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| Booze |

Brew Blog: Ranger Creek La Bestia Aimable

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When I was in sixth grade, my family adopted a dog. Well, "adopted" might be a bit of a stretch. "Abducted" might be more appropriate. He'd been wandering around the neighborhood for a while, pretty clearly a dump-and-run, and I decided he should be our dog. I lured him into the house with a bag of Fritos and a bologna sandwich left over from my lunch, and the rest is history.

Rocco was a fantastic dog. Trained when we got him, he required no house-breaking (he even peer-pressure-trained our next "rescue," Britomart) or leash training, and was an immensely affectionate and loyal companion. He did, however, have one particularly aggravating vice.

Our backyard was home to a couple of fruit trees that went, sadly, underutilized. Much of their fruit was left to rot under the trees, its sole beneficiary being Rocco's natural inclination to roll in anything and everything that smelled. Rocco would roll about in the dropped fruit, the summer sun making him, and by extension our house, pungent with the fermenting funk of dropped figs.

This, the musk of a hot dog coated with semi-fermented fig pulp, is the scent memory conjured in my brain upon opening a bottle of Ranger Creek La Bestia Aimable. Before you decide to proceed no further, let me assure you that this is not a bad thing.

La Bestia (The Beast) is a big, dark beer. Its deep, chocolate color reminds me of a Tootsie-Roll. There's a lovely turbulence during the pour, like those overblown Guinness commercials where the foam turns into people, rolling through the glass as the head develops and settles. Suitably, it has a big, dark flavor and aroma.

Chocolate is first in the nose, followed by citrus and pepper, with hints of coffee. Underneath everything rides this subtly insinuating funk, recalling my old dog and his fig-rolling ways. It is earthy, deep and robust. Yes, there's a musky quality to it, which, on its own, might be unpleasant. It's balanced by the other, more easily appreciated elements, and adds an interesting counterpoint to them.

This funk follows through in the taste, as well, adding a thick and syrupy quality to the flavor. It is saturated with a deep yet mild roasted taste, highlighted by nutmeg-spiciness and earth. It is strongly sweet and somewhat stridently bitter. Chocolate, light coffee and berry flavors are pronounced, with slight grassy notes and some pear esters coming into the finish. The sweetness is a balance between the depth of molasses and the more assertive, biting sweetness of honey. Without the balancing bitterness, this might come across as overbearingly sweet. As it is, everything balances out to make for a supremely easy-drinking beer, especially considering its depth of flavor, assertive aromas, and 9.4 percent ABV.

Even without my strong personal associations, this is an arresting brew. It's both up-front and sneaky. It announces itself loudly, then settles in for a comfortable drink, letting you decide whether to simply quaff or to analyze its subtleties. Either way, it's pretty terrific stuff. If Rocco were still around today, I'm sure he'd love the chance to roll in it.


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