Beer styles

Hot Pub Time Machine

Sign outside a Plymouth pub advertising Courage Dark Mild

Wandering through Plymouth’s Altstadt, aka the Barbican, we stopped dead at the site of the sign outside the Queen’s Arms:

Special….. Courage “Dark Mild” sold here.

Courage Dark Mild? Really? We had to see for ourselves and, at any rate, needed a post fish-and-chips pint, so in we went.

We found ourselves in a clean, tidy pub which looked very like the one Bailey’s parents ran in Exeter in the early 1980s: velvet seat covers, dark wood, pickled eggs and high Victorian ceilings. The landlady greeted us cheerfully; the grizzled regulars at the end of the bar (possibly pirates) eyed us with suspicion.

We ordered Courage Dark Mild which was, indeed, on offer, albeit in keg form, alongside cask Bass and keg Courage Best Bitter. The antique pumpclips suggesting that someone put in a recurring order for those beers in about 1988 which has been magically fulfiled ever since.

You might be surprised to hear that it tasted pretty bloody good. As others have pointed out, mild benefits from cask conditioning perhaps even more than many other types of ale but, even so, this keg variant was fruity, dark and (being served pretty cold) very refreshing. It’s by no means complex but the darkness was from something other than a slug of caramel: there was a burned, roasted edge which made us want another.

How much Courage Dark Mild is actually being brewed? And are any other pubs in the country selling it?



1. This isn’t the first time capsule pub we’ve come across.

2. the pub wasn’t hot – a bit chilly if anything – but the truth cannot get in the way of a punning post title.

5 replies on “Hot Pub Time Machine”

Plymouth, of course, was a long-time home of Courage-brewed dark mild, when the local brewery was still open (and Courage-run) and it was called “heavy” – doubtless to the extreme confusion of visiting Scots. I’m not sure I’d agree that mild benefits from cask conditioning more than other types of ale: my impression is that, post-Second World War, cask mild was sent out from most breweries pretty much ready to drink, almost “bright” (in terms of the amount of yeast left in the cask) and in need of very little, if any, cellar conditioning. Certainly my experience has always been that keg dark mild stands up to the kegging better than any other British style, so I’m personally not surprised you enjoyed your pints.

I suppose we’ve worked on the assumption that, as milds tend to be weaker, they benefit from the added zing cask conditioning can bring to more restrained beers, but we’ll keep an open mind.

Guy Sheppard from the Exe Valley Brewery mentioned Heavy on Twitter. Wondering now if this pub got Courage Mild as a replacement for Heavy some time in the 80s and has stocked it since.

yet again, you’ve uncovered a beer I’ve never heard of. You need to open some kind of Columbo-esque beer detective agency or something. In fact, ‘Boak & Bailey’ sounds just like the Beer Detective story that Channel 5 have been waiting to make!

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