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 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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Photo of Zoomslowik
3.83/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

L- black. Not much head or lacing.

S- not a lot of aroma. A little bourbon heat.

T- smooth with some roasted malt and bourbon. Pleasant, but not that interesting.

F- disappointing. Thin, not nearly as rich as the better ones I've had. Dry.

O- not awful, but uninspiring. I'd buy it if it sat on shelves, but it's not worth a chase.

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Photo of DaveBar
3.77/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Got on trade! 22oz bomber served at cellar temperature in a challis

A- Opens well and pours a light, airy head that films out within 2mins. Very dark brown colour

S- Not a lot here. Not even bourbon. More heat than anything else

T- Nice bourbon but subdued. Not very stout like. Weak body and depth. Kind of disappointing. Missing a lot to be good.

M- Dry and watery. Not good for a stout of this league

O- Not so good. Will not buy ever. Will only order if it's best on the menu so imagine I will not be having this one again. Some may like it though as it is mild and watery

Food Pairing

This ok brew went well with........ Roast beef. The roast beef will be the star of the show though!


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

2013 version poured into a snifter. This looks and smells the part--comes out a rich brown color with smooth white head. Smell is sweet bourbon, vanilla, oak, slight malt. The taste is good, but not great. Like others, I found the barrel presence to be surprisingly subtle--and disappointingly so. Feel is more springy than expected, and it's thin per the style.

A solid beer, but I won't go out of my way to get it again.

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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.

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Photo of metter98
4.34/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On-tap at Firestone Walker Visitor's Center Tasting Room, Paso Robles, CA

A: The beer is essentially jet black in color and has only slight traces of reddish brown near the edges of the glass when it is held up to the light. It poured with a thin collar of off white bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: Light to moderate aromas of bourbon are present in the nose—some oaky vanilla becomes apparent once the beer warms up.
T: The taste has lots of vanilla flavors from the barrel aging along with some notes of oak and hints of bourbon. There are also notes of chocolate and coffee from the underlying beer.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied and a bit smooth on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: The barrel aging really changes the dynamics of this oatmeal stout and imparts lots of vanilla flavors. It does a very good job at hiding its alcohol.

Note: 2015 vintage

Serving type: on-tap

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Photo of Stevem68
3.89/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a dark chocolate color with small light brown head. Aroma is chocolate, oatmeal, bourbon and a touch of vanilla. Flavor follows the nose but is pretty dry. Has bourbon on the back end. Mouthfeel is a little thin and it's just all around a dry finish. This isn't bad it just too dry for me. Nice flavors going on but not pronounced enough. Solid stuff but could be better.

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Photo of Phil-Fresh
4.38/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Deep grain roast, coffee-like, chocolate malt, with some bourbon, vanilla notes.

A: Jet black color, opaque, with a persistent, tan head that has solid retention.

T: Rich chocolatey, coffee-like malt flavor, lightly sweet, light bourbon flavor in the background with a low hop bitterness.

M: Full bodied with moderate carbonation. The oats provide a very smooth mouth-feel.

O: Delicious; Always one of my all time favorite BA oatmeal stouts. The beer has a great chocolatey, coffee aroma, great flavor and a very smooth mouth-feel. Awesome!

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Photo of Stardusthotel83
4.11/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Nice and dark, not too heavy, really light mouth feel. Taste was good but could have used more of the bourbon. Smelled nice with lots of coffee and some chocolate notes. This was for the 2015 vintage. Definitely worth a try.

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Photo of infinitebruner
3.81/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

April 4, 2016

22 oz. bomber, snifter

A – Very deep brown, nearing light black, with high clarity. A huge light tan foam stand erupts, about two inches high, and takes a while to settle, leaving a thin creamy layer atop the beer. The pour is not heavy, though not light; just normal for an oatmeal stout.

S – Low chocolate, bread crust, a touch of sweet vanilla. Some slightly herbal and fruity notes, presumably from the hops and maybe a bit of barrel character. Overall, very light for a barrel aged stout of any variety.

T – Milky, but not sweet, chocolate, with a bit of toffee in the background. Some low herbal notes and a touch of fruit like a raisin or a cherry pit, barely noticeable. Minor vanilla notes, the only hint that this was barrel aged. A hint of bitterness on the back end. Very balanced profile, but not particularly strong in any area.

M – Very smooth, a bit creamy, just a touch of a warm note from the alcohol / barrel-aging. Feels a bit thicker than it actually is, likely from the use of the oats. Not particularly viscous or heavy though. Light bitterness on the back end. Very balanced. It actually lacks some of the smooth silky feel in the regular version (Velvet Merlin).

O – For the price point involved and the work of putting a beer in a barrel to age it, this seems a bit reserved. I think the oatmeal stout is better pre-barrel, a la Velvet Merlin, and there’s not a lot of barrel character that I’m picking up here, other than the light vanilla. I would drink it again, because it’s a good beer, but I wouldn’t pay as much as I did for another bottle. Rarely does price point come into play on my evaluations, but at some point there’s definitely a higher expectation because of it.

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Photo of BSiegs
4.54/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown to black in color with one finger of tan head. Retention is good, leaves little lacing. The aroma is very enticing. Bourbon, dark chocolate, light roast, notes of oak, vanilla and oats. Taste is bourbon, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, nutty. Body is high end of medium with low-moderate carbonation. Silky smooth and creamy. Perfect mouthfeel for an oatmeal stout. An all around excellent beer.

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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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