I find it refreshing when I find a full flavor stout with a wonderful aroma that is not strong or imperial. Firestone-Walker Brewing has done a wonderful job in doing this with creating this superb oatmeal stout with a familiar, yet complex, aroma and flavor profile.
Although Velvet Merlin is now available in bottles since 2010, and 6-packs for that matter, it started it’s life as a very limited release beer under a different name. It was previously called Velvet Merkin. Due to potential issues with labeling as well as possible marketing problems with the work merkin [wikipedia link but still NSFW], the name was changed to Merlin and a magical beer it is. Update: Additionally, Velvet Merkin is a slightly different beer, it is 100% barrel-aged whereas Velvet Merlin is partially barrel-aged.
One of the unique aspects of this beer is that it is partially aged in bourbon barrels. It’s not enough to detect a strong bourbon flavor but it does provide a little something extra that you might not find in a traditional oatmeal stout.
Date Reviewed. November 1, 2011
Where I Found It. Whole Foods Market in San Francisco, CA.
Serving Type. 12 oz. bottles into a nonick pint glass.
Appearance. Velvet Merlin has an opaque inky black color with just a tinge of glowing dark brown on the edges of the glass. The head is a tan color with large foamy bubble and a little above average head retention.
Aroma. This beer smells fantastic. It has a hint of oats that, when combined with the malt aromas, makes the beer smell a bit like an oatmeal cookie. It also has a creaminess that comes off like milk chocolate. The typical roastiness of a stout is nicely balanced by the sweet creamy bouquet. There is no discernable hops and little to no coffee aromas. If it were not for the oat smells, I would think this to be a milk stout. There is just a small hint of cola in the background.
Taste. Velvet Merlin falls half-way between a sweet stout and a dry stout. It has strong flavors of malt and dark roasted malt with out being too sweet. It is also not dry by any means. The bitterness from both the hops and the malt is quite light. The flavor is reminiscent of a chocolate milk with a dash of espresso with an oatmeal cookie on the side. The bourbon barrel aging comes off in the flavor as a hint of vanilla.
Mouthfeel. This beer has a smooth texture that is just short of velvety, despite it’s name. Even though this is a beer made with very dark roasted malt, it comes off as smooth with little to no astringency.
Overall. Velvet Merlin is a great stout that keeps you going for more and allows you to drink more without falling off your chair. It has just as much flavor as many stouts, that are higher in alcohol percentage. This is a full flavored oatmeal stout that I feel fits well into the category with the added benefit of a slightly creamy aroma pushing it close to a milk stout in aroma but not in sweetness.
Rating. My ratings below are on a five point scale with five being the best score.
- Appearance (6%): 4.0
- Aroma (24%): 5.0
- Taste (40%): 4.5
- Mouthfeel (10%): 4.5
- Overall (20%): 4.5
- Total: 4.59
- Style: oatmeal stout
- Brewery: Firestone-Walker Brewing Company [more info]
- Alcohol by volume: 5.5%
- Original Gravity: 1.061
- Hops: U.S. Fuggle
- Malt: Maris Otter, 2-Row Pale, Roast Barley, English Dark Caramel, Medium Caramel, Carafa Malt, Oats (15%)
- Other ingredients: Partially aged in bourbon barrels
- RateBeer rating: 97 overal, 97 style (as of November 2, 2011)