We can go months without seeing a draught mild on sale in Penzance and so, at the sight of a pump clip for St Austell’s ‘The Queen’s Mild’, felt the same kind of excitement a city-based beer geek might at the sight of, say, a limited edition farmhouse porter.
We’ve been sorely disappointed by mild in the past: too often, they turn out to be watery and murky — like something from the U-bend under the kitchen sink. But from the moment this landed on the bar, we knew we were on to a winner.
It glowed in the glass, almost black but not opaque. The use of a sparkler (in the West Country, they are sometimes employed, sometimes not — there is no dogma) gave it a smooth, slightly-off-white head. A sparkling clean glass didn’t hurt, either. It looked, in short, like a photo opportunity for the Mild Marketing Board.
A relatively high strength for a mild (4.5%) seemed to nudge it into Old Ale territory (think Adnams). We’d like to have tried it side-by-side with Black Prince, St Austell’s regular but rarely-seen ‘dark ale’, but our impression was that Queen’s was milkier, stouter, and more bitter. A sort of ‘best mild’, perhaps.
It was extremely moreish and satisfying but didn’t demand our complete attention: it made us say ‘Aaah….’ rather than ‘Wow!’
We meant to have one but couldn’t resist a second. Then, seizing the moment, pushed on to a third. We might have made a fourth if the pub hadn’t been closing around us.
Queen’s Mild was £3.40 a pint at the Yacht Inn, Penzance, which is about the going rate for a pint round here. We think it was a leftover from the Celtic Beer Festival, for which Roger Ryman and his team brew small amounts of a dazzling range of experimental beers, and brewed in collaboration with the Queen’s Arms, Brixham.