Tuesday, April 6, 2010

El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale

Beer: El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale
Brewed by: Stone Brewing
/ 21st Amendment Brewery/Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Style: Dark Ale
ABV: 9.5%
Bottle: 12 fluid oz.
Served in: Tulip glass
Place of purchase: Stone Brewery, Escondido, CA
Price: $5.00 (or so - we weren't counting at this point....)

Figs and Fennel and Chia - oh my! Just some of the ingredients in the latest Stone Brewery collaboration. This time it's Stone Brewing meeting up with 21st Amendment Brewery, in San Francisco, CA, and Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles, CA.

Jugsy and I tried this one on tap when we were at the Stone Brewery. However, we decided to just enjoy Jugsy's birthday and not concentrate on reviews. We purchased bottles of this collaboration and reviewed them at home, once we were sober!!!! As mentioned on the bottle, "(We) tried to capture some of the historic flavors of the old El Camino Real by brewing this beer with fennel, chia, peppercorns and mission figs. It was a fun beer to brew, and in some ways took us back to the 4th grade, when our schoolteachers first introduced us to the history of California and its Missions.

Jugsy and I are both very proud NATIVE Californians. You don't find much of our kind around these parts. Let us review the kind of beer that famous Brother and Monk Junipero Serra may have enjoyed (at least we hope they let him drink beer!)

In every proper review, your trusted husband & wife team of Beeraucrats will examine the Appearance, Aroma, Taste, Mouthfeel, Drinkability and Overall Rating of the Beer and arrive at a Total Score from 1 to 10.

El Camino (Un)Real Black Ale


Black, as the name would imply. Completely opaque, even when held to the light. Medium sized, beige colored head that dissipates somewhat quickly, leaving a thinner but lasting small head. Very little lacing left behind on glass.
Jugsy: Brown/Black with a hint of dark red. Medium tan/pink head dissipates relatively quickly, leaving lacing behind. Dark and completely opaque in appearance.


Mugsy: Strong nose of piny hops mixed with coffee. Smells woodsy. Ever so slight scent of anise or licorice. Begins to smell fruity as it warms.
Jugsy: Initial aromas are of multi-layered hops, coffee and roasted malts. Sweet black licorice comes through as the beer warms a bit. Overall smell is fresh (slightly piny) with rich coffee, chocolate and herb sweetness.


Hops and roasted malt come first. Next on the palate is light taste of chocolate and then fruit. The fruit flavor intensifies as the beer gets warmer. Fruits like prunes or sugary dates. Very complex. Definitely becomes sweeter and less bitter as it warms.
Jugsy: Bitter hops and roasted malt hit the tongue first, then quickly give way to a bittersweet chocolate flavor. Definite taste of licorice and something herbal - lavender, perhaps? Complex flavors reveal something different in each sip. Aftertaste is of bitter hops, coffee and licorice.


Mugsy: Very light on the tongue. I wouldn't describe it as watery, due to the sweetness, but definitely not heavy like a stout or porter. Quite refreshing, actually.
Jugsy: The flavors make for a bold mouthfeel, neither heavy nor light. Carbonation is significant and the bitter, numbing hops only add to the sensation.


Very easy to throw back, especially when on the colder side. As it warms, the sugary taste of the beer may become a little off-putting. Also, at 9.5% ABV, this is one that you would want to sip and not slug.
Jugsy: While the El Camino (Un)Real is a very enjoyable and drinkable beer, both the complexity in palate and high ABV (9.5%) make this a specialty rather than a session beer. It's clearly meant to be savored and sipped to be properly appreciated.


Complex, especially when it's colder (mind you, not right out of the fridge cold - ales should be enjoyed between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the ale). The sweetness becomes dominant as the ale warms which is unfortunate, as I really liked the original mix of hops, malt and fruity, chocolaty sweetness. Whatever the case, would I drink this beer again? Absolutely. I would just drink it quicker! Is this my favorite Stone collaboration? No, but that's not my point here. It's obvious that the guys at Stone, Firestone Walker and 21st Amendment had a blast coming up with this fabulous concoction that includes mission figs, fennel and chia (ch-ch-ch-chia!) seeds. This is a great example of the kind of fun, out-of-the-box ideas about brewing that we get from Stone (and their collaborators) that make their beers stand out above so many others. Nice work, folks! This would pair well, with rich foods like roasts, stews, or saucy dishes.
Jugsy: El Camino (Un)Real? Named so perhaps because the flavors take you on a journey that's familiar yet mysterious at the same time. The taste can best be described as kaleidoscopic, as new flavors jump out unexpectedly and dance for a moment on your tongue. I can't imagine what food would be able to hold its own against this beer. I say, drink it on its own (but on a full belly!) and allow yourself to explore the dark.

Mugsy: 7.65

Jugsy: 7.77

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