Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Duvel Moortgat Combine Companies in USA

July 16, 2015 – Kansas City, Mo., & Paso Robles, Ca. – In an agreement signed earlier this week, Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Duvel Moortgat will combine their two companies in the USA.  The California brewery will continue to operate independently in Paso Robles under its current leadership of David Walker and Adam Firestone.

David Walker and Adam Firestone, joint founders of Firestone Walker said: “The Firestone Walker and Duvel Moortgat families have combined forces to broaden their capacity and scope as brewers. Long admirers of each other’s beers, culture and breweries, the two teams saw the perfect fit for an alliance. The partnership will allow Firestone Walker to develop our capacity across the US in a conservative and thoughtful way by consummating a life long tie with this family-owned international craft brewer, who continue their commitment to participating in the American Craft Revolution.”

“The relationship I have built with David and Adam made Firestone Walker the perfect fit for future growth,” said Michel Moortgat, CEO of Duvel Moortgat. “We share the same values; have a great mutual respect for each other’s achievements and a deeply-held belief in exceptional quality as a platform for long-term success. Bringing Firestone Walker together with Boulevard, Ommegang, Duvel and the other craft breweries in our family creates a stronger platform in the USA for us both and allows us to collaborate on brewing in different locations across the USA” 

“The most important thing that we can do for Firestone Walker is to help David and Adam manage the exponential growth that their team and their brewery is experiencing right now by providing financial and production capacity to support them,” said Simon Thorpe, President of Duvel Moortgat USA. “We are not integrating our organizations. Both Boulevard and Ommegang are also enjoying tremendous success and we still have much to do in realizing our dream for both these breweries.”

The transaction between Duvel Moortgat and Firestone Walker is expected to close later this year. It is an agreement between two private, family-owned companies, so no financial or contractual details will be disclosed. 

About Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Founded in 1996, Firestone Walker Brewing Company has grown to become one of the largest specialty brewers in California. Located in Paso Robles, it is known for crafting iconic pale ales and pioneering barrel-aged beers. Everything it does revolves around one goal; to make the world’s best beers. Firestone Walker distributes in 21 states. For more information, visit firestonebeer.com, facebook/firestone.walker or twitter.com/FirestoneWalker

About Duvel Moortgat
The Duvel Moortgat group, founded in Belgium in 1871, is an independent brewer of authentic specialty and craft beers. Around the world, the group is considered to be the leading producer of bottle-conditioned, high-fermentation beers, a reputation owed largely to the success of its best-selling brand Duvel. 

In the USA, Duvel Moortgat continues our belief in independent, family owned craft brewing and includes Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City MO and Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown NY. The company also imports its European craft brands including Duvel, Chouffe, Maredsous, De Koninck and Liefmans.
Please see our web site for further information: www.duvelusa.com.

First Beverage Group acted as financial advisor to Firestone Walker, and Spencer Fane Britt & Browne provided legal counsel. ING acted as financial advisor to Duvel Moortgat, and McDermott Will & Emery provided legal counsel.

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Island Brewing Company lands six medals at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition

Note: The following is a press release from Island Brewing Company

Island Brewing Company lands six medals at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition

Carpinteria, CA – Island Brewing Company posted six medals at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition, judged April 18-19. A panel of certified beer judges critiqued hundreds of beers from the US and abroad in a blind-taste format covering 89 beer styles. Beers were judged against others of similar styles as defined by the Brewer’s Association Style Guidelines.

Island Brewing Company beers won for the following styles:

Gold Medal  –  Island Blonde,  German-style Kolsch category
Gold Medal – King Tide Double IPA,  Imperial India Pale Ale category
Silver Medal –  Starry Night Stout, Foreign-style Stout category
Silver Medal – Bourbon Barrel- Aged Jubilee, Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer categorySilver Medal – Big Island Barley Wine,  Barley Wine Style Ale categoryBronze Medal – Variance Belgian IPA , American-Belgo Style Ale category.

“It’s great to see the hard work and focus in the cellar paying off,” said head brewer Ryan Morrill. “We have a great, passionate team and it shows in our beer. It’s a exceptional time for craft beer–there’s more breweries and great beer out there than ever before and it is exciting to be a part of it. We’ve got some new beers coming out soon, so stay tuned.”

Island Brewing Company is open MondayThursday from 2-9pm, Friday and Saturday from 11-10pm and Sunday from 11-9pm at 5049 6th Street, Carpinteria, CA 93013.  For more information contact Laurie Matthews at Island Brewing Company at (805)745-8272 or laurie@islandbrewingcompany.com.

McConnell’s Ice Cream Creates New Flavor With Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Beer

Note: The following is a press release from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company

 McConnell’s Ice Cream Creates New Flavor With Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Beer

Buellton, California— Local ice cream purveyor, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, recently launched a new flavor aimed at adults using beer from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company.  The new flavor is Davy Brown Ale incorporating the award-winning brown ale of the same name.  Davy Brown Ale Ice Cream pints are now available at McConnell’s Ice Cream and Yogurt Shop (728 State Street in Santa Barbara) and in Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s Santa Barbara taproom (137 Anacapa Street, Suite F in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone).  Buy a 22-ounce bottle of Davy Brown Ale and get a $1.00 off your pint of ice cream, or vice versa.  Just bring your receipt to either location for your discount.

“We’d made a few beer ice creams in the past, but this was an opportunity both to work with a brewery we’re huge personal fans of and take the time to really hone in on what it takes to make an exceptional beer flavor,” explains McConnell’s owner, Michael Palmer.  “Like any flavor, it’s always about achieving a balance of flavor profile. The Davy Brown Ale was a perfect match to the creaminess in the ice cream. Folding in the salty brittle took it to that next level. The Davy Brown Ale had all the properties needed to help our process and we’re super happy with the results. We hope McConnell’s and Fig Mountain customers are as well!”

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s Retail Operations Manager, Tony Grimes, agrees with Palmer: “Combining two of my favorite things—Fig beer and McConnell’s ice cream—is a dream come true.  It’s the best of both worlds.”  He adds that Davy Brown Ale has won nine medals and is one of the brewery’s core beers.  “I love the mocha-flavor of this beer.  The caramel and chocolate malts make this the perfect beer for ice cream.”

For more information about Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, their taprooms and beers, please visit www.FigMtnBrew.com.

Discounted tickets for Hoptopia this Saturday!

The following is a press release from Brew Reverie, LLC.

I should note that ticket prices have been lowered to $55, and you can get an additional $10 off with the promo cod: INDY

Tickets can be purchased here:

 

Hoptopia Beer Festival to be held at Carrillo Recreation Center

On Saturday June 28, from 4:00 – 8:00 pm, Hoptopia Beer Festival will be held at Carrillo Recreation Center. Hoptopia is an experience that combines hoppy beers with food pairings, comedy, art, and hop education. This festival will feature nine craft breweries who will be pouring a range of hoppy beers that exhibit the versatility of the hop character in beer. Proceeds from the event will go to Fishbon, a 501(c)3 organization, that provides a forum, education and support for creative collaboration and the arts in Santa Barbara.

Hoptopia is being hosted by Brew Reverie LLC, an events company that promotes beer festivals, provides education opportunities in beer and brewing, and explores the sensory effect of different beers paired with a variety of visual, olfactory, auditory, gustatory, and tactile stimuli. For their premiere event, Brew Reverie LLC, has selected the 100-year old Carrillo Recreation Center in which to create Hoptopia. This antique building features multiple rooms and each one will be transformed for the event with its own name and theme.

The Hop Hall will be held in the main ballroom and will host the majority of the brewers. In addition to breweries’ normal hop-forward beers, many of the participants will be bringing special “dry hopped” versions of their beers that showcase a specific hop character. There will also be performances by comedians and improv groups from Comedy Hideaway and Fishbon artists on the stage of the ballroom.

In the Humulene Canteen, attendees will be offered two beers with four appetizers to be served with each one. Please see the Additional Information (included below) for the tentative menu. The Lab will provide educational resources and different art installations from Fishbon. Attendees will get to learn about hops from beer experts, smell different hop varieties, and experiment on the various art installations around the area.

The room, Lupulin Lands, will be hosted by Santa Barbara Brewing Co. Four different variations of Santa Barbara Blonde will be served in this area. Guests will receive a full pour of the regular version and then be given tasters of three dry-hopped versions, each one using hops from one of the major hop growing regions of the world: America, Europe, and the Southern Hemisphere. This will allow them to taste the distinct character that each region has to offer.

The Myrcene Scene is the crown jewel of the event and will be held on the second floor. There are two rooms upstairs with a different beer being served in each one. Both rooms will contain audio, lighting, and projection that interact with the character of the beer. Guests will taste the beer while experiencing sights and sounds that will transform the flavors and influence how they “feel” about the beer. Hoptopia will be an event that is unparalleled to any beer festival that has been done before.

 

Valley Brewers raffles off 4-tap keezer

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I’ve come across many home brewers in my line of work. I’m not sure I’ve ever met one who kegs and says “I miss the days of bottling.” The wet, messy process of filling fifty or bottles is one of the least attractive points of brewing.

However, upgrading to a keg system can be a big expense — not only must you get the kegs and the gas, but you have to build or buy a kegerator as well.

Unless, of course, you happen to win this keezer in a raffle by Solvang homebrew supply shop, Valley Brewers. The cost of a ticket is just $25, and the raffle runs until Father’s Day. For more information, visit the link above and good luck.

Waiting in Line for Beer – I Drank Pliny the Younger

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When Santa Barbara Brewing Company brewmaster Kevin Pratt asked if I’d like to go to Orange County for some Pliny the Younger, I was torn. On the one hand, I’ve always wanted to taste the beer – essentially one of the rarest beers on the planet – and I’d always wanted to at least see what kind of crowd might show up. I agreed, knowing that it would be, if nothing else, some good blogging fodder.

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I arrived at The Crow Bar and Kitchen in Corona Del Mar at about 10:30 a.m. This was perfect, because that’s usually right around the time I like to start drinking on a Tuesday. There were about seven people in line to buy tickets, which went on sale at 11:30 a.m. One of those seven people were Kevin, so I joined him near the back of the short line and we waited for the doors to open.

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The line steadily grew, and was comprised of roughly 80% young men with a female here or there. The line itself was a fun experience, as the group was relatively well-behaved and there was a palpable buzz of excitement from so many folks excited to try the highly sought-after Pliny the Younger (if you’re not familiar with the beer, don’t worry I’ll describe it in due time). It’s always nice to be with a font of beer knowledge, like Kevin, in situations like this because there’s so many beer myths that get perpetuated in situations like this that it’s nice to have someone with real facts to dispel some of these mistruths.

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At 11:30, the doors opened and they ushered in the line to two cash registers. For $21 and some change you could buy two tickets (the maximum), which were good for two pours of Pliny the Younger.

Perhaps this was designed to give people plenty of time to get their tickets before the beer started pouring and fans started guzzling down pint after pint, but my guess is that it was also a means of getting customers in the door early. Since seating was readily available at 11:30 and The Crow Bar was as good (likely better) than anywhere else in the neighborhood for food and beer, Kevin and I grabbed our seats and cozied up to the menu.

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I had already heard of this “Black Label” burger, and already knew I was going to get it. Prime ribeye blended into the patty? bone marrow butter? Yes. Please. I didn’t take a picture of the burger because, frankly, it looked like a burger. But it tasted like heaven.

It was delightfully rich, but not in a truffle-mac-and-cheese-with-extra-truffles-and-lobster-tail kind of way. The meat was just lightly charred and crispy the way the outer rim of a good rib roast is crispy, and the patty was tender and juicy. I can say with all sincerity that the burger may have been better than the pours of Pliny, and that’s not a knock on Pliny. I paired it with Weihenstephan Hefeweizen – because a world-class burger deserves a world-class beer.

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The burger didn’t last forever, and it was only about 12:30. With an hour and a half before the main event, Kevin and I decided to split a bottle of Mikkeller Koppi, a “coffee IPA.” Brewed with coffee and fermented with what seemed to be a Belgian strain of yeast, this IPA did not taste, look or smell like any traditional IPA – although the coffee notes were very faint.

There was a bit of citrus and perhaps raspberries or sour cherries in the aroma and flavor as well, which made for a rather enjoyable experience. However, I was glad we decided to split the bottle. By the end of it, especially as the latter pours were laced with chalky yeast sediment, it was a bit tiring to get through.

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As before, we found ourselves with more time and still no Pliney – so we opted for another taste of Russian River. The Crow Bar did have Pliny the Elder on tap, and the popular Double IPA might have found its way to our table had that not run out shortly before we were ready for it.

That’s fine though, because it allowed us the opportunity to enjoy one of the best beers in Russian River’s lineup – Temptation. This is an ale fermented with a blend of brettanomyces and ale yeast and then aged in Chardonnay barrels. It’s remarkably refreshing, just tart enough and had a pleasant palate-cleansing effect as we prepared for Pliny the Younger. It’s one of my favorite beers from Russian River, and in my opinion it’s what sets brewer/co-owner Vinnie Cilurzo apart from the rest of the field. His mastery of aging beers in oak is rivaled by very few.

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Finally, the beer arrived. A server came around with several beautifully beer-clean chalices of the amber gold. She took our tickets and gave us our first round of Pliny the Younger. For the uninitiated, Pliny the Younger (or PtY in beer-geek parlance) is what’s known as a Triple IPA. It’s over 10% ABV and is hopped to high heaven. You can read more about it straight from Russian River here. The real key is that only 50 barrels, or 100 kegs, are brewed each year (I might actually be mistaken about that and it could be only 25 barrels, or 50 kegs. If you know better, please correct me in the comments).

Ahhhh, that aroma. Lots of grapefruit, a little pine and of course a hint of that 10.25% ABV. The same goes for the flavor – lots of grapefruit, a little pine and a bracing malt backbone to hold it all up. The alcohol burn is there and it helps bring out some of the bitterness, but it also brings out some of the sweetness – both of the malt and in the citrus notes from the hops.

It’s remarkably well-made, and the ability to brew a balanced beer of that ilk and with such a high alcohol content takes a tremendous amount of skill. But, speaking entirely from personal opinion here, I could go my whole life without ever drinking it again. I don’t want to sound snobbish or like I’m better than this beer, it’s a damn fine beer – but it’s a Triple IPA. That’s a whole lot of flavor and alcohol to be the kind of beer that one can sit back and enjoy again and again.

However, I will say that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It was great to be around so many beer geeks, and it was great to sit down and try some new beer as well as some old favorites. I’m not sure I would have done that if it weren’t for Pliny the Younger, and for that I’m truly grateful.

Fig Mountain Opens Los Olivos Location

The Following is a press release from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company

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Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company
Opens Los Olivos Location and Expands Buellton Taproom

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Buellton, California— Only a few months after celebrating their 3rd Anniversary, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. will be celebrating another milestone.  The rapidly growing brewery will open its third location in Los Olivos, California.  Slated to open on Friday, March 7, 2014, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. at “the Cottage” will feature a smaller version of their Buellton and Santa Barbara Taprooms.

“We are thrilled to bring our beer to Los Olivos,” exclaims Fig Mtn Brew President, Jaime Dietenhofer.  “The tasting room at ‘The Cottage’ will be a great place for locals and visitors to enjoy craft beer made right here in the Santa Ynez Valley”.

Meanwhile, Fig Mtn Brew’s Buellton Taproom will be expanding with a new second level including a mezzanine overlooking the brewing facilities.  Soon customers can enjoy a pint while watching a brew in progress.  The second level, set to open in March, will boast a brand new bar and extra seating allowing for the upstairs to be closed for private events or special Taproom dinners and tastings.

Taproom manager, David Esdaile, talks about the new changes: “The recent growth throughout the company is certainly a testament to the fine work done by the brewers.”  The new expansions also allow more dedicated Fig Mtn Brew fans to join the sold out Mug Club.  A limited number of Mug Club spots are open in both the Buellton and Los Olivos Taprooms.  Mug Club members can celebrate their new discounts and access to club events with a “Meet Your Mug” event on Friday, March 7 in Los Olivos and Thursday, March 13 in Buellton from 5:00pm to 7:00pm.  The public is invited to attend the Los Olivos Grand Opening from 12:00pm to 6:00pm on March 8, 2014 featuring live music, BBQ for sale, special giveaways and a raffle at 2:00pm.  The tasting room is open 11:00am to 9:00pm daily.

Another major milestone to look out for is the opening of Beto’s Place in the Buellton Taproom this spring.  The brand new restaurant will feature casual California cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.  Chef Beto Huizar offers a full menu featuring gourmet versions of pub favorites.  Beto’s Place will serve lunch and dinner daily from 11:00am-9:00pm.

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New varietal: Wine-infused beer

The Holiday season is crazy, and things get lost in the shuffle. This beer blog was one of them. Without further ado – here’s my December Column as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara News Press. Happy New Beer everyone.

 

Sean Lewis

December 5, 2013 7:24 AM

AJ Stoll is a talented brewer, and he has the recent hardware from the Great American Beer Festival to prove it. But in late November, AJ looked just as at ease among the trappings of the wine trade.

In a cooler lined with metal beer kegs, the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. brewmaster dipped a wine thief into a wine barrel and pulled out a sample of midnight-black liquid.

Don’t worry. The GABF award winner isn’t going to the grape side. He’s just doing what so many other great brewers are doing these days – he’s experimenting. The beer he pulled out of the wine thief was Fig Mountain’s Magpie Porter aged in syrah barrels.

The beer-wine hybrid was slightly chocolaty with distinct hints of, well, wine. Lingering notes of dark plums and a tart, astringent quality played alongside the smoky and sweet flavors of the porter. The syrah-porter was aged in barrels after the wine and the beer fermented independently and were then blended together – with lots more beer than wine going into the blend.

But mostly, this was an opportunity for AJ to have some fun and come up with something new.

“The wine stuff, most of my friends and colleagues work in the wine industry since there aren’t a lot of breweries out here and there are a lot of wineries,” AJ explained. “There’s just been a lot of general discussion between them and myself.

“It finally got to a point where it had been kicking around in my head so much I came up with the idea of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it – like the cold aging instead of cellar temperature. Then blending independently fermented wine must with the beer wort instead of making fruit beer – just little things like that. I felt really strongly that that would make a difference and do something different than what other breweries were doing.”

The beer, which is on tap now at both the Buellton and Santa Barbara Fig Mountain locations, is not AJ’s first dabbling with beer and wine – and it’s one of several recent experiments he has concocted.

There’s also the impressive Fig Mountain 3rd Anniversary beer. It is essentially a doubled-up recipe of the brewery’s Stagecoach Stout, and is a strong and delicious imperial oatmeal stout with the slightest hints of black licorice. He aged a portion of it in whiskey barrels from Santa Barbara’s own distillery, Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, and then blended the two batches.

Just about a mile and a half from the Fig Mountain brewery in Buellton, Jim Crooks and Jeffers Richardson are a pair of mad brewing scientists for Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks program.

Their laboratory looks like a cross between a cathedral and a wine cellar, with stacks of barrels and large wooden vats called foeders stretching to the high ceiling of the dimly lit facility. Inside the barrels, beer brewed at Firestone Walker’s Paso Robles brewery ages on the oak, but usually with a little something extra.

Many of the beers receive an inoculation of brettanomyces, a strain of yeast that adds a flavor profile best described as “funky,” and lactobacillus, a bacterium that produces a sour tartness. Others are blended with fruit or wine.

There are barrels filled with a blend of chenin blanc juice and, essentially, Barrelworks’ Brettaweiss beer (a blonde ale fermented with the blend of brettanomyces and lactobacillus) that has a sweet and fruity, almost spritzer-like taste. There is a beer aging on top of plums grown on brewmaster Matt Brynildson’s Paso Robles estate, and there is an incredibly potent beer that was blended with juice from orange muscat grapes that has slight notes of orange and a syrupy sweetness that disguised the impressive 15 percent ABV.

But unlike AJ’s experimentations, these beers aren’t just a fun side project.

“We’re past experimentation,” Jeffers said. “We’re into rollout.”

While Firestone Walker may have the edge in terms of distribution power and production capability, it is just another part of a brewing community in the region that is proving that the possibilities for beer are only beginning to be explored.

So forget what you thought you knew about how beer should taste, and forget any notions of competition between beer and wine. In Santa Barbara County, brewers are proving that grapes and grains can play nicely together, and the result is some pretty interesting beer.


Sean Lewis is a beer drinker, beer maker and beer writer. His column appears the first Thursday of the month in the Food section. Follow him on twitter @Sean_M_Lewis to see where he’s drinking in Santa Barbara County.

Figueroa Mountain takes Five at GABF – Telegraph Wins One and Firestone Wins Midsize Brewery, Again

Fig winners

Congratulations are in order for AJ Stoll, the Dietenhofers and everbody over at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company. The Buellton Brewery and its Santa Barbara sister facility left this weekend’s Great American Beer Festival with five medals.

The Buellton brewery took golds for Davy Brown Ale and Stagecoach Stout, with Surfliner Lager, Oktoberfest and Stearn’s Stout, all brewed in Santa Barbara winning silver.

Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company’s Basecamp location (as opposed to the “Outpost” location) took the award for Small Brewery of the year with one gold, two silvers and two bronzes. The Outpost location also earned a silver medal.

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 1.30.11 PMTelegraph walked away with some bronze hardware for its California Ale. This was the second time Telegraph has won a medal for California Ale, which took gold int he Belgian- and French-style Ale Category in 2011.

Firestone winnersLast, but far from least, Firestone-Walker and brewmaster Matt Brynildson were once again recognized as the best Midsized Brewery and Brewer. This honor came along with three gold medals for Pivo Pils, Taproom IPA and Wookey Jack. Union Jack was awarded a silver medal.

Firestone-Walker Releases the Merkins

Firestone-Walker sent out this press release this morning. Highlights include a release party at the brewery’s Barrelworks facility in Buelton on September 14 – with retail distribution on September 16.

I’ll be weighing in about this beer in my September column for the Santa Barbara News Press – running Sept. 5.

Merkins Merkin label

 

GET YOUR MERKIN ON

Firestone Walker’s “Velvet Merkin” Barrel-Aged Oatmeal Stout Set for Limited Release Starting on September 16

Paso Robles, CA: Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Velvet Merkin—the beer that almost wasn’t—will soon heed the rallying cry of “release the merkins,” as it is set to be offered for the first time in 22-ounce bottles starting on September 16.

The Vintage 2013 Merkin is an oatmeal stout aged for a year in retired bourbon barrels from Four Roses, Heaven Hill and others.

While it is not Firestone Walker’s usual style to conceive beer monikers that are confounding, scandalous or comical, the brewery inadvertently achieved all three of these things with the name “Velvet Merkin” once upon a time. The name went off the grid for several years, but now it’s back due to popular demand.

“Until now, all you could get was an occasional peek at Velvet Merkin during a special event or in the brewery tasting room,” said Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “This beer has earned a cult following, and people have been hounding us to release it—and to keep the name. I think some folks are going to wig out when they learn that it’s finally available.”

Velvet Merkin belongs to Firestone Walker’s Proprietor’s Reserve series, and was originally developed as a component of the brewery’s annual barrel-aged Anniversary Ale blend.

The Vintage 2013 Merkin is limited to 3,500 cases of 22-ounce bottles. Below are additional details on the brewing, barrel aging and tasting profile of the Vintage 2013 Merkin:

Lower Alcohol, Higher Notes

With an ABV of 8.5 percent, Velvet Merkin is the first barrel-aged vintage beer that Firestone Walker has released with an alcohol level under 10 percent.

“With barrel aging, it’s easy to gravitate toward higher alcohol beers, because the higher the alcohol, the better the chances that the beer will remain stable in the barrel over time,” Brynildson said. “But we’ve gotten more and more comfortable with putting lower alcohol beers in the barrel, and there’s this interesting synergy when you do that.”

He continued, “Alcohol plays a huge role in the flavor profile of a barrel-aged beer. When you dial the alcohol level down, all sorts of other flavors come to the surface. With Velvet Merkin, the base beer begins with this dark chocolate and roasted coffee character, but after a year in the barrel, it comes out like milk chocolate with creamy vanilla undertones. You still get some of the classic bourbon barrel notes, but the lower alcohol level really allows this unique milk chocolate quality to come to the surface.”

Merkin to Merlin and Back…

The original Velvet Merkin was made solely for the brewery’s tasting room, starting in 2004. “I always wanted to make an oatmeal stout, and so I started making single-turn batches for the tasting room, just for fun,” Brynildson said.

He added, “I came up with this fanciful name, because I thought it was hilarious. I never thought it would leave the tasting room walls. When we decided to bottle it as a fall seasonal release about four years ago, everyone got cold feet, so we changed the name to Velvet Merlin.”

But the Velvet Merkin name was surreptitiously resurrected by Brynildson and the brewing team after they began aging batches of the beer in bourbon barrels at around the same time.

“Velvet Merkin is the barrel-aged version of that original oatmeal stout now known as Velvet Merlin,” Brynildson said. “We’ve been making this iteration of Velvet Merkin for several years as part of our Anniversary Ale program, and now we think it merits its own limited release.”

While not available to the public in bottles until now, Velvet Merkin has already racked up two gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival.

Get Your Merkin On at “Merkinfest”

Velvet Merkin will be officially unveiled at the “Release of The Merkins” party at Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks in Buellton on September 14. Ticket availability is limited. For tickets and details, stay tuned at: www.firestonebeer.com/events/merkinfest.php

Velvet Merkin Tasting Notes

Beautiful chocolate, espresso and vanilla-bourbon aromas hold your nose hostage. Rich milk chocolate, bourbon and espresso create a dangerously smooth and incredibly drinkable barrel-aged oatmeal stout. Hoarding tendencies may occur.

2013 Vintage Merkin Lowdown

Style: Barrel-Aged Oatmeal Stout

ABV: 8.5%   IBU: 33   Color: 80SRM

Malts: 2-Row Pale, Roast Barley, English Dark Caramel, Medium Caramel, Carafa Malt, Oats (15%)

Hops: U.S.-grown Fuggle

Aging: Barrel aged for one year on average in retired spirits barrels

Production: 3,500 cases (22-ounce bottles)

Retail: $16.99 (22-ounce bottle). Available while supplies last in CA, NV, OR, WA, AZ, CO, MO, Chicago, MA, NJ, NY, VA, PA, DC, and MD.

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