2014 Velvet Merkin (Firestone Walker Brewing Company)

Style: bourbon Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout

8.5% ABV

33 IBU’s

SRM: 80

Fermentation: British Ale (House)

Malts: Maris Otter, 2-Row Pale, Roast Barley, English Dark Caramel, Medium Caramel, Carafa Malt, Oats (15%)

Hops: 100% US Grown Fuggle Hops

Brewery’s Note: “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.”

The beer pours a deep, chocolatey brown-black with a thick, mocha head of creamy bubbles. As the head slowly recedes, the walls of my snifter are left with fat mountain ranges of tightly knit lacing. In body, it’s opaque, it’s black, and it’s impenetrable to the eye. On the nose, the beer smells of light cocoa, then brown sugar coated over a nutty barrel, smooth bourbon, and just a touch of fudge. When you swirl the glass, there is a hint of licorice and raisins. The chocolate notes are complex and multifaceted, moving from milk chocolate, to bittersweet, to rich dark chocolate with hints of char and roasted coffee. On the tongue, the beer tastes sweet, with a bitter roast. Booze smoothly tinges the edges of the taste, but never rises to truly boozy levels, instead keeping lightly sweet with a subtle heat. The finish brings slight astringency from the barrel, though it is light. In flavor, it begins soft, and almost watery for what I expect, with just a prickling of sweet booze, which moves into rich, nutty chocolate that has the ghost of bourbon, slight coffee, the aftertaste of fudge, and a finish that has an oaky heart. As it warms, some herbal bitterness moves in to the taste, which doesn’t quite mesh with the other flavors. It’s complex, but thinner in the mouth, which leaves it feeling a bit weak. The mouthfeel is creamy smooth, and full, yet it feels medium bodied, which is odd for the type of beer this is. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left astringent on the tongue, yet with a sheen of spittle slightly shellacking everything, and a slight roasted bite to the upper layer of the tongue. Overall, it’s an interesting beer with nice complexity, and a beautiful nose, but the body is a little too thin for what I want in the style. I knew it was a lighter beer than the beefy BA stouts, but I think I personally prefer a little more beefiness for my BA stouts. Interestingly, the two people I shared the beer with had completely different things to say about it. My mother noted the rich booziness of the beer, which she is rather fond of, while my lady love noted how mellow the boozy bite was. Such a disparity in observations speaks to the subtle complexity of the beer. It’s good for sure, but Firestone Walker’s barrel program is great, and this is just a middle of the road offering from them.


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