Heist Brewery has made a name for itself lately with big, bold beers like its hazy, Northeast-style IPAs and its Cataclysm series of Russian imperial stouts.
But when the brewery’s name was called last Friday at the World Beer Cup awards in Philadelphia, it was Brockwell that took bronze.
Dark in color yet light in body, Brockwell is the brewery’s mild ale. Mild ales are malt-forward beers, often boasting notes of toffee, caramel or perhaps a touch of roast, though never to the level of a porter. They are usually low in alcohol (at 4.2 percent ABV, Heist’s is actually a bit stronger than traditional examples). All of this leads to a beer that is quite quaffable.
Heist submitted four beers for judging: Grand Optimist, a double IPA; San Fran Disco, a pale ale; Blundus Biere, a Belgian-style blonde; and Brockwell. Of those four, head brewer Eric Mitchell suspected that Brockwell had the best chance to garner a medal since it was more true to style, which is what the beers are judged on in the World Beer Cup.
“I think there’s a time and place to brew to style,” said Mitchell. “I’m more of a brew to taste kind of guy. Our IPAs obviously are cloudy, so they’re going to get docked for that. Our stouts probably wouldn’t score as well because they’re slightly sweeter. But a mild is something that if you call it a mild, it’s got to fit the bill.”
Mitchell first brewed Brockwell shortly after coming to Heist two years ago as one of the brewery’s “Not So Small Batch” beers. Last year it graduated to a winter seasonal, but they only brewed it a few times. Award-winning beer though it is, it is actually one of Heist’s slower movers. This has less to do with the quality of the beer and more to do with the average drinker’s preference in beer styles.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Mitchell. “But you have people that when they want a dark beer they go for a porter, and when they want a light beer they go for a pilsner.”
Which might explain why you don’t see many mild ales, whether here in Charlotte or even across the pond. But the style’s seen a resurgence lately, due in part to the fact that May is Mild Month in both the U.S. and the U.K. (side note: Mitchell named the beer Brockwell simply because it sounded British).
Even though Brockwell isn’t as trendy as the hazy IPAs he’s brewed lately, Mitchell sees a lot to love in the humble mild ale.
“It’s got enough flavor to get the beer geeks interested, but to also appease the nonchalant, give-me-a-Bud-Light guy,” he said.
And it’s exceptionally food friendly, pairing well with many of the brewpub’s menu items.
Sold? Unfortunately since it’s a winter seasonal, nary a drop of Brockwell can be found at Heist Brewery — but Mitchell and his team are talking about brewing a celebratory batch soon. Follow the brewery on Facebook and Twitter for more.
Photo: Brewers Association