Nick Carr on March 24, 2016 0 Comments History of Dark Mild English mild could be considered the original session ale. Much like stout, the mild got its start not as a beer style, but as a descriptor for a type of ale. As stout signified the strongest libations; mild signified youth. That is, it was a term used to describe a beer sold young. Stale or keeping beer was aged before sale. Porter, one of the many “brown” beers of the 1700’s used both these terms, so in theory — though I am not aware of evidence they were ever used like this — a Porter could have been described as a “mild stout porter” suggesting a porter of high alcohol strength sold fresh. Modern mild is still sold fresh, but the term has come to be associated more with low alcohol and bitterness, and less with how long the beer’s been kept. Mild’s of the 18th and 19th century often had an ABV as high as 7.0% and where considerably lighter in color then today’s dark mild. In all actuality, there are very few similarities between the early “mild” ales and the modern versions. There is also no link between porter and today’s mild style. This early, very different, rendition of mild would go through several changes and ultimately be shaped into what we recognize today. Mild’s decreased in strength through the 1900’s largely due to war-time barley restrictions and shortages along with an increased beer tax. By the end of World War II mild ale had been stripped of its former strength and the increasingly common use of darker grains moved its upper color range from amber to mahogany. By 1950, the strong wind in the dark mild style’s sail was calming. Due, at least in part, to changing tastes in Britain. The bitter and then the lager grew in popularity, while a move away from industrialization undercut the mild’s strongest support. The style also had a couple in-house saboteurs; publicans who made it a practice to empty any spills or serving slops into the mild; and the brewer’s themselves who, in a bid to save money, brewed lighter less complex beers and added caramel coloring to arrive a beer they marketed as a mild. Mild has seen a slight rise in popularity in recent years. Many pubs in England serve at least one house mild and the support of the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA), with their Mild in May promotion, has helped keep it from going completely extinct. It has even found some footing in American brewpubs. It’s a hard sell beyond the pub tap though. The fact that dark mild doesn’t age well, is best served young, and its low alcohol content all play against its commercial viability. Maybe if it gains more popularity we’ll see a rise in bottled versions, but for now, the best way place to find a mild is at a local brewpub. Style Profile of a Dark Mild Quick Characteristics Color Range: 12–25 SRM Original Gravity: 1.030–1.038 Final Gravity: 1.008–1.013 IBU Range: 10–25 ABV Range: 3.0–3.8% Aroma: Malty aroma will be low to moderate; Hoppy aroma will be noticeable, but low; Little diacetyl. Flavor: Maltiness may include sweet, toffee, roast, caramel, nutty or chocolate notes; Possible hints of fruit, raisin or plum; Dry or sweet finish; Hop & diacetyl flavors should be low or absent; Fruit esters may range from none to moderate. Appearance: Ranges from copper to mahogany; Head will range from off-white to tan with poor retention; Unfiltered, but clear. Mouthfeel: Low to moderate carbonation; Body ranges from light to medium; Light astringency possible. Food Pairings: Beef Stew, Smoked Sausage, BBQ Brisket, Bacon, Asiago Cheese, Mild Cheddar, Fruit Cobbler, Blueberry Tart The guidelines for the Dark Mild beer style are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee. The below characteristics are a summary of what a Dark Mild should represent. The BJCP classifies the Dark Mild style as a “Brown British Beer” and it can be found in their guidelines as category 13A, next to British Brown Ale (13B) and English Porter (13C). Appearance: Copper to mahogany in color. Modern examples are often clear, though it was traditionally unfiltered. Head will be off-white to tan and of low to medium size with possible poor retention. Aroma: Malt character can present with several different aromas, but should remain low to moderate; grain, toffee, toasted, chocolate, light roast, nutty, or caramel are all possible. Hop aroma, if noticeable, should be low and contribute a hint of floral character or earthiness. Little diacetyl. Mouthfeel: Low to low-moderate carbonation pushing a light to medium body. Some light astringency may be present in versions using more roast malts. Sweeter versions can present a full mouthfeel disproportionate to the beers alcohol content. Taste: Usually presents as malt forward with flavors ranging across the malt spectrum; malty, sweet, toffee, toast, roast, caramel, nutty, and chocolate. Yeast may contribute flavors of fruit, raisin, and plum. Balance is always toward the malt with enough bitterness to keep the malt in its place. May finish dry or sweet; roast-forward varieties often finishing with a drying roasted character. Hop and diacetyl flavors low to none and fruity esters may be none to moderate. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines Award-Winning Examples of the Style English Mild from Brothers Brewing Company (Harrisonburg, VA)Great American Beer Festival Winner, Gold, 2015. Available: Tap only at Brothers Brewing. Summer Porter from Fort Point Beer Company (San Francisco, CA)Great American Beer Festival Winner, Silver, 2015. Available: On tap at bars and restaurants around San Francisco. Mamoot from Logboat Brewing Company (Columbia, MO)Great American Beer Festival Winner, Bronze, 2015 and Silver, 2014. Available: Year Round at Mamoot. Workman’s Compensation from Lion’s Bridge Brewing Company (Cedar Rapids, IA)Great American Beer Festival Winner, Gold, 2014. Available: Year Round at Lion’s Bridge. S.S. Minnow Mild Ale from Dry Dock Brewing Company- South Dock (Aurora, CO)Great American Beer Festival Winner, Bronze, 2014. Available: Unknown. Song In Your Heart from Discretion Brewing Company (Soquel, CA)World Beer Cup Winner, Gold, 2014. Available: Year Round at the Discretion taproom. Dirty Hippy from Triptych Brewing Company (Savoy, IL)World Beer Cup Winner, Silver, 2014. Available: Unknown. Bristlecone from Uinta Brewing Company (Salt Lake City, UT) World Beer Cup Winner, Bronze, 2014. Available: Year Round, Bottles. Some Bottled Examples Brawler from Yards Brewing Company (Philadelphia, PA) Ruby Mild from Boston Beer Company (Jamaica Plains, MA) Ghettoblaster from Motor City Brewing Works (Detroit, MI) Hockley Dark from Hockley Valley Brewing Company (Orangeville, Canada) NOLA Brown from New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing (New Orleans, LA) Solidarity from Eagle Rock Brewing (Los Angeles, CA) Black Tusk Ale from Whistler Brewing Company (Whistler, Canada) Black Cat from Moorhouse’s Brewery Ltd. (Burnley, Lancashire, UK) Ruby Mild from Rudgate Brewery Ltd. (Tockwith, UK) Floppin’ Crappie from Northwoods Brewing Company (Eau Claire, WI) How to Brew a Dark Mild Brewing a mild is relatively straight forward whether you are an all-grain or extract brewer. Its low alcohol content makes it one of the fastest finishing beers to make. A mild can be ready to drink in as little as 15 days! If you need a homebrew with some character for that forgotten party looming just around the corner this is the one to go for. Grain Bill: As with all beer recipes the base malt becomes the canvas on which a brewer paints his creation. You want a high quality and, hopefully, authentic-to-the-style malt. For milds you want that slight biscuit quality expected in British beer. American pale malts generally are kilned to one or two Lovibond lighter then British malt. The darker kilned British pale malt brings more of the biscuity qualities you’re looking for. American two-row will work as a second choice base malt, but to get the right characters you’ll have to add some lighter British specialty malt such as Biscuit or Victory. Keep these to around 10% of your grain bill. Crystal malts add sweet caramel notes, build body, and color. I’d suggest avoiding the very light crystal and working more with the mid and darker crystal. Experiment with different combinations until you hit upon the right combination of sweetness and body. Don’t get too crazy though. Go with two or three varieties and see where it takes you. Keep the crystal to around 10% if adding other specialty grains and 15% if not. Keep darker roast grains at 4% to 6% of the total grain bill. Chocolate and/or black patent is common. Roast is also sometimes used though not as regularly as the other two. There are even a few recipes out there that completely forgo crystal, using these darker malts exclusively. Again, have fun experimenting without getting over complicated. If looking to brew a mild on the paler end of the spectrum these darker grains would be completely omitted. If you’re an extract brewer look for high quality extract made from British pale malt. A 100% Maris Otter malt extract is a good choice. Steep your chosen specialty grains. Hops: Good hop selections for this style would be traditionally British; Fuggles, Northern Brewer, Goldings, Challenger and Northdown are a few examples. There is very little hop flavor and aroma, if present at all. A bitterness to starting gravity ratio (IBU divided by original gravity) of around 0.5 usually works well. Most of the hops should go in as bittering at 60 minutes. If looking for a bit of flavor you can add a tiny addition of low alpha hops at 20 to 15 minutes before flameout. Aroma and dry hopping are seldom part of a mild recipe. Flavor additions should be kept to less than half an ounce. Also consider the amount of roast malt you use in relation to hopping. Roast malt will contribute a dryness to the beer which will make bitterness more pronounced. The Mash: This is easily and simply done with a single infusion mash with a saccharification temperature of 153°F. Mash out quickly, bringing your malt temperature above 168°F. Then sparge with 170°F degree water. Extract brewers steep your specialty grains as you would with any other recipe. Yeast: Yeast plays a significant role in the finished flavor profile of these ales. You are looking for a British yeast that is moderately attenuating and will provide low to moderate esters. Both Wyeast 1968 (London ESB Ale) and White Labs WLP002 (English Ale) are good liquid yeasts, while Safale S-04 or Danstar Winsor would work if you prefer using dry yeast. Fermentation & Bottling: High fermentation temperatures facilitate high ester production and low temperatures will make the beer drier with fewer esters. You want low to mid-range ester production so keep the fermentation temperature in the mid-range. A good way to do this is to start your fermentation in the low sixties and let it rise slowly over a few days to about 67°F or 68°F. Milds usually have low to medium carbonation. If bottling shoot for 2 volumes; kegging drop it to 1.5 volumes. There are many online carbonation calculators to help you figure out how much priming sugar to add. This style is enjoyed young and gains nothing with storage. No aging necessary, so wait the requisite week to ten days, if bottled, and enjoy. If kegged you’ll be basking in your labors that much sooner. The dark mild style has been to long overlooked and underappreciated. The original session style, it is simple, yet can pack good flavor and surprising complexity. It is extremely well suited to the working lunch or as an after work cool-down. You can pair it with a mild cheese and smoked meat platter, or bring it to the main table to serenade a main dish of Venison or swing it into dessert mode with the dark fruit tones of a blueberry tart. Cheers!