Saturday, 4 January 2014

Ansell's Mild Ale 1935 - 1986

Here's a surprise for you: something that's neither about Newark nor Whitbread. What is wrong with me today?

It's weird. Since the Big Six disappeared up their own drainpipe, I've started feeling this strange nostalgia for them. Understandable with a brewery of such historical importance as Bass. But Ansell? I've rarely heard anyone say a good word about them. But me, I've a soft spot for them.

I drank a fair bit of Ansell's Mild in the past. Mum came from Birmingham and we often visited her relations there. It was a funny place, Brum. It looked as if the pubs had been allotted alternately to Ansells and M & B. There were virtually none tied to other breweries, even Davenports who brewed in the town. And relatively few pubs. Birmingham council had been enthusiastic about "improved" pubs and local breweries were encouraged to surrender the licences of small, grotty pubs in the inner city in return for licences for "road houses", enormous pubs on major roads.

I never cared much for the M & B beers from Cape Hill. Though their brewery in Wolverhampton made some good stuff, Springfield Bitter and Dunkirk Pale Ale. Unfortunately you only really saw these in the Black Country, not in Birmingham proper. A lot of the Cape Hill stuff was bright or keg, but not much cop on cask, either. Brew XI was more like a bland Light Mild than a Bitter, The Mild was a little better, but still not something I'd drink from choice.

Ansell's Mild was another matter. Not up to the standard of my beloved Tetley's Mild, but still a decent drink. Ansell's pubs could be weird. I remember several that had keg Brew XI and a handpump at the end of the bar serving Mild. Not something you saw in many parts of Britain.

Funny the things you remember. I can clearly recall drinking Ansell's Mild in the Fox on Hurst Street, a pub I revisited last year when the family was in Birmingham for a short holiday. I know. Who goes to Birmingham on holiday?

Allied closed the brewery in 1981 after problems with industrial unrest. After which their Mild bounced around several breweries, before, according to RateBeer, being discontinued in 2012. A shame, as I'll never get to try it again.

Personal reminiscences over, shall we look at the beer itself?

The most obvious point is its strength. In the 1950's even Best Mild only just stretched to a gravity of 1038º. And most standard Milds didn't get higher than 1032º. A decent gravity and a very high degree of attenuation made it very potent for a Mild, sometimes even getting above 4% ABV. You can see how after 1961 the gravity was cut - coincidentally the same year Ansell became part of Allied Breweries - dropping to around the average gravity of Mild.

The King Pin Mild is probably a keg version. The fact that it cost almost 50% more than their standard Mild certainlly suggests that. It's always been such poor value you have to wonder why anyone, given the choice, ever drank keg.

One thing that confuses me is the colour. I remember it as a dark brown beer, about the same colour as Tetley's Mild. But those colour numbers suggest a beer a good bit paler, just a tad darker than Newcastle Brown. It's a shame there are no colour numbers for the later analyses because I'd like to know if my memory is playing tricks on me or if it really did become darker.

Ansell's Mild Ale 1935 - 1986
Year Beer Price size package Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1935 Ale 6d pint draught 0.06 1009.7 1047 4.85 79.36%
1949 Mild Ale 1/1d pint draught 0.05 1007.4 1035.4 2.5 + 40 3.64 79.10%
1950 Mild Ale 1/1d pint draught 0.04 1005.2 1034.8 40 + 2 3.85 85.06%
1951 Mild Ale 1/3d pint draught 0.07 1005.7 1038.3 45 4.25 85.12%
1960 Mild Ale 13d pint draught 1038
1961 King Pin Mild 19d pint draught 0.04 1006.7 1037.6 45 3.86 82.18%
1962 King Pin Mild 22d pint draught 0.04 1007.4 1035.9 50 3.56 79.39%
1972 Mild 11p pint draught 1010.7 1033.9 3.00 68.44%
1977 Mild pint draught 1035.5
1979 Mild pint draught 1035.5
1981 Mild pint draught 1035.5
1986 Mild pint draught 1035.5
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
Daily Mirror July 10th 1972, page 15.
Good Beer Guide 1978, 1980, 1982 and 1987.


Bailey said...

We read somewhere the other day that Ansell's Mild is currently being brewed by J.W. Lees in Manchester -- presumably the source of the kegged stuff we could get until very recently at the Yacht Inn, Penzance.

Tom said...

Ansell's Mild on cask was definitely dark when I had it in the Salmon, Leicester in June 2011. The landlord had formerly run a pub in Birmingham as I recall.

Ron, is it Tetley Mild or Tetley Dark Mild you're referring to?

Ron Pattinson said...


the standard Mild brewed in Leeds.

Barm said...

I saw Brew XI last year on a pubco’s list of beers they could supply.

Rod said...

Ron -
You're spot on about the pub scene in Brum back then - I was taken straight back to my student days there in the mid 70's. Red pubs alternating with yellow pubs. I remember Ansell's Mild as being very dark mahogany, not quite black, with ruby highlights when you held it up to the light. I used to go for Davenport's beer at home quite a bit, and get out to Bloxwich and Withenhall, where my then girlfriend's family lived, as much as possible.

Anonymous said...

ansells bitter wasn't a bad drop either. Have you seen any of the brew books? It would be interesting to do a recreation.
Used to drink this in the Hare and Hounds in King's Heath, Birmingham

Chris (former Brummie)

Ron Pattinson said...


I just made a quick search and Ansells brewing records don't seem to be in any archive. Nor any other Birmingham brewery.

mentaldental said...

Ansell's was ceratinly pretty dark during the 70s, when I drank a lot of it. Much darker that Bank's (W&D) for instance.

And I though it was a pretty decent drop too.