The Badass Tap: Jester King Whiskey Barrel Commercial Suicide English Dark Mild
It seems only fitting to have an English beer, or at least an English beer style on the Badass Tap while we're showing a Harry Potter film, so the timing for this one couldn't have been better.
Among the new breweries in Austin, Jester King is the latest one to start shipping beer (Thirsty Planet were first off the starting block a few months ago, and Austin Beerworks should be delivering beer in January). The brewers at Jester King cannot be said to be playing it safe when it comes their lineup of beers. They're going to produce some very interesting brews in the months and years (yes, they really are thinking that far ahead) to come, and their first two offerings are hardly standard. Wytchmaker Rye IPA is "a decadently hopped rye IPA with abundant notes of citrus, tropical fruit, pine and spice" which includes 15% malted Canadian rye. But the one that really interests me is their other release, Commercial Suicide English Dark Mild Ale.
Mild Ale goes back a long way, to the days when most beer was brewed at the tavern rather than at commercial breweries. Mild wasn't a specific style of beer as it is now. Taverns and inns would have barrels of freshly brewed beer alongside barrels of older beer which might simply be a batch from the previous week, or something older. When a customer ordered a beer they'd usually get a blend of new and old beer, and since the new beer had yet to develop a full flavour it was called 'mild'.
Jumping forward several centuries, the term came to refer to a specific few beers which were low in alcohol and hop character. Until the 1950s mild was the biggest selling beer in England and, harking back to an older time, "a pint of mild and bitter" was a common beer order, but as kegged bitter became more popular mild was dropped from the portfolio of many breweries and by the time I started drinking in pubs around the mid 1970s mild was a thing of the past... at least in most of the south of England, and cask-conditioned beer (real ale) was something you had to hunt down, most of the pubs having thrown out their beer engines and switched to kegged beer.
A few years later however, I found myself living 200 miles north in Lancashire. Not only had real ale maintained its hold in the north of England, but mild ale had also never gone away and it became my daily tipple. The real ale revival of the late 70s, led by CAMRA, did the northern breweries no harm at all, and Robinson's Mild, Holts Mild, Thwaites Mild are all still brewed.
And now, thanks to Jester King, we here in Austin can get a taste of this comparatively rare beer style with their ironically titled dark mild. I say 'ironic' because with beer geeks salivating over the big, hoppy double IPAs and high ABV imperial stouts, who's going to buy a beer that comes in at 3.3%? That's got to be commercial suicide, right? I first sampled it at the Draught House during Austin Beer Week, and I have to say that they've really nailed it. For a moment or two I was transported back to The Claremont in Manchester.
It has all the toasted malt flavours, the lack of hops, the low ABV and the light body of a traditional mild ale, but with an added hint of oakiness from being kept for a week or two in medium charred Kentucky oak barrels - new ones, not those which have previously held whiskey, but for this limited release JK have taken a small amount of Suicide and aged it in George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey barrels to give it a wonderful hint of bourbon. It's the ultimate session beer.
Come January, we'll be adding Commercial Suicide to the menu here at Lamar, oh yes.
Jim Hughes, Head Beer Nerd, Alamo South Lamar
“If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink… I’d spend it on drink.” ~ Sir Henry Rawlinson