Velvet Merkin | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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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

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Reviews: 362 | Ratings: 2,411
Photo of kculrich
4.27/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From a 22oz bottle, 2016, served in a tulip.

Pours a thin-appearing but totally opaque chestnut-black with a boisterous, short-lived head of whipped-latte foam. Settles back to a thin ring around the glass with sparse, spotty lacing. Alarming levels of visible carbonation.

The nose is smooth and richly sweet. Bourbon, old, dry wood, vanilla flowers and custard.

The taste surprises a little with less sweetness than feared. Smooth-as-glass bourbon, sun-dried oak, vanilla custard, Heathbar crunch fudge, cured tobacco leaf and, yes, oatmeal. Finishes clean with a little dusty bitterness.

Feel is decidedly thin and light-bodied for the style, but so silky smooth it just makes it that much easier to suck down the whole bottle without realizing what you've done. Despite carbonation lost at pour, mouthfeel remained bright.

Overall, a highly satisfactory oatmeal stout. Frankly, there are way too many heavy, syrupy barrel-aged stouts in the world but this isn't one of them. This one's a keeper.

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Photo of Bluerabbitbell
4.05/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From tap at Firestone Brewery in Paso Robles. My first barrel aged beer! I enjoyed this one, but I have nothing to compare it with. I did find it to be rather thin for an oatmeal though.

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Photo of Bum4ever
3.97/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

L: It pours pretty much pitch black, with a small tan head that dissipates quickly.
S: Bourbon and vanilla hit the noise almost at once and together. After that there is coffee and chocolate and maybe some cinnamon and oak.
T: Mix of a lot of flavors all at once, nothing stands out too much or too little. The bourbon and vanilla are there but less powerful than the noise would suggest. Chocolate and coffee too. Wonderful mix of stuff I like, but nothing stands out from the rest.
F: Thinner than I would have thought from the look, but very creamy and easy to drink.
O: This one is tough for me to get a handle on. Everything about it is right up my ally: Love oatmeal stouts, love BBA stuff, love Firestone beers in general and maybe because of all this I was expecting too much. This is a really good beer, but not a great beer.

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Photo of drdiesel9483
4.08/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look - dark as expected with a slight last head and leaves a film on top
Smell - toasted semi sweet chocolate
Taste - not as much chocolate in the taste as the smell. Maybe slight caramel and espresso.
Feel - pretty thin smooth with a slight cream
Overall - great different beer. First bba oatmeal I've had.

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Photo of buschbeer
3.8/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

Served in a snifter

This beer pours black and is topped with less than an inch of tan head that leaves virtually no lacing.

The aroma consists of chocolate and bourbon.

The taste is a little more complex. The bourbon comes off as caramel and vanilla. The chocolate is still there.

I am pretty disappointed in the mouthfeel of this oatmeal stout. It is very thin. It is pretty smooth due to low carbonation, but I just can't believe how thin it is.

I have wanted this beer for a long time merely because of the awesome name, but the reputation didn't hurt. I am kind of disappointed at how thin it is and the bourbon is not more present. The bourbon is there, but the flavor is kind of weak. An actual merkin made of velvet is still on my life want list.

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Photo of GOBLIN
4.06/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Received in a recent trade. Long time want and and glad I'm getting to try this.
Pours a very dark and robust brown almost black but not quite . . . Still brown. Nice tan head makes this a really inviting beer.
Aromas are stellar. The bourbon actually does hold your sense of smell hostage for a few seconds. Along with vanilla, chocolate and coffee this beer should be a real treat. Flavors are espresso and vanilla, very little barrel character almost no hint of bourbon. Mouthfeel is surprisingly thin . . . Here and Gone ! Just like this beer hits your mouth and then nothing.
Overall, I guess what I'm trying to say is this beer is good but not terrific. I suspect the high scores are based more on reputation rather than execution.

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Photo of spacebear09
3.67/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

It's an alright beer in its own right, but now for something barrel aged from Firestone. Doesn't really taste like much and the mouthfeel is pathetically thin. Slight Bourbon taste, milk chocolate, not much else going on. Smells like it would have a lot of spice notes, but sadly it does not.

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

Let me start by saying this is a brewery that is one I consider to be world class and this is a style I am especially fond of but that really is not relevant in this case because regardless of those caveats this is simply an outstanding beer.

The description in the notes/commercial description really are just the tip of the iceberg or icing on the cake if you will since this is a decadent barrel aged beer that can be savored and leaves you wanting more. I highly recommend this to any fan of barrel aged beers or stout in general as it is hard to find a more worthy beer the only drawback is that I wish I had more.

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Photo of ajm5108
4.17/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Optics are as expected, little head / carbonation due to the aging. Aroma is fantastic, perfect amounts of fudge, vanilla and bourbon all very balanced between them. Taste is less impactful, carried mostly by your standard oatmeal stout profile - roasted malt, a little coffee and of course the oatmeal - with some bourbon notes peeking through at the end. Loses a lot of those richer characteristics - the vanilla especially - which was unexpected for how decadent the nose is. Has the classic oatmeal texture. Overall a very solid beer but I still wish it elicited more of those flavors.

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Photo of GarthDanielson
4.31/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2015 vintage. Poured from a bottle into a snifter, the beer is jet black, with a thin, wispy, clingy, light tan head. Aromas of heavy bourbon, rich in vanilla and molasses, with a solid coffee backbone, semisweet chocolate notes, and solid roasted highlights. Flavors are solid bourbon forward, warm and spicy, with a solid blend of chocolate, molasses, vanilla, and a roasted overtone that softens some of the booziness. Surprisingly light bodied, with a bit of crispness still present despite the age and barrel processing. Booze warmth in the aftertaste, accompanying rich chocolate and molasses notes. The finish is smooth and light, with a subtle cloying sweetness that builds as you drink. Great beer.

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Photo of BEERMILER12
4.4/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a near pitch black color with 2 fingers of head that slowly fades down to a small cap that leaves very spotty lacing

S: Roast, light bourbon, oak, dark chocolate, coffee, and vanilla are all fairly prominent. Very much like an dark chocolate espresso brownie

T: Follows the nose. Starts off with the roasted malt, espresso, dark chocolate, and bourbon and slowly picks up the vanilla and oak notes. Light bitterness from the roast works very well with the light sweetness from the barrel. Finishes with lingering barrel notes and dark chocolate

M: Medium-full bodied with moderate carbonation. Smooth

O: An extremely well-rounded BBA oatmeal stout that takes the base and elevates it to a whole new level. Staggeringly easy to drink at only 8.5% as well. Definitely worth checking out

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Photo of ManapuaMan
4.12/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Good looking pour akin to any well made oatmeal stout, albeit with much less head. Pours black with a tight cap of khaki foam. Aroma is booze, roasted malt, light roast coffee grounds and chocolate. Taste is smooth. That's not even a flavor but, man, it's such a smooth beer. The bourbon must've worn down any edges in the base oatmeal stout and all that's left is a beer that's like an old piece of well-worn sea glass. Definitely earns the velvet moniker. The barrel aging doesn't bring much vanilla or coconut to the fore, so keep that in mind if that's what you're looking for. Outstanding beer but ranks at the bottom of the FW "boxed beers."

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Photo of Skrumpy
4.39/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Dark and rich - one of my favorite barrel aged oatmeal stouts. Foamy tan head with streak lacing. The aroma is chocolate, espresso, bourbon and vanilla. Flavor is the same blend, only more prevalent. So smooth. Dry finish. A truly amazing beer.

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Photo of jooler
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Little head but velvety texture
Smell is of bourbon. Lots of chocolate.
Pretty alcoholic, but it is smooth though.
Got another bottle in the cellar and we will see what happens

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Photo of Bcurrie33
3.46/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Look: little head retention. Nice deep brown with ruby red highlights
Smell: nice roasted maltiness, coconut, no hop aroma
Taste: definite dark chocolate aftertaste. Pleasant. Hard to pick out flavors in the beginning.
Feel: somewhat astringent/dry to style
Overall: they make amazing beer. This just isn't as good as their iPAs however

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Photo of weareallfalafel
5/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

So excited for this one! 2016 vintage. Poured from the bomber into a snifter. Pours jet black, relatively thick, but not tar-like, with an inch of khaki head that dissipated slowly and left some fluffy lacing on the side of the glass, which I didn't expect. Looks beautiful in the glass, opaque and creamy with a beautiful head. Smell is off the charts! Bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, caramel, marshmallows, oak, and a small whiff of booze. Taste follows suit, bringing huge, bold flavors of bourbon, vanilla, toasted grains, burnt sugar, oats, and everything you expect from a bourbon barrel stout, but with the booze much more restrained and not overpowering at all. Feel is very full bodied, fluffy, creamy, luxurious, decadent, and perfect. Overall, I'm so happy to have found this, to join the club of those who have tried Proprietor's Reserve, and to have experienced it! A rare 5/5.

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Photo of Hyptochrons
4.27/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

not a whole lot on the nose, bit of bouron and oak, hint of caramel and creamy vanilla. on the palate is oats, nuttyness, roasty malts, slightly bitter note reminiscent of espresso, cocoa, caramel, toffee, oak, smooth touch of bourbon. mouthfeel is too watery. otherwise a really excellent stout with a nice touch of barrel.

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Photo of gr0g
4.4/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

2016 vintage, 22oz bottle. Pitch dark, capped with one finger of foam. Oaky vanilla aroma from the barrel aging. It's not overpowering, allowing the notes from the base stout through. There's some charred malt and mocha-like character. A bit of toasted marshmallow, too. Faint hints of whiskey-like booze.

The dominant flavor is bittersweet dark chocolate. This isn't some super sugary bourbon barrel stout. Vanilla and oak flavors are complementary rather than overpowering. The only thing disappointing about this is the texture. A good oatmeal stout should have, well, a velvet-like texture, soft and smooth. The carbonation is noticeable, a bit prickly. A little bit thicker consistency would also be appreciated.

Velvet Merkin isn't at the same level of greatness as most other FW limited releases, but it's still an excellent rendition of an oatmeal stout. Masterful application of barrel aging.

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Photo of q33jeff
4.05/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4


Bottle (2015) to snifter.

LOOK: Dark black color with the slightest transparency, giving a cola like appearance. Medium beige head fades to lacing.

AROMA: heavy bourbon whiskey, odd that it is so strong at only 8.5% .

TASTE: yep, more whiskey. Maybe it is so pronounced because this is a year old. Malty, oatmeal, raisin, ashy flavors lurk underneath.

FEEL: a little thinner than expected, a touch astringent, but drinks easy.

Obviously, this is a good beer. I am not sure whether this is still too young or too old, but the whiskey really dominates the flavor. A tad disappointed on that front, but it will not stop me from buying all the 2016 I can get my hands on.


2016 bottle to snifter, drank/shared while cooking Christmas dinner.

More mellow than the 2015. Whiskey was not as dominant.

Still an excellent beer, just lacks the complexity of other FW Proprietors releases.

Merry Christmas.

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Photo of hophugger
4.02/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Great, deep brown color with awesome head and moderate lacing. The oats add a great, chewy feel and smooth this stout out to a nice feel. Flavors are strong but not overbearing and produces a very drinkable, mild oatmeal stout !

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Photo of von_kaiser
3.99/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

vintage 15'. idk........maybe pallet has taken an extreme liking to fuller stouts. imo this seemed overly thin, porter-ish. mild barrel character, very bland stout flavor and extremely thin mouth feel. glad to have tried. not one to age in the least bit. i remember it being better fresh.

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Photo of HopHunter19
4.75/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A - dark brown black color with a nice mocha head that dissipates pretty quick and therefore doesn't leave much lacing
S - big mocha, caramel, vanilla, bourbon, roasted malts, chocolate.
T - same as smell, bourbon is nice but not overpowering, mocha caramel, vanilla roasted malts
M - thicker than you'd expect. Alc covered. Aftertaste is mocha and roasty malts.
O - great beer.

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Photo of Immortale25
4.34/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a Duvel tulip. Label says 2015.

A- Pours a dark brown color with a 1/4 inch tan head that retains a bit before becoming a thick ring around the edge of the glass and a mostly full sheet of sheer surface foam. Semi-resilient lacing leaves large clots behind.

S- Heavily toasted malt character with some vanilla sweetness and a bit of must. Slight booze fume.

T- Has an Oreo cookie-like duality with the roasty milk chocolate quality of the malt and the sweet vanilla that the barrel brings. Also some dark fruit like raisin and fig. Sweetness lingers on the palate and the actual bourbon flavor is pretty light.

M- Soft and about as thick as you'd expect given the color and lower ABV, which is to say not very. Medium carbonation and a fullish body.

O- Pretty tasty but I won't be seeking it out again, at least in the context of trading. If I saw it on the shelf, I'd probably grab it for a retry.

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Photo of Zraly
2.8/5  rDev -33.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.75

2015 vintage. Poured into a snifter. Black with mocha head.

Mostly notes of licorice and cola with a hint of bourbon, this is the predominate smell and taste. A bit burnt mid-palate. Way over carbonated for style, making this rather unpleasant to drink. Too thin and overall, it is very monotone. The typical, rich smoothness found in an oatmeal stout is missing. Overpriced ($18 a bomber).

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Photo of HattedClassic
4.34/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Velvet Merkin 2015 (Firestone Walker Snifter)
The beer pours a nice tan head that starts bubbly but dissipates quickly and leaves a creamy ring around the inside of the glass. The beer itself is certainly something nice to look at and certainly different from any oatmeal stout that I've seen before. The color is a chocolate black that looks good but the texture does not have that creamy and milky smooth look that an oatmeal stout usually has. Instead, the beer has a thin look similar to bourbon; it isn't to say that it's bad but loses that look I enjoy so much in an oatmeal stout.

The smell is very good. The strongest note appears to be the oatmeal which has a nice milk cream and vanilla mixing with the bourbon. The cocoa nibs and dark chocolate come out and mix with each other to the point where it's hard to distinguish between the two different but very similar aromas. The bourbon is certainly strong but isn't overpowering; it also mixes well with the vanilla.

The taste is also very good and strongly resembles the smell. It has as moderate vanilla and oat note that mixes with a moderate bourbon note. The chocolate note is a bit stronger in this one while the cocoa nibs are fairly weak compared to the smell.

2016 Update: Ditto but with a much stronger oat and cocoa note. The oat also comes off a little dairy like.

The feel is good. It has a very nice cream feel and goes down incredibly smooth. The carbonation is a bit light but adds that creamy feel in the same way a cask ale does. My main issue is that it's pretty thin, which is probably the result of the bourbon barrel aging. Fortunately, there does not seem to be any burn because that would ruin it.

Overall, a very good imperial oatmeal stout and definitely worth getting. However, this beer does not seem to be one for aging and should probably be drank as fresh as possible or on draft. Time seems to dull the notes that would be stronger otherwise. Go for it.

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Velvet Merkin from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.23 out of 5 based on 2,411 ratings.
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