Three Notch’d Brewing had an Art of Craft challenge during American Craft Beer Week last year, and they asked homebrewers to brew English IPAs, the best of which would be made at the brewery. Timing and interest did not lead me brew last year, but this year’s challenge intrigued me.
The style for this year’s Art of Craft was a British Pale Mild, which one of those styles that most of us don’t get to try unless we travel a great distance and get lucky, or we brew it ourselves. The mild style, which almost always refers to the dark version, is a rare one that is relatively unknown to most beer drinkers, and the pale mild is even more rare.
The reason why the brewmaster, Dave, chose this obscure style was because it poses some technical and quality hurdles. This low alcohol (3.4-4.1% ABV) beer leaves you nowhere to hide flaws or imbalances. In the GABF Beer Style Categories description below, fruity-esters aromas/flavors and hop aroma/flavor/bitterness all low to very low.
56. English-Style Mild Ale
A. Subcategory: English-Style Pale Mild Ale
English Pale Milds are light amber to medium amber. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures. Fruity-ester aroma is very low to medium low. Hop aroma is very low or low. Malt flavor dominates the flavor profile. Hop flavor is very low to low. Hop bitterness is very low to low. Very low diacetyl flavors may be appropriate in this low-alcohol beer. Fruity-ester flavor is very low to medium low. Body is low to low-medium.
Original Gravity (Plato): 1.030-1.036 (7.6-9.0 Plato) • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (Plato): 1.004-1.008 (1.0-2.1 Plato) • Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 2.7%-3.2% (3.4%-4.1%) • Bitterness (IBU): 10-20 • Color SRM (EBC): 6-9 (12-18 EBC)
This is supposed to be a malty beer where the body is “low to low medium.”
No, I’m not going to mislead you and pretend that I’m a British beer expert or that I favor British beers in general. But I undertook this challenge because it isn’t a strength of mine, and here is how I went about it.
In retrospect, the process was the easy part. I knew I wanted to make a minor water adjustment to harden the water and I did that with a touch of gypsum in the mash. And I knew I wanted to mash in the 154F range to leave behind some body to this beer, and then to ferment it cool around 68F.
WLP002, English Ale yeast, was an obvious choice for fermenting this British style while leaving some residual sweetness. (Although I always find the yeast’s clumpy cottage cheese look disconcerting, at best.) The hops were simply British pellets (UK Challenger and EKG) that I needed to create low bitterness and a low hop perception.
The thing to (over)think was the SRMs. In order to keep the color pale and below 9 SRM, it limited my ability to use deeply flavorful malts as they would darken the beer out of style. The base grain I split between Maris Otter, for a slight nuttiness, and Golden Promise, for a touch of sweetness. And although I rarely use it anymore, I also used some carapils which is dextrine malt which brings some unfermentable sugars that improve foam, head retention and mouthfeel.
In trying to add more flavor, I also used a British Carastan malt to add some toast, caramel and toffee flavors, and some Crystal 120 for another level of caramel, burnt sugar and raisin. In the end, I think the high Lovibond color of the Crystal 120 kept me from adding enough of that malt to make a flavor difference. In doing this over, I would have probably doubled the Carastan up closer to a pound to make that malt more prominent without concern that the color would increase significantly, as well.
When kegging the beer with a friend, the beer had no noticeable flaws but seemed a bit mild. Yes, I know the style is “mild”, but the malt flavors were restrained. This made the beer easy to drink, but less flavorful than I had wanted.
The Art of Craft event was a fun one and I forget how fun it can be to share beer with a crowd of wildly varying degrees of knowledge about beer.
Since this was a difficult challenge, a reckoning of sorts, I called it Reckoner. And because it is one of my favorite Radiohead songs, as well.
In addition, if you have made this style yourself, leave a comment on your recipe and approach.
Reckoner – Pale Mild 2016
3.0 lbs Maris Otter
3.0 lbs Golden Promise
1 lb Carapils
4 oz Crystal 120L
8 oz Carastan 30L
1 tsp Gypsum mash
0.50 oz UK Challenger (6.1% AA) 60 min
0.35 oz East Kent Goldings (5.7% AA) 15 min
1 Tab Whirlfloc
WLP002 English Ale yeast (1000 ml starter made)