Dish of the Day: Missing Milds
I had the good fortune the other day to find something that I didn’t even realise I was missing – a new craft brewery mild. The brewery, one of my favourite new start-up breweries, was Partizan. The mild, a 6.4% ABV monster of brilliant subtlety that took me back to all the great mild beers I used to drink. Drinking it was like sipping a traditional mild with the volume turned up to eleven; all those classic flavours but with a bold and invigorated modern twist. Why has no one done this sooner?
Milds are hard to come by in the craft beer scene and I realised I have probably, at best, only had a couple of milds in London pubs this year. Compared to the range of stouts and porters on offer, mild is practically on the verge of extinction. Taking a straw poll of the brewers at this year’s London Craft Beer Festival, only 14% acknowledge they brew a mild on their website, compared with 76% that brew stouts and 62% that brew porters. So, why aren’t more of the new wave breweries showing everyone the possibilities that can be achieved with this often forgotten beer style?
Could it be that mild has an image problem that is simply beyond saving? Once the most popular beer style in Britain, mild is a beer often associated with the industrial past – a thirst quencher to be swilled after a 14 hour shift down t‘pit. This imagery and association may linger for some, but probably not in the eyes of the new generation of beer fans, who may have never even tried a mild before. Alec Doherty, the brilliant designer of Partizan’s artwork, has poked fun at the heritage of mild in his label, using sketches of workers in flat caps, with a fag on, hammering away in the forefront of industrial chimneys, all to spell out the word mild. Like the beer itself, the label is a nod to the past, while being very much in the now.
Could it also be the name of beer style – mild – is difficult to market to the younger discerning craft fan? The new wave of brewing is about being as big and as bold as possible, creating beers with flavours that slap you about the face a little, with a mad scientist’s flair for experimentation being encouraged. The need to project craft beer in this way can lead to some pretty entertaining names for beers, especially with the massively hopped IPAs – the centre-piece beer for most craft breweries. These beers have names that usually consist of things like ‘Madness IPA’, ‘Brutal IPA’, or ‘Life-ender IPA’. The equivalent ‘Brutal Mild’ is about oxymoronic as they come.
Of course, I am merely musing on the possible reasons. The real cause for the lack of milds around today is down to the emergence of lager in the 1990s when younger drinkers, looking to distinguish themselves from what their Dad drank, gave mild the kiss of death by labelling it an ‘old man’s drink’.
Despite all this, mild has undergone somewhat of a mini-renaissance in recent years, with many great milds being produced in Britain right now – but few by the craft beer scene. I thought the craft scene was about revolution and breathing new life into our beers, updating them for a new generation.
Some of the stouts and porters brewed by craft brewers are genuinely some of the best I have ever tasted, so I’d love to see them inject some of their passion for innovation into milds and see the results. Who knows what they could produce? Partizan’s Mild is exactly this kind of beer and as a consumer I would love to have more of them. Hopefully it’s the start of a new generation of mild beers and not just a lone tribute to this important part of our beer heritage.
Follow Rory at @RoryElsomeTagged in: craft beer, mild beer
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