Ranger Creek (San Antonio, TX): Strawberry Milk Stout

June 8th, Ranger Creek held its quarterly open house, and this time they were highlighting their summer seasonal, STRAWBERRY MILK STOUT. I got a chance to try it for the first time a few weeks earlier, on May 12th, with the opening of the 2013 San Antonio Beer Week. Ranger Creek had sent out an email on their email list promoting the kick-off of beer week at a pub specializing in craft brews, and that if you came out and bought a SMS, it would come in a commemorative beer week glass. I went to the bar (for the first time, because while I’m a big beer person I’m not much of a bar person) that I will leave unnamed, and ordered the beer… which arrived in a standard pub glass. Perplexed, I queried the bartender “I thought this came in a beer week glass?” to which I received a snort and a quick, “Yeah if you order it.” She then stomped off in a huff and transferred my beer into the commemorative glass and finished with “that’s two more dollars.” So my first introduction to the SMS was a bit offsetting. I mentioned this to my friend Richard whom had accompanied me to the open house as we were trying the SMS there and he said, “for ‘tip’ you should have written in ‘be nicer.’” Luckily the beer made up for the adventure of getting the beer, and my second time getting to enjoy it was a much smoother experience!

Outside of Ranger Creek
Outside of Ranger Creek

About the Beer (from drinkrangercreek.com/http:/www.drinkrangercreek.com/strawberry-milk-stout-farm-to-pint/):
Ranger Creek Strawberry Milk Stout uses 500 pounds of Poteet, Texas strawberries to create a delicious and completely unique beer. The result is a dark, rich, creamy stout with a slight roastiness and undertones of rich chocolate, complemented by fresh strawberry flavor and aroma.

Style: Milk Stout
ABV: 5.4%
IBU: Unlisted

Pouring the SMS in its specified Beer Week glass, it shows up deepest brown to black with a light tan head that recedes rather quickly to just a thin halo on the surface of the beer. The head does not have much adhesion, and leaves little to no trace on the glass behind it as it disappears. Holding the SMS up to the light, it is a bit thinner than many stouts I’ve had, and lets a bit more light through the darkness than others. Taking a whiff of the perfume coming out of the glass, the peculiar scent of strawberries hits you first. There is that average, expected stout roastiness and deep scents (raisin and fig like) that I would expect, but over all of that is the very unexpected (by looking at it) aroma of strawberries. First hearing of this beer I thought to myself “what an odd combination, but I guess if an oyster stout can work then why not…” and I am just amazed still how WELL strawberries mix in with this stout.

Strawberry Milk Stout
Strawberry Milk Stout

At first, the flavor of the beer is what I would expect from the discernible visual aspects presented. It is toasty, malty, strongly flavored with some dark fruit; along with this there is that touch of sweetness that comes from this being a milk stout. The commencement of imbibing this was a bit of a letdown; where were the strawberries? Where was that intriguing aroma? It seemed more like just a plain ol’ milk stout. As I continued to quaff the black liquid, it started to sneak up on me. The “milk” in a milk stout is lactose, which is unfermentable by brewer’s yeast and ends up imparting a sweetness to the final beer (as well as changing the body and mouthfeel of the brew a bit). This added sweetness is a beautiful way to deliver the sweet treat of strawberries; they ride that light sweetness that you get from the beginning and build up on your palate and before you know it, there they are. The nose delivers. About 2/3rd of the way through my glass, that enchanting aroma comes back and kicks you right in the tongue. There it is: Poteet strawberries. 500 pounds of them.

The mouthfeel of SMS is rather thin for a stout, which adds to this particular beer. There are some stouts that need to be just that: stout. SMS is a much more delicate take on the genre, and its thinner body helps to bring the strawberry sweetness to full potency better than a thicker substance would. Actually, this thinner body, and the moderate ABV, makes SMS an almost sessionable stout. With a 5.4% ABV, it’s not one you would be able to slug a sixer of, but you would certainly last longer on SMS than you would on a Jester King Black Metal, or a Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. To be fair: there’s not a whole lot out there that is going to stand up to a BCBS though.

SMS in front of a case of Ranger Creek's Rimfire Whiskey (made from the same malt bill as their Mesquite Smoked Porter)
SMS in front of a case of Ranger Creek’s Rimfire Whiskey (made from the same malt bill as their Mesquite Smoked Porter)

Overall, I really enjoyed the SMS. It is a strange combination of flavors that my brain says should not work, but my tongue fires back with “shut up brain, what do you know?!” This is a beautiful black sheep of a summer seasonal. Most breweries brew a kölsch or a wit or something similarly light for their summer seasonal, and I like that Ranger Creek took it in the opposite direction with a stout, but managed to make a stout that is light and refreshing and easy to drink a few of on a hot day. I hope that within a year or two, with the advent of their new bottling line, this will be something I can have in my fridge and pop open after mowing the lawn on a hot June day.

Overall 7 / 10

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

Beer page: http://www.drinkrangercreek.com/http:/www.drinkrangercreek.com/strawberry-milk-stout-farm-to-pint/

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