For Sip with us Saturday, I said I was going to drink something by Stone…sort of true.  My chosen tipple was a collaborative brew by Stone, Firestone Walker, and 21st Amendment.  The beer itself was an interesting collaboration, and Stone used a version of Firestone’s Union system for the brew.  Cool stuff.  The beer is simply classified as a Black Aleā€”and a strong one at that.  At 9.5%, it’s not a small beer.  The price tag was $3.99 for a 12 ounce bottle.  On to the brew.

The Pour: Black would be an accurate description for the color of El Camino.  In fact, stout-like in color is maybe the best descriptor.  The creamy, light brown, and very stable head added to the stout perception.  At any rate, I thought the beer was very nice looking.  A small amount of lacing occurred as I sipped it down.

The Nose: Given the El Camino was 9.5% ABV, it wasn’t a surprise to catch some of the alcohol notes on the nose.  Citrusy hops also dominated.  In this way, the beer certainly had Stone’s signature on it.  However, the hops were not simply the piney/grapefruity hops that I’m used to; they had a very nice orange peel tone to them.  A bit of char also stopped by to say hello.  Some roasty grains, coffee, and a hint of chocolate were present as well.

The Taste: There was a fair amount going on in the brew.  Like many of Stone’s beers, there was an immediate hop impression.  In this case, the orange peel citrus tones came through.  The alcohol warmth on the nose came through to the palate.  Roasty grains, bits of cocoa, and a (more than average for Stone) nice, residual sweetness helped prop the beer up. In tandem with the sweetness was a nice caramel pop and a bready backbone.  Hints of smoke, oak dryness, and a pronounced black pepper spice moved El Camino along. It finished with a dry, oak tone and herbal quality.

Overall, I liked the El Camino.  It was just a little bit disparate and busy starting out.  I think a 6 months to a year of proper cellaring would really let the brew shape into a more unified whole.  Lucky for me, I’ve a got a couple bottles with which I can do just that.  I would certainly pay the $3.99 for a 12 ounce bottle and try it if I were you…I wouldn’t tell it to hit the road just yet.  $4 is pretty negligible for a one time brew. If you try it or have tried it, what do you think?

Mike’s Rating:

Overall Satisfaction: ★★★½☆ 

Among other American Ales: ★★★¾☆