Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ranger Creek’s Second Saturday Open House

Every second Saturday of the month from 2-5pm, Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling @rangercreek hosts a lively open house. For $8 ($5 if you bring back your glass), they provide three beers, or two beers and a bourbon sample. Strong and smoky whiskeys don’t usually pass my lips, but I had to taste this small-batch, carefully crafted sample.

A rowdy crowd (watching the Florida/A&M game) filled the small tasting room, so we moved into the brewhouse to stake out our spot. Bruce beelined for the two food trucks (Spice Runner @spice_runner and Say She Ate @SaySheAteTX), and I procured beer. Say She Ate’s decadent duck fat fries with bleu cheese melted in the mouth. The Jamaican jerked ribs from Spice Runner fell off the bone. Their pita wrap with an African spice braise had a warm flavor with a hint of cinnamon.
Say She Ate's Akaushi sliders and duck fat fries
Ranger Creek focuses on the relationship between beer and whiskey or bourbon, making them unique amongst distillers and brewers.
We received only a small portion of bourbon (crazy arcane Texas ABC rules), but enough to savor the aroma and taste. Mark talked us through a four-part tasting. Step one: appearance. The bourbon had a rich copper/amber hue. It takes on a deep color in only nine months, since it ages in small, five-gallon barrels. Step 2: aroma. He suggested a small sniff, since bourbon has a significantly higher alcohol content than wine. I smelled caramel and charred oak. Steps 3 and 4: taste and finish. The bourbon felt warm as it went down and tasted much like it smelled, with honey and spice notes. 

Ranger Creek uses 70% corn (locally grown), 16% unmalted rye, and 14-15% barley. All bourbons are produced in the US and aged in a brand-new oak barrel. (They next use the barrels for other whiskeys or beer. Their much-anticipated Imperial Porter, aged in former bourbon barrels, comes out this fall.)   The Texas weather greatly affects aging (their brewhouse is not climate controlled), so batch 9 can taste totally different than batch 6 (all labels include clearly marked batch numbers). We promptly visited Spec’s and picked up a bottle for a special occasion.
I foresee two issues as this event gains popularity. They have a large facility and open outside area, but it filled quickly. The fire department might object to the number of people at some point. And the tasting room has only one restroom, with a steady line all day. They’ll need to address these issues as the event becomes more popular.

They’ll be in Austin for a craft brewers festival in Austin in October, so the next open house is November 9. Bring folding chairs, and arrive early to claim a good spot. Mark your calendars for a fun afternoon.

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