Firestone Walker Brewing Co. is located in Paso Robles, Calif. The brewery was formed in 1996 by David Walker and Adam Firestone, who happens to be the great great grandson of Harvey Firestone, the founder of Firestone tire. The brewery is a bit all over the board with different styles to suit every beer drinkers needs, but why I seek Firestone Walker out is for its limited release barrel-aged offerings.

Many of my favorite beers have come from this brewery and most have come from Firestone’s Proprietor’s Vintage Series. The series was started to showcase the brewery’s barrel and blending program. Some of my favorites have included:

  • Parabola — a 12.7 percent ABV Russian Imperial Stout aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels
  • Sucaba
  • Stickee Monkee — an 11.4 percent ABV Belgian quad brewed with candi sugar and also aged in bourbon barrels
  • Helldorado – a 12.8 percent ABV Blonde Barleywine

Today, I will review the second release of one of the brewery’s newest creations, Mole Merkin, a 7.8 percent ABV milk stout brewed with Puya chili peppers, cocoa nibs and imported cinnamon and British ale yeast, It was first released in 2018 and has an IBU rating of 21. This release uses Velvet Merkin, a bourbon barrel-aged oatmeal stout, as its base beer.

Poured from a 12-ounce bottle into a Spiegelau stout glass, the color is near pitch black with approximately a finger of light tan head resulting from a medium pour. Lacing is rather light and there is hardly any coating of the glass from the beer.

Aromas right up front bring me a light bourbon smell and a huge essence of cocoa, nice creamy chocolate cocoa like what I enjoy on a cold winters night. The first taste confirms the aromas with a very manageable taste of oak and bourbon and once again the cocoa, although on the taste it has become ever so slightly bitter which takes nothing away from the beer. I get a very very light dryness from the cinnamon and unfortunately get none of the chili peppers, which I hoped would have given a light bite to this brew.

I expected the carbonation to be light, but not quite this light, it’s almost watery. Mouthfeel is thin, and although the large part of the flavors are present, the complexity is a bit disappointing and the boldness is not there. It’s not a horrible beer, but is definitely lacking what most would expect from a mole style, barrel-aged beer. The finish is once again, too thin and I know its not the case here, but it feels like it is slightly watered down.

Firestone Walker Mole Merkin (2019)
BREWERY: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Paso Robles, Calif.
STYLE: American Milk Stout
ABV: 7.8 percent
IBU: 21
PRICE: $9.99
RELEASE DATE: 2018
AVAILABLE IN: 12-ounce bottles
BEERS POURED: One
I have and will always be a fan of Firestone Walker, but this one did not quite live up to what I have always received from its beers, especially from the Proprietors Series. Not all of the flavors meshed as they should, especially the non-existent chili peppers and the mouth feel was way to thin from what I believe it shoud have been. The barrel was mild, yet good, the cocoa was amazing but the rest of the adjuncts did not give any aid to this beer. I will continue to enjoy Firestone Walker's beers but hope that they remain as I remember them and I will put this one at the end of my list.
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