Velvet Merkin | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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outstanding
361 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:
361
Ratings:
2,405
Avg:
4.23
pDev:
9.46%
 
 
Wants:
405
Gots:
1,068
For Trade:
142
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Reviews: 361 | Ratings: 2,405
Photo of rjp217
4.68/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2013 edition poured from the bottle into two HF tulip glasses....

A - Dark, dark brown, half finger head that dissipates quickly. Not much lace left

S - Bourbon, molasses, malt, oatmeal, chocolate, roasted coffee, vanilla

T - Exactly the same as the nose, in that order. The bourbon hits you upfront and then a mix of awesome favors come together with a vanilla oatmeal finish. It's like my palate is able to pass through the nose flavors and detect each one along the way, amazing! Tastes a little thin but fits the 8.5%

M - Smooth, velvet smooth, rolls off the tongue. Almost perfect

O - Outstanding! Reminds me of BCBS but in a lighter form. The ABV is perfect. I love the feel. Impressed with all the flavor that got packed into it. If this was a readily available beer I'd be broke. So glad I got the opportunity. Almost a standard bearer for me. Another barrel aged beast from FW. Bravo!

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Photo of cosmicevan
4.79/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

had this at an in store tasting yesterday at beer city and grabbed a few 16oz growler fills of it.

a - poured into a 6oz FW snifter. brew pours a shiny almost watery black with little to no head. has a barrel shine to it.

s - smell is phenomenal. just smells like a perfect oatmeal stout. great roasted malts and chocolate and coffee notes with a perfect balance of oats.

t - taste is just as amazing as the smell. a fantastic oatmeal stout with the wonderful barrel aging of firestone walker. it is really the perfect blend of oats, chocolate, roasted malts, some coffee and a nice barrel vibe.

m - this one is surprisingly thin. i'd want it to be more rich and creamy, but for the size of this beer, it is just surprising how watery it is.

o - overall, this should be bottled. it is as good if not better than parabola. firestone walker is an amazing brewery and this beer blew my mind (like many other firestone beers i've tried in the past). sad that i only have another 16oz of this beer and it needs to be consumed soon. worth seeking out if you like barrel aged brews, or FW, or just damn fine beer.

---edit 2012-03-24---
honestly, i'd say that i may have even rated this too low. what a f*ckin beer!

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Photo of AgentMunky
3.92/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a tasting glass at the brewery. From notes. Reviewed 24 February 2013.

It smells of sweet bourbon. Like scotch and chocolate. The taste is like oatmeal with chocolate milk. Finish is ozone and chalky sweet. It's okay, but it really suffers from the mouthfeel -- it's thin and flat. Smooooth, but it kills the flavor. I'll try it again sometime, but this was not that impressive.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.48/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle $14.99. I was real excited to try this as I like velvet merlin a lot but I will say I was quite let down. I guess I was expecting something more rich and decadent. This truly tasted like Velvet Merlin with hints of bourbon and it was kind of thin. Aroma was bourbon, a little oats, eh. Flavor was more of the same. Honestly I was expecting something like Parabola but different and this falls short. Just too think and too much like the base beer, I didn't feel like the time in the barrel changed it enough to make it worth my money.

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Photo of BMMillsy
4.28/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 Bottle from Tim. Thanks so much! Pours dark brown to black in my FW Barrelworks Teku with a one finger mocha head. Aroma is big oats and chocolate, vanilla, whiskey, graham cracker, toasted nuts. Flavor is chocolate up front with some big time vanilla tones on top of graham crackers. Followed by a punch of strong whiskey and long lasting oaky vanilla. The lasting finish is the real highlight of this beer. Palate is velvety smooth up front and while not a super thick beer, I see no reason to complain about thin body here. Plenty of body, especially for the ABV, and medium carbonation. This was a winner for me with just the right amount of barrel character, rather than the in your face whiskey shot I get with lower ABV stouts and porters aged in barrels. As usual, Firestone Walker kicks ass.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.3/5  rDev -22%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.25

Thanks to Nick Swinford for the 22 oz bottle! Poured into a wine glass; from yesterday.

A: Pours a very dark brown color; it certainly doesn't have the opacity of other big 8%+ stouts. There's a finger worth of light mocha colored head. The retention is poor and minimal lacing is left behind.

S: At first, the aroma is quite mild - this one needs time to open up. Once it does, though, it brings notes of bourbon, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and oats.

T: The best part of the brew. It starts off with a one-two combination of vanilla and chocolate on the taste buds. Gradually, it will develop some mild oat flavor, then transition straight into pure bourbon. A touch of alcohol burn is prevalent in conjunction with the bourbon/oak note, but it's hardly bothersome. The bourbon - while showcased well - more or less swallows the base brew whole. I could use more complexity as well.

M: Very thin, almost intolerably so - it feels genuinely insubstantial. There's nice carbonation to bring the flavors to the palate, though. The finish is sweet, sticky, long, and tannic; it's an easy brew to sip at least.

O: This isn't a bad beer at all. But given it's reputation and semi-rarity, it should have been better. It's thin and simplistic - two things I don't want from a barrel-aged offering. Honestly, I think I'd like the regular Velvet Merlin more...but we don't get that in Maryland (seriously, WTF? Maryland gets all the barrel-aged offerings from FW, but not Pivo Pils or Velvet Merlin?)

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Photo of n2185
4.25/5  rDev +0.5%

A: Pours black with two fingers of light tan head that fades into a frothy ring with a little lacing.

S: roasted malts with sweet chocolate, vanilla, a bit of oak, and bourbon. Simple, but nice.

T: Roasted malts here as well with semi-sweet chocolate, vanilla, and bourbon. There are some light oak flavors before a slightly boozy finish.

M: Medium-thick body with lowish carbonation, this beer is slightly watery but still quite very drinkable.

O: Quite a good beer, overall. The body is a bit lacking, but otherwise is great.

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Photo of dirtylou
3.51/5  rDev -17%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

2013, batch 01

When a FW brew comes in a box, you expect great things - aroma of toasted oats, touch of chocolate, some malt. Very light bodied - thin flavor profile - oats, cocoa, some hops. For FW, this is terribly disappointing and downright boring

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

2014 edition.
Deep black color with a huge thick light caramel head with great retention.
Aroma with predominating notes of Bourbon backed by cocoa powder, coffee and vanilla.
Likewise, flavor with notes of bourbon, cola and dark chocolate all predominating. Also, creamy espresso, some spices, earthy and mild citrusy hops, roasted malt and very light smoke. Increasingly dry aftertaste with the Bourbon further revealing itself.
Velvet body with appropriate carbonation. Alcohol of 8.5% abv is absent.
Excellent brew with good complexity. Bourbon predominates elegantly and it is far from cloying. Remember this is an Oatmeal Stout don’t compare this to any hoppy imperial.

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Photo of papat444
3.64/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Looks great, maybe a tad too much foam and aroma has a nice soothing bourbon mixed with oats but the flavor and feel leave to be desired. Too much carbonation makes the mouthfeel uneven and prevents the flavor from fulling shining through. A disappointment for me.

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.6/5  rDev -14.9%

Pour is black with a light brown head. Nose is bourbon, light wood. Assertive malt of brownie and bakers chocolate. Taste falls a little short on the richness. It tastes as it smells but a bit watered down. It has the bourbon and wood up front, some fudge notes with some sweet malt berry sweetness. Body is a touch light and thins in the back. The finish had some roasty barrel notes but a hint empty.

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Photo of twiggamortis420
3.86/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

22 oz bottle courtesy of BeerHatesRob pours a rich black color with a frothy tan head. Nice lacing and decent retention.

Nose is half chocolate milkshake and half roasty stout. Very nice.

Taste shows some bold barrel character to go along with a lactose-y sweet milk stout. Its smooth and creamy but I could actually use a little more chocolate and malt depth. Its not quite as good as I was hoping, the barrel seems to overpower the malt character of the beer.

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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.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.46/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into snifter. 2013 batch 1.

A: Pours a thick near-black color with a thin but dense and creamy looking light brown head that slowly faded into a fuzzy film and thick collar. Thick patches of lacing was left down the glass.
S: Rich a decadent nose with dominating notes of bourbon barrel. The bourbon is not hot, but it is definitely prominent. Behind the booze I get creamy scents of toasted oats and sweet milk chocolate, toffee, caramel, and caramelized sugar. Rich and smooth smelling.
T: Extremely rich and smooth flavors of creamy toasted oats, lightly sweet chocolate milk, and touch of caramel. The finish is full of vanilla and extremely smooth and mellow bourbon, and the aftertaste has a touch of raisin, toasted marshmallow, and more bourbon barrel spices.
M: Super smooth and rich mouthfeel, full creamy body, thick and mellow carbonation. This drinks like an awesome milkshake.
O: One of the best Firestone products to date, and probably the best oatmeal stout I’ve had. Super smooth and integrated fresh out of the bottle. Definitely need to go grab a few more of these.

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

Review from memory - sampled at a tasting a year ago. Chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, some caramel and roasted malts, smooth mouthfeel - another excellent beer from Firestone.

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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.

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Photo of mig100
4.49/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | 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 Dope
4.25/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 batch (001)

A: Pours black with a tall and fluffy medium brown head. Head fades out slowly with great retention. Moderate but big and fluffy chunks of lacing.

S: Heavy on the bourbon. Caramel and toasted sugars primarily with some oak. Quite a bit of smooth milk chocolate hiding behind it. Get that notable, smooth and creamy oatmeal character as well. Very nice.

T: Again with the bourbon up front. Oaky, quite oaky with some toffee, a little coconut and caramel. Creamy oatmeal in the middle with just a hint of milk chocolate. Oatmeal turns a little bit grainy and the chocolate a little bittersweet in the finish. A dry, oaky finish with more hints of bourbon lingering in the aftertaste.

M: Medium-heavy, smooth and creamy.

O: Not often you find a barrel aged oatmeal stout. Not a huge fan of the bourbon in this one but it still works pretty nicely. Oatmeal, as always, provides a nice layer of creaminess and smooths the whole thing out. Well balanced, not overly complex or hot for that matter either. Very nice.

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Photo of jeff1973
4.12/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a Stone IRS tulip. Bottled in 9/13, so around a month old? Bought at Whole Foods Newport Beach for $14.99.

A - Pitch black, no sign of red on the edges. Khaki head leaves nice lacing. Looks thick.

S - Slight vanilla and coconut. Followed by a milk chocolate and slightly ashy smell. Smell is not overwhelming.

T - Great balance. Smooth, creamy milk chocolate w/ a nice vanilla and coconut finish. Everything is subtle and blends really nicely.

M - Medium to full mouthfeel. Very smooth and creamy. Medium low carbonation that fits the style.

O - Really nice beer. The smell is a little muted, but the taste and mouthfeel make this a great beer. The price is a little steep for the enjoyment factor, but I would still categorize this a "great" beer.

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Photo of Gmann
3.82/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark chocolate brown color, near black. The beer has a short tan head that settles into a light ring.

The aroma is sweet from the bourbon. Smooth oatmeal stout notes. Nice under current of caramel and vanilla. The aroma is not super strong but it is also not overpoweringly boozy.

The taste is of a smooth oatmeal stout with some milk chocolate notes and a smidge of roasted bitterness. The bourbon is light and bring caramel and vanilla to the table. Some wood notes in the end.

The feel is light with fizzy carbonation. Sweet on the palate overall but finishes quite dry. Slightly sticky in the finish.

Some nice flavors but the stout seems to fall a little short. It is too dry for my liking and could use a touch more bourbon.

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

pours black with a little bit of tan head on top.
aroma is of a very nice bourbon-barrel on top of some malts. lots of alcohol in the smell.
lots of bourbon barrel flavor and lots of alcohol in the taste. nice oatmeal stout, perfect thinness to it but a bit more alcohol presence than preferred. maybe some cellaring will do this some mellowing.
2nd time: 2014 version, sitting in the frig for a long while: incredible!!!! super smooth. super light, but very tasty. never got this like this before, but insane coconut on the front sip and smell..... some barrel, no alcohol, but very very tasty..... I would give this MUCH higher scores than the first time!

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

1 PINT, 6 FL OZ
Served in a snifter
2013

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 argock
3.62/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a boxed, 22 oz brown bottle into a clear glass snifter. 2015 vintage. Purchased from Wine Warehouse (Charlottesville, VA).

A: Black with brown edges and 1/2 finger of beige head with poor retention and no lacing.

S: Nice bourbon barrel aged character with nice vanilla, sweet bourbon, and light oak on the base beer with medium caramel malt leaving a sweet impression overall.

T: Flavor is good but diluted and thin compared to what FW's other barrel aged beers taste like. There are no bad flavors, but overall the profile is weak and missing punch. Caramel comes through along with the barrel flavors of vanilla and pretty hefty bourbon but the heft in flavor is missing badly.

M: Thin and watery for the style with low carbonation.

O: Really disappointing, I wish I had drank it on the day I bought it but usually there is some heat to wear off. The flavors are weak and muted despite a nice aroma. I won't be purchasing again in the future. Overrated big time.

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

Bottle, 2014 vintage (straight 4.4)
(Re-review, 2016 vintage, rating adjusted)

Pours a pretty-much pitch black, with a mildly surprising just off-white foamy head. This head does stick around for a bit, and a swirl of the glass leaves the foam clinging to the glass above the surface.
Re-review: more of a khaki-tan head, but just as lasting.

The initial nose (I did let it warm a bit before tasting) definitely has the bourbon barrel scents throughout. There is a vanilla and perhaps a light cinnamon notes to what is really, to me, pretty mush simple roasted malt goodness. When searching, I get wood notes and something that reminds me of a "bowl of oatmeal", but neither is overt or obvious to me.
Re-review: not a strong nose, but the barrel aging is softly evident. There's definitely a little grain or oat, but the overall lightness of the nose to me makes it hard to discern.

The taste, surprisingly does not rely on or even focus on the bourbon barrel tastes. I do get the oats more up front than I'd imagined I would. To those flavors are added a fairly significant woodiness that accentuate the initial notes, and meld together to something greatly interesting to me. The bourbon fades in lightly mid-taste, and just stays on the fringe of the taste. I get a touch of coconut, and a dark-roasted nuttiness for the lingering taste.
Re-review: petty much the same, though a little chocolate comes through.

The feel is actually a little light early, and dries out in a woody feel/taste for the longer term. I think the beer is very smooth throughout, overall, though.
Re-review: efijitely light, but smooth.

A very good beer that is just solid in its structure. It's not very showy in it's flavors, but does throw enough out there to not be too boring. I like it for being a more subdued higher-octane stout.
Re-review: the feel is always iffy on oatmeal stouts for me, but the lightness of it and the nose drug my review down from initial levels.

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Velvet Merkin from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.23 out of 5 based on 2,405 ratings.
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