Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Once Again, American Mild Month is May

I ran this post about American Mild Month last year about this time (which unfortunately means that it's not really all THAT far below this post, but we're working on that!), and it is most definitely worth reposting. So feast your eyes, and get some ideas, and start talking to your local brewer about making some mild for May, American Mild Month. (Mild Month is gearing up, including a connection to the International Homebrew Project, where participants decided to do American Mild as this year's recipe.)

May has been Mild Month in the UK for years now, thanks to enthusiastic support from CAMRA, the vaunted English consumer group, the 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 Mild Month 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!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Session Beer on the Podcast Circuit

I was recently interviewed about session beer for the Experimental Brewing podcast, done by Denny Conn and Drew Beechum, the same fellas who put up all the session beer homebrewing recipes I just posted over the weekend. I thought you might like to hear what we had to say.

Here's the link to the page with the 'cast. The player's at the bottom of the page, and the session beer part starts at about 33:19. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Homebrew Session Beer in Time For Session Beer Day!

Denny Conn and Drew Beechum, well-known homebrew authors (Experimental Homebrewing and the upcoming Homebrew All-Stars), interviewed me on their podcast Experimental Brewing about Session Beer Day (and session beer in general, and the horrible Pennsylvania liquor code) recently. I'm going to get a link up to that shortly, but I wanted to get this up ASAP.

Homebrewer selfie: Dana Cordes mashing in a dark mild
Denny and Drew are long-time supporters of session beers (I remember drinking one of Drew's excellent milds years ago at a homebrew event, and loving it), so in celebration of Session Beer Day, they posted a Session Beer Day Recipe Bonanza at Experimental Brewing. It's FOURTEEN homebrewing recipes for beers like milds, bitters, table beers, Berliner Weisse, session IPA, even a session-strength lager. Most of them can still be brewed in time for consumption on Session Beer Day, April 7.

Are you a homebrewer? Get at it! And you'll be quaffing fresh-brewed session beer on Session Beer Day!

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Session Beer Day -- April 7 -- is only twenty days away!*

What's the deal? Pretty simple, really: it's a day to drink small beer in large glasses, a day to celebrate the diversity of tasty lower alcohol beers, a day to consider day drinking that won't ruin you. It's this. I like session beer anytime (and I like big, fat beers, and whiskeys, too!), but April 7th is a day to make a BIG deal out of LITTLE beer, to bring it to people's attention that a small beer can have plenty of flavor and be enjoyed with gusto. I love drinking beer, not just sipping it, and session beer is the thing. That's what we're suggesting for the beer drinker: try something new, try something session!

In support of that...if you run a bar, own a bar, order the beer for a bar...please consider supporting Session Beer Day! How? Well, put some session-strength beers on! Almost every market has some craft-type beers that are under 4.5% these days (see the SBP definition of "session beer" to the right), and there's always our old pal, Guinness Draught Stout. We do strongly encourage you to draw a bright line and stick to beers that are 4.5% and under, to make the point that a real difference makes a real difference. We don't need no creepers on Session Beer Day!

You can do a few, or you can go all in, like SBP supporter Paul Pendyck at the Bulls Head Public House in Lititz, Pennsylvania, which I'm naming: 


Paul the publican and the beautiful Bulls Head bar; I'll be here on April 7, 2016, come in and have a pint!
(photo: Lancaster News)
Paul is not only a great guy and a strong supporter of great cask ale (session beer's best friend), but he's a huge fan of session beer and has committed to a TOTAL SESSION BEER TAP TAKEOVER on Session Beer Day. Every one of the Bulls Head taps (including the beer engines) will be pouring session beers at 4.5% and under! This is where I'll be on Session Beer Day in 2016, and I invite you to come out and join me for a pint; get in on the Tweeting! The list so far: New Belgium Slow Ride, Ballast Point Mango Even Keel, Yards Brawler, Neshaminy Croydon Cream Ale, Sierra Nevada Otra Vez, Schlenkerla Helles, Victory Donnybrook Stout (Nitro), Steigl Radler,
Jacks Abby Calypstra (possibly).

Or how about Notch Brewing, which is going to be celebrating Session Beer Day at Deep Ellum in Allston (Boston) again, this year with FIVE SESSION LAGERS! Check that crazy cold-brewed shit out here. Special shout-out to Notch as they make daily progress toward opening their all-session beer brewery in Salem, Mass. later this Spring!

Also in Massachusetts, but not in a bar, the New England Real Ale eXhibition (NERAX) will be taking place that week, and Session Beer Day falls smack-dab in the middle of it! NERAX has always had plenty of session beer love -- comes with the casks, baby -- and in April of 2011 we had a kind of dress rehearsal for Session Beer Day there. Get a ticket, go drink great cask beer at session strength!

The Olympic Tavern in Rockford, Illinois has been a strong session beer supporter, and they're right there this year with an event titled (I'm blushing) Session Beer Day -- Thanks, I'll Have Another. Stop in, have a session beer, tell 'em I said hi!

Here in Philadelphia, which is a blithely unconcerned center of session beer (we have solid-selling year-round session beers from local brewers like Yards, Philadelphia, Victory, Sly Fox, Weyerbacher, and more, in a variety of styles!), I may be stopping in for an end of day session at the Grey Lodge Pub, where Scoats is cooking up one of his signature crazy events: some kind of session beer shoot-out is evolving, more details as I get them. 

Get on board, bar people! People want to drink session beer (sure, there are some grumblers, but they get their variety 364 days a year (okay, 365 this year...)), and they want to drink more than one or two. Get it on, get it out there, and leverage Session Beer Day as a way to make folks aware that you have a beer that tastes great and they can feel better about having two of with dinner. If you're doing a significant Session Beer Day offering, please leave a comment on this post!!

That also still leaves time for brewers to put together a great new session beer; as I said in January (January? My God, how time flies):
Take this opportunity to show off your skills and make a session-strength beer, 4.5% or less (you can do it; you can go lower!), that doesn't rely on shouting hops for all its character. We get it, brewers know how to make a light, wildly hoppy beer: EVERY brewer's doing it.
Be different! On April 7th, show us some real innovation, or some real skills to make a beautiful example of a classic session-strength beer that stands apart from the herd of 'monkey-see, monkey-do' dialed-down IPAs. Work with specialty malts or non-barley grains, a different yeast, light souring, smoke, herbs or spices, wood-aging, or sure, a light hand with the right hops, a pale ale, there's a thought. Make it tasty but not crushing, make it something "more-ish," as Michael Jackson used to say. Show the world you're not a monkey, thumb your nose at the "me too me too" crowd, and who knows...maybe find your next big seller.
Truly, folks: one of the great things about lighter session ales is that they're fast. So brewers, there's still time. Call a meeting, get serious, get thinking, make something really cool, and release it on April 7th! Tell us about it, and we'll blog it, Tweet it, Face-the-Book out of it. Really. We're serious. 

(I'd have been yelling sooner, but I've been sick like a dog; sorry!)