I was really looking forward to this one, as I have heard so much about all of the great breweries that collaborated on this beer. However, I was a bit nervous, since my friend from New York who sent me this (and several others) seemed most eager about getting my feedback on this one. Then, I read the label, which says, “Ale brewed with fennel seed, chia seed & pink peppercorns – with mission figs added.” the back label says, “Too many of us who has lived in the coastal valleys of California, the words El ‘Camino Real’ conjured up images of golden hills, California sunsets, and oak, eucalyptus, and pepper trees. Offering a glimpse into what many feel is the ‘real’ California, El Camino Real wends through the state’s coastline, mountains, fertile farming valleys, and traffic heavy urban and suburban areas. And of course, you’ll also find the 21 California missions, reminders of father Junipero Serra’s and the Spanish missionaries’ attempts to convert the indigenous California residents to Catholicism. In the 1700s and 1800s, missionaries, and Native Americans grew a variety of crops along the El Camino Real. Apart from the famous mission grapes, mission figs, barley, and olives, fennel, and chia were also grown in abundance along the trail by Europeans seeking the familiar flavors of home. Shaun, Matt, Steve, and I tried to recapture some of this 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 (way) back to the 4th grade, when are schoolteachers first introduced us to the history of California and its missions. We hope you enjoy this black ale, and that it sparks your imagination about life along the Royal highway (or as we now call it, ‘the 101’.”. Finally, it says that it is 9.5%. ABV.
It poured very black and almost no light came through. It had a decent dark tan, creamy head. I smelled lemon, fennel, and pepper and a hint of floral aroma and caramel maltiness.
It had a medium body and had a creamy and smooth mouthfeel. It was big and thick with a hint of something almost floral. At first, reminded me a lot of my Russian Imperial Stout homebrew recipe. I immediately notice the thick maltiness of the beer and the finish was full of spiciness. As it lingered in my mouth a complex taste of coffee, toffee, and chocolate came through. If you’ve ever had a dark chocolate Riesen, it really reminds me of that sort of flavor. The complexity is really surprising and the alcohol warmth which follows is nice. It’s almost like someone mixed a Russian Imperial Stout with a bit of a Saison.
I really like the complexity of this beer, although I could do without the hint of floral aroma and the spiciness in the finish. I think the base beer is tremendous, but they went just a tad bit too far with all the spices. Due to the complexity and high alcohol content, I’d really recommend drinking this without food, or something that is purely a palate cleanser. Overall, it’s a unique beer that I really glad I had the opportunity to try.