts, too. A respectable and well set bourbon aroma. I notice coconuts more and more and I love that. Bits of vanilla and even some tobacco leaves. Almond chocolate bars!

T-The flavor is also delicious. I like how the bourbon isn't the main flavor, it merely accentuates the other flavors. Coconut milk chocolate. Roasted oats. Medium roast almond/hazelnut coffee. Chocolate chips. Vanilla and oak. Light tobacco. Then the whiskey kicks back in on the backside. Very tasty.

M-Body is thinner than expected but it seems to fit the beer's ABV. I actually enjoy its lack of viscosity. Tantalizing bubbles. A bit creamy and spicy/hot from the bourbon. Drinks too easily.

O/D-Firestone Walker barrel aged brews are an automatic. This one may be one of the best in my opinion. Not as huge as the others but it's complexity is unmatched. This beer tastes like it was made just for me and my taste buds. I really, really enjoyed this beer. Instant classic.

 1,208 characters

Photo of RichD
4.67/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured this into a tulip glass.

A: Pours a deep black with a small light tan had that is reduced to a mere ring around my glass. There is also some lacing left in the glass as I drink.

S: Smells of chocolate and vanilla almost exclusively. The smell is quite faint. I also pick up some bourbon sweetness. It's definitely very pleasant, but if the smell was more prominent I would give this a higher score.

T: Whoa! Immediate bourbon sweetness that consists of vanilla and some oak. The chocolate and roasted malts give a light coffee-like flavor. I also pick up some oats before the flavor transforms into a strong caramel flavor that takes my taste buds for a ride. Some warmness is also coming through at the end. The flavors mesh so incredibly well that I have a hard time setting each flavor aside.

M: I've read that some don't like the mouthfeel on this. I absolutely love it. It's remarkable that even with the bourbon barrel treatment that this beer retains the smoothness of an oatmeal stout. This is truly a one of the best mouthfeels I've ever had with a barrel aged beer. The 8% is almost nonexistent which is even better.

Overall: This beer is awesome. Firestone Walker really might have the best barrel aging program out there. Between this and the 3 other offerings that FW has, I'm having a hard time figuring out which is my favorite. This beer will be on my purchase list every year and I'm already anticipating when I can buy it again even though I still have half the bottle left.

 1,504 characters

Photo of Gatch
4.67/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Taste of Tops in Tempe, AZ.

Edit: Updated from another experience with this beer on May 2nd, 2012 at Papago Brewing in Scottsdale, AZ. A special event with David Walker and Adam Firestone in attendance. Picked up a bottle of 2012 Parabola and the new Wookey Jack with both being signed by the two main men! Very exciting.

A: Deep, dark black with a light brown, very bubbly head that fades quickly. No lace and no head retention. Massive legs on this brew.

S: Buttery, boozy bourbon. Heavy wood. Some stout comes through a bit in the background. So alluring.

T: Like sucking on a piece of the barrel. Bourbon-soaked oak. Seriously fantastic and I'm not a bourbon-barrel-aged kinda guy. Roasty and smoky malt comes through to remind you it's still a stout.

M: Smooth but boozy. Huge bourbon and wood. Easy and enjoyable to drink and blows my mind how balanced it is.

O: I've been waiting a long time to drink this because I'm such a huge fan of Velvet Merlin. David Walker was at Taste of Tops for an Arizona Beer Week event and was signing stuff and chatting it up with everyone. Great guy. He had high praise for this beer and I have the same praise. Incredible beer.

 1,184 characters

Photo of Zorro
4.66/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Light proof black colored beer with a medium sized brown colored head.

One sniff and this smells like Canadian Whiskey! Not at all shy about letting you know this has been sitting in a bourbon barrel for a while. Strong vanilla, coconut and caramel scents. Smells sweet with some faint scents of tobacco leaf, ash and tanned leather. Simply lovely I could sniff this glass all day, pity they don't market this smell as an air freshener.

Starts out mildly sweet with a vanilla, coconut and chocolate flavor. Slight butter and stronger toffee candy flavors. A little sweet but not as much as the scent suggests. Mild bitterness. Strong Canadian Whiskey flavor. Oak and a little wood ash really coats the mouth like a milkshake. I can even taste a little sugar cookie in this, complex with a Capital C.

Mouthfeel is good.

Overall one of the best things I have tasted all year. I may have tasted a better beer but there are few beers than can beat this. A lot of the beers that might be infinitesimally better are other Firestone Bourbon Barrel aged beers.

 1,056 characters

Photo of jellikit
4.65/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2014 Bottle.
Appearance: coca cola with a foamy, tan head. Sticky lacing.
Smell: figs, raisins, light bourbon, light oak.
Taste: see above. Plus a little cola. Yum.
Mouthfeel: light carbonation.light body. Slightly sweet.
Overall: great beer. Worth the $17. Almost like having a whiskey/coke with a great stout backer.

 328 characters

Photo of Catracho5
4.65/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Serving Type: 22 ounce bottle poured into a brandy snifter.

Appearance: Pours black, pitch black. No ruby on the edges.

Smell: Big bourbon on the nose, roasted chocolate, dark fruits, lovely aroma.

Taste: Bourbon up front, some roasted chocolate, some dark fruits, cherries, some bitterness, really smooth, the flavors flow very nice. Some alcohol. Flavors become prevalent as beer warms up.

Mouthfeel: Silky smooth, some bitterness on the tongue, the alcohol has a warming effect on the palate, but nice smooth, silky mouthfeel, not too thick like an imperial stout, but thickness is present.

Overall: World class beer, lovely aroma, great flavor, not overwhelming, the bourbon dominates on the front end but some great flavors smoothly flow in the beer. There is bitterness that I did not expect with an oatmeal stout, but overall, world class beer. I wish I would have picked up a few more to cellar. This is the 2013 edition that I tasted in June 2014. Definitely worth a try when available.

 1,001 characters

Photo of Tonyjenlasc
4.65/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Look - Pitch black. Completely opaque.
Smell - Bourbon, chocolate, coffee, vanilla sweetness
Taste - Perfect amount of bourbon, coffee, and chocolate flavors. Some smokiness and vanilla sweetness in there too.

Overall - My favorite oatmeal stout yet. Loving the FW Prop Vintage series! Killer beers.

 303 characters

Photo of whatthehull
4.64/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured into a Tulip/Wine/Snifter

A - B E A Utiful velvety (no pun intended) black/blood red, one finger deep chocolate colored head and some sticky lacing

S - vanilla, caramelized raisins, brown sugar, very delicate anise, homemade molasses, kona style coffee note, baking yeast, sugar, plums, cherries, chocolate covered blueberries, toasted grains, woody whiskey booze note and awesomeness

T - chocolate covered berries, whiskey, sweet rich aromatic coffee, aged whiskey/bourbon, vanilla, brown sugar, anise, sarsaparilla, molasses, floral like hoppy note, roasted toastiness and a milk like smoothness

M - full bodied, nearly perfect balance and complexity, medium minus acidity and a very nice chocolate berry vanilla booze party in your mouth finish

D/O - Very lovely stout. I mean well freaking done. Refreshing, smooth, sexy, flavorful and leaves you wanting nothing but more! If you like stouts, love stouts or beer/ale in general, this one is worth a go or 12.

Final thoughts - Price is very high at $14 - 20 a bottle and the abv is nice, but I like a little more at 8.5%, still worth a try or a million.

 1,120 characters

Photo of TruePerception
4.63/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Firestone's Velvet Merkin (2013), Bourbon barrel-aged oatmeal stout. 8.5% ABV.

And, bourbon I do smell!

Appearance: Black, with just the slimmest dark brown at the bottom, in the light. Slightly tan head. Half a finger, dissipates quickly to almost nothing.

Smell: It's definitely got some caramel-sweet, yet dark, bourbon scents to it. Charred oak. Bittersweet chocolate. Blackened oats. Maybe some sweet coffee sludge. A little vanilla in the background. Nicely complex nose! Bottom's up!

Taste/Mouthfeel: Wow! First off, it's silky smooth, yet still has a nicely textured carbonation! It has a very distinct vanilla and chocolate coffee taste (as if you hit up a gas station and added those creamer cups), yet has a very present sweetness that is not quite sugary (lactose, perhaps?). At the same time you get a nice oatmeal flavor, and some great medium-dark caramel notes. It makes me want a coffee, and I don't even like coffee! This will suffice nicely, I think! There's a touch of Bourbon towards the end. A nice warmth is sitting on my chest, a few minutes afterwards. From the Bourbon, I'm guessing.

At $15, it was a hefty purchase, but one that should be made, if at all possible.

And, just a heads up, I've yet to try the Velvet Merlin, so I don't know the difference between the two. After trying this one, though, I will definitely pick up a pack this year!

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

2015: Firestone's Velvet Merkin 2015, Bourbon barrel aged oatmeal stout. 8.5% ABV.

A: Not as dark as I remember. Black in the glass. Dark honey brown in the dimple. Dark tan head. Nice, solid lacing, Sheeting is light and clear, but seems to hold forever.

S: Dark Bourbon toffee up front, bordering on raisin-y. Slight sweet char and powdered cocoa.

T/MF: Medium bodied. Soft. Almost no flavor on the tip of the tongue, but it explodes with more of that dark toffee/raisin along the sides of the tongue. There does seems to be a bit of acidity there, as well. Some definite salivation, but it doesn't play a key part in the flavor. Char on the finish. Very slight carbonation; a little more than I would like in this, but it's minor.

Again, not as good as the '13, but still quite good.

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle, into a Belgian tulip glass.

 2,279 characters

Photo of beergoot
4.63/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2013 Vintage No.001

India ink black body with a smooth, creamy, off-white head. Light coffee, vanilla, chocolate and cocoa aromas. Deeply rich and soothing malt sugar flavors, favoring the darker malts. Heavy body yet velvety smooth.

A very noticeable oak-bourbon scent right off the top strongly suggests what the rest of the tasting experience may be like. Silky sweet taste and feel, mostly comprised of a deeply rich yet zesty chocolate tone. Mint chocolate quality overall, adding a very tasty and appealing sweetness and zing to things. An exquisitely well-balanced and complex dark ale. Deep and engrossing and near-perfect.

 633 characters

Photo of GregA135
4.63/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Got this awesome brew from a recent trade!

Poured a dark brown color with a very thin tan head
I honestly could only smell the bourbon and a little bit of vanilla
I thought I would be caught off guard with the taste since all I smelled was the bourbon, but was I wrong. Had the bourbon burn, but very minimal - Chocolate, coffee and vanilla with an oatmeal aftertaste.
Super smooth and very easy to drink.

 406 characters

Photo of Fcolle2
4.61/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2013 vintage

Pours dark thick black letting little to no light through. Head is thin tan and fades to a tan ring around the glass that's retains nicely.

Smell is great. Rich dark chocolate malt along with creamy oat aromas are balanced nicely with a light barrel and bourbon aromas. Notes of semi sweet chocolate truffle, cookie dough and raisins.

Taste is awesome and follows the nose. Rich semi sweet chocolate malt is forward and so incredibly rich and creamy that it is almost like desert in a glass. Some faint dark ripe blackberry fruity esters follow along with a more prevalent oak barrel and lighter bourbon flavor.

Mouthfeel is great. Thick, creamy great body. Mild carbonation leaves this a great sipping beer, perfect for a bitter cold night.

Incredible beer, I'm glad I have another to cellar.

 812 characters

Photo of tbryan5
4.6/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A- Pitch black with a creamy huge tan head.
S- Sweet and bitter chocolate. Booze and some bitter coffee.
T- Wow. This is an amazing beer. Sweet malts, bitter chocolate, bourbon and oak.
M- Slick, medium, creamy. Simply amazing.
D- Even this is a sipper. Yes... Another please.

 276 characters

Photo of newsage
4.6/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Best Beer Ever! Silky smooth, milk chocolate, coffee bean, oak and bourbon are all present. The best beer i ever had. Too bad it's not bottled or sold to take home. WTF you can only drink it at the brewery when they have it there but it always runs out.

 253 characters

Photo of LouZ
4.6/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Draft. Pours dark with a slight red hue. Smell is coffee and caramel - love the smell of this beer. You can taste the bourbon, but it's not overwhelming; balanced with coffee and sweet malts. A great, drinkable barrel-aged beer.

 228 characters

Photo of vfgccp
4.6/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A - Midnight brown with ruby highlights. Nice yellowed paper head has nice retention and lace.

S - Awesome nose. Huge toasted oatmeal aroma. Bread crust, touch of dark roast coffee beans, rum raisin.

T - Vanilla, cream, porridge, caramel, cognac, marzipan, woody booze, birch beer.

M - Soft, medium-full frame.

O - A stellar oatmeal beer. Firestone walker is tough to beat.

 378 characters

Photo of bnelson997
4.59/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served from a 22 oz bomber into a Firestone Walker Barrelworks Teku glass.

Appearance - black as pitch with a 1 1/2 finger cream head that quickly dissipated to a ring around the glass. Small amounts of lacing.

Aroma - Smooth oak and vanilla notes. The touch of barrel is very nice.

Taste - Smooth milk chocolate and vanilla right up front, middle and finish remind me of a slightly underdone in the middle brownie. Liquid brownie has a nice ring to it eh? ;-) Middle also has more of the oak barrel and slight bourbon notes.

Mouthfeel - despite the thin look of it, very medium bodied and creamy mouthfeel from the oatmeal

Overall - this beer is the easiest to drink of all the barrel aged Proprietor's Series offerings from Firestone Walker. I like to call this one "Parabola Light", as it is definitely the baby brother of that fantastic beer. You just can't go wrong when FW puts anything in a barrel then bottles it. Definitely a fantastic BA oatmeal stout.

 967 characters

Photo of macher0
4.59/5  rDev +8.5%

Here we go.

Pours dark brown, thin, and coarse frothy head that has an amber hue. The nose indicates this is a sweet ale that builds from a strong oatmeal presence in the form of brown sugar instant oatmeal. Strong bourbon on the nose. The taste is not at all sweet with a highly noticeable bourbon affect. The taste has notes of bourbon soaked oak, oats, brown sugar, melted butter, canned sweet potato syrup, and vanilla. Very thin feel, moderate carbonation, and lighter body than most stouts.

I was very pleased with this. I can easily get over how thin this stout is because of the excellent flavors from the oatmeal and bourbon barrel.

 643 characters

Photo of rjd722
4.59/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Poured at a bottle event, deep brown color with some lacing and slight tan head. Aroma is mostly bourbon with subtle hints of chocolate, toffee, and espresso. Bourbon is up front but this is an incredibly balanced stout, chocolate and toffee coming through very strong. Silky smooth and extremely drinkable, an outstanding brew!

 328 characters

Photo of Parmesan
4.59/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

2014 Vintage
Look: Dark black pour with a creamy brown tan head that sticks around for a while.

Smell: Lots going on here. Some caramel, toffee, peanut. Strong notes of bourbon, stone fruit and vanilla, some booze.

Taste: Very well balanced, lots of bourbon but the other flavors of toffee, roast malt, and chocolate come through well too. Has a nice coffee flavor in the finish. Alcohol is evident but not overwhelming.

Feel: The mouthfeel is a little light and not quite creamy enough. Low carbonation.

Overall: Other than the mouthfeel, this beer definitely lives up to the hype.

 586 characters

Photo of imperialbeerdude
4.58/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

I had this months ago when it first came out and I hate to age beers, but this is a case where some age has really done the beer some good. I feel the additional time helped integrate the flavor more. I'm picking up much more coconut and vanilla in this bee, not much if any of the bourbon barrel. This is exactly what I want though, the bourbon to give some extra sweetness, vanilla and coconut. Don't drink this expecting big barrel character, instead expect a well integrated beer.

 484 characters

Photo of pmangold
4.58/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2013 vintage - poured into a snifter. jet black appearance with a thin khaki head. the aroma was bourbon with sweet notes. The taste was very elaborate with bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, oak and even toffee. This was a thinner BA stout but I believe that was the intention since it's a lower abv oatmeal stout. I will be seeking out more of these.

 351 characters

Photo of womencantsail
4.57/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On-tap at Oakquinox

Dark brown pour with a small tan head. The aroma reminds me of chocolate milk with a little bit of vanilla added to it. Minimal roast and coffee notes, just an overwhelming chocolate/vanilla blend. Great barrel and bourbon flavor with even more of the chocolate and vanilla going on. Moderate roast and a hint of coffee. Nicely sweet from some toffee malt flavors. So damn good.

 399 characters

Photo of Robomunky
4.56/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle. Opaque black, very thin tan head. Smells like a chocolate hug. Tastes like Bourbon and chocolate. With a couple years on it, it's thinned out a little but is one of the smoothest, most drinkable, warm blanket stouts I can remember. It won't blow your mind like Parabola or PNC but it will make you smile like a 6-year-old with a cup of cocoa on a snowy day.

 370 characters

Photo of bpasquini
4.56/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A: Nice slightly oily black appearance to it, poured heavy and leaves a small light tan head that leaves little lacing around the glass, wish it had a thicker darker appearance to it though, can slightly see into the glass

S: The smell isn't strong at all, it is very hard to find many flavors in it but you can find a few, but what you can pick up smells good. I get some oatmeal, caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and of course the bourbon barrels, predominately bourbon barrels, wish the smell was a lot stronger

T: Based of the smell I expected the flavor to not be very existent, but it is the complete opposite! Loads of oatmeal upfront, then the bourbon barrels kick in, followed with a nice chocolate coffee flavor blend and finishes with a nice slight vanilla caramel blend with an ever so slight bitterness which is fantastic! Very slight alcohol presence is noticed when the bourbon flavors kicks in, the presence definitely compliments the flavor

M: Very thick but it feels light and creamy, I have got to say that this beer sits very well on the palate and probably has one of the best feels to it I've had so far, finishes a little dry leaving you begging for more!

O: An outstanding beer! Definitely search for this beer! It is easily my new favorite stout, at first it was hard to think about getting more with the price tag on it, but after drinking it the price doesn't matter anymore because it's that good, FW is going to make me go broke with this beer!

 1,473 characters

Velvet Merkin from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.23 out of 5 based on 2,314 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!