I'm fortunate to have an excellent privately owned beer retailer near me. Midtowne Bottle Shop in Harrisonburg, Virginia has only been on the scene for a year and a half but it offers a wonderful selection from session IPAs in cans to sour Belgians in 750ml bottles to growler fills of some of the best beer currently available in the United States. At this time of year Lauren, the owner, builds "Twelve Beers of Christmas" boxes. This year's boxed offerings are sour, IPA, and dark. I bought a dark pack for $35. Now I plan to kick off this blog's beer reviews by reviewing one a day from now till Christmas.
First up is California's Firestone Walker with Velvet Merlin, their oatmeal stout. Firestone Walker, a collaboration between two brothers-in-law, was founded in 1996. While the majority of their distribution is in California that's set to change with this summer's acquisition by Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat. Firestone Walker are known for their hoppy beers and barrel aged program.
Behind door #1: Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin, Oatmeal Stout, 5.5% alc., 12 oz. bottle
N: Dark malt to the fore with hints of cappuccino
P: Quite velvety on entry, robust dark malt notes with coffee and bitter dark chocolate
F: Good length with lingering chocolate notes
In conclusion: Despite the lack of head retention this is a tasty enough oatmeal stout from Firestone Walker. It's not up to the epic standards of Wookey Jack, their black IPA, but it's still a lovely beer for the season.