Jan 23, 2018

Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin

Originally brewed as a component of Firestone Walker’s first anniversary release, Velvet Merkin has garnered its own cult following through the years as a limited release. The bourbon barrel-aged imperial oatmeal stout (8.5% ABV, 17 IBU) was meant to work as part of a blend, but is still an outstanding beer all on its own. It’s incredibly smooth and well balanced among all of its elements and influences — which ultimately creates a dangerously easy drinking experience.

While the bourbon barrel influence is fairly strong in the wonderful aroma — bourbon, wood and vanilla lead the way for dark chocolate, a hint of anise, grain and coffee notes — the base oatmeal stout is allowed to take center stage once the beer hits the tastebuds. All of the pieces of the aroma are present within the flavor, as well as a touch of molasses. The balance and unity of the elements within its near opaque depths is spot on, allowing everything to present itself in equal measure.

It’s hard to find fault with a beer that was meant to be part of something else entirely different and yet still shines beautifully standing on its own two legs. I’d prefer an imperial oatmeal stout to have a bit more fullness in the body, but that’s just nitpicking at this point, especially when you have a beer this smooth and deceptively easy drinking. I particularly enjoyed that the barrel didn’t overtake the base stout’s flavors.