A Surprise in the Beer Backwater

We used to go to the Running Iron in Carmel Valley quite frequently. Only a quarter mile from our house, it was easy to pop in for a cold brew or two, play a game of Scrabble and chat with friends. The beer selection was nothing special at what we affectionately call our ‘redneck bar,’ but we were always able to get a pint of either Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Firestone Walker DBA. Once the Ol’ Factory Cafe opened, we stopped going to the Running Iron.

An unexpected sight at the Running Iron

On Thursday evening, Merideth and I headed into town to go to dinner with her mom. Driving by the Running Iron, Merideth spied a sign on the fence around the outdoor seating. “I think there’s a Ranger IPA tasting at the Running Iron,” she said. Since I was driving, I didn’t seen the sign myself.  There are rarely beer tastings around here and to have one featuring an IPA at the Running Iron was pretty unbelievable. Thus, my response was “Huh?…  what?… when?” While Merideth missed the date on the first pass, we later learned the tasting was on Friday night from 5-6pm.

Although I’m not a huge New Belgium fan, I did feel it was important to show our support of craft beer events in our Beer Backwater. We arrived nearly prompt at 5:03pm. Walking in, we found that the Running Iron was just as we left it a couple of years ago. Some of the staff might have been new, but everything else was the same, including the customers.

There were no signs of  a beer tasting, but since we were there, we thought we might as well have a beer. So we  grabbed our regular seats, ordered a couple of pints of Ranger IPA at the bar, and wondered if we got the date wrong. After a few sips of our beer, we overhead the bartender say “I don’t think the Ranger Girls are coming. They’re a half hour late.” I had visions of scantily-clad women in tiny Ranger outfits. Basically, a classier version of the Coors Light Girls. My fantasy didn’t play out as the “Ranger Girls” were our local reps for New Belgium and the distributor. In quick order, Ashley, the New Belgium rep, handed out free samples and pint glasses.  After a while, Rhea, the distributor rep, joined Ashley, Merideth, and myself at our table. We enjoyed chatting with them and I think they enjoyed talking with real beer people.

Ranger IPA is a nice beer

Ranger IPA is a nice beer and ranks up with 1554 as my favorite in the New Belgium regular lineup. At 70 IBUs, Ranger is hopped with Chinook, Cascade and Simcoe. Possessing a good malt background, the distinctive Simcoe hop is the the dominant flavor in this brew. Merideth, who does not like overly hopped beers, liked the balance of flavors and even drank 2 whole pints of it.

In the crowded IPA market, I’m not sure how much of an impact Ranger will make. But in our Beer Backwater, we can count on one hand the number of American-style IPAs on draft and have a couple fingers still left over. Ranger is a very welcome addition.

Hopefully, the event was a success. It would be nice to see more beer tastings in the Beer Backwater we call home, especially ones so close to our house.