El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale
Stone Brewing

El Camino (Un)Real Black AleEl Camino (Un)Real Black Ale
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Strong Ale - American
3.94 | pDev: 12.44%
Stone Brewing
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
El Camino (Un)Real Black AleEl Camino (Un)Real Black Ale
Notes: Collaboration with 21st Amendment Brewery & Firestone Walker Brewing Company

Our collaboration beer project between 21A Brewmaster Shaun O’Sullivan and our friends Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing Company and Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker. This beer takes its name from the historical mission trail El Camino Real (the Royal Trail, now highway 101) that linked the 21 Spanish Missions throughout California and also links the three breweries together. A dark strong ale that floats between a stout and an IPA, it incorporates indigenous ingredients from along the Camino (un)Real. The addition of dried mission figs, pink peppercorns, fennel and chia seeds brings a slight herbal, fruit and spice note built to pair with the malt and hop complexity to this 9.5% ABV beer.
Reviews: 166 | Ratings: 284 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of FBGordon
FBGordon from Florida

3.79/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a can into a room temperature snifter.

A: Pours completely opaque with a milk chocolate head that settles into a thin ring that laces nicely and maintains throughout.

S: Peppery roast, caramel, molasses and fennel on the nose. More sniffs bring sweet fig smells into the fray with a little hops.

T: Roast and molasses, a tingle of peppercorns and hops. An earthy dark chocolate settles on the palate with the barest hint of dark fruit.

M: A thick-waisted ale that slides across the palate with a slight tingle, which stays in motion with the synergistic peppery flavors.

O: A big, sticky ale that tricks your palate because you want it to be a stout, but has lots of tricks up its sleeve. I waited for my palate to settle in, but the peppery flavors ended up dominating and I was having a hard time picking up the fennel and fig. It became a little ponderous.

Dec 31, 2017
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DrMindbender from South Carolina

2.53/5  rDev -35.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.5

Don't know if I got a bad can, but this beer was extremely awful to me and my wife...ended up being the first drain pour in a really long time.

-Poured thick and almost a little ropey, with little to no head...we only drank 1/4 of the pour, but there was little to no lacing on the glass
-Smelled like prune juice more than figs, a little soy sauce and high fusels/boozey
-Tasted like a burning tire doused in fermented prune juice spirit with a distracting bitterness that only makes it worse
-Way too many IBUs for this beer...obnoxious bitterness follows the burning tire aftertaste and coats the mouth generously so you don't forget your mistake in swallowing this garbage
-Overall, a hot mess of a beer that should be neutered and destroyed so it can't breed and show up again on the store shelves

Oct 10, 2017
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chinchill from South Carolina

3.99/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz can at Soulshine Farm Music Festival.
This strong ale has an exceptionally complex and rich flavor. Not harmonious however, with some sense of clashing flavors. Mild-moderate bitterness. Full body with near medium carbonation.

Aug 11, 2017
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TX-Badger from Texas

4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed by 21st Amendment. From a can: pours a dark reddish brown color with tan colored head. Spices, roasted malt, and lots of earth tones on the nose; follows onto the palate. Very earthy in flavor. Medium to full bodied. Finishes with spice.

Mar 14, 2017
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jwilcox767 from Ohio

4.05/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours dark as expected with heavy head and thick lacing.

S: Definitely bold. Heavy on the burnt/earthy smell. Not too much of the advertised fennel or chia though.

T: Like it's smell, you get a bold chocolate/malty/lightly creamy taste, while still having a lot of other pleasant notes. The booziness is pretty mild even for 9.5%, but again, not too much fennel or chia came through. Dried fruit is another immediately identifiable element that stays in the aftertaste.

M: Nice smooth carbonation that adds to the creamy texture.

O: With this being a collaboration btwn 21A, Firestone, and Stone, I was looking for this beer to be something "special" with their use of fennel and chia, but those weren't really picked up. While it was pleasing to drink with the chocolate/malty/smoky elements, it doesn't really stand out. I'll get it again but won't seek it out specifically.

Mar 02, 2017
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Act25 from New Jersey

4.07/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Right down my alley (hoppy dark ale) like Arrogant Bastard, or a hoppy stout, but ultimately too fussy, and what's it got to do with El Camino other than it's a north-south collaboration? Is there a spanish or indignous trait here? A certain amount of fussy weirdness, but love the experimentation in this liqueur beer by three of my favorite brewers.

A: Pours a big brown-black body, thick, with rich dark head that fades slowly, leaving a dotty lacing.

N: BIG! Over a powerful malt and hop combination, there's all kinds of char, stink, earthy, fermented seeds. Remains peaty and earthy as she warms.

T: FOLLOWS the smell, and it's rich and creamy, thick, malty, dark bread, caramel, chocolate, figgy sweetness, and abundant, multi-faceted, complex taste. Chewy and malty overall - there's all the elements involved: spicy, stinky, hoppy, figgy, alcohol, liqueur, after-dinner booziness. Remains earthy, as in wet compost, with some peppery bitterness to the end.

F: Great feel, at once thick, luscious and smooth, with good carbonation, and nice drying bitterness.

O: Big peppery bitter on the finish, resolves the sweet chocolate, with a hoppy bite, earthy and musty hop. Smoky. Probably good to cellar. A big beer. Must try.

Jan 15, 2017
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ordybill from Georgia

3.59/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a can into a pint glass. The appearance is pitch black with a small tan head. The aroma is black licorice and some coffee. The taste is underwhelming. to much licorice flavoring.

Jan 10, 2017
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Karibourgeois from Texas

3.5/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Black pour with a light-brown one-finger head. Aroma of roasted malt and fennel. Fennel and chia seeds flavors come though upfront back by a strong and bitter roasted flavor. Light to medium body that finishes with a lingering roasted bitterness.

Jan 08, 2017
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CopperMtnPlowboy from Ohio

2.31/5  rDev -41.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.25

Poured from can into a pint glass. Pours so dark that only a bright light shines through. Dark tan lace that thins out over a few minutes. Has a Bourbon burn with an oaky, burnt vanilla taste. A bit on the watery side with a tingly, slightly peppery burn. Overall OK, but a little to "burnt" tasting for me.

Jan 04, 2017
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neenerzig from Ohio

4.42/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Six years ago in late October of 2010, one of my favorite local beer bars was lucky enough to get a keg of this for Cleveland Beer Week. I kept going back to that bar a lot for about a 2 week period to keep drinking this beer until that keg finally kicked. I never knew this beer was bottled/canned and had any sort of wide distribution until recently, perhaps this is a recent phenomenon. I am wondering if this is something Stone brought back as part of their 20th anniversary celebration this year or what, but I sure am glad they did. Poured into one of my snifter glasses out of a 12 oz can, this beer is a very dark brown, almost black color with a nice tan head that's about an inch thick when first poured that eventually settles to a fairly thick ring lining the inside of the glass along with some nice big cluster swirls film layers of foam on the beer's surface and pretty good lacing. Aromas of roasted caramel malt sweetness along with some nice dark fruity esters, brown sugar, and peppercorn. The taste is pretty much the same, with roasted caramel malt sweetness, some fig and dark cherry sweetness, hints of brown sugar, and certainly some spice from the peppercorn and chai that provide a nice hint of a bite. Not really any discernible hop presence at all. Has a somewhat crisp, slightly prickly, also smooth and frothy, medium to full bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. Has a clean, and dry aftertaste. The flavors really like to linger on the palate after each sip. I'm really glad that Stone and friends brought this one back from land of obscurity and made it readily available to the larger craft beer community. Get this if can.


Dec 19, 2016
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StoutElk_92 from Massachusetts

4.32/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. canned on 10/10/16

Pours black with a creamy tan brown foam head. Smells like dark roasted malts, fruity figs, some fennel seed, chia seeds, pink peppercorns, caramel, molasses, brown sugar, toasted crackery malt, with earthy herbal grassy pine. Tastes like dark roasted malts, baker's chocolate, dark roast coffee, some figs, fennel seed, chia seeds, pink peppercorns, caramel, molasses, brown sugar, toasted crackery malt, with earthy herbal grassy pine. Feels medium-light bodied, creamy with moderate carbonation. Overall a nice unique dark strong ale.

Dec 10, 2016
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rodbeermunch from Nevada

3.55/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Black pour with a 3/5" beige head on it. Solid tight head, lacing above average. Aroma was complex, pepper, bittering hops, dark fruit.

More roast in the taste, spice rack, bitter, but then displays more porter and stout characteristics with the chocolate malt. More RIS style with the dark fruit bitterness. A little bit of smoke. Lots of stuff going on here.

Mar 03, 2016
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beagle75 from Iowa

3.72/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a tulip glass.

A: Opaque, dark brown color showing scant ruby-tinted light transmission at the edges; with over two fingers of beige foam head that takes its time to collapse down. Heavy lacing remains on the glass.

S: Strong wild yeast character, more band-aid than goat pasture. Dried, concentrated chile fruit is also detected, lending some minor dark qualities. Raw and rustic bitter chocolate is just barely evident. No alcohol is detected.

T: Begins off-dry, with dark syrupy fruit that appears as a mix of cherry/currant and New Mexico chiles (without the heat). This is also where the yeast-funk seems to be most noticeable--but never off-putting. The transition from fruit and overt yeast to mild refined roast is gradual during the middle. It is about mid-profile, only after the roasted malt has emerged, that a pruney-Dr. Pepper vibe also is hinted at. The finish is relatively sparse and dry, herbaceous and bitter, with just a huff of the characterful yeast. No alcohol is detected.

M: Medium to thick viscosity, smooth and slightly warming on the palate, with low carbonation.

D/O: Strong, dark, and experimental, this collaboration beer is unexpectedly loaded with yeast phenolics. Audacious fermentation metabolites, whether authentic or imagined due to the unconventional combination of ingredients, is not unwelcome in the fairly crowded profile of sensory qualities. Chile qualities abound, despite it's never having glimpsed a chile during fermentation. In the final tally it may not be a world-beating ale, but its illusory tricks prove titillating.

May 24, 2013
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jvillefan from New York

4.67/5  rDev +18.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Got a 12 oz bottle from Toronado in San Diego.

A: Jet black with a thin lace mocca brown head.

S: Peppercorn, Belgian yeast, and Licorice aroma in the beginning. Roasty and chocolatly malts bring up the rear.

T: Heavy with chocolate, toffee, spices (specifically Thyme-like, peppercorn, and a little chai). There is a slight Belgian character in there as well.

M: Perfect, it is heavy and viscous with subtle but perfect amount of carbonation.

O: Well done Stone, Firestone Walker, and 21st Ammendment. I am sad it took me so long to try them gem of a beer. Get if you can find it because the beer is very good.

Jan 20, 2013
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socon67 from New York

3.22/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A - Dark brown pour. Cola color foam rises hig and settles quickly. Moderate lacing.

S - Smells of raisins, molasses, and peppery spice. There is some residual hoppy smell but it is fleeting.

T - Tastes like a hodge-podge of flavors. Some sweetness of dried fruit that has some bready notes; like a fig newton. Has some spicy notes of freshly ground pepper. Finish is mildly bitter. But it really comes off very odd.

M - I don't think the balance on this is right, or at least I didn't like it. Had a slight aftertaste.

O - Was disappointed in this as I like all 3 of the breweries involved. Well, it isn't the first collaboration to miss the mark.

Nov 15, 2012
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ThePaleRider from California

4.15/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Close to black and no light is making it through the glass. Small tan head that leaves plenty of lacing.

S - Charred wood, toasted grans, BBQ smoke, and a little booze.

T - Dark grains and pumpernickel. Lots of cocoa and wood flavors. Very smokey on the back of the tongue, but not as much booze as I was expecting.

M - Full bodied with no carbonation present.

O - Excellent barrel aged beer. Especially for the crowd that likes the smokey ones.

Nov 06, 2012
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claspada from New Jersey

2.78/5  rDev -29.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Pours a very dark brown color with ruby highlights and a massive tannish head that displays great persistence and leaves some solid lacing.

Aromas begin with piney, resiny hops with emerging licorice bitter dark maltiness. As it warms you get a little dark fruitness and spicy peppercorns.

The tastes begin dark, roasty and rustic, with tangy molasses and figs being joined by the licorice at mid-palate As it warms the piney hops and the peppercorns begin to asste themselves.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation; a bit tingly

Overall, when it comes to beers with dark malt bills and citrusy, dank hops; it is just an odd combo that doesn't work for me. While it may work for some the bitter and spiciness is less than drinkable for my palate; the flavors just don't mesh in an approachable manner.

Sep 27, 2012
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Jeffo from Netherlands

4.3/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got this one last summer, but I have have no idea from whom. Cheers to whoever you are!

From a bottle into a snifter

APPEARANCE: Pours a one finger, medium looking, fluffy, light mocha head with good retention. Head slowly fades to a full wisp cap. Black body and understated carbonation. Splotchy wisp and ring remain leaving some dots of lacing down the glass. Good looking brew for sure.

SMELL: Dark malts, dark chocolate notes, sweet cream and some nice, hoppy notes in the back. A touch of grapefruit and pineapple for sure, with some light grapes in there. Very nice, and plenty forthcoming.

TASTE: Flavor follows suit, luckily enough. Dark malts, grapes, and some caramel sweetness before a bitter and hoppy finish. Dark chocolate, some bitter coffee, and pleny of grapefruit and piney hops after the swallow. Very flavorful. Some roasted chocolate bitterness and fruity, citrus hops linger nicely. This is enjoyable stuff.

PALATE: Medium-fuller body and medium levels of carbonation. Enough weight on this one, creamy as well, goes down smooth and finishes slightly dry on the palate. A bit of spicy alcohol lingers.

OVERALL: Either reviewers have been too harsh on this one, or it's simply getting better with age. Really enjoyed this, and while it may have been smart to have drunk it fresh, I'm certainly very pleased with how well its held up. Just wonderful stuff here. A good look, bold, enticing nose, lovely flavors and a full body make this a great drinking experience. Excellently balanced brew. Cheers again for the trade. Recommended!

Aug 27, 2012
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LiquidAmber from Washington

4.22/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Review from 4/2010 notes. Poured into a Gulden Draak tulip. Pours a dark brown, appearing black. Tan head and lacing. Aroma of roasted and sweet malt, chocolate, dark fruit. First sip tasted boozy. Improved and got more complex as it warmed. Roasted malts, peppery spices, dark fruit and chocolate throughout with a hoppy, peppery finish. Well balanced. Creamy mouth feel. Very nice.

Aug 04, 2012
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ngeunit1 from Massachusetts

4.42/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a dark brown-black with a finger of frothy chocolate colored head. The head fades down fairly slowly leaving behind some nice lacing.

S - Aroma is a mix of sweet caramel and lightly caramelized malts with some brown sugar, dark fruits, black licorice, grapefruit and pine hops, and a bit of coffee and booze.

T - Starts off with a mix of caramel malts and caramelized sugars with some brown sugar and black licorice, with a touch of grapefruit and tropical hops. Through the middle, some pine hop flavor with some bitterness comes through with some pepper, nutty, cocoa, and coffee flavors. The finish is a mix of dark fruit sweetness with some brown sugar, caramelized malts, cocoa, and a bit of booze.

M - Medium-full bodied with moderate carbonation. Feels smooth and slightly thick with a warming and sweet finish.

D - Very drinkable. Nice big but balanced dark ale with some interesting spices and other ingredients that add some nice complexity.

Jun 27, 2012
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Etan from Wisconsin

2/5  rDev -49.2%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a Spiegelau tulip.

A: Pours a straight back with a big tan head. Good retention.

S: Big bretty barnyard. Infection?

T: Funky bacteria with some slight chocolate notes and roasted character underneath.

M: Lively carbonation.

O: Yep, infected. And not in a good way. Into the drain.

May 27, 2012
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drabmuh from Maryland

3.41/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a Stone shaker pint, because I wanted to. I am also really confused by this beer and don't know what to think of it. It was overcarbonated, and I thought it could be infected due to some medicinal aromas and mild flavors but then I thought maybe it was the peppercorns I was smelling or the figs. Overall, it wasn't a winner in my book but it wasn't bad either. They really went out there on this recipe and I couldn't follow them this time.

Beer is black, dark, huge dark brown head of large bubbles, low retention, low lacing, high carbonation that settles down quickly.

Aroma is spicy, complex, mildly medicinal, almost smells like Brett c, but not quite.

Beer is light in body, perhaps approaching medium in body, not bitter at all and I was expecting it, very spicy but not in an annoying way, there is a forward medicinal quality and a dry finish, very dry. Overall kind of a confusing beer to me, I don't think I'd have it again but I'd think about it.

Nov 22, 2011
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rmcnealy from Illinois

3.38/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured chilled into a standard pint glass.

This collaboration ale poured black with a large, inconsistent, dark beige head. The aroma had a slight tinge of age so I imagine some care was put into it. The roasted caramel scent is reminiscent of deep brown ales. There is a strong maltiness that completes the taste and leaves a great mouthfeel. At 9% abv, it didn't taste too boozy. A solid beer. It wasn't exceptional, but another cool collaboration. Enjoy!

Found at Cardinal Liqs, Niles IL

Oct 21, 2011
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Kegatron from Pennsylvania

4.17/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle into a tulip glass.

Pours a straight black in the glass, with several thick fingers of mocha colored head. This stays robust; throwing up a rich cascade of lacing that hangs on the sides of the glass in sticky swathes. Those figs jump right out here in the aroma and are complimented by additional notes of cocoa, vanilla, roast, caramel, danky ripeness, and even a good bit of wet tobacco flavoring across the back of the nose. Nice complexity here.

The taste is thick with chocolate, vanilla, toffee, green citric bitterness, and then a roasty backend to the profile that then lingers with the dark fruit flavors of the figs and some warm spicy alcohol accents in the finish. The mouthfeel is fuller bodied but has more of a softer creaminess to the carbonation, almost to the point of being slick on the tongue the whole way through the feel. The ABV gives this some fullness but it never does feel overly beefy in the mouth, with just the just amount of pleasant spicy sweetness and warmth here.

This was quite tasty, with a complex chewiness to the flavors, yet the alcohol here was quite complimentary to the other flavors and never got overly warming. I almost wish that I have saved this for the wintertime, as it would have been a good one to help take the chill off a cold night.

Aug 17, 2011
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DrinkThemAll from California

4.2/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass...

A-Pours just about black or a very very deep amber, had about a 2 finger caramel tan head that dissipates to little head with slight lacing...

S-Smells like alcohol, roasted nuts, dark fruits some floral notes and some chocolate. smells complex and like chocolate cake or pudding...

T-slightly oaky and mega bitter chocolate here, getting some espresso as well as plums. hops are slightly present which is very nice...

M-Medium body with medium carbonation very bitter and hoppy, has a warm alcohol finish...

O-Very impressed with this collaboration, very tasty and complex. wish they made these in 6 packs. for being 9.5 it goes down rather smoothly...

Jul 25, 2011
El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale from Stone Brewing
Beer rating: 88 out of 100 with 284 ratings