21st Amendment / Firestone Walker / Stone El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale | Stone Brewing

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21st Amendment / Firestone Walker / Stone El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale21st Amendment / Firestone Walker / Stone El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale

Brewed by:
Stone Brewing
California, United States

Style: American Strong Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.50%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by womencantsail on 03-27-2010

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Reviews: 163 | Ratings: 273
Photo of Sammy
3.7/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Roast and rosmary in the aroma. Black with some off-brown head, and lacey. Above-average mouthfeel. Some spice and pepper,a little vanilla, but mainly Coffee taste. Not getting so much of the uniqueness. Decent carbonation. So-so beer, a little disapointing.

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Photo of brentk56
3.73/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: We've got a stout-like pour here, with a very dark colored liquid (scant ruby highlights) and a massive tannish head that displays great persistence and leaves a curtain of lace

Smell: Unusual aromatics, that require a bit of deconstructing - it has the piney hops that are emblematic of a dark Stone beer; the Mission figs are easily apparent, as well; the licorice is also in there in a big way; and if you sniff it for long enough, the pink peppercorns will attack your nostrils

Taste: Dark and fruity, up front, with molasses and figs being joined by the licorice at mid-palate; the hops and the peppercorns also arrive just before the swallow; the finish is a balancing act of malt, dark fruit, hops, spices all accentuated by the heat of the pink peppercorns - don't I recall that they were pulled from the market years ago for health reasons?

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

Drinkability: Certainly an example of extreme brewing but the flavors just don't coalesce in an approachable manner

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Photo of emerge077
4.03/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Striated layer of mocha foam, two fingers deep. Sticky lacing, pretty nice retention.

Smells green and hoppy, hint of roast or coffee, but not overly aromatic. Vaguely sweet and spicy as it warms, like snickerdoodle cookies.

Rich and bitter, roast coffee, dark fruit... could be figs but hard to pinpoint. Molasses, leafy green hops. Roasty char in the aftertaste, with a lingering bitterness too. Full bodied and sticky. A little much, but good in small doses.

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Photo of zeff80
3.85/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an opaque, jet black color with a small, tan head of foam. Okay head retention and some lacing

S - It smelled of boozy alcohol and sweet caramel malt. Some floral hop presence.

T - More of a roasted malt flavor you'd expect in a stout. It had some sharp citrusy hop bitterness.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium to full bodied ale with a dry finish.

D - This is another good collaboration brew that Stone has done. It almost seems like it could fit the new Black IPA category.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.32/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Pours nearly black with a good tan head. The nose is really nice and brings forward some citrus and tropical hops as well as a bit of pine. Roasted malt with a bit of chocolate in there, and faint hints of pepper. I was really skeptical of this after not enjoying most of the other collaborations; however, this really worked out and the pepper didn't really go too far. Nice mouthfeel with a bit of spice. Nice roast and bitter characteristics playing off one another. Quite drinkable; a very nice collaboration that wasn't taken too far in any one direction.

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Photo of jlindros
3.88/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

A: A big thick rich dark head keeps rising until it just reaches the top of my oversized snifter glass, then fades slowly, leaving a nice lacing, with a beer that is essentially jet black.

N: A nice malt and hop combination. Some dark malts, dark crystal, black patent, perhaps a little roast, touch of sweetness, and oatmeal even I think. Then a nice spicy earthy hop characteristic that adds a nice floral bitter hop component. It has some creaminess to it too, and slight chocolate. As I get deeper and deeper whiffs, I start to get some spicy booze as well.

T: Starts rich and creamy, thick, but not syrupy. Again malty, with lots of dark malts, caramel, oatmeal, chocolate milk, some sweetness, and a nice luscious taste. Before I can get to the hops the booze is starting to get overpowering, drinking like an 11-12% beer, I can even taste the booze, let alone the warming and tingly feels. THen there are also some hops, a nice bitterness, more from hops than any roasted character, spicy and part grassy hops even, little earthy. Chewy and malty overall.

M: Pretty thick, luscious and smooth, with good carbonation.

F: Pretty bitter on the finish, with a nice hoppy bite to it. The bitterness has quite a bit of that earthy hop characteristic, as well as some fresh musty hop bit to it a little. There is a little lingering sweetness, but mostly dry by now. SOme creamy chocolate milk and oatmeal linger, with touches of dark malts, and even a hint of smoke. The finish is mostly a showing of the hops and bitterness though. I do get a hint of a nuttiness and raisin characteristic though, very late on the finish.

Oh yeah, and I have to give a shoutout to Visionaries for sending me one of these, never hurts to have an extra on hand for aging.

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Photo of Kegatron
4.17/5  rDev +6.9%
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.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
4.23/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

A: The beer is a deep black color, with a short beige head that fades very slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains roasted malts, chocolate, some dark fruit and a good amount of hops.

T: The taste likewise starts out with a hearty roasted malt character. Then some mildly sweet flavors of dark fruit, chocolate and some coffee come in followed by a strong but not over-powering hops bitterness. There's a little bit of creaminess to it and a good balance. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp and smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, strong kick, good representation of style, this is a very good strong dark beer worth drinking for a long time.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.35/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Polished mahogany liquid in the lower half of the snifter and dark brown sugar mousse in the upper half. The head shrinks slowly, develops a little rockiness as it does so, and is leaving small scraps of melty suds on the sides of the glass.

The nose is a pleasant combination of roasted malt, hops and assorted spices. None of the unique ingredients (all from California) are appreciated per se. The brewers added chia seeds (which create Chia Pets when they sprout on pottery), pink peppercorns, fennel seeds and Mission figs. Second solid score in a row.

The following combination gets me every time: talented brewers, quality ingredients, abundant ingredients, interesting ingredients, hugely flavorful beer, huge hops. This offering is the bee's knees for those of you who feel the same. It's probably a positive that none of the ingredients really steal the show.

A massive amount of massively roasted malt might have something to do with the leveling effect on the flavor profile. Dark chocolate and charred coffee beans tend to gloss over nuance. Sweet and bitter are locked in a titanic duel, while fruity and spicy-herbal happily trail along in their wake. There may be a hint of warmth from the peppercorns and a little earthiness from the various seeds. Damn good beer!

The mouthfeel isn't sappy and sticky, which is to its credit. It's still at least medium-full for the ABV and is carbonated to perfection. There are no rough edges in sight and there's plenty of creamilicious hang-on.

El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale is yet another outstanding Stone Collaboration, this time California-only. There are too many of these to brew them all on a regular or seasonal basis, but this beautiful beast should get some serious consideration if the brewery can squeeze it into their already tight schedule.

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Photo of billab914
3.53/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into my Allagash glass. It poured black in color with a big, bubbly, frothy, tan colored head to it. The head retreated to the edge of the glass and left some nice lacing as I drank it.

The first thing apparent in the aroma is the citrusy, grapefruit like hoppiness. I get the herbal, very slightly peppery flavors I assume is the added spices. It gives the hoppiness an interesting twist. A moderate malty sweetness is behind it all with just a touch of roastiness. The alcohol is pretty apparent as well.

The taste starts out with some of the herbal flavors along with some of that hoppiness as well. Midway I get more of a dry, roasty flavor coming through. It gets sweeter in the finish with the figs really coming through as well as some of the herbal qualities lingering. Some alcohol shows through as well.

The mouthfeel is on the thicker side with moderate carbonation. Drinkability is decent, it was an interesting beer with some cool flavors. The figs were particularly interesting to me, and the spices weren't bad either. At least the spices were more reserved and didn't dominate the beer. Not a bad beer at all but one that probably falls into the interesting and cool to try once category and not a regular purchase category.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.2/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Glad to have shared this with myself at my nightly tastings in my living room with my wife and my cat.

deep caramel color and a soft tan head on top that really came through quite nicely i have to say. aroma is rich malts, lots of caramel, vanilla and touches of oak and light hops rounding it out. again nicely done. flavor was off the charts as i got most of the double in the flavor with huge malts but the light hops in the finish with a touch of oak an vanilla rouned it out nicely. seemed to have no heat to it an this went own with little effort.

overall a very solid offering

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Photo of womencantsail
3.61/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at Stone

A: The pour is nearly black in color with a solid tan colored head with slight lacing.

S: The nose is roasty with plenty of spice--mainly pepper. There is also a light fruity sweetness from the figs.

T: The roast is perhaps a bit more intense than in the nose which is quickly followed by the flavor and sweetness of figs. The peppercorns follow that and all of this is accompanied by notes of oak, a light floral character, and a touch of bitterness.

M: The beer has a medium-to-full body with a rather full level of carbonation.

D: The flavors were very interesting and kept me coming back for more sips to see what I could find next. Not necessarily my favorite of the collaborations, but definitely "interesting".

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.41/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a Dogfish Head snifter.

Big thanks to GoGriz for this bottle!

Another directive from VDubb. Word, son. It pours a stark onyx topped by a half-finger of rather quickly-dissipating ecru foam. The nose comprises dark wheat, Coca-Cola, light roasted malts, maple syrup, and some form of unidentified booziness. I gotta say, this isn't starting out too well. The taste has all of the aforementioned elements, though the booze is decidedly down a few notches, and some chocolate, molasses, fig, and Dr. Pepper (AKA plum, I'm told) notes join in on the fun. It's better, but something's still not entirely copacetic here. The body is a solid medium, with a moderate carbonation and a somewhat chalky finish. Overall, a decent collaboration, but I don't think things came together as intended. Still, definitely worth a try if possible.

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Photo of stakem
4.2/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Stone pint glass this brew appears a very dark brown to black color. 2 fingers of darkly tanned fluff for a head appear and slowly receed leaving an uneven cratored surface and patches of lace all around the glass. The aroma of this brew has a nice citrus and piney hop character along with some sweetness of dark fruitiness like figs and just an all together toasty smelling scent. Taste upfront is a mixture of hop and dark burnt grainy bitterness that leaves a "toasted" flavor in your mouth strikingly similar to what the aroma suggested. The alcohol plays a pretty significant role in this flavor along with a warmth in the back of the throat. Along with the toasted flavors and alcohol presence there is a bit of a spice character here that really throws a wrench into the normal flavors for dark beer. Sometimes it tastes a little like strong coffee, slightly musty and earthy yet other times it comes across a bit peppery and spicey. All the while, the slight twang of alcohol and hops mingle their way into this brew as well. This is a pretty full bodied beer with lots of flavors going on and a significant alcohol punch. The faint lingering dark fruitiness/sweetness underneath is quite enjoyable as it offsets the bitterness contributed by the hops and dark grain. Overall this was an interesting experience, well balanced with a lot of complexity. It took a few sips for this brew to really come together for me but it is quite good.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.13/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Picked this up at Hyde Park Binny's Express. Served in a Stone Arrogant Bastard pint glass.

A - Two fingers of pillow-soft mocha foam rises up late in the pour, and then slowly dissipates to a thick cap and leaves behind spotty lacing. Body is a dark, dark, brown with some cherry highlights to it.

S - Floral hops, cocoa, some light fig and licorice (fennel). I don't really get much of the peppercorn listed on the bottle, and I have no idea what a chia seed is, let alone smells like. Well-integrated, with no obvious booze.

T - Taste is a little more roasty and bitter, with some earthy hop character as well. There's maybe a touch of spiciness in the aftertaste that I would attribute to the peppercorn, but it otherwise drinks like a hoppy porter, with lots of cocoa and dark fruit notes. Alcohol is well-hidden.

M - Light carbonation zest. Medium body that seems a tad light for 9.5%. Finishes very sticky and chewy. Good, but nothing special.

D - 12oz is a good size for this one, even though the only real inhibitor is the higher ABV. This is a nice change of pace, and probably the most successful of the Stone collaboration beers that I've had (only missed the Holiday Ale). I was initially worried when I read the list of spices, but they are very understated and integrate well.

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Photo of drabmuh
3.41/5  rDev -12.6%
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.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.22/5  rDev +8.2%
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.

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Photo of Wasatch
4.03/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks goes out to GoGriz for this brew.

12oz. Bottle

Poured into a chalice a very nice black color, nice carbonation, very nice thick one-finger plus creamy tan head, with some nice thick creamy sticky lacing left behind. The nose is malty, with some chocolate/toffee, licorice. The taste is slightly sweet, malty, lots of chocolate/toffee notes, and a nice touch of licorice. Medium body, ABV is hidden pretty well with this one. Drinkable, this is a pretty nice brew, glad to have gotten a chance to try it.

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Photo of DoubleJ
4.08/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I've found a trend with the Stone collaborations beers that, sadly, does not suit well for El Camino (Un)Real. C1, dissapointment. C2, yummy. C3, dissapointment. C4, yummy. C5, ???? On to the beer:

Ink black. Mocha tint in the head color. Oh, and the head is thick and rocky. There's little sign of head deflation. It's a looker alright. The aroma is hard to describe overall, but I do like it. Chocolate, rose pedals, some other aromas I can't really describe well. A little metallic. It looks like this trend of C-brews will be broken.

What is this, a spiced porter? Whatver it is, it is appealing to me. A little roasty is the malt, with a whisper of smoke. The assorted spices brewed in this beer are hard to pinpoint individually, but works in the overall picture. The spiciness never overpowers in the beer, which I think helps its cause. Somehow, the 9.5% ABV passes through without much sting on the palate. But...you do feel some warming in my chest and stomach. It's medium-heavy in feel, with a smooth, creamy feel.

Collaboration #5: success. El Camino (Un)Real is certainly unreal. Now all we need is a Pacific Coast Highway themed collaboration between Stone and two other breweries.

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Photo of Mora2000
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Exiled for sharing this bottle.

The beer pours a dark brown to black color with a tan head. The aroma is chocolate, roasted malt and piney hops. The flavor is chocolate, smoke, pine, roasted malt and toasted malt. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation. A very nice strong ale which hides the alcohol very well. Glad I got to try this one.

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Photo of flagmantho
4.03/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: two fingers of thick dark-tan head emerged slowly from this viscous, entirely black liquid. Superb.

Smell: nice aroma of a barleywine with some added chocolate malt. Hops are earthy and bitter; strongly present but not overly aggressive. A nice balance.

Taste: strong malt flavor with a little chocolate roastiness. There's a lot of alcohol fruitiness here, which is unsurprising at 9.5%. Hops are floral and pungent at the beginning, but build to a very strong vegetable bitterness at the end. This reminds me of a hoppy Baltic porter. Nice.

Mouthfeel: medium-thick somewhat syrupy body with relatively low carbonation. Not creamy, but super silky smooth as it goes down. Quite nice.

Drinkability: quite drinkable for almost 10% ABV. I wouldn't have a session of these, but this one is quite tasty.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled August 2010
A vigorous pour into my 25cl tulip glass produces a four-finger thick, richly browned, dark tan colored head. The beer is quite dark in color, near black but with some dark chocolate notes to it. The beer shows quite opaque when held up to the light, but does show a touch of a concentrated amber hue around the edges. The aroma smells quite interesting; fruity, a sort of anise like character, a bit of herbal notes, some definite prune, green peppercorn and something a bit like herbal coriander. A touch of dark malt adds a hint of roast towards the end; it gets wrapped up in the fruit character and comes off as burnt prune and perhaps burnt caramel more than anything. Other dark malt notes that are more sweet make the entirety that is this beers aroma remind me of a rich, black, dense, very sweet, spice cake / bread.

Smooth tasting, creamy and viscous up front, the beer finishes with some roast grain bitterness, some spicy notes and a lingering, almost chalk-like, cocoa and toasted malt character. This is fairly sweet (though it finishes dry because of the previously mentioned character), which accentuates notes of prunes and dried figs. A soft, but firm bitterness helps the spices in the finish balance out the up front sweetness and fruit character, though the latter is definitely the dominant note in this beer. This is most definitely a sipping beer, what with the sweetness, the spices and the medium body; it is not overly heavy for its strength though.

Wow, I am quite a bit more impressed with this beer than I was expecting. To be honest, when I purchased this beer I figured it would be another hoppy, dark beer. I really like the interplay of spices and dark malt character here; this ended up pretty darn tasty and the whole thing really reminds me of a rich, black, dense, very sweet, spice cake / bread. The spices can be a little strong here (though so can the rest of the beer) and I am glad that I am splitting this bottle of beer (the alcohol contributes to this as well). And the smaller portions make this a great dessert beer (I bet you it would be quite tasty as a vanilla ice cream beer float).

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.25/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Inflatablechair brought this to a recent tasting.... thanks Sammy!!

Pours with a short lasting dark tan head... the brew is the expected black but clear with deep ruby highlites.. okay lace and retention.

Nose is interesting and has some of the advertised ingredients... more roasty than anything else with a signature Stone hoppiness... subtle licorice.

More licorice on the palate with dark roast and some dark fruity essence.. hints of raisins or (I guess) figs.. ehhh.. cardamom and emerging pepper spice/heat with warmth .. seems a mess to me... finishes sorta dry and leaving the peppercorns, roasty malts, and spices just to fight each other..

Body and carbonation are fine given the big ABV.. EtOH was rather well hidden..

Doesn't really mesh... I appreciate it .. but not something I will search out.

Thanks Sam... Glad I got to try this while it was still pretty fresh.


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Photo of John_M
3.9/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Max's today.

The beer pours a darkish brown with good head retention and lacing. As with the bottle, the nose is impressive, though the perfumy hoppiness isn't quite as intense. Still, this beer shows some nice coffee, chocolate and underlying hoppy bitterness. Flavors replicate the nose, with some noticeable bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, with a fairly long, fairly bitter finish. Drinkability is pretty good, with the 9.5% pretty well disguised. I can tell the alcohol is up there, but it's not over the top or too intense.

Still a very fine beer, but I thought this beer considerably better out of the bottle.

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Photo of Karibourgeois
3.03/5  rDev -22.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

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.

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21st Amendment / Firestone Walker / Stone El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale from Stone Brewing
3.9 out of 5 based on 273 ratings.
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