Thursday, 5 March 2009

Checking out Mild and Brown Ale styles

Given all the recipes I've been posting for Mild and Brown Ale, I thought I'd best check out how the experts describe them.

First off, Ratebeer:

Mild Ale
Slightly malty, no hop flavor or aroma. Medium to dark brown in color with very little head or carbonation. Mild refers to lack of any hop flavor or aroma. Serve with traditional pub fare.

Brown Ale
Color ranges from reddish-brown to dark brown. Lower in alcohol than porter, medium to full body flavor. Appropriate foods are apple pie, pork with brown sauce, beef vegetable soup and cheddar.

This is what BeerAdvocate has to say:

Dark Mild Ale
The quintessential British session beer, like its name suggests, a Mild is known for its low level of hops character. Alcohol content is traditionally very low. Grainy to toasty malts might be present, but expect some body from the high dextrins produced in brewing. Low carbonation with a near still, bubbly head. Colors can range from gold to dark brown. Traditionally a draft beer made popular in London and the Midlands of England.


English Brown Ale
Spawned from the Mild Ale, Brown Ales tend to be maltier and sweeter on the palate, with a fuller body. Color can range from reddish brown to dark brown. Some versions will lean towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. All seem to have a low hop aroma and bitterness.

And finally, the most pretigious of all, the BJCP:

Dark Mild Ale
Overall Impression: A light-flavored, malt-accented beer that is readily suited to drinking in quantity. Refreshing, yet flavorful. Some versions may seem like lower gravity brown porters.

History: May have evolved as one of the elements of early porters. In modern terms, the name “mild” refers to the relative lack of hop bitterness (i.e., less hoppy than a pale ale, and not so strong). Originally, the “mildness” may have referred to the fact that this beer was young and did not yet have the moderate sourness that aged batches had. Somewhat rare in England, good versions may still be found in the Midlands around Birmingham.


Southern English Brown Ale
History: English brown ales are generally split into sub-styles along geographic lines. Southern English (or “London-style”) brown ales are darker, sweeter, and lower gravity than their Northern cousins. Developed as a bottled product in the early 20th century out of a reaction against vinous vatted porter and often unpalatable mild. Well suited to London’s water supply.

Ingredients: English pale ale malt as a base with a healthy proportion of darker caramel malts and often some roasted (black) malt and wheat malt. Moderate to high carbonate water would appropriately balance the dark malt acidity. English hop varieties are most authentic, though with low flavor and bitterness almost any type could be used.

Do you think these descriptions match what we're seeing in the recipes? I'd appreciate your comments.

I will say one thing. BeerAdvocate says of Dark Mild: "Alcohol content is traditionally very low". I like that one. Like "IPA is strong". When exactly does the "Traditional" period cover? For Dark Mild, it's post WW II. For IPA, it seems to be 1830.

11 comments:

Tandleman said...

I don't know either why Ratebeer and BA think that mild should have no head or carbonation, the daft buggers.

MentalDental said...

Like Ron I cut my teeth on mild (mainly Ansell's and Bank's) and still have a soft spot for it. For what its worth here are my observations.

RATEBEER
Mild Ale
Slightly malty, no hop flavor or aroma: Malty yes but "slightly"? A modern mild is all about the malt flavours, surely?
Medium to dark brown in color: unless it's a light mild.
With very little head or carbonation: Total rubbish. Well carbonation would be low if its a cask-conditioned beer but not all modern milds are.
Mild refers to lack of any hop flavor or aroma: well I can live with that although, as we know, historically brewers used plently of hops in some of their milds.
Serve with traditional pub fare: or just drink it! At least they didn't spell it "fayre".

Brown Ale
Color ranges from reddish-brown to dark brown: OK.
Lower in alcohol than porter: this seems to assume that brown ale is just weak porter, which it isn't.
Medium to full body flavor: Ok.
Appropriate foods are apple pie, pork with brown sauce, beef vegetable soup and cheddar: if that floats your boat.


BEERADVOCATE
Dark Mild Ale
The quintessential British session beer: well not really. Certainly there were plenty of industrial workers in, say, the west midlands who drank plenty of it but there are and were plenty of other session beers around like west country boy's bitters, for example.
Mild is known for its low level of hop character: see above.
Alcohol content is traditionally very low: ah, "traditional". What does that mean? It is usually a lazy, tabloid journalism word which means oldish (say 10-20 years ago) or at least what the author imagines it was like 10-20 years ago without bothering to do any research.Don't get me started.
Grainy to toasty malts might be present: OK.
Expect some body from the high dextrins produced in brewing: maybe but plenty of mild are quite low in dextrins.
Low carbonation with a near still, bubbly head: what bollocks! Has the man ever drunk any mild!!
Colors can range from gold to dark brown: or nearly black, actually.
Traditionally a draft beer made popular in London and the Midlands of England: that word again!

English Brown Ale
Spawned from the Mild Ale: rubbish. Mind you some brewers seem to have bottled their mild and called it brown.
Brown Ales tend to be maltier and sweeter on the palate: some browns are sweet but not all.
Color can range from reddish brown to dark brown: OK.
Some versions will lean towards fruity esters: OK, they might do.
While others tend to be drier with nutty characters: ditto.
All seem to have a low hop aroma and bitterness: trueish of current browns although not historically.


BJCP
Dark Mild Ale
A light-flavored: nope.
Malt-accented beer: well most current mild don't have many hops in they so this must be true by default. But historically...
Readily suited to drinking in quantity: except that there are, and always have been, milds that are not low in alcohol.
Refreshing, yet flavorful: yup.
Some versions may seem like lower gravity brown porters: really? Are we in fantasy land here?
History: May have evolved as one of the elements of early porters: no.
In modern terms, the name “mild” refers to the relative lack of hop bitterness: yes.
Originally, the “mildness” may have referred to the fact that this beer was young and did not yet have the moderate sourness that aged batches had: yes.
Somewhat rare in England, good versions may still be found in the Midlands around Birmingham: and other places too! Like Manchester or Yorkshire, maybe?


Southern English Brown Ale
History: English brown ales are generally split into sub-styles along geographic lines: fantasy land again--Newcastle Brown doesn't really constitute a style on its own, does it?
Southern English (or “London-style”) brown ales are darker, sweeter, and lower gravity than their Northern cousins: maybe and maybe not.
Developed as a bottled product in the early 20th century out of a reaction against vinous vatted porter and often unpalatable mild: fantasy land again.
Well suited to London’s water supply: well yes...but the same applies to many other areas of the UK, so this seems a bit irrelevent.
Ingredients: English pale ale malt as a base with a healthy proportion of darker caramel malts and often some roasted (black) malt and wheat malt: or perhaps some mild ale malt (the clue is in the name) and wheat malt? Well I probably would use it myself but I am not sure that it has been widely used in commercial milds.
Moderate to high carbonate water would appropriately balance the dark malt acidity: yup, having lived all my brewing life in hard water areas you have got to like those dark malts!
English hop varieties are most authentic: although, historically brewers in the UK were quite happy to use foreign hops in all their beers.
Though with a low flavor and bitterness almost any type could be used: yup.


"Do you think these descriptions match what we're seeing in the recipes?"

Not really. I get the feeling that a lot of the decriptions above are written by people that have not actually drunk very much mild nor have any understanding of it's history.

Aaron Bennett said...

Hop content of a mild is actually something I've trying to figure out. I'm preparing to brew a take on the Whitbread 1923 mild, and since the recipe just gives hop amounts without any guesses as to alpha acids or schedule -- (how much at the start? how much late? etc) -- I'm really stumped.

If I based my guess on BJCP then I'd put most of it at the start of the boil and maybe a quarter ounce or so at the end. But I'm working under the assumption that the BJCP people are idiots so that's not a good guide. Not having a time machine, taking a trip to 1923 to taste the original is not an option -- although imagine how much money people would pay for time machine beer tours!

Ron, what's your perception of hop character in historical milds?

Ron Pattinson said...

Nice to see I'm not the only with doubts about these descriptions.

I'm an old bugger. And one who obsessively hunted down Mild in his younger days, i.e. 1974 - 1984. I must have tried at least 100 Milds, most of which no longer exist. I read stuff about Mild and wonder how many real examples the author has ever tried.

Ron Pattinson said...

Aaron, on hops, assume something like Goldings. The logs are often vague on variety, often just saying Mid Kent or East Kent.

The logs don't give hopping schedules. Manuals usually recommend two or three additions, at either 90 and 30 minutes, or 90, 60 and 30 minutes.

As for alpha acid - modern Goldings would be close. ABout 4%, aren't they?

Time machine. That's one of my dreams.

Aaron Bennett said...

Ron,

Thanks for the information. I think I'm going to use East Kent Goldings, W.G.V. and Fuggles if I can get all three, just since the recipe has three hops. I'll use them at 90-60-30, 25% @ 90, 50% @ 60 and 25% @ 30, possibly.

I read your entry on brewing sugars and I definatly understand what the #3 invert sugar was. Do you have any suggestions for a contemporary substitute? Would a dark belgian candi sugar be appropriate or should I consider mixing some molasses in with standard invert sugar, or something like that?

thanks again for your time... if you are in Massachusetts in 6 weeks please stop by for a pint... or four or six of them. :-)

Bill in Oregon said...

I'll leave the serious bashing to others who have done a clearly superior job (well done Mental Dental).

The disconnect between these "definitions" and reality is based largely upon ignorance because these styles aren't popular in the US at all. Most craft breweries won't even brew a brown, much less a mild, because they don't sell well. (Yes, there are some but I've had brewers tell me they love browns but won't brew them because they can't sell 5 or 10 barrels worht of it.)

With the current rage for "extreme beers" (I loathe that phrase) I don't foresee Milds ever making a serious impact in the US (which is a shame since the combination of highly flavorful/low alcohol is extremely appealing). With no high profile brewery to act as their champion, I'm afraid these beers will continue to be completely misunderstood by the US craft beer market despite the efforts of the serious research being done by people like Ron.

Most beer drinkers won't research what they won't drink.

MentalDental said...

Re hops and alphas for mild.
Fuggles and Goldings would be fine since they have been around since before the recipes were are diuscussing, although how modern ones compare with historic ones is anyones guess. WGV should be ok too.

Alphas can vary a lot: my 2007 Fuggles were a high 6.1% but the 2008s I received today (both from Charles Faram) are 3.7%. That's quite a variation the 2008s being just 60% of the 2007s!

My 2007 Goldings are 5.0%. This is a bit higher than average too I would think.

I wonder how much variation in bitterness was experienced by brewers before alphas were routinely measured?

MentalDental said...

To Bill in Oregon:
Hi, if you no anyone who needs a good kicking let me know! :-)

Bill in Oregon said...

Mental Dental, no worries. I'll keep that in mind and let people know I have friends in the Barlcay Perkins gang and they'd better watch it if they don't want a scholarly thrashing.

Seriously, I really did enjoy your point by point rebuttal to the various American definitions.

Oblivious said...

Hi Aaron Bennett

I am brewing a modern dark mild with 10% dark Belgian candi later to day