Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Velvet Merlin, Merkins, and Such.

Seeing as my last post related to beer was a hit, I'd figure I'd post another one. I recently found a new beer that I think is worthy of your attention so sit back, pop open a cold one, and enjoy (or something to that extent).

Recently, I went down to an old watering hole of mine here in town appropriately called Humboldt Brews (or otherwise known as Humbrews by the locals here). Humboldt Brews was once the fabled and renowned Humboldt Brewing Company, Arcata's one and only brewery during the 90's and early 2000's (Note: Arcata has a new brewery, Redwood Curtain Brewing Co., that opened two years ago but I'll expand on this another time). Humboldt Brewing Company were famous for their Nectar Ales and Hemp Ale but the brewing rights were bought by Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in 2000 and the brewing process was relocated to Paso Robles. Humboldt Brewery ceased operations entirely in 2003 much to the dismay of the town's residents. Despite the change, the Nectar Ales line have continued under the auspices of Firestone Walker.

The main bar and pub that once housed Humboldt Brewery reopened in 2004 under the new moniker Humboldt Brews complete with a remodel, new menu, expanded beer selection, and an employee-owned staff. The place is currently owned and run by two of the original employees who remodeled and opened the former "brewing room" adjacent to the building that houses the pub as a main music and events hall complete with a full stage. At the time they reopened they boasted the largest selection of beer on tap in the Arcata/Eureka area (20 beers) and have tried to keep a relative good selection on hand. The place is still a draw for both locals and tourists alike but the atmosphere has changed significantly from the days when one could smell fresh malt permeating the streets of downtown Arcata and one could walk into the pub with a serious case of the DTs and no one gave a damn. The new incarnation of the brew-pup is friendly enough though, with good waiters and waitresses, large portions of food, and a relatively constant rotation of beer on tap as well as live music almost nightly. However I usually find myself making the one-mile hike down to Redwood Curtain Brewing Co. on the premise that the beer there is brewed on site and the walk down allows for some exercise. Plus, it helps to know those who work there ;)

So I found myself at Humbrews the other evening with my roommate and knowing that I wasn't really into an "IPA mood" I was curious if they still had a particular stout on tap that I remembered trying a month prior that was pretty impressive.


Velvet Merlin, formerly known as Velvet Merkin prior to bottling, is an oatmeal stout that is brewed by Firestone Walker and while I'm not the biggest fan of Firestone Walker, this ale is outstanding!

The original name "Merkin" is in reference to a public wig that were originally worn by prostitutes after having shaved their genitalia. Why the beer was given this moniker is a mystery but the origin of the pubic wig dates back to the 1400s when women would shave their pubic hair and wear a merkin in an attempt to combat lice and cover up signs of disease. Merkins eventually came into use for more decorative and erotic purposes by both women and men alike; they can be found in use during public events such as Burning Man and film shoots by actors and actresses to prevent inadvertent exposure of the genitalia. Perhaps Velvet Merlin's silky-smooth character is a reflection of the velvety feel of the merkin as is protects your private parts against the elements? Hell, I have no clue...

Anyways, I could understand changing the name to make it sound more appealing to the mass of beer consumers out there but I think "Merkin" is a much better name than "Merlin" for this ale. With that said however, this beer has an element of mysteriousness and boldness that one should not take lightly so "Merlin" is appropriate to an extent. This stout is dark and velvety with a decent head when poured correctly. It is exceptionally smooth, especially off the tap, and it has an element that is lost in many stouts (this no Guinness!!). It has slight elements of coffee, chocolate and vanilla and possesses a medium body and a low abv of 5.5% that makes for a really easy-to-drink beer (and good breakfast food if I may add, especially if you happen to be a poor, starving student as myself!). It is technically an oatmeal stout but is much more smooth and silky than most out there.

I could blabber on about how awesome this beer is, and you're probably bored if not drunk by now, or hopefully both, but truth be told it is you who need to make your own decision regarding this tasty beverage. I highly recommend picking up a 22oz bomber or 6-pack of it should you come across it! I'm not sure how long Velvet Merlin will be available. Firestone Walker's website states that it is a seasonal, released for the fall and winter months only. One thing to remember is that this beer is not pasteurized and thus can spoil so the sooner you find it, buy it and drink it! It is definitely one of the better beers I have had in a while!

Check out the brewery here for more information.
Also remember to check with your local or regional distributor to see if they can carry this or another particular beer (especially if you live in bumfuck-Egypt Humboldt County as I do).
Lastly, please drink responsibly!

Prost!

8 comments:

Perpetual Strife said...

Only Celebrator is real.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-L1Ot8NhR5fg/TXg4inKtK5I/AAAAAAAAADM/j5nQG4bGtls/s1600/celebrator-doppelbock.jpg

Aegipan said...

Indeed, Celebrator is a great beer!

Anonymous said...

Is that a Fizgig codpiece?

Aegipan said...

You know, I believe it is! Rather disturbing, if you think about it...

phyte club katie said...

Thanks for the reminder about this beer! I haven't had it for a long time, but my local brewpub occasionally features it as a guest beer. Now, if I could just remember where I put that merkin.....

Aegipan said...

^Katie: No problem! You inspired me to finish this review after all and I did follow through on your request ;) If it makes you feel any better, I seem to have misplaced my merkin also it appears... Nevertheless, I'll just have to make do with this fine, tasty beverage from Redwood Curtain for the moment I suppose.

John Henry Eden said...

Probably my second favorite stout.

Aegipan said...

^What is your first?