Back when I started boozing in the early 1970s, Mild was very much a mainstream style. It even outsold Lager. But not for long.
The reality was quite different, because the availability of Mild was very patchy. In some parts of the North and Midlands, Mild made up 30-50% of draught beer sales. But in other areas - London, Scotland, Sheffield, the Northeast - Mild was already quite rare. Mild-free areas began to spread and, by the time I left the UK in the mid-1980s, Mild was hemmed into a few enclaves.
Currently Mild accounts for less than 1% of beer sales. You can't get much more marginal than that. As you can see from the table, there was a steadydecline in Mild's market share from 1971 to 1991. There was also a similar decline in other top-fermenting styles - basically Bitter and Stout - over the same period. And a mirri-image rise in Lager sales.
It's hard to see Mild ever making a comeback as a mainstream style. But you never know. Who would have predicted thereturn of Milk Stout? I certainly wouldn't.
What's likely to happen with UK beer styles in the future? It's difficult to say. But one trend is already noticeable: the rise of Lager seems to have ended. Its market share has been pretty much constant at around 74% for the last ten years. My guess is that we're about to see Lager go into decline.
When styles start to decline, it can happen surprsingly quickly. It always kicks off the same way: young drinkers don't adopt it. Then a style begins to be associated with old men. And no-one wants to drink what grandad's drinking.
Lager sales really took off in the late 1970s. The young drinkers who adoped it back then are now around 60. How long before Lager becomes associated with old blokes?
|UK beer sales by type 1971 - 2016|
|Year||Bitter and Stout||Mild||Lager|
|“The Brewers' Society Statistical Handbook 1978” page 10.|
|“The Brewers' Society Statistical Handbook 1988” page 17.|
|“The Brewers' Society Statistical Handbook 1990” page 17.|
|Statistical Handbook of the British Beer & Pub Association 2003, p. 21.|
|Statistical Handbook of the British Beer & Pub Association 2005, p. 17.|
|“The Brewers' Society Statistical Handbook 2011” page 17.|
|BBPA Statistical Handbook 2017, page 15.|