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

very good
274 Ratings
no score
Send samples
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

For Trade:
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 274 |  Reviews: 163
Photo of sidetracked
4.03/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black with a substantial medium brown head. Lots of lacing.

Smell is dark roasted malts, bitter coffee, and dark fruit that adds a slight sweetness.

Taste is heavy on roasted malts providing a bitter coffee flavor. Some molasses and dark fruit come through at the finish.

Medium to full bodied with a slight syrupyness and low carbonation. Semi-dry finish.

Drinks much like an imperial stout. I couldn't detect any of the fennel seed or peppercorns, but the beer has a very enjoyable flavor.


 512 characters

Photo of Beerenauslese
4.8/5  rDev +23.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours jet black with a tan head that dissipates to a fine layer of foam, leaving some lacing on the glass.

Aromas of roasted malt, bread, chocolate, coffee, raisins, pepper.

All of these aromas come through in the taste, which is dominated nicely by the roasted malts yielding flavors of dark chocolate and roasted coffee, raisins, juniper berries and a peppery, pleasant hop bitterness in the finish.

Light body and moderate carbonation gives this a creamy mouthfeel.

This is a great version of a dark ale. It is light in body and dry, yet packed with flavor, and nicely hopped. The alcohol level is high but the tastes balance it well. This is excellent as a final brew to an evening.

 694 characters

Photo of sandiego67
4.53/5  rDev +16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- Very attractive dark black with a huge creamy dark tan head. I didn't get as much lacing as some of the other reviewers.

S- Strong peppercorn with hints of licorice (fennel).

T- Initial taste is boozy but not too warm, dissipates quickly. Big roasted malt, cocoa and coffee notes. Licorice is apparent but not overwhelming.

MF- Low carbonation. Strong, warm aftertaste.

DB- Very drinkable. Should be a hit with the stout fans looking for something different. I suggest that one or more of the 3 collaborators add this to their lineup.

 542 characters

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

Poured into tulip glass.

Pours a vry dark brown with a nice creamy dense head on it. Dissipates pretty fast leaving not much lacing.

The smell is dark frut, malt and a little bit of booze.

The taste is dense. I feel like someone bottled up a forrest and gave it to me. So many different earthy flavors happening. Lots of malt, figs a little bit of bitter finish from either the hops or the different seeds they used in this brew.

A very delicious brew indeed!

 463 characters

Photo of DovaliHops
4.4/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This beer pours like a stout with it's dark color and tan, creamy head. The smell of the peppercorn is there right when you pore it into a glass, but it tends to fade away as it's exposed to the air. Hints of dark fruits in the nose and very sweet scent. VERY roast-like taste with first initial sip and then fades to smokey bitterness with delicious malts as well. This beer could pass for an imperial stout, but I think the brewers were trying to go for their own thing here. This beer is VERY tasty, and at $2.99 per 12oz bottle, I could never pass this up. Good job on a great collaboration ale!

 599 characters

Photo of cbutova
4.21/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- A great looking beer, good way to start. Pitch black with a huge creamy dark tan head. Very thick lace coats the entire glass from a head that has amazing retention. Such a good looking beer with an almost whipped cream coating atop it.

S- Mostly dark roast stout elements with malt and roasty notes present. The peppercorn aroma is hugely apparent but does not sting. The other additions give a grassy, earthy, almost green aspect. The fennel lends a licorice-like aroma. Cool blend but the strength dies down a bit.

T- A very nicely done experiment. Up front with roasty malt, cocoa and coffee notes. The peppercorn taste is great and somehow does not lend a spicy hot feeling to the beer, very cool. Licorice-like notes come in from the fennel. The grassy, earthy taste is there as well probably from hops and the other spice additions. I like the blend of the fennel/pepper/stout a lot.

MF- Thick oily body with a fair amount of creaminess to it. The carbonation is low and would normally suit a stout, but the spicy flavors call for a bit more. The body is also a bit warm.

DB- After the disappointing porter, I wasn't sure what to expect. The 1/2 price of this one and breweries involved sucked me back into the collaborations. I like the idea with the spices used and how they play into the flavor. Probably the best Stone Collaboration yet. Also a surprise that it is 9.50%, hidden very well.

 1,407 characters

Photo of spoons
3.68/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle to a tulip.

This brew is blacker than black in color. Has a one finger coffee foam that sits very shaving cream like on top.

Smell is complex. Some dark/black malt. Followed by sweet potpourri. Almost artificial sweetness, like a soap or a shampoo smells. A little coca cola smell as well. Maybe some coffee too.

The taste is strange at first. A weird malt flavor with a roasty finish.
I like it better as it warms a little but still leaves a lingering weirdness on the palate.

I'd try this again just to see if I feel any different. Maybe after sitting around for a while the flavors might smooth out.

 629 characters

Photo of sitarist
3.93/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep dark root-beer color. There is about a finger of foamy tan head that falls to a nice top with a couple thin rings of lacing.

Smells like Pumpernickel and dark fruit preserves, with hints of sassafras, licorice, and spice. The aroma is big and effervescent.

Root-beer and licorice hit my mouth first followed by a nice peppery bite that fades to a dark fruit/plums peppery finish.

The mouthfeel is sticky and warm, medium body, with a bit too much fizz.

This is a great beer and its drink-ability will only improve with time.

 542 characters

Photo of gford217
3.73/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to Taylor for this bottle.

Pours completely black in the glass with a big fluffy beige head that recedes fairly quickly leaving some impressive lacing.

The aroma is roasted black malts with some sweet citrus hops and a mixture of spices that I probably wouldn't be able to identify if the bottle didn't tell me it was fennel and peppercorn.

The taste has an herbal hop bitterness up front before the heavily roasted black malts of the backbone take over. The figs are present as well though they get swept away by the spices in the finish. Dry with a bit of alcohol burn going down.

The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with moderate carbonation and an interesting overall spiciness that lingers through the finish.

Another interesting black collaboration from Stone who has put out some interesting things in the series over the past year or more. Not my favorite of the collaborations, but still tasty.

 922 characters

Photo of homebrew311
3.88/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: pours a n opaque black with dark brown head, appearance is very similar to a stout, 3 finger head on pour, good retention with lots of lacing.

S: I pick up figs and licorice on the front along with some floral notes and spicy hops, also some roasted malts in there as well. The aroma seems a little bit muted but as it warms, it gets spicier.

T: the front starts with sweet malts, notes of figs, this quickly turns into molasses, licorice, some notes of coffee and chocolate, and again some spiciness on the finish. The finish is a tad sweet with a little bit of alcohol sneaking through. This beer is incredibly complex and features many different flavors.

MF: thick body, medium carbonation, smooth texture

D: this is a bit on the sweet side to be considered highly drinkable, the flavors are nice interesting and over all it is a great brew!

 851 characters

Photo of fastsrt
4.27/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle in snifter

A: black with a nice tan head

S: licorice, malt, spice.

T: Licorice, alcohol, nice spicy back flavors this beer is wonderfully balanced.

M: Low carbonation, not much sweetness finishes dry, and the fennel sicks around on the pallet for quite some time.

D: highly drinkable but this one is a treat and would not drink more than one.

 364 characters

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

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a Loterbol tulip. Thanks to StevePens for the hook-up!

A: Pours a dark, dark, RIS-styled black with 1 1/2 fingers of dark khaki colored head that retains for a good while, fed by some pretty active carbonation. Webs and sheets of sticky tan lace were left behind.

S: Picking up aromas of licorice, dark fruit, cocoa, and a dab of dark rum.

T: Pretty much just as above with a creeping hint of white (pink) pepper. Some rich dark chocolate and molassas, as well.

M: On the fuller side of medium bodied. Earthy licorice/dark chocolate combo is aided and abbetted by the prickly spice of the pepper (and alcohol, no doubt).

D: I was quite impressed by this. Rich, sweet, earthy, and dry. Thanks Steve!

 734 characters

Photo of scottfrie
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into snifter.

A: Pours a thick pitch black with a very thin coffee colored head that faded into a thin film.
S: Light roasted coffee, dark malts, toasted oats, dark chocolate and sweet dark fruits including the figs the beer is brewed with, raisins, and red grapes. Notes of faint hops, honey, and alcohol as well.
T: Not as roasted as the nose suggests, not as much coffee either. The sweet fruits really dominate along with the roasted malt and a little bit of chocolate. Hops provide some bitterness in the finish along with a decent touch of alcohol warmth. There are some other vague spices, but I can't pick out the pepper corn, fennel or chia. The roasted sweet flavor really dominates anything else.
M: Medium-thick body with soft, tingly carbonation, and some warmth in your throat at the finish.
D: Tastes a lot like an imperial stout or a RIS but weaker. Not a horrible beer, and I'm glad I tried it, but I don't think I'll be buying this again.

 971 characters

Photo of brownbeer
4.05/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Dark and opaque with a thin, dark, light brown head.

One of the most unique and interesting noses I've encoutered in a beer. If and foremost, it reminds me of an organic food store; seedy and herbal. Black licorice, bitter orange, and chocolate are in there as well.

As far as the taste, it's a little beyond my palate, as I'm not familiar with some of the ingredients used here. In the end, it turned out very well and is a great conversation beer. Props for originality.

 474 characters

Photo of tpd975
4.03/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a nice dark flat black with a nice tall tan colored head. Excellent retention with huge sheet of lace.

S: Bold aromas. Lots of roast, with notes of dark dark espresso, chocolate, and grassy hops.

T: Roasty for sure. Lots of coffee, a bit astringent to be honest. Hints of chocolate and mild dark fruit. The hops are there, green and bitter. Hints of anise, and a big dose of booze.

M: Medium in body, smooth, a bit too much booze, with a boozy bitter finish.

D: Not the most drinkable but I like it. No bones about it, no matter what they call it...this is a fairly bitter Imperial Stout

 601 characters

Photo of OBeerMeGreatOne
3.33/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I poured this from a 12oz. bottle into a pint glass.

It poured pitch black with a nice, large tan head. Though the head receded quickly, it left some real nice lacing. This is a strong smelling beer, very sweet with the figs and peppercorn following roasted malts. It tastes like a spiced stout. I taste a little smoke in the background, maybe that's the seeds and peppercorn, not really sure but it is interesting. The feel is very alcoholic with moderate carbonation. Not too thick and sticky. Overall, I might grab a few to cellar for a bit and try later but not at the top of my favorite beer list. Could be interesting with age.

 634 characters

Photo of popery
3.56/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Good but a bit harsh. This is basically an imperial stout - all of the specialty ingredients really don't provide much flavor. There's some licorice flavor from the anise, but it's relatively mild. The peppercorns are even milder, just a touch of fruity spice. As for the chia seeds and figs, I'll just take their word for it. There are definitely some funny flavors in there, but they're largely masked by lots of roast and alcohol. The main problem with the beer is that the alcohol is somewhat harsher than appropriate, particularly in the finish. Roasted malt is really the main flavor. Some chocolate/coffee. Feel is a bit too thin. Flavor is generally sweet with lots of booze, roast and hop bitterness. Great looking beer - big light brown head atop coffee black liquid. Ok but not worth the price.

 805 characters

Photo of oggg
3.74/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

From K&L in Redwood City

The bottle says it's brewed with fennel and figs.

A: This beer pours into my goblet and forms probably the most beautiful non-nitrous head I've ever seen -- nice and big and creamy, brown on top, off white after a sip.
S: The nose is restrained with caramel malt, a touch of chocolate, and then a little vinous alcohol halfway through the glass.
T: Thick chewy, the sweetness is quickly balanced by a moderate level of clean hop bitterness. The burnt flavors of a nice big stout arise from the edges. Mild dark fruit (raisin/prune) plays a minor role, compared to a lot of RIS beers out there. Not really any fig. The fennel manifests as a broad licorice taste that really blends in quite well.
M: big, thick, full, but...
D: the finish is syrupy and cloying.

Comments: this is a nice big big stout, but the finish is subpar. I'm guessing the fig was mostly useful in providing sugar, so maybe that's why I don't get any fig. Or peppercorn. The licorice is alright, I suppose.

 1,008 characters

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.

 1,296 characters

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.

 859 characters

Photo of kinnaird
4.02/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I have not reviewed a beer in forever. I'm on this site frequently, and taste my fair share, but the reviewing bug has never quite set in for me. Well, I'd like to finally break the 20 mark. I've been sitting on 16 for entirely too long. Seeing as I have no work today, it's a cloudy day, and the mercury is sitting at a chilly 54 (it's late April in SoCal), this fine ale seems like it will itch the scratch.

Well, the name describes its color pretty accurately. It is an opaque black. No light penetration through my Bruery tulip.

Light hints of chocolate, herbs, and dark fruits (Mission Figs). It's very balanced without any single piece of this beer's aromatic puzzle taking center stage. At first I didn't like that I couldn't smell it from a few feet away, but I'm beginning to appreciate how the subtle aromatics demonstrate restraint. It allows room for this collaboration to grow on you.

It tastes like a 6% stout with a bit of a subtle spicy aftertaste that makes you wonder what all was added (if you didn't have the bottle or BA in front of you). After a few minutes without a sip, I pick up bitter, coffee-like roastiness. There's a reason this is black, right?

Nice and smooth. Not liquid velvet, but the carbonation is dialed. It's a 9.5% ale, and it should have the correct carbonation to match. Mitch, Matt, Shaun, and the rest of the talented brewers who had a hand in this project did a great job. They're probably not wine enthusiasts.

Drinkability is good. I recommend this brew just on its consistencies with a good American Strong Ale alone. But, the addition of the other ingredients makes this a delight. I'm not sure how this will change, but if it does get better, there's black gold in these little bottles.

 1,741 characters

Photo of scruffwhor
4.17/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Easy and simple black color beneath a nice three finger tan head that super slowly recedes to a thin film of foam in my Goose Island wine glass. That never happens!!!

The fennel really mixes well with roasted malts in both the aroma and the taste for that matter. Thew aroma though, is bitter roasted malts, somewhat noticeable fennel and definite peppercorn aromas.

This beer smells spicey and starts out spicey in flavor as well. The peppercorns and hops dominate upfront. But the heavily roasted malts and fennel make their stand in the middle of the flavor profile. The finish has a more earthy and citric hop along with another organic, herbal flavor later on the the palate.

The overall mouthfeel was grainy and herbal upfront to the middle. With the finish being a warm herb and alcohol.

 799 characters

Photo of AleWynch
4.37/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Stout in color...murky dark, nice 1 finger, mocha head, decent lace.

S: Very pleasant clear hop aroma. Earthy, a little piney... All green and fresh hop on the nose. Really, really nice hop aroma here.

T: Initial fennel/mint right up front (nice), followed by a solid malt backbone - but not portery or stout-like to me, but more ala the malt backbone of 90min IPA...Nice malt complexity with figs and spice (smoky peppercorn)...Nice long finish. I think you have to set aside its color so as not to start classifying it as a porter/stout style. With eyes closed, it's a DIPA with extra interest...

M: Soft, rich, but again like a malty DIPA, not so much a porter or stout...Seems on target.

D: ABV is well hidden. Will be interesting to see how it cellars. Not sure I'd want to drink them all night, but can't find anything to detract from drinkability.

 861 characters

Photo of barleywinefiend
3.3/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured a light black color with good carbonation and a brownish head. Nose is spicey, chcolate, roasted. Taste is peppercorns, dark fruits, chocolate, roasted malt. Mouthfeel has thin, booze feel with roasted malt, chocolate and perhaps coffee. Not one I would drink againa d my leat favorite colab yet.

 303 characters

Photo of steve8robin
3.76/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Bought this one on a whim.

A: I can't believe this is not considered a stout or porter. Amazing dark black with a thick 2 inch off-white head that fades at a good rate. Good.

S: Hard to get a good scent. Just some bitter grapefruit oakiness mixed in with earthy hops. Nothing special.

T: Tastes like a sweet porter. Earthy hops and candi sugar malts blend well upfront. Hints of booziness on the backend. Good.

M: Carbonation balance is nothing special.

D: Goes down very easy dispite the hints of bitter booziness. Very good.

All in all, this beer was decent. Not super special, but still good to try at least once if you can find it readily available. Not worth hunting down.

 684 characters

21st Amendment / Firestone Walker / Stone El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale from Stone Brewing
3.9 out of 5 based on 274 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.