Ranger Creek (San Antonio, TX): Small Batch #5 & La Bestia Aimable

About the Brewery (from drinkrangercreek.com):
Ranger Creek is a combined brewery/distillery proudly located in San Antonio, TX. We make beer and whiskey in our “brewstillery”, and we make it by hand one batch at a time with lots of love and attention. We like to focus on the relationship between beer and whiskey. As a combined operation, we can do things to highlight this relationship that no one else can, like age our own beer in our own bourbon barrels and distill our beers into whiskeys. We also use much of the same equipment to make both our beer and our whiskey, and we can do this because there are a lot of similarities between the two processes. It’s actually really cool to see, and we invite you to come take a tour and learn about it for yourself.

Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling: one of the US' few "brewstilleries" right here in San Antonio, and one of my first reviews!
Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling

 

Small Batch #5

About the Beer (from drinkrangercreek.com):
Our newest small batch release is a pecan smoked Doppelbock lagered in our own bourbon barrels for a short time. This deep mahogany, full-bodied brew has aromas of nutty smoke and stone fruit, with flavors of rich malt, dried fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, and oak. A portion of the malt was smoked by hand at Ranger Creek with Texas pecan wood in our very own Texas malt smoker. The beer was then lagered for 2 months in Ranger Creek bourbon barrels. Bottles will age and mellow nicely for up to 10 years if stored properly.

Style: Pecan Smoked Doppelbock
ABV: 7.5%
IBU: Unlisted

 

When I found out that the first beer I was going to review for local San Antonio brewery Ranger Creek was smoked, I was a bit concerned. I’ve never liked rauchbier of any sort, and all I could think of was “man, my first review is going to be a negative one!” I really didn’t want this to be the case, as Ranger Creek is a really awesome brewery that has just recently procured a bottling line (via Kickstarter crowd funding), and should soon be moving from their very limited releases – there are two beers you can regularly buy from them in bombers right now, LA BESTIA AIMABLE and MESQUITE SMOKED PORTER, and then there are the SMALL BATCH series that are bottled once and then never again – into a more wide share of the Texas beer market. My worries were unfounded.

SMALL BATCH #5 pours a deep mahogany brown – a porter-esque near-black that is richer than most doppelbocks I’ve had – and is topped with a off-white head that very nicely balances the dark body. The head recedes pretty quickly, but leaves behind nice lacing on the glass. A sniff reveals what I thought it would: smoke, but right behind it are some scents I really didn’t expect: a little wild funk. Upon reading some more about the beer, and seeing that it is aged in Ranger Creek’s own bourbon barrels (they are a “brewstillery,” they make both beer and whiskey) the funk makes more sense. What I was kind of surprised to not smell was the maltiness; there is some malt backbone to the nose, but not nearly as much as one would expect from the rich color of the beer.

Small Batch #5: Pecan Smoked Doppelbock
Small Batch #5: Pecan Smoked Doppelbock

My first sip threw up the red flag, as it was all smoke… but the smoke receded quickly and was not overpowering at all. I was afraid that like most the other rauchbiers I’ve had that this would be just another beer that tastes like someone threw some liquid smoke in the mash tun; most are so overpowering in their smokiness that all of the other flavors are dulled or left by the wayside. Thankfully, that is NOT the case with SB#5. The smoke is there, especially on that first sip, but it is restrained and nicely fits in with the rest of the flavor profile. The main part of the flavor is a medium roasty malt, nothing heavy like a porter or a stout, but most certainly a bock. SB#5 is dryer and crisper than most of the doppelbocks I’m familiar with and is less sweet than I’d usually expect for the style, and I think this works very well to help tone down and balance the smoky flavor the pecan wood imparts. The bourbon barrels help impart just a touch of bourbon flavor, but more so the time in the wood adds some cinnamon and light vanilla to the flavor profile, as well as just a touch of sour / funk. The smell would make me think this part of the flavor would be stronger, but the funk is very mild, and just a nice accent to the overall flavor of SB#5 rather than a major player in the concert.

SB#5 is a much lighter and thinner beer than its look would make you realize, and this goes well to life the flavors; if it were heavy like a stout, or like you might expect to look at it, it would drag down the delicate interplay of flavors that are some complex within it. SB#5 also has a very thin and zesty carbonation that calms down pretty quickly, but these light bubbles again lift the flavors and help them from being to heavy on the palate. This is a very easily drinkable beer, much more so than I would have ever ventured to guess for a rauchbier. It would make a fine accompaniment for a steak or some game for dinner, something with stronger flavors to go with the stronger overall profile of flavors that SB#5 brings. While I enjoyed this beer fresh, I am looking forward to see how this ages. The Small Batch series are all made with aging in mind, and are wax-dipped to attempt to facilitate better seals in your cellar; I think that with some time on this one the funk will play up a bit stronger and that’s a flavor I enjoy.

 

Overall 7.5 / 10

Beer page: http://www.drinkrangercreek.com/san-antonio-brewery/small-batch-series-no-5/

Brewery site: http://www.drinkrangercreek.com

 

La Bestia Aimable

About the Beer (from drinkrangercreek.com):
In 1685, the explorer La Salle claimed Texas in the name of France, landing at Matagorda Bay on a ship called the Aimable. In honor of Texas’ French and Mexican heritages, we created a complex Belgian-style ale with a name to match: La Bestia is Spanish for “The Beast,” while Aimable is French for “friendly.” This devilishly friendly dark strong ale has a rich, complex nose of deep berry and fig with cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper spicy notes, and a superbly drinkable body full of rich, dark fruit flavors. The use of Texas honey and a well-attenuated body in the Belgian abbey tradition make this beer superbly drinkable despite its high alcohol content. La Bestia Aimable pairs well with carbonade, lamb, game and fowl, rich cheeses such as triple-crème and Gorgonzola, as well as decadent desserts like sticky toffee pudding, dark chocolate and raspberry cake, and tiramisu.

Style: Belgian-Style Dark Strong Ale
ABV: 9.4%
IBU: 25

 

This beer I have enjoyed quite a few times before, and is probably the Ranger Creek brew I am most familiar with. LA BESTIA AIMABLE pours a medium brownish-red with a vigorous light-tan head that sticks around for a long time before slowly fading to a ring of bubbles that coat the inside of the glass and leave behind nice lacing. Held to the light, a deep burnt orange shines through the brown. The nose on LBA reveals its Belgian roots, as the Belgian yeast / ester scents dominate. Some dark fruits, cinnamon, and allspice follow that scent, along with a bit of alcohol coming through.

La Bestia Aimable: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
La Bestia Aimable: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

The taste is much what one would expect from the smell: it opens with malt intermixed with fig and raisin flavors, and on the backend you get the honey that makes LBA a bit different than your average dark strong ale. These flavors are all pinned to the “standard” Belgian flavors, and if I had to place this in a style I would venture to call it a quadrupel. On the exit, there is a bit of alcohol, but not enough to be bad just enough to warm the belly in a pleasant way.

LBA has a medium body, and a very light mouthfeel that makes it easy to put back, despite it’s near 10% alcohol content. The carbonation is present but not over the top, but it is very present and the bubbles tight, which adds to the mouthfeel and the ease of drinking. This is a very drinkable beer for its strength, and LBA would be a great introduction for anyone looking to try to move up to a Belgian beer from lighter styles as it is most definitely a strong dark Belgian beer, but it has the lighter body and mouthfeel that makes it a bit easier to step up to. For its color and its strength, LBA is a very easy to drink, easy to enjoy beer, and I greatly enjoy it.

 

Overall 8 / 10

Beer page: http://www.drinkrangercreek.com/san-antonio-brewery/la-bestia-aimable-2/

Brewery site: http://www.drinkrangercreek.com

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