Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mustang Brewing: gotta call you out, folks

Mustang Brewing has been out about two years now, but they've just come to my attention. They're Oklahoma-based contract brewers, and...well, here's their mission statement-ish manifesto from their website (emphasis added):
We created Mustang Brewing Company to make great, easy-drinking, session beers the people of Oklahoma can be proud to call their own. All our recipes are developed in our pilot facility in Oklahoma. We brew through partnerships with some of the country’s finest breweries. The end results are consistent, quality, craft beers that are full of flavor but light enough to enjoy
Sounds good, right? Our kinda place? Check the beers.
  • Mustang Harvest Lager: 5.6% ABV.
  • Mustang Amber Lager: 4.5% ABV.
  • Mustang Washita Wheat: 5.3% ABV.
  • Mustang Golden Ale: 5.3% ABV.
And the latest, Pawnee Pale Ale? Read what Mustang president Tim Schoelen said (at The Thirsty Beagle blog):
“Bringing the best of Old World East and New World West together is what makes Pawnee Pale a truly American-style pale ale. A tantalizing blend of German Perle and U.S. Pacific Northwest hops give this beer a moderate, citrus, hop quality. American, British, and caramel malts provide a rich maltiness not found in most pale ales. At 6% ABV and 42 IBU’s, Pawnee Pale is distinctly hopped, yet still carries that session beer quality you have come to expect from Mustang.”
Schoelen said Mustang has received many requests for an IPA, but struggled with how they could make one in the session beer range. Thus an American pale ale was the answer.
Actually, turns out that it isn't. When I see "6% ABV," I'm not thinking "session beer range." I'm thinking IPA, or bock, but not session. If 6% is a session beer, then 7.5% isn't strong beer? It's just...beer? The whole brewery seems to have this messed up: they want to be a session beer brewery, but four out of five beers are over 5%?

I'm not doing this to be a prick. Really. The last thing I want to see happen here is have it become all about a couple tenth-percentage points of ABV. Is your beer 4.7%, and you really want to call it a session? I'm not going to jump on you. I'm happy to encourage people who want to make session beers.

But. I see that the Session Beer Project is working, that people are talking more and more about session beers, that people are hating on session beers (sad, but at least we're talking!), that session beers are getting press...and that people are jumping on what they see as a bandwagon without really getting what it's all about. Not cool.

So I am going to say something, like I did about Full Sail's Session Lager. We're going to carve out an area here, an area where there's a real difference: lower alcohol beers with flavor. If the beer's over 5%...it's not lower alcohol. (Yeah, I know it's "lower alcohol" than a double IPA, but that's hardly the point.) I wanted to avoid this, but...I think it's time for a manifesto. Time to get militant.

Oh, and...enjoyed the hell out of the return of Milltown Mild at Victory last week -- took a growler home, and Cathy liked it, too; plenty of roasty malt in there -- and had a snappy Notch Hoppy Session at Redbones (great with the Arkansas ribs). And I got me a SBP hoody from CafePress (using that link up in the right-hand corner), and wore it all over Boston/Cambridge on Saturday: that baby is warm. Represent the Session Beer Project!


  1. A detailed and very good description for Pawnee Pale Ale, will definitely try it.

  2. Indeed, I don't mean to knock Mustang's beers: never had 'em, and I'd be happy to remedy that. Just have an issue with them referring to a 6%er as a "session beer."

  3. Bill, what would you say in Germany? Beer, except for the watered-down juice they call Radler, starts at 4.5%, and most are in the 4.8-5.5 range. That certainly doesn't keep them from being session-type beers, people take the whole "seven beers are worth a schnitzel" thing seriously. To top it all off they usually come by the half-liter, too.

    Maybe Americans just need to step their session-drinking game up a bit?

  4. Don't know who "Bill" is (I'm Lew Bryson, not Bill Bryson, but no, I don't see a need to "step up the game a bit." First, half-liters? The Brit pint is bigger than that! Second, I rarely see Germans drinking without also eating, which slows things down. Finally...is there something inherently wrong with a good-tasting 4% beer, something that offends the soul? This isn't a manhood thing, or a "I want more alcohol for my money" thing. It's a choice thing, a variety thing. Triumph, for example, makes a very good sub-4% pils on occasion; why not drink it?


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