Tuesday, March 31, 2015

An open letter to American 'craft' breweries: Please consider joining us in May for American Mild Month!

Dear brewers and friends (NOT mutually exclusive!),

In case you hadn't heard the news, oh boy, the first-ever American Mild Month, occurs this May, all across these United States, to encourage American brewers to brew Mild Ales, and American beer drinkers to, well, drink them!

American Mild Month is the idea of Alistair Reece (an ex-pat Scotsman, past Prague resident, and now, at Fuggled, a Virginia, USA, beer blogger). The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has been hosting a similar thing for several years now in the U.K., and always during the month of May. So, Al thought, why not here in the U.S.?

I, and beer and whiskey author, Lew Bryson quickly agreed, and signed on to help out. You can too.

American Mild Month 2015

What is Mild Ale? Start with the concept of 'session' beer, which, after several false starts, has finally gained traction here in the U.S. Lew Bryson defines American Session Ale as:
► 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
► flavorful enough to be interesting
► balanced enough for multiple pints
► conducive to conversation
► reasonably priced

If that seems vague ... it is. Here's another definition: low-alcohol, but not low-taste. It's subjective. Live with it, and enjoy it. We're here to help make your night out more fun, more tasty, and more safe.

Going further with this, American Mild —lower alcohol, good flavor, drinkability, and balance of malt and hops— might be the quintessential 'session' beer. As Reece puts it, American Mild would be a "restrained, darkish ale, with gentle hopping and a clean finish so that the malt and what hops are present shine through." Or, as Bryson puts it: "an unsung delicious beer style; tasty and 'more-ish' at low alcohol levels."

American Mild Ale, defined

American Mild Month is really more of an informal thing, like #IPADay, but, of course, for American Mild Ale, and with the hashtag #MildMonthUS. But, it is emphatically NOT a Session IPA thing!

We're saying that an American Mild Ale should have an alcohol-content-by-volume (abv) of 4.5% or less, a color greater than 17 SRM (i.e., darker than a golden ale), and an International Bittering Unit (IBU) level of 30 or less (thus stronger than an English Mild, but 'milder' than an American IPA).

We're not style disciplinarians. Have fun with this. But we do ask for no over hopped ales, nor those of greater than 4.5% abv. Doing either, and you're playing with 'session' semantics.
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.

How to participate

  • Breweries
    There are currently forty 49 breweries participating, across the nation. To join with them, go to the sign up form. Pledge to brew a American Mild in May (cask-conditioned, a plus), and we'll place your brewery's name and website on our web-roll of distinction.

    This could be a simple matter for a brewpub that wished to participate, as well as for nano-breweries and other small production breweries. It might, however, be problematic for a larger production brewery. That is why we began the campaign in the beginning of March. Even so, three months lead time might still not be sufficient for many production breweries. If so, why not plan for next year? We already have breweries committing for 2016.

    There can be other ways and means.
    • In several states, production breweries are allowed to serve beer to patrons in their tasting rooms, like a bar, but without the food. That's the case here in the tri-state area of Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. If it's so in your jurisdiction, why not produce a small batch on your pilot system, and serve it exclusively in your tap room?

    • Or, produce a one-off 'collaboration' beer with another brewpub or brewery.

    • Or, if your brewery already has a beer that fits the parameters of American Mild, simply re-brand it for your taproom only (state laws permitting) and serve it there. For example, a local production brewery has a beer which it describes as
      This easy-drinking session beer pours a deep golden color. It smells slightly floral and herbal, thanks to a hopback full of Cascade and Centennial hops. [It] is tasty and refreshing, with a round mouthfeel.
      ABV: 4.5%
      IBUs: 17
      Well, there you have it. Simply rename it Session Mild for your taproom!

  • Pubs
    Restaurant, pubs, and bars: want to play along? Ask your local breweries for Mild Ales in May. If enough of you tell us that you are serving them during May and promoting the occasions, we'll add your listings. More work, but all for the Mild!

  • Homebrewers
    Organize competitions in May for American (and, okay, English-style) Mild Ales. Tell us about them.

  • American good beer drinkers
    You, the discerning drinker: you're the bulwark, the vanguard, the bottom line of defence, offense, and good taste. Tell your local breweries about this campaign for good session American Mild Ale. Ask your local pub to search for Mild Ales, and to serve them during May (if not year round). We can't do this without you.

In Mild Conclusion

Help bring back mild ale! The website is live at www.mildmonth.com; and so is Twitter at @MildMonthUS; and so is Facebook at AmericanMildMonth; and, with your participation, so can be Instagram, Flickr, and more.

American 'craft' beer pioneer Fritz Maytag once addressed a Craft Brewers Conference with a keynote paean to beer as a union of the Apollonian with the Dionysian. With your assistance and of all the brewers participating, American Mild might join that pantheon.

With your assistance, this month of May might indeed see some Mild drinking sessions. And possibly invoke muses of similar (mild) exultation.

Yours for good fermentables,
Thomas Cizauskas

Brewery count: 49
Updated: 4 May 2015.


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