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
firstprev| 276-300 | 301-325 | 326-350  | next → last
Reviews: 342 | Ratings: 2,316
Photo of jdense
4.3/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Holiday Ale Festival, note the program lists the ABV at 8.6%, OG 15, 33 IBU.

Dark brown head, uneven bubbles, over very dark brown almost black body, medium dissipation with no visible carbonation. Pronounced bourbon and roasted malt aromas with some floral hops for balance. Really big chocolate notes upfront on the tastebuds, some vanilla from the barrel and floral hops on back end, minimal bitterness. Mouthfeel medium, really dry finish attributed to the oats. A step up from 'regular' Mirkin, which is certainly one of America's (and the world's) best Oatmeal Stouts. Despite the protestations of one of Beervana's leading bloggers, one of the best beers I've had this year. The bourbon was in much better balance than several of the other barrel-aged beers at HAF, may be attributable to the high quality (Heaven's Hills) barrels used. Another masterpiece from Matt B., all the lunchbox heads agreed this was one of the best beers at HAF, lucky I was able to try this.

 987 characters

Photo of Mahlik
4.55/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap on at the 2011 Holiday Ale Fest in Portland. Poured into the plastic souvenir mug.

* This is the 100% Bourbon Barrel Aged version. The ABV is listed as 8.6%.

A - Pours an opaque dark brown with a one-finger creamy, brown head. Head retention was average. Good lacing.

S - An amazing aroma of milk chocolate and coconut. Almost like a Mounds bar. Roasted malts are mixed in. I also really like what the additional barrel-aging did for this beer. The bourbon and oak notes really round out the aroma.

T - The smooth candy bar-like flavors of milk chocolate and coconut are complimented by roasted malts, vanilla and a touch of coffee. The bourbon wraps everything up to create a well balanced taste. Not overly complex but everything works to perfection.

M - This is the true standout for me. The mouthfeel is smooth and silky. The creaminess is so inviting and only makes me want to take any other sip. Medium-to-thick bodied with moderate carbonation. I had no problem downing my mug.

O - This was the standout beer for me at the Holiday Ale Fest. I'm pretty sure a lot of our people would agreed since it was consistently one of the longest lines at the fest. I ended up get a couple mugs of this. I wish the 100% barrel-aged version was always available.

 1,271 characters

Photo of billshmeinke
3.98/5  rDev -5.9%
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.

 500 characters

Photo of kevanb
3.83/5  rDev -9.5%
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.

 1,072 characters

Photo of homebrew311
4.07/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap @ FoBAB.

A: pour dark brown, pretty much identical to the base beer, decent retention, creamy head

S: like the base beer, this is an excellent aromatic showcase of roasted barley, this is paired with vanilla, cream, and mellow chocolate.

T: vanilla shows up front with mellow oak qualities, this is followed by chocolate and roasted malt, great balance, very smooth flavors

MF: somewhat thin but on par for a 5.5% oatmeal stout, medium carbonation

O: this is a great drinkable barrel aged stout. There aren't a whole lot of barrel aged stouts with such a low ABV, this one pulls it off nicely

 605 characters

Photo of warnerry
4.23/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Notes from the Parabola release in May

Pours deep brown black with thin ring of tan head.

Relatively subtle aromas of bourbon, chocolate and roasted malt.

Interesting addition of borrbon to an oatmeal stout. Maintains the character of an oatmeal while adding bourbon and a nice amount of vanilla.

Very creamy mouthfeel. Feels like on nitro but I don’t think it is. Slightly thin.

Easy drinking flavorful barrel-aged oatmeal. Glad I got to try this.

 456 characters

Photo of Thorpe429
4.17/5  rDev -1.4%
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.

 492 characters

Photo of mdfb79
4.35/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From 03/12/11 notes. Had this on tap at the day session of EBF up in Boston, MA. One of the better beers of the day in my opinion.

a - Pours a dark brown, almost black color, with a little bit of white head and moderate carbonation evident. Looks exactly like the normal version of Velvet Merlin.

s - Smells of smooth bourbon, oatmeal, coffee, and vanilla. Pretty nice, the bourbon is out front, but doesn't dominate the smell. You still get all the normal scents of the Velvet Merkin.

t - Tastes of bourbon, oatmeal, oak, roasted malts, vanilla and cream, coffee, and light chocolate. The taste is a step up from the nose and amazingly complex and balanced. Really great, and the bourbon is nice but not overpowering again.

m - Medium body and low carbonation, the body is super smooth and creamy. No alcohol heat at all, most likely thanks to the low ABV of the base beer. Great mouthfeel.

o - Overall this is a really good beer I hope they bring out more often. The smell is nice, ut the taste and mouthfeel were outstanding. Would love to have again.

 1,059 characters

Photo of srandycarter
3.87/5  rDev -8.5%
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.

 538 characters

Photo of femALEist
4.32/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at 1702 in Tucson.
This just gets an A in my book for the fantastic name. I have had this one before as well, but any barrel aged version is always a nice surprise- especially on draft. It poured a deep black with some light oatmeal lacing. It smelled like bourbon, espresso, oats and malt. It tasted of bourbon, roasted espresso with a medium bitterness to it. The bitterness gets stronger and lingers on the tongue with some cereal and oats mixed with a bit of burn from the bourbon. The bourbon was there but wasn't very harsh, which is nice. It seemed very well balanced instead of being in your face bourbon.

 629 characters

Photo of Gueuzedude
4.08/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled on Tap at 1702, Tucson; March 2010
Arrives from the tap an opaque, dark color that shows a touch of clear red / brown hues when held up to the light. The head is quite wispy and seems a bit dark. At first the aroma has a thin vanilla note to it as well as a roast grain aromatic. Actually the aroma is really hard for me to smell, but as it warms I get hints of buttery oak and a hint of almost fruity tartness.

There is a hint of sweetness in the flavor (or is that vanillin) up front, but this dries out quite significantly as this rolls across the tongue. Vanillin lingers along with notes of dark chocolate, roasted grain and a hint of barrel-derived spiciness on the palate. The mouthfeel is pretty creamy feeling, but it still remains light as this is definitely a beer to quaff a couple pints of. The roast character dominates the flavor profile, but it is well balanced and keeps from being harsh, astringent, or acidic (which I find as common "flaws" in roasted beers). This is really well balanced in the flavor; roast, sweeter malt character, vanillin and bittering notes all work together quite harmoniously. The barrel is quite mellow actually, vanillin is here, as is an oak derived spiciness and a tannic quality in the finish, but I could almost be convinced that this was not barrel aged.

This is an awesome quaffing / session brew; it is full flavored, delicious andcomplex, too bad that this aroma comes off as being so muted (is it the glass, my nose, I don't know but I think it is actually just the beer).

 1,539 characters

Photo of Kegatron
4.2/5  rDev -0.7%
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.

 1,201 characters

Photo of bulletrain76
4/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Guest tap at Fifty Fifty. I went in to try the house beers out, and saw that they had this as a guest tap because they didn't currently have a house stout. Not knowing anything about the beer other than it was a stout and that firestone makes an awesome porter, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. The pint showed up at the table pitch black with a rocky tan head. A little cold at first, but most stouts are right out of the keg. The aroma had a strong espresso roast character. The flavor also had lots of bitter dark chocolate and espresso flavors, with some dried fruits. The body was full and smooth, but not too substantial. What got me was that there was this alcoholic bite that felt disconnected from the rest of the beer. it felt like the beer wasn't too alcoholic, yet there was this vivid snap like a hard alcohol. Never crossed my mind that it was bourbon aged, but makes sense now looking back. An interesting and cool stout; I would definitely had another pint or two if time allowed.

 999 characters

Photo of popery
3.57/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Served on tap at City Beer Store in San Francisco.

I don't know anything about this beer besides a vague awareness of some internet hype, and for some reason, the store listed the abv as 10%, which I'm very glad to see is incorrect. I would like to try the non-barrel aged version for a point of comparison and highly recommend seeking out a cask version. I can imagine thoroughly enjoying the beer served from a cask, but on tap, something was off for me. The beer pours an opaque dark-brown with highlighting along the edges of the glass. For a decidedly unhelpful point of comparison, it was nearly a dead-on match for 21st Amendment's Back in Black. The aroma, unlike the flavor, was fantastic. There are notes of chocolate, coffee, roasty malt, dry oak and a well-balanced bourbon flavor that meshed very well unlike some bourbon barrel-aged beers. The taste had all of these flavors, but they were far more muted. The bourbon flavor became almost watery. The feel may have been the real culprit. It was much too thin for a stout, much less a barrel-aged stout. A cask would likely bring out the creamy lush mouthfeel of the oatmeal stout. At any rate, it was still a good beer, and they get points for not overwhelming a relatively small stout with bourbon barrel-aging. So, seek it out in a cask if you can.

 1,315 characters

Photo of Floydster
4.01/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a snifter at Blue Palms out of the handpump for seven dollars, reviewed from notes

A-Practically black color but the edges are lighter for sure, so very dark brown, 1 1/4 inch full frothy medium tan head that lasted three or four minutes, nice retention, some lacing
S-Main smell at first is the bourbon and the slightly spicy scents that come from it, also lots of oak and vanilla, it has milk chocolate, roasted malts, cream, and grains as well
T-It starts off a little sweet with some cocoa, there is some light coffee in the middle, bourbon notes are in the finish with lots more vanilla than expected, like the slight twang and spice from the whiskey too, flavors mold together with this one well and I can really see why this mixed so well with a dark Belgian in a previous blend, nicely balanced and a flavorful oatmeal stout
M-Slightly dry, roasty, and faintly sweet mouthfeel, thinner body out of the cask but still medium, carbonation is obviously minimal, taste lingers
D-Could have drank lots more of this stuff, light on the stomach, smooth and very easy to drink for an oatmeal stout, could even make a session beer, taste does not get tiresome

I was excited to try this after having Saucerful of Merkin and wanting to know what those two components tasted like by themselves, this beer is right around six percent alcohol supposedly but it feels even lighter than that at times, would like to drink again, recommended

 1,444 characters

Photo of msubulldog25
4.27/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The barrel-aged version of Velvet Merkin (name = LOL), served at Holiday Ale Festival 2008 (Portland, OR). The program description: 'A rich oatmeal stout 25% aged in bourbon barrels blended back to the original batch. ABV 5.5%'. I enjoyed this twice on-tap - once the first evening (Wed 12/3) and again as a first pour on Sat 12/7.

A: Head is sudsy/creamy khaki, maybe 1/2 finger. Liquid is a deep charcoal with a notable carbonation. Speckled lace and a clinging ring of cream.

S: Full aroma of cocoa, chocolate, a toasty breadiness (pumpernickel?), light coffee and a sweetened cereal grain. A faint oakiness, woody and sweet.

T: Husky malts, rich roastedness, sweetened coffee (milk & sugar). hints powdered spice (cinnamon?) and a subtle woodiness.

M: S-m-o-o-o-o-t-h! Creamy and soothing mouthfeel; medium body. 'Velvet'y? Yes! A slight grit, or this could be a '5'.

D: Super drinkable. Soft feel, excellent flavor, bold aroma - everything one could want in an 'oatmeal stout', with the partial barrel-aging as an added bonus. Good enough to drink several times at a festival, but one that I'd hope will be making an appearance soon in a bar near us.

 1,161 characters

Photo of t0rin0
4.18/5  rDev -1.2%
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.

 1,064 characters

firstprev| 276-300 | 301-325 | 326-350  | next → last
Velvet Merkin from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.23 out of 5 based on 2,316 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!