22 October 2010

The Satan Push - Stop 6 - Ranger Creek

The latest entrant into the Texas Brewing scene is Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling in San Antonio. I had been corresponding with Mark McDavid for a while, and he suggested that I stop by the next time I was in San Antonio. As soon as Satan said he was coming, I knew we'd be stopping by. And since my nephew lives in San Antonio, I figured he and his wife would like to come along. My brother joined us, and the five of us drove across town, past Morgan's Wonderland, and into an industrial park that Ranger Creek calls home.

Mark met us at the door.  After shaking our hands, he launched right into the tour.  He poured us a sample of their Oatmeal Pale Ale, or OPA.  I have to admit, I was scared of the OPA.  I've had the Quacker Oat Ale at Dodging Duck Brewhaus in Boerne, and wasn't impressed. I make a beer called Dirk's Elixir Wheat Porter from Radical Brewing: Recipes, Tales and World-Altering Meditations in a Glass, and one time I left out the black patent malt, creating a vile looking, milky golden beer. I am happy to report that Ranger Creek's OPA is nothing like the other beers. It was crisp and hoppy. I wish it was already in stores!

Mark led us unto the brewery and gave us the a great tour.  After our visit to Jester King, it was odd seeing a brewery with four walls and a complete roof.  Our first stop was by several pallets of three gallon wood barrels of assorted toasts.  Mark said that as soon as they get everything set up, they will be making Texas bourbon and experimenting with the barrel caracteristics.  (It's at this point that my brother's migraine kicked in, as you can see from his expression in the photo.)  Mark told us that we could expect to see Ranger Creek whiskey on store shelves in 2012.  I know what I'm drinking for my 50th birthday that year.

Mark showed us around the brew house, and explaining the brewing process.  He showed us the beer mash tun and the whiskey mash tun.  He showed us the fermenters.  They were almost touching the ceiling.  When they were erected, they had to cut some of the steel supports.  I wondered aloud if they would have to remove the roof to expand, and Mark said they probably would.

Someone crawled out from behind the fermenters carrying what had once been a large roll of tape.  Mark introduced us to TJ, who was insulated the glycol lines, which had been sweating and leaving puddles on the floor.  Then Mark introduced us to the Hungarians, whom I had been following on the Ranger Creek blog. (Later, one of the folks I follow on Twitter mentioned that when he toured the brewery later in the day, the Hungarians were fascinated by his iPhone. I forgot to take mine out, but my neice-in-law is an attractive blond and was wearing shorts. The Hungarians were focused on something else.)  To my surprise, Satan didn't know the Hungarians.  But when he was in Yugoslavia, he had spent a few days in their hometown, so he got along famously with them.

The Mark showed us the still.

[Insert sounds of Angelic singing here.]

The still is a thing of beauty.  Copper gleamed as the sun through the skylight that had to be installed to accommodate the still .  Like a beacon in the night, it beckoned the whiskey lovers among us like a siren summoning ships to the rocks.

Ahem.

Back in 2009, Satan and I had visited Anchor Brewery and taken the tour. Our tour guide there showed us their still at the far end of the building, and like the Lord told Moses, told us that we could go no farther, but we could gaze upon the holy land. At Ranger Creek, Mark let us go up close, peek inside,and even--GASP!--touch it.

Then Mark took us outside and showed us the largest smoker in town, possibly the world.  It is a shipping container with a firebox in the back.  This is where they will smoke the malt for their Mesquite Smoked Porter.

Back inside, Satan spoke with the Hungarians, and guess what!  No, he didn't know them.  But he had visited the town they were from when he was in Yugoslavia.

Satisfied from the samples and tour, we thanked Mark and headed for our last stop, San Antonio's Flying Saucer before heading home.  We found out the next day that they had tested the still later that day.  Sure enough.  It works.

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posted by Jeff Holt at 08:31

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