I’ve likely said it before, but I’m not a stout person. I don’t mean that I’m frail, I mean that I don’t like coffee, so I don’t like beers that taste like coffee. The craft beer lover in me often feels inferior due to this fact, so I regularly try to dip my toes into the roasted malt waters to see if somehow, miraculously, my taste buds will get on the stout train. Usually, I find myself sipping on training-wheel stouts, the affectionate term that I’ve assigned to milk stouts, sweet stouts, and chocolate stouts. I’ve never had an oyster stout because that sounds like a torture method that is banned by the Geneva Convention. Oyster stouts can go fuck themselves. Along the way, I’ve discovered several unbelievably delicious gems that lure even my discerning taste buds into their roasty web, and Velvet Merlin is one of them. Judging books by covers, as I have no problem doing, I first bought this beer because of the name, which is still easily one of my favorite beer names of all time. The fact that it was by Firestone Walker, one of my favorite breweries, was merely a happy coincidence. But I digress…
The Smells: The nose is more sweet than roasty, to me. There is certainly a nice rich smell to it, with maybe dark chocolate, and a lightly roasted malt smell, but it’s more subdued than a typical stout.
The Pour: I’ve slugged back several of these in my life, and my common experience is about a finger of tan head that sticks around for a few minutes and doesn’t leave any lacing. The color is a stupidly dark brown. The only way that you can really tell that it’s brown is by getting in some decent light and looking at the edges of the glass.
The Tastes: Firestone has somehow figured out how to make a beer taste roasted without making it taste burnt, which is what coffee tastes like to me. It seems to be two parts cocoa/dark chocolate and one part espresso. The thing that really makes the beer though is that it has a rich, velvety mouthfeel (I see what you did there, Firestone), and a clean, dry finish. There’s no lingering burnt flavor. There’s also no alcohol flavor, which is probably attributable to the lighter (for a stout) 5.5% ABV.
This is one of my favorite stouts, and I feel like it will appeal to your typical stout lover as well. It’s definitely worth a drink.