Velvet Merkin | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

BA SCORE
94
outstanding
358 Reviews
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Velvet MerkinVelvet Merkin
BEER INFO

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

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

BEER STATS
Reviews:
358
Ratings:
2,393
Avg:
4.23
pDev:
9.46%
 
 
Wants:
404
Gots:
1,070
For Trade:
144
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Reviews: 358 | Ratings: 2,393
Photo of Greywulfken
4.27/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Missed out on this last year, but I'm not too focused on oatmeal stouts anyway - however, it seems a suitable beer to usher in my 1000th review... Poured a black body into a snifter with a couple of fingers of dense light brown foam on top. The head slipped away in short order, leaving just a slim ring of foam around the edge. Aromas of wood and whiskey hovered over darker roasted malt and oats... Felt a bit thin on the body, but smooth, slickly crossing the tongue with woodsy oak and light vanilla and tannins. The chocolate aspects slipped in subtly, along with a bit of watery molasses and hints at dark fruits underneath it all. I was a little put off by the feel (I'm fussy that way), but the quality of the craftsmanship is undeniable. The bourbon is not over-done, and the beer drinks very elegantly and easily.

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Photo of pmarlowe
4.38/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Batch 001 (2013). Tulip glass.

A: Pours a deep, impenetrable brown with a thick cap of sand colored, coke-float-like head. Excellent retention and sheeting of lacing.

S: Vanilla-infused cocoa, light sweetish bourbon, and a touch of roast to round out the nose. Well balanced and appealing.

T: Very light flavors of oak, chocolate, and some vanilla. Not much roast on the palate.

M: Smooth, round mouthfeel with light body and carbonation.

O: A superb, light BA beer whose excellence is typical of FW’s barrel program. Lots of flavor in a lighter package than its cousin Parabola. Akin more to CW BBS than BCBS.

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Photo of jaasen64
3.93/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle poured into 18oz Funky Buddha snifter. '13 vintage, 3500 cases produced.

A- Pours a dark brown that appears a jet black in the glass, about a half-fingers worth of slight mocha head forms leaving off-white spotty lacing. Head recedes to just a wispy flat top.

S- Dark malts with a little bit of dark chocolate, licorice, lactose sugars, some faint toffee. About average aroma strength, pleasant smelling, bourbon doesn't come out too much. Overall a nice aroma with a little bit of complexity but nothing too memorable.

T- Nice lactose sugars mixed with a bit of dark chocolate, some light licorice, toffee, more dark chocolate comes out on the finish with a bit of milk chocolate, some light leather, very subtle bourbon, and more lactose sugars. Nice long enjoyable finish.

M- Fairly light for style, a little bit spritzy with a decent amount of carbonation, very drinkable though.

O- I enjoyed this beer but I don't think I'd say it lives up to the hype it has been receiving. There just wasn't anything that really stood out for me, maybe I just had too high of expectations loving Parabola and Sucaba. Definitely worth the try, but there is no way I'd pay $17 for another bottle (even at half that I'd be a little bit hesitant).

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Photo of TheBrewo
4.2/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

We peel the foil and pop the top on a bottle of 2013 stock. We pour a beer of burnt chestnut brown into our Founders snifters. A one and a half finger tall head of oily chocolate milk colored bubbles. This dissipates on the quicker side, settling into an oil slick across the top of the liquid. Lacing is specked, but highly mobile and truly formless. No haze or sediment is noted, and carbonation appears to be active. The nose is beautifully warming and rich, even when at the coldest of fridge temperature. We meet notes of raw licorice, vanilla-rubbed woodiness, sweet but intensely buttery diacetyls, dark chocolate sugars, black pepper spice, chocolate covered espresso beans, light balsamic vinaigrette acidity, toasted oats and black malts, chemical bite of nail polish, aluminum foil, ashed cigarette tobacco, and buttercream cheesecake frosting. The taste follows the nose very nicely, but gives up a little robustness that we had hoped would carry through. Coming through is a clean blend of soured and acidic oak, soft and melty mallo sugars and milk chocolates, warming bourbon wash, dried raisins and black cherries, vanilla milk shake, light vodka boozy kick, cinnamon and crushed Graham cracker crumble, light bubblegum esters, medicinal phenol spice, watered charcoal, mildly bitter cocoa, and dusty basement muskiness. The body is the lightest shade of medium, and the carbonation is more solidly medium. The liquid moves easily around the mouth, leaving a cooling and lightly palpable coating of sugary stickiness. Slurp, smack, cream, froth, glug, and pop each contribute nicely. The abv is appropriate, and the beer drinks back nicely, although due to its whale status, you want to take your time.

Overall, best…name…ever. Oh so seductive!! Actually, that last part is a true statement about the aroma. It floats out of the bottle, and just like the smell lines of a pie will lift any cartoon character right off their feet, pulls you firmly in. The bourbon is delicate but expertly represented, giving all of the essence without any of the nasty. This blends with the oddity of the malt base, which is oat, setting the stage for a markedly complex presentation. Things are going great at this point. Then, you sip. It would be a crime to say that the beer takes a wrong turn here, but, it just isn’t quite what we were expecting. Remember, this is an oatmeal stout. This is NOT your typical hulked-up American imperial. This is velvet. The flavoring comes across, due in part to the sweetness of grain, wood, and chocolate, much like a milk/sweet stout, with high residual sugars. Once you accept this fact, you will have a much better time, and you’ll enjoy the beer much more. We were so, so excited when we found this beer, and while it doesn’t disappoint by any means, we had hoped it would be a little more bold. That is in our failing of false expectations, not the beer’s or the brewer’s, as the final product presented is worthy of all its accolades.

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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 inlimbo77
4.47/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

8oz draft poured into a Pinocchio's snifter. On draft at Pinocchio's in Media, PA.

A: Pitch black. Good carbonation. About a quarter finger of head initially that fades quickly. Some reddish hues towards the edges.

S: A lot of the FW coconut notes. Some dark chocolate. Mild coffee. Then vanilla and oak hints.

T: On the tip of the tongue, I get some bitterness: either chocolate or coffee. But then it smooths into a nice vanilla/coconut sweetness. I bow to the FW barrel program. I think the oatmeal stout helps make this nice and smooth. Second sip really gives some nice chocolate. Also, toffee and caramel.

M: Full bodied. Nice rich mouthfeel. Silky smooth.

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Photo of larryi86
4.23/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bottle poured into a teku

A- Black with a three finger light mocha head.

S- Bourbon, some vanilla, oak, cocoa powder, slightly metallic, some coffee, and sweet oats. Metallic notes are kind of off putting, if they weren't there I would rate the smell at least 4.25.

T- Mild bourbon, hints of oak and vanilla, cocoa powder, fairly sweet, some coffee, some nice oat quality, nicely balanced, no hint of alcohol at all.

M- Smooth, creamy, medium body.

O- Bose throw me off but the taste is great. Didn't feel it would be great to age, but I really enjoy how it tastes fresh, can't wait to get more next year. Bourbon is a nice added flavor but not a big flavor in this beer.

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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 FriedSlug
4.3/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark in the glass but some light can get through which shows the color to be a ruby brown. The head is tan and has good staying power with a thin layer staying throughout the consumption. The smell is amazing. I am picking up chocolate, toffee, coffee, roasted malts and bourbon. The taste is mainly sweet coffee, chocolate and bourbon with a bit of boozy heat and bitterness at the end. This is a really well done beer.

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

That’s right: Velvet MERKIN. Barrel-aged goodness. Though I’ve been told a portion of the regular Merlin is aged in barrels, I never get much of it, so I’ve been looking forward to this. According to the Firestone rep on call for tonight’s tapping, Merkin is four times as expensive to make as Merlin and aged 6 to 8 months in Heaven Hill and Four Roses barrels. It wasn’t even supposed to surface in Arizona this year, but the Firestone guys owed the owner of Flanny’s a favor, and here we are.

Dead black, without a hint of light coming through. The airy, sand-colored head gets to be about an inch tall before receding quickly, leaving behind some thin lace trails and an impressive ring of froth.

Amazing aroma. The usual barrel notes of toasted coconut, charred oak and buttery vanilla are all here. Backing them up is what makes Merlin great: roasty, chocolatey goodness. Cocoa nibs, dark chocolate, marzipan, toffee, coffee beans. So smooth, so sweet. Damn near perfect.

The flavor's a bit of a letdown after that performance. It starts with sweet toffee and vanilla bean, followed by definite alcohol notes and oodles of vinous new oak. A simple wave of poor quality chocolate rolls in mid-palate, and notes of bitter coffee and sweet toffee settle in the back. Soft oats join after the swallow. There’s not quite enough of the stout flavor to back up the whiskey — which actually seems lesser quality than what it is. Overall the flavor’s still very good — it’s just not as outrageous as the nose promised.

Some fumes come through my nostrils, but overall the booze is very well-hidden. Body is just under medium, but has nice viscosity, like heavy milk. Mild, tiny fizz bubbles; sweet, nearly tangy finish.

Merlin is world-class for its smoothness and subtlety, so it might not be the best venue to showcase bourbon-aging. I wish just a little bit more of the base beer came through. Very good, not great.

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Photo of larryarms847
4.48/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark brown and sits black as coffee in the glass with a light brown half finger of thick foam.

Espresso, dark chocolate, roasted malt, caramel, and a hint of bourbon.

Tons of dark chocolate and expresso, roasted malt, vanilla, caramel, toasted oat, and subtle bourbon.

Heavy-bodied, light carbonation, slick, unfortunately thin, subtle bourbon warming sensation.

Overall, a mighty fine brew, the only downside is the thinner mouthfeel than I look for in an impy stout, but delicious nonetheless.

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Photo of gopens44
4.14/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Not the most picturesque beer nor does it go much deeper than the bourbon on the nose, but the complexity in taste make up the difference. Bourbon opens up into the vanilla and coffee masterfully before a thin bitterness rides out.

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Photo of draheim
4.34/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

22oz (No. 001, bottled 8/23/2013) into a snifter. Pours a deep dark brownish black w/ a minimal head, just a ring of khaki foam around the edge.

Aroma is big chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and bourbon, similar to Parabola. Lots of rich, swirling complexity here, and the glass is still pretty cold. Difficult as it is, I'm going to let this warm up a bit before I continue... OK, where was I? Ah yes. Now I'm getting more of everything I mentioned above, plus a really nice oaky char. Outstanding.

Taste has all the qualities of the aroma: vanilla, caramel, bourbon, chocolate, and a nice warming roastiness.

Mouthfeel is just a touch thin, not really surprising for a relatively low ABV stout like this. Otherwise it's slick and smooth, and goes down way too easy. Good carbonation.

Overall, another barrel-aged wonder from Firestone Walker.

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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 Hop_God
3.97/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

A: deep brown to black. Khaki round loose bubbles. Espresso solid.

S: booze. Coffee. Chocolate truffle. Bourbon balls. Oatmeal cookies. Dates.dried figs.

T: chocolate. Booze. A bit unflavored. This is a 2016. Some dark fruits but really underwhelming

F: soft. Not too harsh on the booze. Not too sweet. Really not much of anything

O: this is tough for me. I've had 2013-15 and those were amazing. Think I rated round 4.3. This 2016 is nothing special. It gaskets almost if nothing. Disappointed.

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Photo of brystmar
3.22/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

On tap for Barcade's 8th anniversary.

Dark brown pour, minimal tan head and lace. Traces of bourbon mix with the roasted malts for a pleasant aroma.

Gotta start by saying the body is unacceptably thin -- especially for an oatmeal stout. Roasty malts prevail in the flavor, somehow hiding most of the bourbon. Kinda watery throughout, but somehow finishes really strong with a bold rush of hazelnuts. Yum.

Pretty disappointing overall.

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Photo of MattSweatshirt
4.3/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Black pour with ruby highlight at the bottom of the glass. Light brown head. Leaves some lacing.

The Merkin tempts you with a sweet chocolate, toffee, and bourbony aroma. Soft oak and coconut barrel.

The flavor is amazing with chocolate, vanilla, coffee roastiness, bourbon, and barrel character.

Smooth medium bodied beer with plenty of tingly carbonation.

Really well done.

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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 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 RickS95
4/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a luxurious dark brown, almost black color. Not something like from the middle of a black hole, but an extremely dark, rich brown, bordering on black color. The head is a coffee colored mixture of mostly uniform smallish bubbles. It lacks retention and doesn't provide much lace, but it leaves the top with a gentle film of lightness on top of the dark beer.

It's not an aggressive smell of anything, but you pick up slight notes of bourbon and vanilla. With each swirl, the head reemerges and up from it comes a waft of chocolate.

This beer tastes like a liqueur had sex with a stout, and this is the result. Oak and vanilla is prevalent, as is the bourbon. But it's just a bit of bourbon and not overpowering. They showed restraint in the barrels.

Very smooth and creamy feel, with a gentle graininess from the oak barrels. A splash of sweetness lasts throughout the sip with only the faint heat in the finish to cut through. Tastes like it should feel stronger than it is, but it's slightly thinner than you'd imagine.

A bit different than what I'm used to in oatmeal stouts. Everything about this beer is in moderation and that makes it a real treat.

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Photo of zac16125
4.21/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

22oz bottle into a tulip
Vintage 2015


Thanks to

A: very dark brown, nearly black, small tan head, dissipates quickly leaves essentially no lacing 4

S: oak, toasted coconut, roasted malt; 4.25

T: follows the nose, roasty, oak, oats;
very nice but not overwhelming barrel notes 4.25

M/D: silky smooth but fairly thin, drink ability is excellent but could stand to be thicker 4

O: nice beer, barrel notes pair nicely with the base beer; doesn't live up to many of the other FW barrel aged beers but still quite enjoyable 4.25

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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.

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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.

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Photo of Nugganooch
4.39/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

22oz bottle No. 001 – 2013
Notes taken 11-27-13 - Split two ways into snifters

A: Dark cola brown that settles to a near black in the glass. Looks thinner around the edges. Small brim of fluffy light brown sugar that settles out to a crown only after a few moments. Light dotting and squiggles of lace remain to the glass after each sip.

S: Smells of bourbon infused oak with some lightly charred grains, chocolate, dark fruits, vanilla syrup, and just a hint of soy. More molasses like probably. The barrel quality is light and subtle giving no boozy spirits effect which is my preference.

T: Taste is wonderfully complex yet delicately balanced and smooth with loads of dark fruit presenting as caramelized fig and dark cherries. More dark roast grain emerges with an earthy oak presence. Vanilla bean and bourbon with some chocolate crème. The bourbon is mellow and perfectly in line with the other attributes. Alcohol is downplayed with just a whisper of noticeable warming coming through. Nothing competes and the beer is void of any harshness. Simply divine and more impressive than the nose.

M: Silken smooth feel. Velvet. A touch thin in the body hitting a moderate level of fill. Creamy and light with some mild ABV warmth. Sleek on the tongue but fairly clean overall.

D: Absolutely delicious. The balance gives supreme drinkability and the marriage of flavors is impeccable. You can fault the thinner body but if you have had the regular Merlin you would know this is by design. Comparing this to Parabola is a mistake.

So glad this is now in the Reserve Series. Very deserving.

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Photo of Cubatobaco
4.29/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I'm glad that I got a chance to drink this fresh as I don't think it will hold up very long, especially at 8.5%. The mouthfeel is amazing and the taste is of dark chocolate and roasted coffee. I think, if it had more barrel presence, I would have rated it higher. It was kind of muted. Great beer and I am glad that I have a few more bottles.

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Velvet Merkin from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.23 out of 5 based on 2,393 ratings.
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