Continuing to leverage my time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, I am studying for the second level of the Cicerone Certification Program for beer professionals. To stay honest in my studies, I am publishing reviews of DMV beers brewed in the classic styles and comparing them to the official style guidelines.
This week I’m drinking Mild Manor’d from Ellicot City’s Manor Hill. This beer is interesting because it used to be marketed as an English Mild (hence the name) but currently is labeled as an Amber Ale. Manor Hill describes it as a combination of the two, so this week we get to look at double the amount of guidelines, now in beautiful table format:
|English Mild Guidelines
A dark, low-gravity, malt-focused British session ale readily suited to drinking in quantity.
|American Amber Guidelines
An amber, hoppy, moderate-strength American craft beer with a caramel malty flavor.
|Appearance is:||Copper to dark brown or mahogany color, generally quite clear.||Amber to coppery-brown in color, generally quite clear.|
|Aroma is:||Low malt, with range of caramel, nutty, toast, or fruit. Low to no hops.||Low to moderate typical American hops, moderate caramel melt.|
|Flavor is:||Malt balanced with above range of malt flavors. Up to moderate fruity esters, low hop flavor.||Moderate to high citrus/resin hoppiness, initial moderate caramel maltiness, little to no fruity esters.|
|Mouthfeel is:||Light to medium body, low carbonation.||Medium to medium full body, medium to high carbonation.|
|Vitals:||IBUs 10-25, SRM 12-25, ABV 3-3.8%||IBUs 25-40, SRM 10-17, ABV 4.5-6.2%|
The can pours a relatively clear copper with an ample head that fades with the quickness. Scents of pie crust biscuit sweetened up with a bit too much (read: correct amount) honey pleasantly combine with a lightly earthy hop aroma. I was almost surprised by the amount of hoppy bitterness on my palate after the intense sniffing my fiance made fun of, which definitely tilts this towards the American Amber category. The hops bring moderate citrus, resin, and earth notes to this overall malt-balanced beer, with caramel and lightly toasty pie crust leading the way. There is a pleasant vanilla-like sweetness in the middle of this beer that imparts a creamy mouthfeel but doesn’t hamper a dry finish. It still has that damp forest English hop thing going on (I believe “musty” may be the proper terminology), but with a citrus twist that feels more Pacific Northwest.
One can go through 80+ beer styles, pouring over the history, quantitative and qualitative parameters of each style, and whittle many down to “Americans took this beer and hopped the shit out of it.” US brewers were massively influenced by English beer, with many of the current American styles (IPAs, Brown ales, Porter, and Stout to name a few) being hoppier, higher alcohol takes on their English predecessors, and made with ingredients easier to find here. American Ambers were among the first “American” styles and foreshadowed the direction domestic brewers would take in the 21st century. Coincidentally, ambers are also now the favorite style of old men complaining that there are too many IPAs on the menu, and not even in full shaker pints. Change is inevitable everywhere, beer included.
With that in mind, “Amber ale” is an apt descriptor for Mild Manor’d, a supremely drinkable Amber with some interesting twists on expectations. Not hoppy enough to qualify as American Amber, too bitter and boozy for an English mild, this beer is a hybrid, bridging the evolutionary gap between English and US styles. It is easy to make a hybrid that misses the entire point of the separate styles (e.g., Mexican Pizza), but much harder to harness the positives of two things to make an interesting thing on its own (Doritos Loco Taco). I can’t think of a better compliment than comparing a product to a Doritos Loco Taco.
Pairs well with cheddar cheese (grilled between bread, copiously melted over macaroni, or eaten off the block with the refrigerator door open), those sugar-coated nuts they’re obligated to sell you at the excellent Jack Rose bottle shop, and spending a half hour debating Taco Bell comparisons to avoid studying.
Next week, Cushwa 56 Nights Munich Dunkel!