Round-up of Session #88: Beer Mixes

For the 88th edition of The Session, we asked beer bloggers to consider ‘traditional beer mixes’. Here’s a summary of contributions received so far.

The beer blogging Session logo.Get­ting in a cou­ple of days ear­ly, Dan at Com­mu­ni­ty Beer Works was the first to high­light a prob­lem with the top­ic we’d cho­sen: mild, one the beer styles nec­es­sary to make the mix­es list­ed by Richard Boston, is hard to find in out­side the UK. (And in large parts of the UK, for that mat­ter.) Nonethe­less, he made some thought­ful sub­sti­tu­tions and was sub­se­quent­ly high­ly impressed by a ‘boil­er­mak­er’ com­bin­ing a Bel­gian-style amber beer with a brown-ale/stout hybrid: “This beer has bro­ken down style guide­lines and replaced them with anar­chism. Deli­cious anar­chism.”

Stan at Appel­la­tion Beer did­n’t over-think it, sim­ply mix­ing his two favourite ‘ball­park beers’, Urban Chest­nut Schnick­el­fritz and Schlafly Pale Ale, in a plas­tic cup at the game: “I sup­pose there was a lit­tle more, or at least dif­fer­ent, fruity char­ac­ter in the blend. More hops, for sure, than Schnick­el­fritz alone, earth­i­er.”

For the blog of online beer retail­er Beer Hawk, Mag­gie was the only con­trib­u­tor to this mon­th’s ses­sion to attempt a ‘granny’, mix­ing lkley Black (mild) and Robin­son’s Old Tom (old). It left her under­whelmed and uncon­vinced of the ben­e­fits of mix­ing beer.

Glen at Beer is Your Friend made three pass­es at a ‘black and tan’ (com­bin­ing dark beer with light). After two duds, he hit the jack­pot with a mix of Bridge Road Brew­ers Robust Porter and Beech­worth Pale Ale: It was almost a black IPA.”

The Beer Nut made what we reck­on qual­i­fies as a ‘light­plater’, mix­ing an IPA and a gold­en ale from the same brew­ery. Though under­whelm­ing on their own, togeth­er they cre­at­ed quite a decent, bal­anced com­plex Eng­lish ses­sion bit­ter”.

Sean at Beer Search Par­ty played around with the idea of a ‘boil­er­mak­er’ using Cal­i­forn­ian beers. He also went a step fur­ther in exper­i­ment­ing with pro­por­tions: “But despite upping the per­cent­ages, the… brown ale which seem­ing­ly was the weak­er came out on top. That was a fas­ci­nat­ing devel­op­ment.”

David at Beer Tint­ed Spec­ta­cles took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rem­i­nisce about his days behind the bar in a pub in the Eng­lish Mid­lands as a man­age­ment trainee with Bass: It was a whole new lex­i­con: ‘Half & Half’, ‘Black and Tan’, ‘Bass and Gowd’ and ‘Mick­ey Mouse’.” There are some fas­ci­nat­ing obser­va­tions on the func­tion of Gold Label bar­ley wine, too, which bring into ques­tion the idea that Eng­lish drinkers are ded­i­cat­ed to mod­er­a­tion and ‘ses­sion­abil­i­ty’. His attempt at a ‘Mick­ey Mouse’ using Goose Island IPA and Heineken Export was not a great suc­cess, how­ev­er.

Dar­ren at Beer Today is, as far as we can tell, the only per­son who car­ried out his mix­ing in a pub, enjoy­ing a ‘brown split’ at the Star Inn under the sus­pi­cious eye of a reg­u­lar who drinks noth­ing else: “[In] the absence of a mild… it more than ade­quate­ly filled the gap… robust, sweet and nut­ty with a love­ly choco­latey smooth­ness…”

Bre­andán and Elisa at Bel­gian Smaak took on the ‘black­smith’, giv­ing it a Bel­gian-Irish twist by using Guin­ness Spe­cial Export as the stout and Vision Dionysique in lieu of bar­ley wine. These two big beers did not seem to get on: “Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, the com­bi­na­tion of stout sweet­ness and bar­ley­wine bit­ter­ness in this par­tic­u­lar mix may have been more con­fus­ing for us than bal­anced.”

Jon at The Brew Site com­bined a Ken­tucky Kölsch with the pow­er­ful Coop­er’s Extra Stout from Aus­tralia in a ‘black and tan’, pro­duc­ing some­thing that remind­ed him of a Ger­man Schwarz­bier, “light, roasty and super drink­able”.

Unable to get hold of any mild, and not a fan of mix­es in gen­er­al, Ding instead decid­ed to pro­vide some per­son­al rec­ol­lec­tions of beer mix­ing in the UK, and to reflect upon its pur­pose: “[Bar staff] often over­es­ti­mat­ed and as a result, the drinker got quite a bit more than a pint for his mon­ey. In fact, this became quite a com­mon tac­tic where peo­ple would order these mix­es just to get ‘more’ beer.”

Ed used a can of ‘Euro­pean lager’ to res­cue a pint of two-day-old cask ale, cre­at­ing a ‘mick­ey mouse’: “It tast­ed like a light ale and went down sur­pris­ing­ly well.”

Oliv­er at Lit­er­a­ture & Liba­tion got stuck on our use of the word ‘tra­di­tion­al’, and even­tu­al­ly decid­ed to explore what he presents as some­thing of a tra­di­tion in the mak­ing – cut­ting a HUGE IPA with a lit­tle ‘un to cre­ate some­thing which is just right: “The result is a lot like Stone’s reg­u­lar IPA, but by mix­ing, you get two good beers instead of one great one and one lame one.”

Der­rick at Ram­blings of a Beer Run­ner took the idea of the ‘light­plater’ and (heh) ran with it, bring­ing togeth­er Anchor Sai­son (stand­ing in for ‘light’) and Lagu­ni­tas IPA (as the bit­ter com­po­nent). It seems to have worked pret­ty well, and, in his con­clu­sion, he asks a ques­tion which is actu­al­ly an answer to “Why mix beers?”: “Is it pos­si­ble to cre­ate this beer with these fla­vors from a sin­gle mash, boil and fer­men­ta­tion? My guess is no.”

Will at von­Schlap­per’s Adven­tures With Beer attempt­ed to cre­ate a ‘boil­er­mak­er’ using Morn­ing­ton Brown and an Aus­tralian odd­i­ty we were fas­ci­nat­ed to learn of: “Coop­ers Mild Cloudy yel­low. White head; large bub­bles. Almost a sai­son nose. Dry. Prick­les on tongue. Lit­tle flavour – but what’s there is slight­ly lemo­ny. Reminds me of my first home­brew.” His con­clu­sion, how­ev­er, is that mix­ing does­n’t make sense in a world where beer is already so diverse, and where good beer is so read­i­ly avail­able.

Alan at A Good Beer Blog recy­cled an old but rel­e­vant blog post in which he sug­gests using the revered Bel­gian beer Orval “as sort of a Brett con­cen­trate” for pep­ping up oth­er brews. An inter­est­ing idea, but what do you call the mix? We pro­pose ‘barn­stormer’ (Orval and pale ale) and ‘black horse’ (Orval and stout) for starters.

And, final­ly, our own con­tri­bu­tion, in which we messed around with Mack­e­son stout, Gold Label bar­ley wine, Guin­ness, McE­wan’s Cham­pi­on and some beers from our stash. The win­ner for us? A half-and-half of Guin­ness and Williams Bros 80/-.

UPDATE 10/06/2014

Phil at Oh Good Ale found this round-up inter­est­ing enough to prompt him to try a ‘moth­er-in-law’ (old ale and bit­ter) made with Robin­son’s Old Tom and Tim­o­thy Tay­lor Land­lord: All in all, the exper­i­ment con­firms my ini­tial view of beer-mix­ing: that it’s some­thing you do with two beers whose taste you don’t much like, to mask those flavours and leave you with some­thing that’s drink­able but doesn’t taste of much.”

The next edi­tion of the Ses­sion, on the sub­ject of beer in his­to­ry, will be host­ed by Bill at Pitts­burgh Beer Snob on 4 July 2014.

2 thoughts on “Round-up of Session #88: Beer Mixes”

  1. Very inter­est­ing and good to see that most peo­ple felt the results worth­while. This just vin­di­cates cen­turies of Eng­lish brew­ing and pub prac­tice. It’s not rock­et sci­ence, any­one can do it and real­ly it is just an exten­sion of the brew­er’s prac­tice of mix­ing dif­fer­ent malt and hops. Oliv­er stat­ed it exact­ly how I see it.


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