What's wrong with our mild!?!
As discussed, Jay has determined that this months edition of "The Session" will be all about mild and there is a panic throughout the globe. Why? Because it is a style that no one makes much anymore. It is a bit of historical dead end, as a lighter maltier beer than we raised on pale ale and light lager, the two towers of late Victorian brewing. While it gained popularity with the 19th century working man - perhaps due to price, moderation and refreshment - it did not evolve into anything else as porter morphed to stout or amber lagers shifted into macropils. Mild arose in the 1830s after one hundred years of porter's reign. David Sutula wrote in his book 1999 Mild Ale:
A witness to the 1833 Committee on the Sale of Beer observed that the typical London drinker was having "nothing but what is mild, so much so that Barclay and Perkins and other great houses, finding that there is a decrease in the consumption of porter and an increase in the consumption of ale, have gone into the ale trade; nearly all the new trade is composed of mild ale."Mild reigned until, say, the First World War and then, again according to Sutula, entered in a slow decline until the point it accounted 11% of UK sales in 1980 and only 4% just twenty years later. And that is in England. While I often wondered if Newfoundland's Black Horse might qualify as a pale mild - what with it's justified claim as to "smooth and mellow" - otherwise I have only seen some references to milds in old posters of Canadian beer trays and labels but macro industrialization hit us just like in the USA after WWII and our official love of the standard exactly 5% alcohol content meant what mild there might have been was likely an early victim. And there has been no revival of any note.
So what is a beer blogger to do? We have to search. We are looking for a beer with lower alcohol, that is brown (or maybe pale), with a lower hopping rate, a moreish quality and a significant acceptance that water is 96 or 97% of what is in the glass. The first candidate is a 4% Dunkle Weizen from Saint Arnould of Mont-Trembrant, Quebec. It has dark and 4% going for it. Maybe not much else given that it is not even suggesting that it is an ale let along an English ale...not to mention the BAer's thumbs down. It pours a nice transparent chestnut with a good light tan head. But on the nose it is Belgian and in the mouth...hmmm. It is definitely watery with a decent malty even slightly roasty chocolate profile. But the yeast strain is all wrong, vegetative...boiled turnipy vegetative that is...with a bit of nutmeg and cardboard. I think the second half of the bottle is getting dumped. But to be fair - the same beer with a good English yeast strain, that's a mild.
The other nominee is from the near south, Landmark Beer Company's Vanilla Bean Brown Beer contract brewed at Wagner Valley. There is a line of argument that a brown beer is just a mild trapped under a cap. But this is the sort of beer that shows it is not that simple. A clear bright mahogany ale under a light mocha head, for me, it's a bit overwhelmed by a syrupy and bitter dark chocolate vanilla statement that leaves little left to the malt, though that is shifting as the beer opens. Not my personal thing though 100% of four BAers approve as it is what it claims to be. What with the gracious watery outset, the underlying brown may well make a mild but this one hides it all.
The lesson is this - you are never going to see a flavoured mild or an extreme mild. Mild is only itself. No muss, no fuss. No fanfare, no breakthrough in technology. Just a newly matured light, clean, flavourful and, yes, watery beer. It's a confident statement of the light hand that it takes to make it. I have one more candidate to pop tomorrow. We'll have to see.