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.
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/-.
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.