Tag Archives: mild

Old recipes, etiquette and wallop

1912 St Austell Stout

Being some notes and queries on subjects diverse.

Even more beers brewed to historic recipes

About this time last year, we tried to compile a reasonably complete list of beers being brewed to historic recipes. Now we note that one of the beers in the Sainsbury’s beer hunt is J.W. Lees Manchester Star, supposedly brewed to an 1884 porter recipe, and also hear news of a St Austell 1913 stout. (We’ve seen a recipe in their books from 1912, pictured.) The latest Fuller’s Past Masters beer, 1931 Burton Extra, has just been released. This summer also saw Camden brew a 1908 pale ale which was very tasty, but seemed (too us) rather too far from the original spec to really deserve the ‘historic’ tag.

Questions of pub etiquette

Maxwell asked this question on Twitter last night:

It’s a good question. Our feeling was that, if you need to ask, then you’re not eligible, but can anyone give a more helpful answer?

The meaning of ‘wallop’

Watching the BFI’s Roll out the Barrel DVD again the other night, we particularly enjoyed Down at the Local (1945), a propaganda short made for British troops serving overseas. It was designed to remind them of home, and of why they were fighting, and shows scenes of pubs in London, Lancashire and Somerset. In London, the narrators decide on mild and so ask the barmaid for ‘two pints of wallop‘. In Preston, incidentally, they decide on bitter and mild and so order ‘mixed’.

A second talk at Eden

The Boak and Bailey edutainment roadshow was at the Eden Project again last weekend. There was no Oakham Green Devil  IPA to demonstrate with this time, though, as it all got pilfered from a store cupboard. They left behind the St Austell HSD and Franziskaner.

 

What Gives a Beer Value?

A chart showing relative values we place on beers.

This is another attempt to ‘graph our relationship with beer‘. This time, it’s about capturing the various qualities that give a particular beer value in our eyes.

  • Sentiment: homesickness, happy memories, family connections.
  • Taste: how nice is it?
  • Complexity: and how deep?
  • Tradition: does it connect us with history and a particular culture? (Cask ale does this.)
  • Value: i.e. value for money.
  • Rarity: how likely are we to find this beer again any time soon?
  • Novelty: Schlenkerla’s smoked maerzen scores highly here.
  • Sessionability: we like beers we can drink a few of.
  • Refreshment: sometimes, we want beer to quench our thirst and cool us down.

For example, we know, objectively speaking, that Butcombe’s cask bitter isn’t the world’s best beer but, nonetheless, we value it more highly than almost as highly as Duvel. That sounds nuts, right? But we’re not saying it’s as great a a better beer, only that, for us, a pint of Butcombe Bitter is tied up with happy times in Somerset pubs with Bailey’s parents (sentiment); and, especially when we lived in London, it had a certain rarity value.

Even we were surprised to see that St Austell’s Black Prince Mild has the highest value of any beer on the chart, but then again, it is remarkably rare; gives us a powerful sense of engaging with brewing tradition; taps into all the sentimental associations we make with mild-loving grandparents; and is a wonderful session beer.

Schlenkerla Maerzen scores highly because, not only does smoked beer have novelty value, and a taste we happen to like, but even the merest whiff of it transports us back to Bamberg.

We could record marks for every beer we drink against this system. It might be interesting to see, after a year or two, which ends up having the most ‘value’, and whether we would also consider it our favourite beer.

What beer meant, what beer means

A glass of Pilsner beer in Wuerzburg, Germany.

A question from the Beerprole about what is and isn’t entitled to call itself ‘lager’ recently surfaced  on Twitter, before once again disappearing beneath the tide of the timeline. This reminded us of a similar discussion we’d had a few weeks before with about the term ‘mild’. UPDATE FOR CLARITY: In both cases, the question was a variation on “can beer X really be called a lager/mild”.

What confuses these and many other conversations is the co-existence of several meanings, each of which is equally correct, depending on context.

Historical (19th c.) Common understanding (what it’s come to mean)
US homebrew judging guidance
Mild Any young beer (not aged) — could be strong, could be hoppy; not necessarily dark. Weak, dark, not bitter. Weak, dark, restrained hopping, top-fermented (“ale”).
Lager From the German “to store” — cold conditioned beer. Yellow, highly carbonated, cold — “refreshing”. Made with bottom-fermenting yeast.

Anyone attempting to sell a beer which is perfectly correctly described as lager or mild in historical or technical terms, but which confounds people’s expectations based on common modern usage, is setting up their customers to be disappointed.

Unless, that is, they take care to explain all of that in the labelling or through educated bar staff, when the difference from the common understanding might become an intriguing selling point.

Five suggestions for Greene King

Greene King, by all accounts, are puzzled and hurt by the disdain in which they (and especially their IPA) are held by beer geeks.

As usual, we (as Tandleman would say) sit on the fence a bit when it comes to Greene King: we recognise they make some good beers, but worry that their IPA is a Trojan horse — a beer so bland it has more in common with John Smith’s Extra Smooth than any other ‘real ale’.

However, inspired by this post at the Campaign for Really Good Beer, we thought we’d be constructive and suggest five things they can do to improve their image.

1. Instead of inviting critics and commentators one at a time to come and stand on your lovely roof and meet you charming head brewer, why not make a lot more information about how your beer is made available online? At the moment (unless we’re missing something) the website is all about branding and packaging.

2. Get out and try GK IPA as it is drunk in pubs all around the country: however subtle, balanced and well-made it might be at source, by the time it reaches, say, Exeter, it is usually, in our experience, warm, vinegary and flat. Has it got more market share than your quality control mechanisms can cope with?

3. As CAMRGB suggested, stop pretending that your pubs serve beers from a range of breweries and, in particular, nix the disingenuous London Glory. This is just cheeky and takes your customers for mugs.

4. With that huge London estate, surely there’s room somewhere for a pub which serves your full range of beers, from the rarely seen but apparently excellent mild, via Suffolk Strong, all the way up to the currently brewery-exclusive 5X? A flagship pub where you could send cynics to taste your best products as you intend them to be tasted?

5. On the subject of mild, given that anyone drinking GK IPA has already foregone any pretensions of youthfulness or trendiness, probably attracted by the low ABV as much as anything else, maybe there’s a market you’re failing to tap? We groan when we see your IPA on sale in a pub in Cornwall, but we’d be delighted to see your mild.

Some of this would also apply to St Austell and some other big regional brewers. If any of the above are already happening and we’ve missed them, let us know.

Canned dark mild to the rescue

Either we’re very harsh critics of our own homebrew or, after years of practice, we’re still crap at it. Whichever is true, we found ourselves this week with a polypin of what seemed to us very dry, very Cascade-flavoured, under-conditioned pale ale, which we didn’t much want to drink.

Then, in the supermarket, a sudden impulse saw us chuck four cans of Thwaites Dark Mild (£2.98) into our basket.

Tasted on its own, this was nothing special — watery, sweet with a little sickly caramel. As a mixer for half-and-half, however, it not only hit the spot, but transformed our pale ale into something magnificent. There was chemistry. The two beers complemented each other perfectly and produced something very like a good cask-conditioned stronger mild. Not a compromise but a real pleasure to drink.

Our conclusion: it’s worth keeping something like this tucked away in the larder. You never know when it might help you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.