Friday, May 4, 2007

Mild May

If you're a beer blog reader, you've read about this already. If you're a die-hard PBN in fan (ha! that was funny) then maybe this is new.

CAMRA (the beer thugs overseas) have come together to deem May "Mild Month". I won't claim to know a whole lot about the intentions for this, but I have a few thoughts related to this I'd like to share.

- Milds are just not that common in the US. In fact, the only commercially bottled version I know of on the West Coast is the Deschutes Buzzsaw. I understand a few of you will be quick to remind me of beers I am missing, which is great, but bottom line is still the same - they are not common out here.

- What are Milds? Doesn't it seem like Mild is a bad word in our society? It seems like salad, or white bread, or 'plain' coffee... We seem enamored with things that are spicy, big, packed with flavor and forever pushing the edge of what is palatable. I don't understand this fascination, although I know I share this bent with many of you. I love double IPAs, Imperial Stouts and other extreme beers - if you listen to our show, you know this. However, what I fear is that our shows and writings and those of other beer enthusiasts are only sharing those beers that are 'memorable' or an event unto themselves. I don't drink Double IPAs night in and night out. I don't have Barley Wines in the summer. My fridge isn't packed with beers 8% ABV and higher. No, my fridge is 'unremarkable' - a fridge probably not unlike yours. I am convinced we all enjoy a good light beer, but we don't share these with others because... well, they're everyday. It's like a commute to work in contrast to your weekend getaway.

Now, I do know people who only drink big beers. I imagine you know them too. They're not unrefined or immature - they're just extreme. The friends I am thinking of who fit this category all have collections of hot sauce, eat rich and spicy foods and drink the darkest coffee you can find. It's the culture. And I say, let them be. They're living high on the hog and who can begrudge them that? I do ask something from them in return. Let me enjoy my 'mild' beer and don't assume I can't hold my sauce or don't appreciate 'real' beer. If you see me eating my salad with light dressing and a Pilsner, instead of glaring perhaps lift your pint and know we're reading the same book, even if we're not on the same page.

Milds - yes, the dirty little word in our society of extremes. The beers that fit this style are great examples of brewer quality. It's not easy to brew lighter beers, as alcohol and hops can hide a lot of flaws. If you find yourself a good light beer, like a good "mild" (brown ale), know that the beer is actually more troublesome for the brewer to make than that 12% monster released in the fall.

Milds, take four - so, what are milds anyway? Here's the history according to guys who know more than I do - the folks at the beer judge cert program.
May have evolved as one of the elements of early porters. In modern terms, the name "mild" refers to the relative lack of hop bitterness (i.e. less hoppy than a pale ale, and not so strong). Originally, the "mildness" may have referred to the fact that this beer was young and did not yet have the moderate sourness that aged batches had. Somewhat rare in England, good versions may still be found in the Midlands around Birmingham.
Yeah, didn't mean much to me either.

If you really need a definition for mild, think light brown ales, generally under 5% ABV. With the Buzzsaw example I mentioned earlier, it's a 4.7% beer. These are great beers to enjoy after work, before dinner. They're also a wonderful addition to your cooler for camping trips or in the fridge when you have buddies coming over to watch Golden State when the NBA title (that was funny too).

I am not a big stickler for the rules either. If you can't find a Mild to enjoy in May - of if you just don't like brown ales - find some light ABV beers and enjoy them. THEN, with all the bravado you can muster, brag about the beer to your beer enthusiast friends like you would your commute to work... well, hopefully with a little bit more passion and nicer adjectives. I am proud to say I like a good mild beer. In fact, I can't wait to go to Vino's tonight to have some freshly tapped Buzzsaw, or to crack open a few Full Sail Session lagers tomorrow as I work on my garden.

- Rick
"Hi, my name is Rick, and I love mild beer."