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The Session # 3 cometh: Think Mild

The SessionDon’t forget to stock up on some Mild ale for Friday.

What’s Mild, you ask, and why Friday?

Jay Brooks tells us everything we need to know about the elusive style. May is “Mild Month” in the UK and Friday is Mild day for a monthly virtual gathering of beer bloggers that we call The Session.

If you are a blogger we welcome you to join us – just post on Friday and send Jay a link. If you are a beer drinker, then lay in some Mild or have one (or two, that’s the advantage of low alcohol beers) at your local pub, then join us for a little reading.

Session #3 announced: Misunderstood Mild

The SessionJay Brooks has made his pick for our third round of Friday beer blogging.

The theme is “Mysterious Misunderstood Mild.” He picked it to coincide with CAMRA’s May promotion, Mild Month, writing:

“Saturday the 5th will also be National Mild Day on the other side of the pond. For those of us here in the colonies, we may have a harder time finding a mild to review. But several craft brewers do make one, even if they don’t always call it a mild.”

May 5 is also National Homebrew Day and Big Brew for homebrewers.

Although milds are usually, well, mild and low in alcohol, they don’t have to be. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) classifies milds as English brown ales. The guidelines note that most are 3.1 to 3.8% abv, but lists Gale’s Festival Mild as an example. That beer is 5.6% abv.

The Brewers Association Style Guidelines (for commercial brewers) on the other hand state that both pale and dark milds should be between 3.2 and 4% abv. English-style brown ales may be 4 to 5.5% abv.

The bottom line, as you may have noticed with Day of the Dubbels, is that we’re not going to be style Nazis about this. Find a beer, drink it, write about it.

Session #2: Chama River Demolition Dubbel

The Session(This is my contribution to our monthly Session. Alan McLeod will be recapping them all.)

One Sunday last May, Ted Rice lifted a glass of beer homebrewed in the spirit of a Belgian dubbel.

“That’s the aroma I’m looking for,” he said, putting it to his nose.

This was literally one of the first batches brewed with the dark candy syrup that Brian Mercer (www.darkcandi.com) was just beginning to import from Belgium. Mercer had shipped samples to a few homebrewers and we invited them to enter their beers in the Enchanted Brewing Challenge. We’d judged the homebrew competition the day before at Chama River Brewing Co., where Rice is the brewer, and today we were drinking the leftovers while sitting on the deck at Il Vicino Brewing.

The dark syrup contributes rich caramel, rummy and dark fruit aromas we associate with beers brewed in Belgium. Westmalle started used caramelized sugar syrup in its Dubbel in 1922. (More about the syryp.)

Ted RiceNot surprisingly, it wasn’t long before Rice (shown at work in this un-glamorous photo) brewed a dubbel with the syrup. He’s since brewed two more, the latest of which is on tap now.

Tasting it as it matured, the consensus has been that it is the best Demolition Dubbel yet (to our count, this is the sixth edition since the first won a gold medal in the 2004 New Mexico State Fair). So I intended on Tuesday to ask Rice: “Are we there yet?”

I took along the previous version, bottled last summer for entry in the Great American Beer Festival and stored in a temperature-controlled chest freezer since October (we don’t have cellars in New Mexico). The GABF version was bottled-conditioned, meaning fresh sugar and yeast were added to kickoff re-fermentation in the bottle and carbonate the beer to a level not generally available on draft.

And it was carbonated, much more than when I last tried a bottle six months ago. Beer came surging out when I opened the cap, onto Rice’s desk in the brewery and the floor, leaving just enough in the 22-ounce bottle for three of us to sample. We quickly assured ourselves that an infection wasn’t to blame.

We didn’t find any off flavors or sourness, but one friend picked up a bit of tinny thinness in the finish and much preferred the one on draft. Even though the bottled version was cloudy (yeast in suspension) Rice and I decided we liked it better because of spicy character contributed by the yeast (this version was brewed with a different yeast than last). A bit of a surprise.

Is there a point (or are there points)? For one thing that when you brew in small batches not every edition has to taste the same.

For another, earlier this week Andrew at Flossmoor Beer Blog mentioned that American brewers “try to do a little of everything” (there’s more in his post worth commenting on, but that will have to wait). Well, Rice has won seven medals at GABF or the World Beer Cup in five different beers styles. None of which are among the six regular offering at CR, so brewing an every changing lineup for the other four hasn’t affected quality.

I’m not sure when we’ll next see Demolition Dubbel, but I do know that it will be different again.

“I could do this the rest of my life (and still be working on it),” Rice said.

Have you heard about Bud Dubbel?

The SessionHow excited must the people at Anheuser-Busch be about the advent of The Session?

Certainly they must have been disappointed that nobody blogged about Bare Knuckle Stout for the first round of The Session.

Apparently they don’t want to be left out again.

Is it coincidence that Alan McLeod has chosen dubbels as the topic for April 6 and A-B seems to be brewing a beer to that style?

They are. Really. OK, we won’t be looking for it before April 6. Instead of pretending they did it for us it’s time to remove tongue from cheek (thus making it easier to properly taste beer).

Miller’s Brew Blog reports that A-B filed a certificate of label approval application with the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for three new beers under the Faust banner. Of course that doesn’t guarantee anything, particularly widespread distribution.

The beers are Faust Belgian Style Dubbel (7% abv), Faust Dortmunder Style Lager (5.5%), and Faust Early American Pilsner (5%). (And how about a collective hmmm for that last one?) The brands are attributed to the Beechwood Brewing Group.

The SessionA-B first created a Faust beer for the Oyster House and Restaurant, naming it for its owner, A. E. Tony Faust (best friend of brewery founder Adolphus Busch). In the 1990s the brewery experimented with a series of specialty beers called American Originals. These included American Hop Ale and a golden colored lager called Faust.

The Brew Blog has a long list of other A-B products recently killed or possibly in the works, but these Faust beers look the most interesting.

Even if the Dubbel isn’t in time for what Alan’s calling the “Son of Session.”

The Session #2 announced: Dubbels

The SessionAlan has written. The theme for the second round of The Session has been chosen:

“What do you really want in April? Frankly, I want an ale and one with some strength to get you warmed after a cold day turning half frozen soil. Something that can stand the keeping through the winter. Something with some flavour to match the warming of the earth. Something with an ecclesiastical aspect. I have just the thing in mind…

DUBBELS!”

Hey, I know somebody who wrote about a book about this “style” (in quotation marks because I don’t want New Belgium’s Peter Brouckaert knocking me upside the head).

I’m having second thoughts about not picking a New Mexico beer for our March tasting, so I’ll be leaning that way for April. Might have to try a few American and Belgian versions just to make sure.

Mark the date: We post on April 6. You may begin drinking and taking notes any time.

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