Steph’s New Brew Review: Velvet Merlin

Steph’s New Brew Review: Velvet Merlin

Firestone Walker Brewing Company Velvet Merlin, a 5.5% ABV Seasonal Oatmeal Stout

Firestone Walker Brewing Company is located in Paso Robles, California. The company was formed in 1996 by brother-in-laws Adam Firestone and David Walker after sitting around debating the subject of good and bad beer.

Their lack of experience led them to believe that 60-gallon oak barrels were the appropriate vehicle in which to create their beers, leading to the invention of the Firestone Union.

Based on classic brewing traditions from Burton-Upon-Trent, this system of linked barrels has the ability to produce some seriously special ales. The Burton Union was developed around 1840 in Burton-Upon-Trent, creating bright and clear beers with a firm, satisfying bite. Firestone Walker is believed to be the only brewery in the United States to currently use the union brewing method.

Their system of 60-gallon heavy or medium toast American oak barrels creates beers with fullness of the palate, enhanced hop maturity, a clean briskness to the finish, as well as a unique hint of smokiness and vanilla with a subtle fruitiness.

Firestone Walker describes Velvet Merlin as

A decadent oatmeal stout. Velvet Merlin offers robust cocoa and espresso aromas with subtle American hop nuances. Rich dark chocolate and roasted coffee flavor with a creamy mouth feel and wonderfully dry finish create the perfect balance in this full-bodied stout. Ideal for sipping in the winter months or at the end of a meal.”

This oatmeal stout is brewed with Maris Otter, 2-Row Pale, Roast Barley, English Dark Caramel, Medium Caramel, Carafa Malt, and Oats. The hop bill includes 100% US Grown Fuggle Hops. It is fermented in 100% stainless steel.

This beer comes with a number of accolades, including the 2011 silver medal at the San Diego International Beer Festival, the 2011 gold medal at the LA County Fair, the 2011, bronze medal at the Australian International Beer Awards, the 2011 silver medal at the World Beer Cup, the 2008 bronze medal at the World Beer Cup, and the 2008 silver medal at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival.


Opaque dark brown; foamy tan head the dissipates quickly.


Bourbon, dark fruits, roasted malts, dark chocolate.


Roasted malts, coffee, dark chocolate, smoky aftertaste.


Smooth and creamy.


The aroma almost gives the illusion that this beer is bourbon barrel aged, therefore the flavor of the beer comes as a surprise. While expecting a heavy taste with hard-hitting warmth from alcohol, this easy-to-drink, low ABV stout offers warmth through its wonderful roasty notes. I can imagine drinking this beer in front of the fireplace while watching snow falling out the window. Okay, I guess I am ready for winter…

Wayne’s take

What strikes me first about this stout are the things it isn’t. I would have expected a creamier body and stronger coffee and chocolate notes. Instead, it is thinner in body and heavy on dark fruits in flavor. That’s not to say that is disappointing, just unexpected. There is a whisper of bourbon and a heat that comes on after it goes down that seems at odds with its relatively low alcohol content. Overall, this is not a particularly hardy stout but it is quite tasty and ideal for when you want a dark beer taste without the heaviness.”

Dan’s take

When Steph first poured my tasting glass of Velvet Merlin, she told me nothing more than that it’s an oatmeal stout.  “Yay!” I thought, because…well, beer.  It’s just as dark as any other oatmeal stout I’ve had before, but the taste is something that is certainly different.  The aroma has strong hints of the roasted malts and slight hints of chocolate and espresso, but when I take my sip I’m struck with what seems to be an overpowering taste of bourbon.  So much so, that it doesn’t really taste like beer any more to me, but it just feels like I’m drinking a glass of heavier, yet less harsh, bourbon.”

Wanna pick this one up?
Velvet Merlin is available in California, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado in six-packs and on draft.
Check out…
this video from the dreamy David Walker and Firestone Walker Brewing Company to learn more about the brewery!

If you have a beer you think we should review, let us know!
And as always, toast our check-in on Untappd, and let us know what YOU think!

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