Each May in the UK, CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) encourages drinkers to belly up to the bar at their local pub, and have a pint of mild. "Mild ale" is a bit of a generic designation; it can vary greatly from crisp, fruity ales that are golden or red in color to roasted, smoky ales that are black as night. But it signifies a beer that is lower in alcohol and meant to be drunk fresh and young. This May, Allistair Reese of the Session #99 podcast has spearheaded a movement to make May "American Mild Month" here in the US to encourage Americans to brew and drink mild ale, a style that doesn't get much love in the high-hop, high ABV craft market.
To be fair, craft brewers have been offering up more low-ABV choices in recent years. The session IPA is poorly named, and I hope we can agree on a better one at some point, but it was a sorely needed respite from all of the double IPAs and imperial stouts. Balance and subtlety can be wonderful, and those are traits we started to lose sight of a bit with American craft beer for a while.
So what would an American mild ale be? To start, it would be brewed with American malts, American hops, and American yeast. But most important would be the restraint employed by the brewer. No 120 IBU monsters here, just lightly hopped, refreshing beers that don't assault the palate. They would likely fall between 3.5 and 4.5% ABV, and be more malt forward with hops taking a bit of a back seat.
This is definitely a cause I can get behind. As a homebrewer myself, I've been tending toward more sessionable styles recently like English Bitter, Kölsch, and classic Belgian saison/farmhouse ale (the low-alcohol stuff the farmers drank way back when; not the bigger 6-7% modern versions.) As the weather gets warmer, and we crave lighter foods these styles become more and more appealing. I hope it's something that catches on.
For those who like to brew your own, here's Reese's version, which he is calling Mild Mannered Merican:
- 66% US 2 Row Pale malt
- 13% Victory malt
- 13% Caramel 120
- 6% Flaked barley
- 10 IBU Calypso hops for 60 minutes
- 5 IBU Calypso hops for 15 minutes
- Safale US-05 yeast
This recipe should produce a beer that is copper in color, on the sweeter end of the spectrum (although not cloying,) with a hint of tropical fruit from the Calypso hops. Happy brewing, and happy Mild Month!
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