Sunday, 15 May 2022

The future of Mild

As a novelty. A bit like Gose, but less popular as it's harder to throw all sorts of random shit into a Dark Mild.

When I started drinking way back in the early 1970s, Mild wasn't just a standard draught beer, it was a popular one. In Newark, every pub sold it. And lots of people drank it. When I went to university in Leeds, it was extremely popular in Tetleys pubs. In the type of working class pub I preferred, maybe a third of the punters were drinking Mild. And maybe another 20% drinking mixed. In the public bar, that is. More drank Bitter in the posh rooms.

It was only when I started looking more closely in The Good Beer guide that I realsied this didn't reflect the situation everywhere. There were already parts of the country where Mild was near extinct. Scotland, Northeast England, London, Southwest England. many  brewers had discontinued Mild or only sold it in keg form. The latter a sure sign that its popularity was plumetting.

The decline went back further than I realised. In Scotland, almost no Mild was brewed after WW I. though often 60/- Pale Ale pretended to be Mild. Region by region, it fell into terminal decline. Sometimes replaced  - as in the Northeast and Southwest - by low-gravity Pale Ales which were Light Mild in all but name.

Some styles have made remarkable comebacks. Who could have predicted the return of Milk Stout? Which in my youth was as fashionable as a tweed jacket. Proof that anything is possible.

I just can't see that happening with Mild. Yes, plenty of trendy brewers will knock one out now and again, possibly in a bid to cross off all the "official" styles. But few introduce a Mild as a regular addition to their portfolio. While older brewers may persist half-heartedly with their Mild, whilst not daring to use the name. Instead labelling it Dark or some other mealymouthed euphemism.

Should this make me sad? As someone who loved a good Mild, yes. It does. I'd love to go to Cross Green and drink 10 pints of Tetley's Mild again. But it isn't going to happen. The world has moved on. Beer styles come and go. And almost never return. I'll just cherish the memories of a time that's gone forever. Like a Porter drinker in the 1940s.

The same fate, incidentally, awaits Pilsner and IPA. All styles have their day.

Having said this, my local brewery, Butcher's Tears, pretty much always has a Mild on tap. Sometimes two. The last couple of weeks, even on cask. Perhaps there's life in the style after all. 


(I dropped by Butcher's Tears yesterday, as every Saturday. Sure enough, they had gravity-served Dark Mild. Very nice it was, too.)

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

A nice pint of mild and a cheese roll. Heaven.

Anonymous said...

Here, in Philadelphia Pa, US and A, there’s been a noticeable uptick in not only British ales, but highly unfashionable ones like Mild. None of which are being muddied up with lactose or some manner of fruit syrups. Just straight up ales. Forest and Main brewery in Ambler Pa even has a “Mild Month” which I believe runs all February, or perhaps it’s March? I’m old. My brain hurts. My only quibble, these are almost always of the sub-4% abv manner of Mild’s. It’d be nice to see some with some umph.

Anonymous said...

In my experience 60/- is the darkest of the shilling range 90/- next 80/- after that and 70/- the lightest in colour.

Chris Pickles said...

Someone else here who remembers Tetley's Mild, only I used to drink it in Bradford rather than Leeds. I think it was 3.2% but it certainly didn't lack umph!

John said...

That Tetley's Mild in the photo looks a lovely colour.

Jeff Renner said...

Inspired by this post, I went up to Brewery Becker in Brighton, Michigan, which you know, for a couple of pints of their dark mild. It’s brewed with their own No. 3 invert brewers sugar, as advertised on your blog. Sadly, it’s not on cask, but delightful nonetheless.

US Limey said...

For a short period in the early 70's, I lost my taste for bitter and switched to drinking mild. Those available in the Nottingham area (Home Ales, Mansfield, Kimberly, etc.) were malty and slightly sweet and I really liked them. Typically dark brown in colour and low alcohol. Then I went to college in Stoke-on-Trent and was exposed to Joules "light mild" which was truly terrible! Light in colour and with a harsh, bitter flavor. However, Joules bitter wasn't anything special either! On a side note, it's good to see that the pub I frequented in that area, The Archer, is still alive and doing well!

David Lavery said...

Styles are fictional enough for me not to worry that good beer will be made that I enjoy, and eventually the flavors that I liked will probably be available once in a while in a commercial beer. For the rest of my days in between those moments, I'll have to suffer with my own poor reproductions. Here's a health to those who help me make something I can dream is a reasonable facsimile of what I want to taste... If only someone published a bunch of books helping to identify characteristics of beers that I enjoy, so I could try to reproduce them...if only...

Anthony said...

As a Brit in the States i've noticed in the past couple of years a huge uptick in British style beers around here, in particular Milds. A local brewery near me even has one on Cask. Nice beer too. Quite interesting considering when I moved here you couldnt find anything that wasn't some sort of heavily dry hopped double IPA with banana peel sour or some such or other. Imagine my shock on returning to England after years longing for a nice Best to find instead the shelves full of East Coast this and West Coast that. The UK has discovered American ales just as America is rediscovering the classics it seems.

Andy said...

It surprisingly seems to be on the rise in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon & Washington. For the first time in the 15 years I've lived in Portland I can now walk to 4 different breweries (3 of which are new) which all often have a cask mild on, at least 2 of which are pretty good. Wild. A brewery in Washington has even been hosting "March Mildness", a play on a huge college basketball tournament 'March Madness' http://washingtonbeerblog.com/set-aside-the-madness-and-celebrate-the-mildness-with-machine-house-brewery/