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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: 342 | Ratings: 2,314
Photo of Modernrickk
4.06/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Serving type bottle

This beer looks like cold black coffee. When held up to the light I can see thru it. Not much head retention. Not exactly an elegant looking beer. Sure does smell good tho. It's not in your face in the aroma but very pleasing mix of malts and bourbon.the vanilla-like aroma from the wood smells amazing. Tastes like a bit of chocolate dipped in a bit of watered down bourbon. The low abv kinda makes the mouthfeel a bit thin for a BBA stout but really helps the balance of the taste. Overall this beer is pretty darn good. Balance in the bourbon and stout flavors is everything here ..

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Photo of GJ40
4.2/5  rDev -0.7%

Beautiful with a big black color and a sturdy tan head. Awesome aroma with bourbon, vanilla and cane sugar. Smooth flavors follow led by a well behaved bourbon aspect. Maybe a little thin for a bigger oatmeal stout. But I really enjoyed this one.

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Photo of Celtics17
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%

You without a doubt get the bourbon character in the nose, and in the front. After awhile the bourbon character softens, and you get more of the oatmeal. I get a slight vanilla, but little to known of the chocolate flavors. Great beer.

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Photo of siege06nd
4.02/5  rDev -5%

A. Black with a half finger of khaki colored head, good lacing and consistency.

S. Excellent with lots of baking chocolate, roasted coffee, caramel, and vanilla.

T. Not quite as good as the nose. Big doses of milk chocolate, lots of vanilla, and caramel, and even some fruity sweetness. It's quite sweet and a little light.

M. A little light on the palate, lightly carbed, the sweetness really stands out. Quite milky with the barrel not really standing out.

O. It's a good beer, but a little sweeter and lighter than I expected. At 8.5%, though, it's impressive.

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Photo of TheSixthRing
3.86/5  rDev -8.7%
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 smb
4.54/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

The king of all oatmeal stouts. People who're complaining about this beer not being big enough, or having a thick enough mouthfeel or costing too much need to remember its called Velvet Merkin for a reason and it still has to go through the barrel aging process in the same way Parabola, Sucaba, etc... do. An incredible and at this point, underrated brew.

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Photo of abeeronthebeach
4.23/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A - Looks pretty inviting, although at 8.5% it's neither motor oil black, nor motor oil thick.

S - The nose is awesome! Vanilla and cookies. Bourbon is subtle.

T - Could use a little more chocolate. The vanilla notes are pleasant but faint. Bourbon character is similar.

M - Super smooth but still quite thin.

O - At roughly $18 a bottle I did not really feel this was a big enough beer to justify the price tag. It's a nice beer for sure, but I'd only go here again if it were about half the price.

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Photo of jibbyvonjibb
4.1/5  rDev -3.1%

Oatmeal cookie, vanilla, subtle bourbon flavor, a touch of coffee roast. Body is medium, very smooth and drinkable. Acidity is low. Lingering moderate sweetness. It's good, not great, so I wouldn't buy it again for $15 nor advise you to (buy Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout instead).

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Photo of neurobot01
4.21/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Updating review for 2015 vintage (previous review below; previous rating 4.05). Bomber into a Teku at cellar temp on 9/18/15.

Look: dark brown, a bit thin looking. Big head with a vigorous pour that quickly fades to a faint light tan ring.

Smell: like you put Velvet Merlin on your morning bowl of Cocoa Puffs. Huge huge powdered chocolate.

Taste: basically exactly like the smell. The bourbon is a lot more present than in the aroma, but the chocolate leads the way. Lacking most of the typical FW barrel characteristics (toffee, coconut, etc).

Feel: definitely a bit creamier than I remember VM being in the past. Still light bodied.

Overall: if this were released as a special version of Merlin, it would be great. As it is, it is inevitably compared to the rest of the Proprietor's Vintage series, and it just doesn't stand up. This beer isn't meant to emulate Parabola, so people come in with that expectation and are disappointed. If you come in expecting an amped up oatmeal stout, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

---Previous review---

2014 bottle at fridge temp into a snifter, allowed to warm.

Looks lighter in body and color than most BA stouts. Initial taste is basically Velvet Merkin Plus—almost a cola flavor profile going on. A hint of bourbon, but very mild, and few other barrel characteristics. The aftertaste is amazing vanilla/graham cracker/milk chocolate/toasted marshmallow. The mouthfeel is pretty thin. Overall, I remembered this as being better from last year; looking forward to updating this review once I crack my cellared '13.

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Photo of Premo88
3.91/5  rDev -7.6%
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 brureview
4.25/5  rDev +0.5%

Pours a totally opaque black-brown almost black color with a one finger head in a snifter. Oak, fruit, and chocolate in the aroma. I really like the oak in this beer-it's not pronounced,but it has a special quality. It combines well with the chocolate, which deepens the oak.

The mouth feel was very carbonated.

The body of the beer is on the lighter side compared to other barrel aged beers, yet it does not detract from the complexity of the beer.

The oak melds well with the chocolate in the taste. The oatmeal presence is not too strong.

There is a bitterness to the finish which works well with the light body.

The beer is different than other beers in the barrel aged series. The finish is not alcoholic and it's lower in ABV.

Overall, another excellent beer from the Firestone Walker barrel Aged series and I was fortunate to find a bottle.

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Photo of trippytbta
4/5  rDev -5.4%

Bottle poured into tulip

A: pours very dark brown almost black, light khaki head

S: oats and bourbon

T: kind of a typical Oatmeal stout taste, BuT you do really get the barrel coming through with bourbon, oak, and vanilla.

M: silky and great carbonation

Overall: if your a big fan of oatmeal stouts this is for you. I wanted something a little more crazy, but it is a great representation of the style and as always great barrel aging

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Photo of cindyjeffsmith
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%

appearance: Deep dark brown and nearly opaque as stout should be. Thick mocha head and messy lacing.
smell: Oh yeah, this has that rich chocolaty buttery FW barrel aged magic.
taste: More of the same.
overall: Very nice beer. Not quite the depth of the other FW barrel aged brews, kind of a "Parabola lite" and that ain't bad.

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Photo of Treyliff
4.2/5  rDev -0.7%

2013 Vintage, poured into a snifter in celebration of my 10 year high school reunion

A- pours a nearly pitch black color with a small khaki colored head that reduces to a ring around the edge, with a bit of lace left behind as it settles 4.25

S- aroma of chocolate walnut fudge mixed with sweet caramel/toffee malt, lots of bourbon juice aroma mixed with some oaky vanilla, smoky roasted notes with toasted marshmallow 4.25

T- dark chocolaty malt base up front with a nice smoothness from the oats, the barrel provides lots of barrel juice flavor with hints of oak, vanilla and caramel. Nutty sweet finish with mire bourbon on the linger 4.25

M- medium body with low carbonation leads to a slightly foamy mouthfeel and finish, just a bit thin overall 3.75

O- lots of bourbon coming from this one, even after a year of aging. Perhaps due to the base beer being a bit lower in alcohol. Still a nice chocolaty bourbon bomb that is a slow sipper for sure 4.25

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Photo of seedyone
4.41/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

01/22/14 From bottle. Silky smoothness and a fine bittersweet chocolate are the first impressions. Enjoyment from first sip to last. It did change character slightly as it warmed from cellar temp to ambient.

The rarity is a distraction. Not your everyday quaff by any means, but knowing it can be found for that certain occasion would enhance the whole idea of knowing it's 'out there'.

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Photo of woodyhardboner
5/5  rDev +18.2%

I took my 73 year old uncle Eddy to a doctors appointment in providence RI. It was a routine check up that told us everything was fine. SWEET. After learning this I axed him if he would enjoy a pint with me. His response was "hell yah". Since I was in Providence I took him to Julian's. A place that is known for it's draft selection. When I sat at the bar I noticed A Firestone Walker tap I hadn't seen before. I ordered one because that brewery has not let me down before. The Velvet Merkin was placed in front of me. Its blackness alone was intoxicating. The head was a thick brownish tan that stayed until the end. All I could smell was whiskey. This beer was everything I could hope for in a bourbon barrel stout. The vanilla was just right so it actually tasted like beer. the finish was to good to be true. I could have drank 10 of them but I had to drive my uncle home. Needless to say I enjoyed this fine brew to the fullest.

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Photo of JohnG190
4.76/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2013 vintage. Pours black as pitch with a huge, tan head that slowly dissipated into a nice cap. Dark chocolate and coffee on the nose with prominent vanilla and bourbon notes. Lots of chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and bourbon on the tongue. Smooth, velvety mouth feel, medium bodied with nice carbonation. Overall, an extremely well crafted and balanced beer. In my opinion, Firestone Walker has the finest barrel aging program out there.

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Photo of roger617
3.93/5  rDev -7.1%
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 Vonerichs
4.31/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown with a reddish hue. Slight tan head with little retention.

Smells of chocolate, lightly toasted marshmallow, vanilla. Woody.

The toasted marshmallow is front and center. Milk chocolate, vanilla, coffee.

Mouthfeel is out of this world. Super smooth, soft, and full.

I love the bourbon effect on this one. It's mild, almost subtle. Not boozy at all and melds well.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
3.76/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

On tap at the Old Toad in Rochester, NY. 8 oz pour. After drinking this, this will be a hard review.

Pours a very dark black, opaque, with a tiny head, and no lacing.

Smells like cookie dough, toasted oats, chocolate, and the slightest hint of bourbon.

Interesting tastes here, both negative and positive. All of the tastes I'm getting are good. This is one of the most cookie dough forward beers I've ever had, just tons of that flavor. I get cookie dough flavors out of a lot (mostly barrel-aged) stouts, but this one takes the cake/cookie. There's a good amount of toasted oats as well, a tiny bit of bourbon, some oak, and some chocolate. The problem is, however, other than the cookie dough, the flavors are kind of muted. For some styles, laid back flavors are a plus- but this is a barrel-aged stout. I expect a bit more here. Just a little bit too watery, unfortunately.

This is light to medium bodied, honestly too thin for the style. I don't need it to be motor oil, but I need it to be substantial enough. Low carbonation, very drinkable.

A beer with a lot of highs and lows. Overall good, but not something I'm going to hardcore crave again.

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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.

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Photo of Furlinator
4.25/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours opaque black with cola edges. The thin khaki head settles to a thin film and ring on top that leaves thick spots of lace.

The smell is of chocolate, vanilla, burnt wood, coconut and roasted oats.

The taste is of coffee, molasses, assorted dark fruits, oats and a faint hint of bourbon.

The texture is medium bodied and more carbonated than I expected.

I'm a huge fan of Velvet Merlin so, I had high expectations for this one. The appearance and aroma hinted at greatness but, the taste and mouthfeel felt somewhat watered down. Still, this one sets the bar for the oatmeal stout category.

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

Appearance: Pours dark as death, as an imperial stout should. Upon pouring, there is a seemingly above average presence of carbonation for the style. Half a finger of khaki white head collars quickly after settling in the snifter.

Smell: Dark chocolate, rich cocoa, graham cracker, roasted malt, toasted coconut, oak barrel and subtle cherry. Nothing stands out too much from the others, nice.

Taste: Creamy, graham cracker laced oatmeal stout up-front with overlapping layers of cocoa and vanilla. Middle of the mouth is nice caramelized malt balanced by a somewhat crisp and mildly bitter hop bite. The finish is quite dry, with a mild but noticeable wash over of Bourbon, which peek-a-boos for a moment and then subsides, letting gentle vanilla and cocoa fade out to end the drink. The end of the drink is akin to the aftertaste of a mildly sweet hot cocoa that had melting marshmallows in it. Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout did that better, but the fact that this brew has that element in the finish is impressive.

Mouthfeel: Some will criticize this because it isn't the viscous behemoth you'd liken to BCBS or Hunahpu. I get it, but the base beer is what it is, and I happened to enjoy Merlin very much. This isn't supposed to be those beers. This goes down really easily for 8.5%, and I don't see that as a distinct disadvantage.

Overall: Coming from someone who enjoyed Velvet Merlin because of the sessionability (word?) and great flavor, I can't say this is one of the best Bb stouts I've ever had, but it's delicious. The Bourbon barrel ads subtle nuances that you appreciate when having had the base beer first, and this is dangerous. If you can find this on draft somewhere with unlimited pours, you'll be in for quite the night.

Edit: 7/29/15

Drinking the '14 vintage right now and there is this dry, awesome dark chocolate/cherry thing going on in the finish that is just do damn good. Some of the sweetness from being fresh has subsided but this more than makes up for that...it's almost like because of this, every sip leaves you thirsty for more (eat that, McAllister).

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Photo of richj1970
4.35/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 22 oz bomber into snifter glass.

A: Pours a very dark brown bordering on black with a generous 2-3 finger mocha colored head with some decent retention and leaving some significant lacing.

S: Vanilla, chocolate, coconut, oak, bourbon, and perhaps a bit of espresso.

T: Lots of nice chocolate and vanilla notes mixed with oats. Some bourbon and toasted oak flavors.

M: Full bodied and thicker than I might expect for an oatmeal stout. Creamy texture.

O: One of my favorite oatmeal stouts. I would definitely seek out again.

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Photo of Damian
4.36/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Drank from a 1 pint, 6 fl oz (650ml) bottle purchased at Ball Square Fine Wines & Liquor, Somerville, MA
No. 001
2013 vintage
Served in a snifter

Beautiful appearance. Thicker bodied for an oatmeal stout. The dark brown (almost black) liquid was topped by a super tight and creamy, three-finger tall, mocha colored crown. The head looked like something you would see on a beer that was poured from a nitro tap. Streaks of drippy lacing coated the glass. The head quickly fell to a lasting cap of bubbles.

The aroma was interesting and really complex for the style. Super boozy with notes of bourbon and oak coming through strong. Really roasty and dry. Slightly ashy. Hints of flaked oats were detectible. Some French roast coffee as well. There was also a rich, semi-sweet chocolate presence that reminded me of chocolate truffles. A touch of vanilla was noticeable as well. As the beer warmed, the nose became sweeter and some brown sugar notes appeared.

Roasted malts also came through strong in the flavor profile. Super dry overall. Dark chocolate notes were apparent in the center. Lots of cold, black coffee as well. Touch of brown sugar. The finish was super roasty and bitter with dry, oaky notes. Really tasty but quite boozy for an 8.5% ABV beer.

The mouthfeel was solid. Medium bodied for the style. Creamy, slick and smooth on the palate.

Barrel aging played a huge role in this beer, turning a tasty yet straightforward oatmeal stout into something wonderfully complex. Six months of age really softened some of this beer's rougher edges when fresh. I would love to revisit another bottle with even a bit more age on it.

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