Photo Source: Beer Town Austin
What happens when you combine a wicked beard, crazy fun personality, and an affinity towards both beer and bourbon? You get Rob Landerman (aka Ranger Creek Rob). Rob is the head brewer at Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling in San Antonio, TX. Rob is also a Certified Cicerone ™ , which means he knows his shit. I haven't gotten a chance to tour their brewstillery yet, but the next time I'm in San Antonio, I'm going because I've heard great things about it.
These are some of the most interesting answers I've gotten yet, so enjoy!
What does craft beer mean to you?
Craft beer is a funny term, but I think we need it to differentiate us from mass-produced beer. I don't think all "craft-beer" is any better than mass-produced swill, and I don't think every small brewer has pure intentions. I do think that there is a big movement of Americans going back to hand made, skillfully crafted products across the board, with an emphasis on local, and I think that's a good thing for the health of people and planet. We've been on a bad track towards self-destruction, and I think that as long as a brewery is using high-quality ingredients (even if they are rice and corn), and have the intention of making something honest and pure, hand-crafting it, that is what I'd call CRAFT beer. Handmade, hand-crafted, sourcing local ingredients where possible, being accessible to your drinkers, having a face, and honest intentions. That's not every small producer, so don't let size fool you.
If you could only brew one style of beer, what would it be? And why of course.
What the fuck kind of a question is this?! That's a tough one, man. First of all- do you mean ALE vs LAGER, do you mean an encompassing category, or do you mean one specific style. Either way, it's moot, cause that's a tough one to answer... I think I'd rather have my balls cut off than only be able to brew one style of beer ever again, but if it came to that, the ball-less me would have to settle on the good old American Pale Ale. It's a style that provides sustenance and refreshment, pairs well with many types of food, is drinkable all year long, and has the spot as the original American ale.
How does Ranger Creek differentiate itself from the breweries in the ATX/SA area?
To start with, we are the only combined brewery and distillery in Texas, and the only brewery/distillery in the country making specifically bourbon (to our knowledge). When we came to market, our intention was to release high quality beers that we enjoyed drinking, styles that we found interesting, and specific beers we found unique. The Oatmeal Pale Ale is our take on the American Pale Ale, but back in the day in England, they made oatmeal pale ales. The oats in ours is not a flavor component (though most people think they taste it, oats are pretty flavorless), and we use them rather to give a creamy, fluffy mouthfeel. We wanted to make a little bit more aggressive of a pale ale, so we hop it 5 times through the brewing process with Centennial and Citra hops. We do a very traditional Belgian-style Dark Strong Ale, made with German Noble hops, German Pilsner malt, Belgian specialty malts, and candi-syrup that's produced in Belgium along with local Texas honey. We mash that beer cooler than Americans are used to (146 F), and mash very thin, both factors helping the final product reach full attenuation. We make an English-style Robust Porter, but with malt that we smoke in house, one batch at a time, over local Mesquite wood. And we make a traditional German Dortmunder-style lager using German ingredients. We try to brew for authenticity and flavor. I don't at all think we are better or worse than any other Texas brewery, but we are absolutely different. Everyone's got their own take on styles, and their own execution as well. There's almost no one in TX not making craft beer, but everyone makes different beer, even if the styles are similar or the same. We also have the ability to distill our beers, age them in barrels, then age the beer in its own spirit barrel. We are experimenting with sours right now, and just released the first of 4 barrel aged beers. We just try to keep thinking of stuff that we want to do, and focus more on what we are excited about or interested in tackling, and less on how we can be different. I think different is good, and a wide range of styles, flavors, etc is good for Texas drinkers, but I think Texas brewers have been focusing on things that are exciting and challenging to them rather than on how they can differentiate from everyone else, and the execution comes of alot more honest, I believe. (512)'s Black IPA was doubtfully done out of a quest to be different from the rest of us, and more from a desire to make something they found exciting, and I feel that you can tell when you drink it. It's damn good.
After you unveil your bourbon, can we expect some Bourbon Barrel Aged La Bestia?
Nope, absolutely not. We're going to burn all the barrels, laughing maniacally all the while. Just kiddin ya. We will do an insane amount of barrel aging, because we are going to have an insane amount of barrel aging. The first thing going in our bourbon barrels will be something exciting and infused for our 1 year anniversary beer, coming up in November. After that, we will be bourbon barrel aging an ass-load of our lager, and then brewing new beers just for the purpose of barrel aging. Then we are going to build barrels big enough to put other barrels inside of, so we can barrel age barrel-aged beers. I just mind-fucked you. But seriously, we'll be doing a lot of bourbon barrel aging, and as we produce more spirits (barrel-aged rum, other esoteric whiskeys), the possibilities will be even greater.
Thanks for the questions! I had fun answering them. And seriously, even if you are not drinking MY beer, DRINK TEXAS BEER!
To enjoy more For the Love of Craft Beer, click here.