I was perusing the shelves at the lovely Vroman’s Bookstore recently when I noticed that next door was no longer an Office Depot but had changed over to a Total Wine & More.

Even though their inventory is a bit skewed to quantity and not enough locals, I decided to browse and I found cans from Bravus Brewing which does Non-Alcoholic beers. So I picked a pair up.

Pours an opaque light orange color. Aroma is lemony, but in an off way. The can is a hare over two months old and in a can though it was not found in the cooler section. Bitter in a weird way with a metallic end. Even after sitting out to breathe it did not improve. A bit tea like which might be a brewing flaw over a storage flaw.

Oatmeal Stout
Tastes smoky and a bit watery. Head was pretty thin. Weird chocolate taste here too. Bit of metal taste in this one too. Tastes almost like it is turning sour. But this beer is just over a month old. Better than the IPA but still not great. Maybe this is why there aren’t a lot of N/A beers out there.

Nitro Merlin

January 6, 2016 marks the Central Coast foray into Nitro with Nitro Merlin Milk Stout from Firestone Walker. The variant of the original Velvet Merkin will be available on draft all year-round and will be introduced with a series of “Milk & Cookies” events that will include another Central Coast business, Brown Butter Cookie Company.

What makes NMMS different? It is basically Velvet Merlin oatmeal stout, but…. “with one critical twist: the inclusion of non-fermentable lactose sugar (a.k.a. milk sugar), the ingredient that transforms the beer into a milk stout”
Nitro Merlin
You can read more about Milk Stout HERE and more about Nitro HERE.

Details on upcoming Milk & Cookies pairings will be posted HERE.

Review – Velvet Mocha Merlin from Firestone Walker


Part of me loves the special variety packs.  But part of me knows that it is a market-y sort of way to get people to re-try old favorites via a special.  But that is a corner that new chasing beer geeks have painted themselves into.  But in the case of the Winter Bundle from Firestone Walker, I did not think of either for a moment.  I just opened the box and dove in.  And I saved the Velvet Mocha Merlin for last.

This is the regular Merlin accented with an “infusion of Intelligentsia Coffee House aromas and cocoa dusted chocolate truffle flavors.”  And I have to say that it is more on the side of the chocolate truffle.  Which is weird because most Intelligentsia coffee, to me, is strong.  Or if not strong, very uniquely flavored.  But the aroma is cocoa powder.  The taste is creamy and cocoa intermingled.  Like a dark chocolate hot cocoa.  I love the taste and I love the 5.5% ABV too.  But I am not getting any coffee here.  There is a bitterness at the back end of the beer but to me it is like biting into a dark chocolate bar.  No roast notes here.  But again, to reiterate, I really liked it.  But if you are into the coffee beer scene, this one might puzzle you.

Merkin ’14


In ten days, Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merkin barrel-aged oatmeal stout will return with the new 2014 Vintage.

Here is the barrel breakdown from the brewery: “The 2014 Velvet Merkin was primarily aged in bourbon barrels from Elijah Craig and Woodford Reserve, along with a selection of Rittenhouse Rye whiskey barrels. The Elijah Craig and Woodford Reserve barrels imparted fine bourbon qualities, while the younger Rittenhouse Rye whiskey barrels provided subtle spiciness with an elevated vanilla character.”

Five different iterations of the beer have been blended to come up with this beer, almost a test blending drive before the Anniversary beer which comes later in the year.

Last years oatmeal was splendid and I can’t wait to see how this one turns out and how it compares.

Review – Firstone Walker Velvet Merkin

Very lucky.  That is what I am thinking as I slowly slip the re-incarnated Velvet Merkin (2013) that I received from Firestone Walker.


This is a near perfect beer.    It falls into the category of beers that you could smell all day long.  That you would bottle as cologne. A beautiful mixture of coconut and roast and bourbon and barrel melding together.

But you have to drink it, and it is velvety smooth.  So that each sip lingers. It is under 9% in alcohol so you don’t get a burn in the throat. The bourbon really comes out in the flavor and just envelops the tongue.  How Matt Brynildson does it, I do not know but this is simply a fantastic beer.