Slight change of plans today. How could I forget the third annual Session Beer Day? It seems only fitting that I cover a session beer today and last year’s Mount Hoodie, at 4.8% ABV just misses the mark. Instead, I’ll be writing about Mild Mannered Ale, one of the several mild’s I’ve brewed, this one being a little different, mainly due to my use of American hops. Don’t worry, I’ll get to Mount Hoodie tomorrow.
But first, a little bit about Session Beer Day. Lew Bryson, known to me originally for his Pennsylvania Breweries book, is far from the first person to call for more low alcohol beer, but he is the one to organize this holiday and help define what a session beer is in the modern American craft beer landscape. He defines session beer with five simple bullet points.
• 4.5% ABV or less
• Flavorful enough to be interesting
• Balanced enough for multiple pints
• Conductive to conversation
• Reasonably priced
Everyone gets stuck on the first one, and that is probably the most important, but don’t write off the rest of the list. I’m glad to see a lot of breweries jumping on the bandwagon and labeling some of their offerings as “session” beer, but I’m annoyed by the fact that the majority of these are so called Session IPA’s. Bah… I just had another paragraph written whining about Session IPA’s, then refreshed Lew’s blog and saw his brand new post doing a much better job.
So anyway… Session beer! Who doesn’t want to drink multiple beers in a sitting? No one that I trust. I made a 10.5% ABV barleywine a few months ago and I plan to brew another batch later this year because it is one of the best beers I’ve brewed. I’m not going to be drinking that beer while I’m gardening, or brewing for that matter, though. Session beer goes well beyond “lawnmower” beer, as well. I may be tempted to try a new double IPA when I go out with friends on Saturday night, but I’ll be going right back to my standby Yuengling (unless I’m lucky enough to find another session option on draft) for the next four or five rounds. Beyond Saturday night, I’m probably going to have to chose between stopping after one or skipping that strong beer all together.
Which brings me to today. I’ve seen some people suggest that Session Beer Day should roam to the weekend every year, they’re appalled that a beer holiday fall on a Monday. This is severely missing the point, I think. You can drink a few session beers and wake up ready for work. The date is significant. On April 7, 1933, Prohibition was repealed in America for beers of 4% ABV or lower. It was another six months before the twenty first amendment did away with the Noble Experiment completely.
Please visit Lew’s blog for more information. Maybe more importantly, if you’re a homebrewer, don’t get caught up in the bigger is better mentality and brew your own session beers. Then share them and help your IPA obsessed friends realize that there are more dimensions to beer than booze and bitterness. Or share them with your Lite beer drinking friends to show them that is more to craft beer than heavy, dark, strong beers.
Now, onto one of my own session beer creations. I joked about this beer that if I was selling it, I’d have to call it a black session IPA. Luckily, it’s homebrew and I don’t plan to ever label any of my beers with that moniker. Instead, I consider this an American hopped English mild. Obviously a much more sensible label. Ha. Truth, Justice and American Hops…
My milds are generally hoppier than their commercial English counterparts, but I’ve always gone to the old standby for British beer, East Kent Goldings. EKG hops are wonderful. They are usually in the middle range of alpha acids, allowing them to be used for bittering of low gravity beers without throwing things out of balance. Their flavor and aroma is earthy, spicy and tea-like. There isn’t a bad time in the process to add EKG hops to your beer.
So why not use them in this one? Well, because it was my third mild in less than a year and I had some odds and ends around so I decided to try something different. I had some Cascade hops, similar in alpha acid content to EKG, so I bittered with them. I had some Centennial hops, so I used them for flavor and aroma. I wanted some added depth, so I found some Columbus hops to add for some more aroma. Cascade hops have great flavor and aroma, but with a sixty minute addition, they are also great for some clean bitterness. Centennials are citrusy and floral. Columbus are resinous and piny. All the cornerstones of American hop character.
I also tried something different with the grain bill on this beer. Generally, I keep my milds very simple. Pale malt for the base with some chocolate malt for color, roast character and complexity and usually some sugar to keep it drier than a brown ale or porter. Instead, this ended up being a hodgepodge of what I had on hand, with the addition of some pale chocolate malt, which I had never used before.
I like to keep my grain bills simple, except in cases like this where I’m cleaning house. The results when I do are usually fun but not extraordinary. I think this beer turned out better than most of the other times. It’s still not a recipe that I plan to repeat, but I certainly enjoyed the beer. I have a very small number of them left and I’ll post some tasting notes next week. Here is my recipe.
Milde Mannered Ale
Style: 11A: Mild
Brew Date: 10/20/2013
Serve Date: 11/15/2013
85% Maris Otter
5% Caramel 40L
5% Chocolate Malt
3% Caramel 120L
2% Pale Chocolate Malt
60 min Cascade to 19 IBU
10 min Centennial to 8 IBU
0 min 1 oz each Centennial and Columbus
White Labs British Ale Yeast
60 min mash @ 154º
60 min sparge @ 170º
60 min boil
14 day single stage fermentation, warm
14 bottle condition