Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin
Yes, today I have another stout that was sitting in my fridge for the last 3 months that I needed to drink before the weather gets any warmer. Though lately it seems like Arizona can’t make up its mind about what meteorological conditions it wants to present each day, seeing as it’s been so cold and rainy and windy. If I had wanted to deal with weather like this, I would have stayed in Wisconsin, where it also likes to throw in some late spring snow, maybe a little hail, some thunderstorms and tornadoes if it’s feeling frisky. Regardless of location though, I reserve stouts primarily for the cooler weather, as there’s usually something warming about them, something roasty and toasty…which is why Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin oatmeal stout surprised me somewhat.
The Velvet Merlin poured a velvety dark chocolate brown with no visible carbonation; sparkling ruby highlights shone from the liquid near the bottom of the glass when situated in front of the light. Through a tame pour, a nice 3-finger thick head of fallow colored foam built and held with great retention and slowly melted into a creamy softness. It left minimal threads of clean beige lacing along the glass.
In the nose, there was a good amount of thick dark chocolate, lightly roasted coffee, gently toasted malts, hints of a dark caramel toffee, and dusty oatmeal. The aroma was slightly bitter, but also quite sweet, and a very faint vanilla aroma rose as it warmed and aided in keeping the overall scent on the smoother side. There was nothing complex or intimidating about Merlin’s scent, and I found it to be much lighter than most other stouts, oatmeal or not. With all of the bitter-sweetness and smoothness emanating from the nose, however, I was really looking forward to trying it.
Unfortunately, the first few sips tasted primarily of a chalky burnt coffee and were rather unappealing, but after a few more swallows, the chalkiness smoothed into a bittersweet chocolate covered in dusty oats. Toasted malts and something charred came up a little later in the background and lasted throughout the drink, hints of a caramel toffee and wood notes also became present, but stayed fairly well hidden. The aroma was definitely more promising than the taste, what with the body being a little on the thinner side with a moderate amount of carbonation – which kept it creamy, but also slightly diluted in mouthfeel. There was virtually no aftertaste due to the thinness of the beer, and it left my mouth pretty dry and hoping for more. Overall, it was a little more acrid than I would have liked, especially after distinguishing all of the sweet smells, but I guess that comes with the territory. I also would have liked to see it with a little more body, but with the low alcohol (5.50%) and even lower IBUs (30) , it was a fairly quaffable stout…just not one of my favorites. I’m a fan of many of Firestone Walker’s other delicious brews, so I’m a little disappointed that this wasn’t as good as I expected. Perhaps next time I’ll have to try it during the fall or winter, as it may just be because it’s 3 months old and fading.