Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Paso Robles, CA
Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout
One of the breweries us East Coast folk are envious to try is Firestone Walker. Whether it’s their amazing Anniversary Series, their barrel-aged Proprietor Reserve beers or their year-round offerings, it seems as if everything they put out receives high praise. We’re jealous of the folks on the left coast for that.
In my travels, I’ve had the chance to try a handful of their beers. The Double Jack DIPA and Walker’s Reserve Porter came into my life about a year ago to much rejoicing. And not that long ago, a friend shared his bottle of Sucaba, their astoundingly good barrel-aged barley.
A recent trade with a fellow South Carolina beer geek netted me two more FW beers: a bottle of the 2012 Parabola barrel-aged imperial stout and Velvet Merlin, their fall and winter seasonal oatmeal stout. The robust malt profile is balanced out with 100% U.S.-grown Fuggle hops, helping to bring balance to what is otherwise one of the sweeter oatmeal stouts I’ve had.
The beer pours a very deep, dark brown verging on a black. There’s a little bit of light getting through the finger of a lightly bubbled head, which settles pretty fast. The lacing and alcohol legs are both fairly strong.
The nose is one of the best-smelling oatmeal stouts I’ve come across. There’s a sugar cookie sweetness as well as that unmistakable oatmeal smell as well. Mixed in with that are coffee, milk, chocolate, vanilla and caramel. Fortunately, nothing overpowers the oatmeal.
There’s just a slight nip of a roasty bitterness on the front of the tongue. The body is surprisingly light, but not at all watery, and there’s a good bit of carbonation throughout. Toward the middle of the mouth is this richer chocolate note, giving way to a strong mix of medium roast coffee and oatmeal. There’s a lot of vanilla and oak on the back as well. It’s not as rich as other oatmeal stouts I’ve had, but it’s still solid throughout.
The sweetness on the Velvet Merlin surprised me, but the hops and roasted qualities did a good job of keeping everything from being too overpowering with the sweetness. All in all, it’s just another reason for me to be jealous of those who get to enjoy FW on the regular.