Wednesday, 25 February 2009

A hundred years (almost) of Whitbread Mild

It's February, so time to continue my March is Mild Month series of articles. (Articles? Random bunches of numbers with the occasional bit of doggy opinion.) I'm not going to let my choice of Mild Month be dictated by anyone. Not even zealots.

I like to stay with fashion. CAMRA-bashing is currently de rigeur. I want to stay with the herd. . . . No, I have an issue with a piece of CAMRA dogma. Why is May Mild Month? What's wrong with March? Personally, I think there's room for two Mild Months. But what do the fat cats at CAMRA HQ say? "May is Mild Months". The blind, bigoted, trotskyite, reactionary, luddite, fanatical, purist bastards.

Glad I've got that off my chest. Back to Mild, a subject always dear to me. The tables below tell part of the history of Mild. From its heyday in the late 19th century to the sad days of the early 1970's. If you want to read the full history of Mild, why not buy Mild!, a book packed with Mild fun?

Pretty impressive drop in gravity, eh? From 1061º in 1881 to a low of 1027.6º in 1947. For those who still think IPA was a strong beer in the 19th century, I've come across plenty with lower gravities than 1061º.

Apologies for the inappropriate illustration. You try finding Mild labels.


Alistair Reece said...

I feel much better about my "mild" having an OG of 1.052 now. Although it does kind of blow my mind to think of mild being over 5%ABV and makes me wonder about the nature of brown ale during this period (the books I have read lump mild and brown together) and whether there was a corresponding decrease in OG over the years there as well.

Ron Pattinson said...

I haven't really started on the super-strength Milds. They could be over 1100.

Al, Brown Ale didn't exist for most of the 19th century. Most breweries only started making it in the 1920's, when gravities had already fallen quite a bit. In the 1920's most Brown Ales were over 1040 and some over 1050.

Lumping Brown Ale and Mild together is a gross simplification of reality. The Brown Ales from the 1920's I've looked at closely - Barclay Perkins DBA and Whitbread DB - were very different to Mild.

Alistair Reece said...

Cheers for that Ron. Will have to buy the book about Milds, once Mrs Velky Al returns my Visa card to me!

Matt said...

Ron, is there any correlation between the hopping rate for the brown ale invented in the North East in the 1920's and pale ale? That would certainly explode the theory that brown ale is just bottled mild.

Ron Pattinson said...

Matt, I've no idea of the hopping rate of NE Brown Ale.

Brown Ales were a diverse bunch and the categorisation as "Northern" and "Southern" a huge simplification.

The first Barclay Perkins and Whitbread Brown Ales were most definitely not bottled Mild. Though post WW II Whitbread dropped their DB Brown Ale and replaced it with Forest Brown which was a version of their Mild.

It's a very complicated subject which I haven't got my head around properly yet. I've posted a few times on the subject:

Anonymous said...

Just picked up on this thanks to your post on the camra forum. Seems we share the same opinion, as do a number of other bloggers.

Mild month in May is quite ridiculous. March most certainly makes more sense.