Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Mild? In May? or any time for that matter?

It has always been something that has intrigued me; the fact that the beer world likes to defend traditional quirks that seem to be in decline. The Pub, for instance, that long established British tradition of the local is under threat as we well know. I view these things as an unfortunate inevitability. Large establishments like Wetherspoons who provide cost effective drinking places and ever more competition for the spare pounds in our pocket, shout as we will, pubs will continue to close.

It's May, apparently. We should all be drinking mild, apparently. I ought to be brewing mild if I listened to the supporters of that particular beer style. But I haven't brewed a mild for ages, and I'm certainly unlikely to brew it again any time soon. It's not out of defiance of the concept of mild or to attempt to antagonise the mild supporters, they are entitled to champion their preferred beer if that is their wish, I just don't really want to be part of it.

I have brewed mild, and some have even commented that it was one of the very best milds they have ever tasted. Unfortunately, whenever anyone who was an expert1 on mild tasted mine they re-classified it as a porter. You see, I like to brew progressive beer with flavour rather than to conform to some traditional stylistic ideal that is better consigned to the dustbin.

It is possible to brew a truly fantastic mild. Further more, some very exceptional, award-winning pale beers classify as light milds and don't need a special month to promote them.

However, most people think of mild as a low gravity dark beer that tastes of nothing very much, doesn't keep well and just isn't worth the bother. Moreover, the style is much better suited to winter months rather than the typically nice weather that we tend to get in May.

Now, you'll have to excuse me, I have some beer to transfer to conditioning tank where it will mingle with a large amount of American varieties of dry hops.


1Expert = Ex Spurt - a former drip under pressure. Just don't start thinking in terms of bodily fluids......


Neil, Eating isn't Cheating said...

Whilst I agree May is a dodgy month for Mild to be promoted I do think it's good that people are championing out of fashion styles.

I've had some great milds in the past; Leeds Midnight Bell, Brewdog edge and Rudgate Ruby Mild being three that come to mind (the latter probably the least 'to style').

I love Hardknott beers too, but I love them in part becasue they are different to whats out there at the moment. I would never want mild to be the only thing on the bar, but as a beer style it is a subtle beauty well worth saving.

I like super hopped IPA's and super-crude-oil-espresso imperial stouts as much as the next beer blogger, but I love diversity in beer even more, and to my mind, Mild deserves it's place.

Tandleman said...

God knows why it is May. I agree entirely winter is best for mild.

Mark said...

"However, most people think of mild as a low gravity dark beer that tastes of nothing very much, doesn't keep well and just isn't worth the bother. Moreover, the style is much better suited to winter months rather than the typically nice weather that we tend to get in May."

Bang on re the month. I've never heard anyone argue in favour of it being May. Makes no sense at all.

I agree that a lot of mild is dark, bland and boring ... it doesn't have to be that way though!

HardKnott Dave said...

Neil, I think that the style definition might be part of the problem. Edge, in my view, is not a mild by the definition some like to promote. I love Edge and if I were to brew a mild again it would be a little more like that.

The other two examples you give are unknown to me, I must hunt them out.

Tandleman, several bloggers have made this point over a number of years. Do you have any idea why it's still May?

Mark, no, mild doesn't have to be that way, but when I try to make it more interesting my version seems to cross the style boundaries.

HardKnott Dave said...

Tandleman, sorry, you've already said you don't know. Perhaps I should ask if noises are made within CAMRA?

StringersBeer said...

Never seen the point of May=Mild apart from the alliteration. And of course, this comes up every year at about this time. We actually make a dark low-strength sparingly hopped job all year - even though it's desperately unfashionable. More fool us.

Tandleman said...

Dave - I don't know, but I suppose it is the alliteration, though of course you could have March for that. Perhaps I can find out why?

Curmudgeon said...

I don't see much evidence that drinkers are switching to weaker beers because of health concerns - they're just drinking less. Indeed, if you're not going to drink very much, you're more likely to want something that is distinctive and strong-flavoured.

Mild is something that became popular because it was an undemanding beer suitable for consumption in large volumes by manual workers - a role in the beer market now fulfilled, if at all, by cooking lager.

Yvan Seth said...

My partner and I are quite happy to drink good milds (and stouts) all year round! But we're a bit odd ;) Luckily there are a few who go to our local who are of the same mindset and there is nearly always a dark beer on, and right now there are two "milds" available (nothing to do with it being May, the landlords have little love-for or interest-in CAMRA, this is just business as usual.)

That said: yep, I agree. May is an odd month as most people associate dark beer with wintery weather - and the vast majority of "milds" are of the dark form.

I can't see many of our local pubs putting on a mild just because CAMRA suggest that they do so. We'll be doing a "mild walk" around town, but a bunch of CAMRA folk showing up and drinking half a pint each doesn't sell a firkin of beer. Will be interesting to see how the pubs that don't usually do milds respond.

Anyway, is "mild" really "in danger"? Or is this something like the case for real ale... has the danger passed? There are many breweries that produce milds year-round, and most towns of a resonable size have at least one pub that has mild on regularly, if not permanently. We certainly don't need all breweries to be making milds, nor all pubs to be selling them. (Just like we don't need all pubs to have cask ale on...;)

RedNev said...

I agree entirely that May is an odd month to promote mild, and it probably is just for alliterative reasons. It won't change unless CAMRA conference passes a motion to that effect, and as far as I know, no one has proposed one.

I have a link on my blog to a site to Make March Mild Month.

HardKnott Dave said...

Stringers, indeed, I think you are referring to Dark Country which is indeed nice. But is it a mild?

The alteration thing irritates some people, and I can understand why. (We all know who) For this reason I'd propose a month that didn't start with "M"

Tandleman, if you can find out I'd be genuinely interested in knowing. I'd back the call to change it to a more suitable month.

Mudgie, distinctive, that's the word. I do like a distinctively tasty beer. For me, the problem is, it takes an exception mild to be that.

Bland, there is nothing wrong with bland, if that's your thing. Millions of cooking lager drinkers can't be wrong.

Yvan, I love dark beer. There is an issue generally in the pub industry that causes golden ales to predominate. I think the word endangered is a little strong, but there is a case for encouraging some licensees to try the dark side. I'm just not convinced "May is Mild month" is the way to go.

Alliteration, a beer style associated with flat caps, whippets and stale beer, inappropriate seasonal timing and a methodology that tends only to appeal to the converted anyway is not going to increase the demand for dark beers.

Howsabout "Dark December"..........

StringersBeer said...

Dark Country? That's the one. It's near the top of the range for bitterness, it's not based on mild ale malt, and it's quite dry overall, but I'd still call it a mild. Except when I'm trying to sell it in the other 11 months of the year.

And remember - not all milds are dark. There are some quite popular light ones still around.

Ghost Drinker said...

Dave - you can pick up some Midnight Bell and Rudgate Ruby Mild from us nx time your down at Beer Ritz - There both two excellent milds which are full of flavour and character - two things which can be lacking in many I've tried unfortunately.

Curmudgeon said...

Robinson's Hatters, which must be one of the biggest selling regularly brewed milds around, is a light mild, of course, and lighter in colour than many standard bitters.

StringersBeer said...

T. Taylors, of course, have two milds in their range. The light one, Golden Best, is probably easier to spot and well worth having a go on. Not what you'd call shouty though.

Phil said...

I had no idea Golden Best was a mild until I saw it on the Mild Magic list! I started drinking it when it replaced Taylor's Best at my local, and my immediate assumption was that it was Golden Best [Bitter], i.e. a light warm-weather version of Best. Distinctive it ain't, but it's a nice session beer.

Had Edge once on cask. A truly wonderful beer*, but very much a dark mild, I'd have said - in what way do you think it doesn't fit the flavour profile, Dave?

*Maybe one day BD will split into two companies, with the guys who make the brilliant cask ales in one and the guys who rave about keg and pick fights with CAMRA in the other... Well, I can dream.