Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ranger Creek Small Batch No. 3

Brewery: Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling
Location: San Antonia, TX
Style: Barleywine
ABV: 10%

Small Batch No. 3 is an English Style Barleywine in a series of small batch releases from the Texas brewery.  Here's a little more information about the small batch series from Ranger Creek's website:
Our Small Batch Series is a line of seasonal single batch brews designed to be unique, interesting, and often experimental. Each one is made in small quantities and with a completely different recipe. The unique color, number, and QR code on each label identifies each batch, the details of which can be referenced on our website or by scanning the QR code with a smart phone. Small Batch Series releases are meant to age well over time, so drink a bottle now and save others to enjoy later. They will cellar best in a dark place around 50 degrees. Each batch is brewed and bottled by hand and undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Pour carefully so as not to rouse the yeast.
Before I move forward with this review, I have to give this disclaimer: my expectations are low. I'm even a bit wary. After talking to people who have tried this, and after reading several other posts about the beer, I fully expect this beer to be infected and funkified to the max. But despite my wariness, I'll proceed...

This bottle has a hand-written bottling date of 10-8-12
Appearance: The bottle itself is appealing. The label clearly indicates that this is a small batch, limited release. The wax dipped tip is a nice touch. The beer pours a deep copper hue with an explosive head. I poured this gently, hoping to avoid this problem.

Aroma: Smells like a saison, not a barleywine. Brett-like yeast aromas, spicy notes, hints of sweet caramel malt.

Taste: Sweet and fruity with a malted backbone and an obvious sourness on the middle of the palate that follows the flavors 'til the end. The taste isn't as funky as the nose, but it's certainly sour and definitely infected as so many others have posted. The finish is slightly oaky with sweet malts.

And sour.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a decent amount of carbonation. Flavors linger on the tongue for a while, giving it a perceived heaviness.

Overall: There just isn't the depth and complexity that I hoped for. I put this bottle in my cellar in 2012 with high hopes. I can see where they wanted to go with this beer. The sweet malt offers a glimpse of the barleywine that Ranger Creek wanted to create. However, somewhere along the way, the yeast has gone funky and has no hopes of maturing into the beer it should have.

Sadly, I must admit to pouring the remaining liquid down the drain. I drank enough to provide a thorough review, but had no desire to finish what was left in the bottle or glass.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dangit - wrote everything up & it looked like it posted my comment twice. I'll do it again for good measure, I s'pose!

    This is yet another reminder to us at GrassLands that it's not a bad thing to be perfectionists - even to the point of sacrificing sales to save your business' reputation. That's definitely an attribute we embody from the big boys on the block: New Belgium, Stone, Dogfish, Sierra Nevada, etc. - they ensure that their product is up to their standards before pushing it out to the marketplace. By now everyone knows about the flawed 200 bbl batch of 120 minute that Sam amazingly dumped because there was no saving it from its infection. He could've banked on a side release of it, outwardly conveying its flaws, and brew nerds would've bought it at $10 a doubt. But he didn't...losing a shitload of sales in the process.

    As a future brewery & small business owner, our reputation is critical toward our sustainability. Knowing that sales will keep us afloat, equally as important is our reputation for doing the right thing by our business and by our customers. Ranger Creek seems to consider the note that "Our Small Batch Series is a line of seasonal single batch brews designed to be unique, interesting, and often experimental" is a psuedo-CYA in that the "experimental" nature of these beers can result in boom or bust. As a brewer and consumer, I don't like that. Understanding that re-fermented barleywines might not exhibit traits of infection right away, even in an experimental batch I'd hold for a few months before pushing out to the market to ensure its quality...knowing that the brewery had to add an additional step to their bottling process that could potentially invite infection. As a consumer, and apparently to others, Ranger Creek now has the reputation of (knowingly or unknowingly) pushing out an infected product for sale, seemingly hiding behind the term "experimental".

    Like I said, as a future brewery owner, it just gives me added appreciation for the level of attention to detail some of the big boys well as for those who unintentionally push out an infected product (i.e. Cycle) but are willing to do the right thing by their patrons after the fact. I would've loved to see a follow-up press release or some kind of note from Ranger Creek addressing the issue, but I couldn't find anything like that on the intertubez.

    Again, an excellent write-up, Brian!


    1. Sorry, just had to add that the batch of 120 was not infected. Just underattenuated and there must have been a high volume of unfermentables because everything they tried would not get the beer back down.... Just saying.

    2. Love your take and ability to get through the beer! Cheers! I would write more but I got let off early at work! I'll tweet you lol

    3. Thanks for the clarification, Allen!

      On a side note, I worry I was too outwardly critical of Ranger. Really, I'd like to see their response/addressing the issue more than anything else. The lack of one was curious, but I'm glad to hear they're getting in touch with you, Brian!

    4. says a ton to us, if nothing more than the fact that we wish to stay as interactive with our current and future audience as well, and doing the right thing