An English mild might seem like an odd choice to brew as one of your flagships, but Yards Brewing Co. eschews that notion for the sake of history and endurance. Yards, which boasts a fleet of “Ales of the Revolution,” is in rare company in offering an English mild year-round. The Philadelphia-based brewery introduced Brawler in 1998, and reintroduced it in 2008. It also received an upgraded moniker, graduating in weight class from “pugilist ale” to its current “champion ale.” Since then, it has become the only English mild with over 1,000 ratings on Beer Advocate.
Brawler pulls no punches with its emblem of a bare-knuckle boxer squaring off with the devil—it’s practically fit for parchment paper. There’s nothing mild about the beer’s body, which is a fairly thick with a dark brown color that gives a visual promise of a roundhouse of roastiness.
An English-style quality is apparent in the aroma, and there’s no mistaking it. Brawler evokes a strong essence of English Breakfast tea. It’s easy to imagine ordering a tankard of this 4.2% ABV beer, and stumbling around on the cobblestone afterward.
Brawler is a fine change-of-pace beer, especially when paired with a historical haven that is Philadelphia.”
The first sip is where Brawler takes a little bit of a left turn, but it’s a pleasant one. The black tea promised on the nose is there, but it’s infused with a caramelly, cola-like sweetness. It’s not subtle, either. Instead, it’s a bold and sugary flavor, especially for a mild ale. The one drawback is the tea’s dry aftertaste, but it’s a minor nuisance compared to the overall pleasantness of the beer.
Brawler is a stylistic throwback that doesn’t seem to appeal to the masses. There are few times or settings that scream, “It’s English Mild time!” It’s a style that offers no hop complexity, which gives it little place in the modern craft beer world. But Brawler is a fine change-of-pace beer, especially when paired with a historical haven that is Philadelphia.