Thursday 6 August 2020

Pale Mild Ale

The results of searching for "Dark Mild" in the newspaper archives were pretty disappointing. I only found a handful of references to the term before 1920

After a bit of thought, another , indirect method occurred to me. Why not search for "Pale Mild"? If something;s being called Pale Mild, then Dark Mild must also exist. Otherwise, the "pale" prefix would be redundant.

And Bingo, I found this advert from 1899:

 South Bucks Standard - Friday 12 May 1899, page 1.

Two Mild, X and PX, with the latter clearly described as Pale Mild. What surprised me most about this was that at such an early date Dark Mild should be the norm.

My guess would be that X and PX were identical. With caramel being added to X. In any case, with the price being identical they would have at least been the same strength.

I decided against "Light Mild" as it's ambiguous. It could mean either light in colour or light in strength.

When I started down the beer history rabbit hole, I never imagined it would be so hard to pin down a date for the beginning of Dark Mild. I've enough evidence now to be certain that it lies in the 19th century. Probably at least 1890. Though the date varied by region and brewery.

Wheeler's must have been a decent-sized brewer. When it it was taken over in 1924 it owned 148 pubs.


PhilB said...

Any idea as to what "Farmers Ale" would have been Ron?

Phil said...

I'm weirdly fascinated by the 'Aerated Waters' section - separate entries for "Soda Water" and "Seltzer Water", followed by "Potash Water"! Then under ginger beer you've got another three-way choice, between ginger ale, ginger beer and "brewed ginger beer in stone bottles with screw stoppers" - all of which are cheaper than soda water! The past really is a different country.

Robin Oldfield said...

I agree using "light" to describe a mild is potentially ambiguous. I am not sure if this helpful, but I notice that Timothy Taylors use the term "Golden Mild" to describe their pale mild (Golden Best). I am sure this is just a recent marketing label.

Ron Pattinson said...


I hadn't even looked at that section. What the hell could potash water have been?

Ron Pattinson said...

Robin Oldfield,

I'm guessing Farmer Ale was a low-gravity Mild, something like Harvest Ale.

Martyn Cornell said...

This strikes me as one of those cases of "the exception proves the rule". If almost all milds were dark, there would be no need to mention the fact that they were dark, that would be a given, just as we don't generally talk about how many wheels a car has, because they almost all have four. Only the exceptions get mentioned - pale mild, three-wheel cars. So the fact that this is called a pale mild proves that the rul,e is - milds are usually dark. The same thinbk happens with ale in early 18th century London: you suddenly start to see about 1720 mention in newspapers of "pale ale brewers". Why was the colour given? Because the rule then was that ale was brown. So the exceptions are specifically given. Eventually, of course, pale ale and porter drove out brown ale for 200 years …

Ron Pattinson said...


that was exactly my thought. But the whole topic of Mild turning dark is a complicated one. I already published an advert from a few years later which has a Mild and a Dark Mild. The implication there being that Pale Mild was still the norm.

The move to darkness seems to have gone at a different pace in different parts of the country.

Martyn Cornell said...

I look forward to seeing your geographical analysis!

Ron Pattinson said...


already done it for the period wher I have enough data, which is post WW II: