Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Mad for Mild

American Mild Month may just be one of my more daft ideas.

I am quite happy to own the fact that advocating for a deeply, deeply uncool beer style in the land of hazies, imperials, and pastry stouts probably puts me on the same level of madness as the man who claims to be a boiled egg. Even so, I love mild.

Perhaps it is cruel to refer to mild as uncool in the US, the reality is more likely that it is simply a largely unknown quantity. I have sat at several a brewery tap room bar (remember doing that?) and the barstaff have no idea of what the style even is.

We are perhaps a little lucky here in Virginia that I can think of at least 3 breweries off the top of my head who brew mild, at least 2 of them on a regular basis. Of the 3, I have only tried one, Fast Mail from Ballad Brewing, which made it on to my top 10 Virginian beers last year and is a delightful beer. The others are from the Virginia Beer Company in Williamsburg, and I am yet to try them, though now they are distributing to this part of the Commonwealth I hope to get them soon. The third was an instant drain pour, though I am reticent to blame the brewery given it was on tap at a bar, and folks seem somewhat adverse to ordering mild if they aren't British, or fans of British beer styles. so I don't know how long it had bee sat around.

Speaking of Virginia Beer Company, they are one of American Mild Month's most loyal and vocal supporters and have been almost from the beginning.

What though makes mild such a wonderful style in my opinion? In many ways it epitomises the best of traditional British beer. Most milds, whether dark or pale, have about the same alcohol content of an ordinary bitter, somewhere in the 3%-3.8% range, though there are exceptions. Sessionability is a key factor, this is beer that sure you can have a couple of over lunch, (remember going to the pub for lunch?), but even better to pull an all nighter with in your local.

In order to pull an all nighter though, you need something that will keep you coming back for more, and that's where a well made dark mild comes into its own. Malt complexity is the hallmark of the style, crystal malts, roasted malts, amber malts, brown, chocolate, black, rauch you name it, they all find a place in a mild. My most regularly brewed homebrew mild includes pale chocolate, pale crystal, dark crystal, and a smoked malt on top of the Golden Promise base. Just within dark milds you can run from ruby beers that are sweet, with toffee and caramel notes, all the way to pitch black and lots of coffee and chocolate. There is so much scope for differentiation. My aforementioned mild is very dark, like a fire ruby when held up to the light, whereas the mild I brewed for a friends album release party was much more red, and dripped with honey malt sweetness.

Low alcohol is not an indicator of an absence of flavour, indeed, great milds are incredibly complex and tasty. Perhaps part of the problem is that mild, modern mild at least, is not generally known for being hoppy, and we all know how folks wank obsess over their hops in the craft beer world. This may be an unpopular opinion then, but if a beer drinker only imbibes IPAs of various types then they likely have a pretty one dimensional palate. Given the current rage for hazy, fruity, juicy IPAs, that one dimension is clearly a popular, rainbow inspired candy, how innovative to make it an IPA.

We come then to perhaps the biggest difference between traditional British brewers and the modern craft world. Yeast. The vast majority of US brewers seem to use either a very clean top fermenting yeasts with roots in California, or the very clean fermenting yeast that originated, apparently, in Scotland. Without a distinctive yeast doing the actually turning of wort into ale, you basically have a combination of sweet, bitter, and booze. A characterful yeast adds esters to the mix, and thus you end up with things like the famous Fuller's character that is derived from the yeast, and noticeable to varying degrees in all their beers.

Mild is one of the great misunderstood, misrepresented, and underrated beer styles of the world, and the whole point of American Mild Month is to make May a month of brewers and drinkers giving mild some love, try it, I think you'll love it.

2 comments:

  1. There is a brewery in Siloam Springs Arkansas that brews a Dark English Mild. It tastes of cocoa and a slight nuttiness but the flavors are subtle and balanced. The beer is accommodating and relaxing. This may sound silly but it is comfortable. I order at every chance I see it on tap.

    The brewery's name Ivory Bill named after the Ivory Bill Woodpecker that is native to the Ozarks.

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  2. "comfortable" doesn't sound silly to me at all, it sounds perfect!

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