Somebody much wiser than myself once uttered these words, 'Writing about music is like dancing to architecture'. Its a very stark theory strongly indicating that one medium cannot crossover to another because scribed missive is without similar and relevant emotions to an aural score.
This reminds me of a conversation I had recently with a local Austin brewer regarding the feeling of beer, or as he explained it, emotive terroir. This descriptive is to suggest that beer can wildly alter its visceral make-up depending on the immediate geographical environment of its consumption, the company in which it is being shared, its sequentially consumable competition, and other factors influencing how you enjoy a beer. Writing about beer, in this subjective and highly variable regard, is very much like dancing to architecture.
The first of anything I tasted from Ranger Creek was their Oatmeal Pale Ale (OPA) while snorting to the pre-feature shorts at The Alamo Drafthouse along with my wife, on what was probably the bookend of a cozy winter Sunday. For anyone who frequents The Alamo for their film-screening needs, there are certain rituals that make it one of the best places on Earth to be at any given moment.
One of those things is the muted 15-20 minutes of movie build-up while you sip your first pint in the dim glow of the screen, next to a carefully selected companion whom also enjoys the same rituals of watching movie in this type of environment.
Its this environment in which I imagine film producers -- like the previously alluded to, record producers -- wish their final product to be enjoyed, a ceremony of pomp, with their art and exhumed energy as the headliner. Record producers and music artists, likewise, want their audiences to listen to their carefully engineered albums in sequential track order for lack of losing their interpretation of the music; then listen to a live performances with scattered spontaneity in order to capture an emotional connection between old material, new material, and the anticipation of an invigorating encore containing both.
In a way, I think brewers are like these industry producers. They rely on your immediate glandular sensations to impart affection and desire in a new product, then impart loyalty by playing the old hits. In the case of Ranger Creek, they captured my loyalty with their OPA, the perfect movie time terroir, then inspired some suggestive throes with the release of their Small Batch No.1, a mysteriously shrouded Burnt-orange bottle invoking sexual commerce from their fans. Labeling a beer 'Small Batch' amongst the bottle-share crowd, is as imminently dangerous as shouting "Fire" in crowded theater (unless its at The Alamo, of course, cos then they'll just remove you for being a loud asshole).
In what was a trouser-wetting move to a smartphone populous of beer dorks, Ranger Creek provided the full description and tasting notes embedded in a QR code on each of the bottles' suitcoat. You want to be the first to know what this stuff is all about -- including the all-important information of beer style? Catch me if you can. Beer nerds are notorious "Me first, me first" people -- like all those trolling comments on your local paper's online site. This was the ultimate in industry producer build-up.
Given that I really liked OPA, I thought there was a pretty solid chance that I would really love the oak barrel-aged version of it. I was right. The first thing I noticed* is that it had a very nice weight without being cluttered -- like the OPA with more guitars. The entire palate retained that nice, original creaminess from the OPA oats, but also healthy tree bark from the rye bill. I was just a tiny bit underwhelmed by the oak-barrel profile, as I thought it didn't really impart anything exciting to the recipe -- probably because it only marinated for one month in the barrels (a very abbreviated amount of time in the brewing kingdom).
Despite that, I definitely understood Ranger Creek's objective here: a muddled Texas tree fruit, slightly Bretted, earthy, smoothly hopped finished, summertime drinker. It tasted like Texas. Terroir. Long may it continue.
Acquired: Central Market
* Okay, I thought this could be the first review that didn't mention the
wax seal, which smells like like UT's Jester Dormitory in April, but it
didn't bother me unless I actively put my nose on it and sniffed. It
was fun suggesting my unsuspecting wife do that too.