For years Velvet Merlin was our seasonal oatmeal stout, signaling the start of cooler weather on California’s Central Coast. It wasn’t long before we incorporated it into a Vintage Beer, our spirit-barrel aging program. Velvet Merlin went into retired spirits barrels from Heaven Hill, Woodford Reserve, and others for a full year. The resulting beer, Velvet Merkin, has rich, milk chocolate, bourbon and espresso flavors, preceded by aromas of vanilla, coconut, toasted oak, and mocha.

In 2018, our Barrel Program Manager Eric Ponce was tinkering with a variant of Velvet Merkin involving Brandy barrels and spices – soon to be named Molé Merkin. Eric selected some higher proof Velvet Merkin Barrels from our warehouse.

Drawing upon his own Mexican heritage and family mole recipes inherited from his grandmothers to create a blend of Puya chile peppers, cocoa nibs, and cinnamon. The cinnamon adds a hint of sweet spice, the cocoa nibs bring a luscious balance to the medium lingering heat of the peppers, and the brandy barrel adds its own element and a little more kick.

The process to get just the right amount of flavors from chocolate, cinnamon, and chili puya took benchtop trials on the individual level of each ingredient and then finally all 3 together. I wanted everything to be present and represented beautifully with nothing being overwhelming…Balance is key.

— Eric Ponce

The year 2019 saw a triumphant return of Molé Merkin on a larger scale. Using the same spices, the addition of lactose and Bourbon barrels instead of brandy barrels. The addition of lactose compounds a creaminess that evokes the creamy texture of molé.

This beer has a lot of personal meaning behind it. Every time I taste it, it brings back childhood memories of family dinners and gatherings, where mole dishes were a staple. It’s that sense of joy and flavor that I wanted to convey with Molé Merkin.

— Eric Ponce

You can get Molé Merkin here. Or for the first time ever, you can taste, side-by-side, the original Velvet Merkin, Molé Merkin 2018 aged in Brandy Barrels, and Molé Merkin 2019 aged in Bourbon barrels.

Tease apart the differences in barrels, ingredients, and compare to the original Velvet Merkin in our limited taster pack.  Enjoy these beers together and let us know your favorite!