With the bizarre Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax/fakery unfolding in the media, I’ve been thinking about how the things around us that aren’t always as they seem—especially beer (which is easy considering the things around me are bottles of beer). If there’s one series of beer that you simply can’t predict, or even begin to understand until tasting, it’s the Small Batch Series from Ranger Creek in San Antonio, Texas.
I’ve already noted my love for this beer series—Small Batch No. 2 made our Top 25 Beers of the Year in 2012—but No. 3 and No. 4 further confirm that affection, and prove this is one of the most surprising and delicious beer series unfolding in the country right now.
Take Small Batch No. 3, for example. The beer’s simply billed as an English barleywine that spent six months in oak barrels. Seems pretty simple, right? Nope. Sure, there are familiar barleywine notes of cherry and leather, but wrapped up in a wonderfully rustic Brett, and slightly chardonnay, character. It bridges an English barleywine with a robust Belgian farmhouse ale and it’s fantastic. It’s also 10%-ABV, but you’d never notice.
For Small Batch No. 4, the shenanigans continue. This is the first beer aged in the brewery’s bourbon barrels sourced from its own distillery. Basically, it’s Ranger Creek’s Mesquite Smoked Porter brewed to 10% ABV and aged for 10 months inside those barrels. But, again, it’s not exactly what it seems. Lots of smoke flows through the swallow, accented by oak, roasted malts, hints of chocolate and vanilla. But, there’s also a sour note that sneaks up on you with each sip. It’s not overt, but it’s noticeable enough to elevate the beer from delicious to simply stunning.
The brewery recommends aging both of these beer for up to 10 years. You’re a person of extreme will-power if you manage to pull that off.
So far, each release in Ranger Creek’s Small Batch Series has had a little surprise waiting when you pop open the bottle. I don’t know what No. 5 will be, but I sure won’t even try to predict what it will taste like when I read the description.
What’s your favorite beer series right now?