By ELI MORGAN
Special to the Tribune
Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles
The Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout is exceptionally good this year. It is a seasonal offering that is ultra complex, yet extremely sessionable at 5.5 percent ABV (Alcohol By Volume). It starts with the pour and the toffee-colored head, which gives way to wonderful laces of suds skimming your glass after every drink. Roasty dark-chocolate initially on the nose once swallowed comes back with huge hints of nicely burnt and toasted grains of malt. The texture of the oats lay like black velvet on your tongue. Every sip is layers of bittersweet chocolate coffee toffee and a slight hint of smoked malt on the finish. Locally, the only place I’ve found it is at Lafayette Whole Foods.
Black Diamond Brewing Company, Concord
White Witch IPA 6.3 ABV. The pour is not too heady or lacey, but I can forgive them for that – as you put it to your nose, both nostrils want to dive in Sweetgrass West Coast IPA without the hops’ bitter bite on the finish. It lingers long, nicely on your tongue without the need to wash it out. Hop positive burping through the nose usually follows. Overall a great winter IPA, it can be found on tap locally at Beaver Creek Smokehouse.
Eli Morgan is a 43-year-old lifelong Martinez resident who has been actively beer hunting since 1992. In those days, you really had to get out of town in order to get a decent beer.