Cisco Brewers - Rantum Scoot Ale (Island Reserve Series)
- Alcohol by Volume: 9%
- Serving Temperature: 50–57° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Goblet, or Burgundy Glass
Cisco’s Rantum Scoot Ale, the latest release in the brewery’s Island Reserve series, made us want to spend more time with it. The early herbaceous quality of the aroma, approximating zesty spearmint alongside floral notes, seemed to hint at Northern Brewer hops, while there was also an appealing, phenolic-y quality and light acidity (especially when cold) that implied perhaps a brush with Brettanomyces. The latter fell away as this warmed. We were intrigued!
So much so that we’ve gotten the release set aside specifically for our members. Aside from the Rare Beer Club, the remaining handful of cases will be sold at the brewery itself. For us, this was an intriguing, exceptionally unique American brown ale—and one that appealed to our folks who aren’t typically smitten with the style. This is decidedly hop-forward, with an herbaceous, minty bitterness that kept calling for our further attention. In turn, we obliged.
We should note that, despite the current naming challenges in craft beer (good luck coming up with an original hop pun…), “rantum scoot” isn’t actually just a bunch of random letters arranged in a row. Cisco proudly recognizes its Nantucket roots, and, on that delightful little island south of Cape Cod, a “rantum scoot” is actually a thing. The Dictionary of American Regional English (also a real thing, even though it now sounds like we’re making this all up) defines a rantum scoot as “an outing with no definite destination.” Basically: a random walk. For us the name fits perfectly, and the thought of taking a bottle of Rantum Scoot and, well, taking a rantum scoot around Nantucket—the hidden genius of their local phrase being that one can only get so lost on an island—well, it all sounds great. We were happy to take more than a little time with this beer, watching it to open up in the glass as its temperature rose.
Rantum Scoot’s aroma showed a nice candied-fruit and fresh-apple sweetness right from the pour, with maybe just the slightest hint of citrusy acidity. As this warms, the aromatics go on a more far-reaching path, adding deep floral notes and that aforementioned mint-like pop. A rose-like character seems to soon occupy that general space, with notes of leather and darker fruits. The red fruitiness and biscuity core gradually expand. The hefty alcohol barely shows.
For a 9% American brown ale, this is beautifully lean: fine-bubbled carbonation, courtesy of the bottle conditioning; a nicely fermented core that still offers rich brown sugar notes along with toffee and a hint of caramel, offering a firm foundation for the generous hop additions, without getting in their way. Earlier candied-fruit sweetness broadens to floral notes, bubble gum, and that aforementioned mint as this warms, opening up the core space of this beer. A juicy, multifaceted hoppiness got us hooked. A refreshing framework kept us coming back.
We expect this beer to evolve significantly with some time in one’s cellar, with the initial jolt of hops slowly subsiding and letting the toffee-like, biscuity core take on a larger role overall. This will slowly become a more balanced presentation, and a touch of caramelized oxidation seems like it would be well placed here; these are bottle conditioned, so go nuts, but do keep an eye on how things are developing. On the pairing side of things, the hop bitterness tends to cut through fatty textures and reinvigorate the palate; coupled to this beer’s central nutty, lightly caramelized core, it seems ideally fit for grilled pork or a lightly charred T-bone steak.
Thirty miles off the coast of Massachusetts lies the small island of Nantucket, famed for its artist culture (and no, limericks do not count as art here), pristine beaches, cranberry bogs, and, in many cases, its status as a home away from home for the hyper-rich. A place that for quite a while outlawed cars—back around 1910-1918—just as they were becoming popular. There’s rich history here, with English settlement dating back to the mid-to-late 1600s. Many historical structures remain, including the island’s oldest house (built in 1686!), the completely cobblestoned downtown Main Street (a tourist attraction today, but laid quite parsimoniously, as the stones once served as the ballast for whaling ships) and the country’s oldest functioning windmill, constructed in 1746. There’s also a certain sense of independence, not unusual for island dwellers. In fact, in 1977, Nantucket (and Martha’s Vineyard) actually attempted to secede from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It didn’t happen, but you get the idea.
And in part borne out of this sense of independence, the need for Nantucket’s own ‘national’ libations was recognized. In 1981, Dean and Melissa Long founded the Nantucket Vineyard. In 1992, they met Randy and Wendy Hudson—who moved into the loft over the winery and began lending a hand to the Long’s wine endeavors. Wendy had a history of homebrewing beer, and she turned Randy onto it—so much so that in 1995, the pair founded Cisco Brewing at the vineyard. These days, the term “nano-brewery” is getting a lot of attention (truly tiny commercial brewing outfits, sometimes glorified homebrew set ups in the family garage)—but in 1995, not so much (things were still “micro” in those days). Well, the Hudson’s were, in a very true sense, nano-brewers when they started—in fact, the brewery was outside in the Longs’ backyard—which made it, officially, America’s only outdoor (commercial) brewery.
Things have scaled up a bit at Nantucket’s only brewery since then (the brewery is now indoors, FYI). There’s even a micro-distillery on site now, but the brewing remains as a small, artisanal outfit—as they hang on to their motto “nice beer, if you can get it.” In 2007, Jeff Horner joined the ranks as Head Brewer, and he was essentially given total creative control of the beers. When he came aboard, there were already a number of established Cisco Brewery beers—and they’re still around (solid beers, no doubt). But Jeff wanted to branch out. As a homebrewer since 1994 and a graduate of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), he had some big ideas about where to take the Cisco beers and has been doing so with both the Island Series and the Woods Series ever since.
When Cisco approached us with their new experimental beer, Rantum Scoot, we were eager to rate it especially as they were offering us the opportunity to run it as a Rare Beer Club exclusive. Our beer panel was unanimously impressed with this beer. It’s a real head scratcher, but in a really good way. Don’t try to put this baby in a box, jamming it into any existing style category. Just run with it and let your palate be the judge. We’re confident you’re going to love it as much as we did.
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