You may not have known it, but we’ve just come out of American Mild Month, an obscure but growing celebration of domestic mild ales during May. This year, 19 breweries around the country participated by tapping mild ales of their own throughout the month, including St. Petersburg’s own Flying Boat Brewing Co.
Flying Boat is rare in that it serves a mild ale — its flagship Woodlawn Pub Ale — year-round, contributing to its laid-back, neighborhood pub aesthetic. Mild ales are much more common in Great Britain, where the Campaign for Real Ale has long championed the working-class brew in the nation’s traditional pubs. In the United States, however, they’re conspicuously niche brews.
For American Mild Month, Flying Boat collaborated with Spring Hill’s Marker 48 Brewing, brewing an American extra special/strong bitter (ESB) at home and an American dark mild ale at Marker 48’s facility. The former, dubbed The Woodpile, is on tap now.
ESB is essentially an amped-up version of the ordinary bitter, a first cousin to mild ale. Flying Boat’s version, naturally, is more hop-forward than an English mild or bitter, but it’s much more restrained than what you might expect from an American craft version of an ESB.
The Woodpile’s deep amber color is the first giveaway that this beer is heavily influenced by mild ales. At 4.6 percent alcohol by volume, it sits at the very low end of the ESB scale and at the top of what the American Mild Month organizers envision as an American mild, if that were to be recognized as an official style. In other words, it’s an ESB in name, but it’s an American mild at heart.
The beer’s hop aroma is subdued, with a corresponding earthy spiciness in the flavor that plays well with a healthy addition of rye malt. Smooth and balanced is the approach here, with an emphasis on a malt profile that is subtly creamy and nutty, while managing to finish completely dry, with no residual astringency or bitterness.
If the spirit of American Mild Month is to encourage Americans to explore mild ales and brew domestic versions of these no-frills pub beers, then Flying Boat and Marker 48 have certainly done their part. Try The Woodpile on tap at the former’s tasting room, and be on the lookout for the release of the second collaboration, which will appeal greatly to fans of the first.
— Justin Grant
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