Some like it mild
Sometimes you need a break from big beers. Be it a hoppy bitterness whose IBU count needs exponential notation, or an alcohol content more commonly associated with wine, there are times when you just don’t want a beer bitter as an emo song or stronger than a backwoods still.
Sometimes, you just want a simple, light-on-the-palate ale. Something you could drink without having to plan for not going anywhere for the next few hours.
When it’s times like this, it’s time for a mild ale.
The days when hard men drank mild beer
Mild ale comes to us from the heydays of British industry, when men worked long, hard days down the mine or the docks. Once it was quitting time, those men could often be found “down the pub,” quaffing pints of mild ale.
It wasn’t long before mild ale, or just “mild,” caught on with British office workers too. At 3%-3.5%, mild ales were mellow enough to drink with lunch and head back to the office. Come evening, this was a perfect style for drinking in multiples: light enough in alcohol to keep you and your mates pounding round after round, light enough in body not to make you notice you were consuming your body weight in beer, and flavorful enough to enjoy and keep you wanting more.
Up until the 1950s, mild was the most popular, highest-selling ale in the UK. Then mild ale all but disappeared. Even in today’s Britain, few drink mild, and few brew it. Outside of Britain, and especially in the U.S., mild is virtually unknown. Luckily some stalwart folks, such as Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge, Oregon, brew up milds.
The reason? It’s damn good beer. These low-strength session beers are light on the palate yet satisfying, and, well, mild enough to make them a great session beer. For us, when we were in need of a summer brew, I happened upon mild ale in Papazian’s The Joy of Homebrewing, and had to make one.
Some mild ale resources
- English Dark Mild Ale
- Category 11 — English Brown Ale – BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines
- Mild ale – Wikipedia
- Mild Ale – Ratings – Pictures – Information – RateBeer.com
- Mild Ale – Home Brewing Wiki
- Northern Brewer: The Blog: Mild Ale
- England’s Real Ale Renaissance | Beer Connoisseur Magazine
The recipe: Taste of the Mild English-style Mild Ale
Source/Based off English Mild Brown Ales. Papazian, Charlie, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. 3rd edition p. 156-157. Collins, HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.
- Brew Date: Aug. 9, 2010
- Initial Gravity Reading (O.G.): 1.038
- Bottling Date: Aug. 24, 2010
- 22 oz. bottles: 10
- Flip-top bottles: 3
- 12 oz. bottle: 26
- Final Gravity Reading (F.G.): 1.012
- Alcohol: 3.5%
- Open Date: Sept. 5, 2010
- Target Original Gravity: 1.032-1.038
- Target Approx. Color: Medium Brown
- Target Alcohol: % by Volume: 3.2-3.6%
- 1/2 lb. black roasted malt from Home Fermenter Center, Eugene, OR (put in grain sock)
- 1/2 lb. chocolate malt from Home Fermenter Center, Eugene, OR (put in grain sock)
- 5 lbs. light dried malt extract from Home Fermenter Center, Eugene, OR
- @60 minute boil, 1-1/2 oz. Goldings hops (4.5 alpha)
- @15 minute 1/2 tsp. Irish moss
- @2 minute aroma/boil, 1/2 oz. Goldings hops (4.5 alpha)
- Wyeast 1098 British Ale Yeast
- @ bottling: 1-1/4c. dried malt extract
Brewing & Fermentation
Place crushed grains in 2 gallons of 150-160ºF water and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain out and sparge with ~2 quarts hot water. Bring to a boil, while adding malt extract and 60-minute hops.
Clean/sanitize carboy and other equipment during this time. Add 1 gallon cold water to sanitized carboy. At 45 minute mark, add Irish moss. At 1 minute mark, add aroma hops.
Remove from heat and cool wort to 90-100ºF.
Strain wort into carboy, sparging through hops. Add cold water until total amount of liquid in carboy is 5 gallons. Shake to aerate. Take a sample for initial gravity reading.
When wort temperature is between 68-76ºF, pitch yeast. Cap carboy and set in a warm, quiet place.
Ferment at approx. 72 degrees F for 3-30 days. Bottle with DME solution. Age one month.
3/8/10 — Brew in June 2010, British Mild Ale, name it “Taste of the Mild”. Info on style in Brewmaster’s Table p. 130-131. Ferments fast: light at 3.2%, great quaffer. Perfect for a summer beer! Joy of Homebrewing: p. 131-132: “thirst-quenching, low alcohol, flavorful and light-to-medium-bodied”; p. 156-157 basic recipe. Names: Taste of the Mild; Taste of the Isle
8/9/10 — Brew Day: Monday, August 9, 2010.
8/10/10 — Fermentation underway by afternoon. Steady. 76ºF
8/11/10 — Steady fermentation, but already slower. 73ºF
8/12/10 — Krausen nearly gone; fermentation slow, but still going. 72ºF
8/14/10 — a.m. Fermentation looking done. Still at 72º; will monitor a day or two, but this will be ready to bottle shortly. Rich, beautiful, mahogany color
8/24/10 — Bottle day! The rich brown color belies the mild smoothness of the flavor. Even straight out of the carboy, beer has good flavor — we thought it was almost English-y cask-style! Excited to open this one.
As of this writing, we’re in December, and our mild is still a lovely beer when something not-so-heavy is wanted. I cracked a mild the other day for savoring over homemade pizza, and it also went brilliantly in a recent batch of Beer Cheese Dip. It’s a shame mild is not better known in the States, much less its home ground of Britain. Hopefully, though, that will change.