By Jake Emen
Ranger Creek in Texas is both a brewery and a distillery, a “brewdistillery” as they refer to themselves, which means there is a natural potential for crosspollination between the two sides of its operation. That is what led them to take their La Bestia Aimable (The Friendly Beast, a Belgian-style dark strong ale) and transform it into La Bestia Defavorable (The Unfriendly Beast, a Belgian white whiskey). Just how unfriendly is this beast, and can it be tamed?
Let’s start with the beer, since to understand the progeny, we should get to know the creator. There is a mix here of dark berries with cinnamon, nutmeg and other fall/wintry mulling spices, along with a light, citrusy side with tastes of honey and lemon.
The beer, which is a robust 9.4% ABV, finishes with a sweet, malty finish. It’s really much lighter than you’d expect considering its body and its coloration. Pleasant and easy drinking, definitely a friendly beast.
Onward to the whiskey. Grain on the nose, with some spice. The cinnamon and nutmeg come back on the palate, not surprising given the prominence of those spices in the beer. The finish is hot and sharp, not surprising given that it’s an unaged white whiskey.
Certainly a different flavor profile though than what you’d find in many other white whiskeys given its Belgian beer heritage and all those layers of spices. On ice though, I was surprised that the whiskey turned sharper and oilier. One plus with ice was that there was more of that dark beer maltiness on the nose, but on the other hand, there was a lingering aftertaste which, let’s just say, was unfriendly.
Ranger Creek recommends using La Bestia Defavorable for cocktails, replacing liquors such as rum, vodka, or even gin or tequila. I dabbled with several mixed concoctions, and had somewhat mixed results. Certainly it could be used in a pinch as a replacement for a rum and coke, just to point to one example, but wouldn’t necessarily be a top choice when you actually want the spirit in a cocktail to shine on its own accord. It would likely work best in three-ingredient cocktails with either a sweet component or a strong liqueur, or, as mentioned, as a purely functional stand in for something else.
Of course, as I’ve theorized on in the past, white whiskey isn’t for every drinker, nor every distiller. Considering that Ranger Creek named the product The Unfriendly Beast may hint to the fact that they know this isn’t exactly the smoothest stuff to begin with. If you can’t stop riding the white lightning or wish to explore the notion of beer and whiskey as close cousins, you should certainly explore this one, but don’t expect to become a convert of “the clear stuff” if you’ve never found it to be up your alley before.
La Bestia Defavorable has a recommended price of $32.99 for a 750 ml bottle (40% ABV). A small batch of less than 500 cases was released in September 2013, so availability is limited.