Saturday, March 14, 2015

May is Mild America, too!

May has been Mild Month in the UK for years now, thanks to enthusiastic support from CAMRA, the vaunted consumer group Campaign for Real Ale. This beautiful session-type ale is celebrated in May, brewers make special milds, regular milds, and of course, cask milds, and folks drink them up.

Now beer blogger Alistair Reese has created American Mild Month, and asked if I would help spread the word. Let's see...unsung delicious beer style; tasty and 'more-ish' at low alcohol levels; classic session beer; and the month after Session Beer Day? Of course!

Here's the scoop, direct from the new website.

The project is called American Mild Month because we want to encourage brewers and drinkers in the US to brew and drink mild ale, but it could also be read as a project to create a new beer style, the 'American Mild'.

It seems almost oxymoronic in this day of ever more extreme beers to advocate for a style as restrained as mild, but here goes anyway, what would an American Mild look like...?
Let's start with color. The SRM numbers for English milds range from 6 to 34, which is basically the entire spectrum of beer. The majority of milds though fall in the dark category, starting at 17 SRM, which is a deep orange to amber color. An American mild then would be deep amber, with red in the mix as well, veering up to brown at the upper limit.
Alcoholic restraint is a hallmark of the modern mild ale, and we believe that an American mild should follow that tradition, topping out at 4.5% abv. We imagine most American milds would fall between 3.5% and 4.5% abv.
Everyone knows that many modern American beers are very hop centric while mild ales tend to be very restrained when it comes to both IBUs and hop perception, remember the official description from GABF...

Hop aroma is very low...Hop flavor is very low. Hop bitterness is very low to low
Clearly then the American Mild is not a hop bomb, but neither need it be a hop free zone. 'Low' is not the same as 'none', it is all about restraint, and with the wide variety of American hops available the range of hop flavors is actually quite broad, whether its the spiciness of Cluster, the grapefruit of Amarillo, or the tropical fruit of El Dorado, there is room here for differentiation, and dry hopping is ok too. Remember though, before going crazy with the hops, an American Mild is not a Session IPA, or a Session Cascadian Dark Ale, it's still a mild. Traditional English milds top out at 25 IBUs, but for an American Mild we would suggest an upper limit of 30 IBUs.
One major departure from the English mild style in a theoretical American mild is the yeast. The classic American yeast strain used by many an American craft brewery is known for being very clean, allowing the other ingredients to shine through without contributing the fruity flavors of the British yeasts.
So there we go, a restrained, darkish ale, with gentle hopping and a clean finish so that the malt and what hops are present, shine through.
At the end of the day drinkability is the key feature of an American Mild.

There you have it. When do we celebrate it? May. How do we celebrate it? Brew and drink mild ales! Where do you find them? There's a list of participating Maryland, DC, and Virginia breweries at the American Mild Month website (that's where the founders are based). Also try ratebeer, BeerAdvocate (dark and pale!), and, well, tell your local brewer to make one, dammit! 
Actually, that should be repeated:

Tell your local brewer to make one! 

Get news on American Mild Month at their Twitter feed and Facebook page. And if your local brewer does make a mild, post it there! Or here! And drink Mild!

Saturday, March 7, 2015


Is it on? Of course it is. 

Certain issues beyond my control have kept me from posting here, and I apologize. I blame myself for the proliferation of over-4.5% ABV beers tagged as "session beers" recently; I blame myself for the number of stories in the news that have categorized session beers as "generally considered to be 5% ABV or less." Mea maxima culpa. I'll pay for it, and Lent certainly seems like the right season to begin.

What better way to start than to declare that 
Session Beer Day 2015 is on for April 7!

Displayed in Italy, Session Beer Day 2012

Of course it is. Because this is our victory lap. After several years of being on the cusp, of thinking 'okay, this is the year session beer goes mainstream!', we're here. Almost every beer bar I walk into these days -- hell, here in Philly, almost any new bar I walk into -- has at least one session beer on tap. Every major brewer has a session beer in their portfolio (or comes grudgingly close; I still won't call Founders All Day IPA a session beer at 4.7%). There are session beer events regularly, there are brewers who make only session beers, session beer has been recognized as one of the major trends in craft brewing.

We can do Session Beer Day right this year. If you're a bar manager: please consider putting at least three beers on tap that are 4.5% or under. If you really want to support things, don't make them all "session IPA" choices; the Session Beer Project has always been about expanding choices. Lead, don't follow. Find something different, and reward it. If you have equipment for cask ale, by all means put the session beers on if possible; that's where they shine.

There are so many choices now! Try Smuttynose's new Hayseed (at 3.8%!), or the usual SBP favorite: anything from Notch Brewing, where Chris just keeps cranking out the great lower-alcohol beauties. Here in Philly we've got an embarrassment of choices: the consistently popular Yards Brawler, PBC's citywide Kenzinger, Sly Fox's traditional Chester County Bitter, Victory's nitro-fueled Donnybrook Stout, and not a session IPA in the bunch! Boston Beer has added Rebel Rider to their regular portfolio (and I just picked up a sixer yesterday), Green Flash -- Green Flash! -- has a series of Hop Odyssey session IPAs, Deschutes has their River Ale, New Belgium is on board with Slow Ride...and there are hundreds of others.

But insist on 4.5% or less.  If it ain't significantly less, it ain't significant. We've watched "IPA" become an increasingly meaningless marketing term; even "craft beer" is being hollowed out by arguments over what is and what isn't. I welcome the discussion of whether session beer should be under 4.0%, but I dismiss the idea that it is under 5.0%. There's just not enough difference to be different there. If you want more on why, I've written plenty: have a look.

So let's do this. Brewers, get your little beers ready; bars, get your little beers on; and the rest of us? Start asking if YOUR local is doing anything for Session Beer Day, start planning what you're going to do, get creative! If you've got good stuff, let me know! Tweet it up: #sessionbeerday

Get ready for OUR DAY. Session Beer Day. April 7. Dream Big for Small Beer!