Friday, 26 April 2019

Mild musings

It's getting closer and closer to Mild month. Time for some more stuff about the world's best style of beer.

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
1971 72.4 17.7 9.9
1972 72.4 15.9 11.7
1973 70.9 14.2 14.9
1974 69.8 13.8 16.4
1975 67 13.3 19.7
1976 63.9 12.6 23.5
1977 62.8 12.7 24.5
1978 61.1 12 26.9
1979 59.4 11.5 29.1
1980 58 11.3 30.7
1981 57.8 11.2 32.0
1982 59 8 33.0
1983 56.8 7.3 35.9
1984 54.2 6.9 38.9
1985 52.7 6.4 40.9
1986 50.7 5.9 43.4
1987 48.1 5.3 46.6
1988 46.3 4.9 48.8
1989 45.2 4.5 50.3
1990 44.5 4.1 51.4
1991 44.9 4 51.1
2016 25.6 0.3 73.7
“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.


Martyn Cornell said...

I suspect mainstream lagers already ARE associated with old blokes. Watch out for the rise of "faux craft" lagers like Hop House 13.

Meanwhile McMullen's has just announced that it's rebranding its AK as a mild again …

kaiserhog said...

There is a great Mild brewed in Siloam Springs,Arkansas at Ivory Bill Brewery as in the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. It is really good, it is subtle but the flavors of cocoa, milk chocolate, a little brown sugar and a faint hint of smoke(?) assert themselves after a little time. I like it. I understand the style is made for a cask presentation but this is kegged. Anyway, I loved it.

Uffe said...

Lager are for old ones, the young ones drink IPAs... or Milkshake IPA

Ron Pattinson said...


thats's really annoying. I'm fed up of arguing with Americans who think AK is a type of Mild.

Why on earth do McMullens insist on describing AK as a Mild? Especially given how unfashionable Mild is.

Anonymous said...

Like I wrote last time lager never been popular here in Québec especially the light version. Young and old People drink ale exclusively Mild style here is pretty conservative. Must have 5% abv. Even the New american IPA vibe seems already in decline. Mild ale 5% seems the standard. For lager main sales are the budweiser (always on sale here) and papst for poor people. Molson Export and Labatt 50 still King of the Hill in our Big village named the province in Québec. Other Big commercials vendors Macauslen brewery and Boréal. British mild and bitter...or Belgian style.