Friday, 17 May 2019

Wild about Mild

Mild was one of the first topics I researched in the archives. Right after Porter. I didn't find what I expected.

Because I had no idea how much Mild had changed. I realised Mild had once been stronger. But not quite how strong. Finding versions over 10% ABV was a bit of a shock. The colour was the biggest surprise. Discovering all Mild had once been pale. The more I dug, the more I understood about the styles's remarkable transformations.

That's the great fun, for me. Coming across something different to what I'd expected. I still get a thrill when I uncover something new.

A while back I had a project with Pretty Things, where they brewed two versions of Barclay Perkins Mild. One from 1837, the other 1945. They had absolutely nothing in common. Demonstrating what time can do to a beer. Especially when that time contains major wars.

Exactly when, and why, Mild started getting darker remains a mystery. Frustratingly, brewing recirds only start giving a colour number after WW I. About twenty years after I think the process began. Any reason I offer can only be speculation. The cynical one being publicans needed a cheap, dark beer to dump slops into after Porter disappeared.

Mild Ale has been so many different things: pale, strong and hoppy; dark, weak and mild. It would make a great beer festival.  If anyone should be in search of a theme.

Barclay Perkins X Ale 1837 - 1945
Year OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
1837 1071.5 1013.2 7.71 81.53% 7.05 2.44
1849 1071.5 1014.1 7.59 80.27% 7.79 2.68
1863 1060.9 1012.4 6.42 79.65% 13.06 3.62
1880 1060.4 1018.0 5.61 70.18% 10.97 3.09
1890 1058.0 1016.9 5.44 70.87% 9.06 2.19
1900 1052.6 1008.9 5.79 83.15% 8.15 1.73
1914 1051.3 1013.6 4.99 73.54% 5.49 1.15
1918 1046.5 1012.7 4.47 72.60% 5.01 0.97
1919 1039.4 1009.4 3.97 76.10% 6.96 1.11
1929 1042.6 1012.5 3.98 70.65% 6.50 1.10
1939 1034.8 1010.0 3.28 71.26% 7.00 0.95
1945 1029.7 1008.5 2.80 71.38% 5.49 0.65
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/1/550, ACC/2305/1/551, ACC/2305/1/553, ACC/2305/1/579, ACC/2305/1/586, ACC/2305/1/593, ACC/2305/1/603, ACC/2305/01/606, ACC/2305/01/607, ACC/2305/01/614, ACC/2305/01/623 and ACC/2305/01/626.

Read loads more about Mild in Mild! Plus. Which is available in both paperback:

and hardback formats:


Phil said...

There are still some pale milds out there - Hyde's, Timothy Taylor - although I think the last time I saw a light mild with 'mild' on the pump clip it was Acorn's Lightness, and I haven't seen that in a few years now.

Anonymous said...

I think the more cynical explanation is one that I first read in your book, that drinkers had come to associate dark color with stronger beer (since other things equal a higher-gravity beer will generally have more color). I always found that to be highly plausible.

Jack said...

What does dump slops mean? Combining partial casks and repriming? Or would it be something gross like throwing in half drunk glasses as well?

Phil said...

Jack - I don't think anyone would go to the trouble of collecting up the beer from half-drunk glasses, but dumping slops is (was) pretty gross. 'Slops' refers to the beer that overflows the glass when you're pulling a full pint, runs down the outside of the glass (and over the bartender's hand...) and collects in the drip tray, where it sits all evening going flat and sour. But hey, why waste good beer? Look up 'autovac' for a real horror story.

Graham said...

Jack, The tale goes that any split beer or left over few pints in a cask would end up in the mild, to save cost an reuse it.
The arguments against is that a stronger flavor beer could better hide the adulation then a mild.

"Beer economisers" do the same thing by refilling all drips an spills into your pint.

It's not like the publican is any worse then brewery with spoiled beers also getting remixed at with fresh beer an re primed.