Monday, 25 January 2010

In which I refuse to wait until May to enjoy a drop of mild

And then we had Burton Bridge’s mild coming on at Woods on Friday and hasn’t it flown out of the tap this weekend. Will the barman was so chuffed that he couldn’t stop humming (a Good Pub Guide entry once described him as the ‘singing barman’), while even those whose normal lubrication was cider tried the stuff and pronounced it a good drop. ‘I didn’t know they still made mild,’ was a common refrain, that suggests CAMRA still has a long way to go in promoting mild (never understood why May was the promotional time for mild, cause for me at that time of the year as the earth wakes up I want beers the colour of sunshine, beers bearing great big bunches of tropical fruit on the nose).

‘All sorts of folk have been ordering it,’ beamed Will in between songs. Another regular said that it was the colour of bonfire toffee, which then provoked another conversation about what on earth was bonfire toffee and was it still being made. What it does prove is that people, if given the chance, will talk about beer in the same way as they talk about wine, even out here in Exmoor, where the weather is all too often the tropic of conversation. Oh and what was it like? For the record the mild was scrumptious and this weekend I have done my best to pay it proper homage (even the other half enjoyed a drop, but then she used to drink Old Peculier at college) — it was earthy, chocolatey, sooty, mocha coffee-like and vinous, in possession of a good body and crackling with a dry chewy finish. Burton Bridge I salute you.
The picture shows Will at the bar and I could say it was conceptual but I’m just a rubbish snapper.


  1. ..And so you should. Mild rules!

  2. when I started off drinking in the pubs of North Wales I loathed mild, thought it weak, watery, old men’s beer etc etc, it was Ansells I think and one of our lot used to make a half last him all night — think it was Bateman’s Dark and Black Cat (very good with pizza) that caught me a few years back.

  3. Mild is a style I have come to love, and what a great challenge it is to brew it well! Make a low ABV beer that is complex enough to be interesting and yet easy enough to drink several of is one of my most enjoyable homebrew projects - my first homebrew was a smoked dark mild, which was fun. I am planning to make a fairly straight dark mild just in time for my parents to visit in March.

    Unfortunately American craft brewers are too busy bombing everything in site with C hops to appreciate the delicate beauty that is Mild (or a 60/- ale for that matter - everything Scottish over here has to be a Wee Heavy), a niche there perhaps?

  4. No, I don't get why May either. Surely not just for the sake of alliteration?

    Mild leaves a brewer nowhere to hide.

  5. Velky Al, poor old mild is pushed to the back of the cupboard, even in the UK, sadly. Let's hope that the US microbrewed beer market come to appreciate it for what it is: a delicious, easy drinking, quaffing ale. The "my beer is bigger than your beer" thing is getting a bit worn thin, don't you think? Time for a change?

    Bailey, Sadly I think it is solely for the alliteration. I like to make March a mild month too. Oh and January, February....

  6. @MentalDental - I'm afraid that the other side of the pond has already 'Americanised' mild - when I was judging at the Great American Beer Festival we had a barrel-aged 'Imperial Mild', we prayed to the heavens that it was supposed to be ironic but as it's an utterly blind tasting we never found out who it was... shame as it was the only blot of the beer landscape when I was there.

  7. Mild is for March, or maybe February. Although it always snows in February round this way.

  8. Velky — what are C-hops, is it citrus? But I do agree that the skill of the brewer is to produce something that doesn’t do a Dresden ’45 on your taste buds, for instance I had a gorgeous pint of Bowman’s Swift One in Winchester’s Black Boy today, and it was only 3.8.
    Ditto Bailey and I suspect the choice of the month is the joy of its alliteration, but also I would say it is a relic of CAMRA’s Dave Spart campaigning days, the big fist banging out the campaign message with the tempo of marching men, witness the massive big black block capitals of WB’s front page headlines in the past.
    Melissa — thing is was the beer any good? Would you have strictures on brewers, a Reinheitsgebot on beer styles, so that milds can only be a certain strength; this arms race on hops and strengths will straighten itself out and anyway wasn’t mild about being young rather than strength?
    Zak, couldn’t agree more, last thing I want in May is mild. So there.

  9. "C hops" is shorthand for things like Cascade, Centennial and Columbus, and the citrus thing is very prominent. One of the things I find disturbing about a lot of hopbominations is they are completely unbalanced toward the hop and the malt is almost an afterthought. I also find that one of the reasons I brew so often is so I can enjoy the kind of beers I like and can't get over here, such as mild.