Bottled Milds 3: Fenland &c.

Fenland milds: Millwright's, Elgood's, St Peter's.

The third batch of milds in our taste-off are from Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Lincolnshire and we bought all three from Beers of Europe.

All three are traditional dark milds without twists or special ingredients:

  • 8 Sail Brewery Millwright Mild (3.5%, 500ml, £2.29)
  • Elgood’s Black Dog (3.6%, 500ml, £1.99)
  • St Peter’s Mild (3.7%, 500ml, £1.99)

8 Sail Brewery Millwright's Mild.

The label for 8 Sail’s Millwright Mild (Lincs) isn’t slickly designed and has the look about it of what we call ‘gift shop beer’. Popping the cap released a fierce hiss and we braced for a gusher but, fortunately, it behaved. The carbonation was notably high producing a tall, foamy head of tight bubbles. (It had dropped back a bit by the time we took the photo above.) It had what we’re beginning to think of as the classic look for dark mild: red against the light, almost black in the glass.

That high carbonation and fizz was a harbinger, though: something in this bottle had eaten through every last bit of sugar and turned the beer sour. Once we’d got over its failure as easy-drinking mild this presumably accidental result made for a beer that was interesting in its own right. It was a kind of dark gueuze — a Black Forest gateaux of cherry and cocoa flavours, with a dab of tar-like treacle. Unfortunately, all that was too much complexity for the relatively light body to bear. This isn’t a contender but we might try blending the second bottle with, say, Mann’s Brown, to mellow it out.

Elgood's Black Dog.

Elgood’s Black Dog (Cambs) gave off a surprisingly intense aroma on opening — a puff of greenhouse strawberries, or of Nesquik milkshake powder. It occupies the red-black borderlands and is topped with a tan head.

It has a relatively powerful flavour, too — traditional, yes, but with everything turned up a notch. Roastiness, a touch of plummy red wine and rich, dark chocolate bitterness bring to mind a general impression of the porters we tasted last year. Dark mild may not historically be ‘baby porter’ but that is clearly how some modern brewers approach it.

Unfortunately, we could not agree on this beer. The sticking point was an overripe fruit aroma that Bailey could barely detect but which Boak found distracting and off-putting: ‘Like cheap foam banana sweets.’ Though we are trying to narrow the field, we think it deserves a second chance and so (only just) it’s a contender.

St Peter's Brewery Mild.
Another brewery which has always divided us is St Peter’s (Suffolk). In the early days of our interest in beer, their distinctive oval green bottles were easy to find in supermarkets and corner shops and gave us access to a wide range of historic and quirky styles such as porter and fruit beer. Boak has always been a fan, Bailey has not.

Once again, we found ourselves with glasses of red-brown-black, topped with well-behaved, just-off-white foam.

The aroma was restrained — just a touch of charred malt — and it tasted like another session stout with severe bitterness and a suggestion of burnt-toast. There was a balancing sweetness, though, enhanced by a sort of almond essence nuttiness. That might, we though, become cloying over a session, but we both enjoyed it a lot (lots of ‘Mmmmmmm!’ and ‘Ooh!’) so it’s a definite contender.

UPDATE: We posted this in a rush while heading off to work and got the geography wrong. Apologies.

10 thoughts on “Bottled Milds 3: Fenland &c.”

  1. Unless St Peter’s have moved whilst I haven’t been looking, they’re based in South Elmham St Peter in Suffolk at a rather nice old moated manor house, not in Cambridgeshire and not in the fens!

    Their mild is good, though!

  2. Sorry, should have double checked. Many self-flagelations. Will fix.

    It’s one of those things we’ve just got misfiled in our heads and always get wrong.

    (Last year, we put Elgood’s in Essex, so at least we got that right this time…)

  3. glad the st peters mild held up, had a soft spot or their bottled offerings whilst at university (helped they were often on offer in waitrose)

  4. I picked up three 8 sail beers when I was up in Lincoln on a rare trip home a couple of years ago – two of the three were infected (one of these two ended up going in the stew I was cooking). It’s a shame to read that things haven’t improved – Lincolnshire’s not really keeping pace with the rest of the country beer-wise. Or at least not putting out enough evidence that it is.

  5. Mild as a Fenland drink makes a lot of sense in a sense-of-place sort of way. Imagine a pint of it after spending a sharp, clear winter’s day cycling through a landscape of soft black loamy fields. No drama, no great excitement, but a certain satisfying solidity.

  6. Shame about 8 Sail – they seem to specialise in darker styles and their cask beers have always been good when I’ve tried them.

    RIAB from the smaller end of the micro spectrum is *extremely* unreliable around here. One repeat offender near me (who I won’t name, as I’m brewing commercially myself it would be bad form) keeps churning out unintentional bottles and casks of “Lincolnshire gueuze” but absolutely will not listen to feedback on this, and is leaving a trail of alienated publicans and “tastes like urine” Untappd check-ins in his wake as a result.

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