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|
|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%|
|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%|
|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.|