Beer history Beer styles The Session

Session #88 Announcement

Illustration by Robert Wykes, 1938.
Illustration by Robert Wykes from What’s Yours? (1938). They’re laughing because ordering ‘bitter and mild’ is a faux pas — it should always be ‘mild and bitter’.

We haven’t hosted the monthly beer blogging Session since 2008 and, noticing that there was still a vacancy for 6 June with only weeks to go, decided it was time for another go.

The beer blogging Session logo.The topic we’ve chosen is traditional beer mixes.

In his 1976 book Beer and Skittles early beer writer Richard Boston lists several:

  • Lightplater – bitter and light ale.
  • Mother-in-law — old and bitter.
  • Granny — old and mild.
  • Boilermaker — brown and mild.
  • Blacksmith –stout and barley wine.
  • Half-and-half – bitter and stout, or bitter and mild.

We’d like you to drink one or more from that list and write about it on Friday 6 June… and that’s it.

We’re deliberately aiming for something broad and accessible, but there is one rule — no ‘beer cocktails’! It’s been done, for starters. So, mix two beers, not four; and steer clear of syrups, spirits, flavourings and crushed ice.

If you need further inspiration…

  • Try ordering them in a pub — do bar staff still know the ropes?
  • Use your own sources to find a traditional mix not on Boston’s list, e.g. Ram’n’Spesh in Young’s London pubs.
  • Make the same mix with several different beers — are there rules for the optimal Granny?
  • Experiment — Blacksmith IPA with black IPA, anyone?

And here’s more food for thought, from T.E.B. Clarke’s What’s Yours? (1938):

If, as usually occurs, you have found bitter too bitter and mild too sweet (as well as too uneconomic), you might well resort to “mild and bitter”…. Should you have discovered that you like Burton, or “old”, except for its slightly metallic flavour — another verdict common among beginners — make “B.B.” your next order.

Let us know when your post is up either by commenting here, emailing us at, or Tweeting at us.

UPDATE 12/05/2014

More inspiration from Twitter, some people have suggested beer mixes that have worked for them in the past:

  • Matthew Curtis — “Mikkeller beer geek breakfast with Odell IPA has been my greatest success.”
  • Ghost Drinker — “mix a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout with a Mort Subite Kriek…”.
  • Martyn Griffin — “Oakham Citra and Sarah Hughes Ruby (or a clone I HB’d) is an absolute winner.”
  • Al ‘Hopsinjoor’ — “The aforementioned Hardcore and Paradox… [Brewdog] Hardcore and Riptide (a RipCore if you will- thanks to ) [Magic Rock] Unhuman & [Buxton] Tsar Bomba, [Magic Rock Cannonball & Bearded Lady… [Summer Wine] Diablo & (again) Bearded Lady, all good mixes. [Buxton] Axe Edge & any good stout!”
  • Alan McLeod had some success with a 50/50 mix of Orval “as sort of a brett concentrate” with a ‘farmhouse cream ale’.
  • Rowan Molyneux — “Best mix I’ve found: 1/2 Hardcore IPA with 1/3 Paradox Heaven Hill (both BrewDog). Not tried with low ABVs yet…”

27 replies on “Session #88 Announcement”

Excellent subject. I’ve been mixing beers, taking my cue not just from books like Beer And Skittles but beer history in general, for decades. It’s just malt and hops, and you can mix them anyway you like, just like brewers mix malts in the mash. (Ever look at contemporary craft recipes with its 6-7-8 malts and grains?).

It is really surprising though how many people look at you as if you’ve denied somehow that the earth orbits the sun when doing this. I mean, you can (as a brewer) add lemon verbena, white pepper, bitter orange, absinthe, kale maybe or what ever you want to saison but god forbid you should mix a heavy-footed APA with a bland crafty to cut the heavy hops and restore some balance. It’s not rocket science, you can do it too. I sometimes make an 8-beer + blend just to even out all the esoterica of our intrepid craft brewers (god bless them) and you’d be amazed how good the results can be. I look forward to this Session.


When I drank Youngs regularly years ago it was very unusual to get a lifeless pint.
On the occasions when I did a bottle of Ramrod was the preferred livener.
However, when ordering it there was always a frisson of nervousness – Ramrod being the name of a popular gay leather bar in NYC I used to pass occasionally.
I rarely touch Youngs on visits to London these days – it’s a shadow of its former glory since it was sold.
You’ve only got to look at the opening page on its website to guage where priorities lie.
” Spring has sprung and we can’t wait to share our new Spring menus with you. ”
Ye gods.

A boilermaker to me was beer with rye whisky mixed in. If, instead, the rye was in its own shot glass at the bottom of the pint glass and the beer carefully poured around, it was a depth charge as you get all the rye at then end.

Back in the late 70’s/early 80’s I was always fond of a Directors’ and Bulldog (John Martin’s Pale Ale in the Belgian market) when in a Courage pub. Sadly, I don’t think this lovely mixture had a name, and you can’t replicate it as Bulldog is no more.

Stout and barley wine sounds like a promising mixture and one I’ve never tried. I’m thinking Meantime Porter and Fullers Golden Pride or Guinness Foreign Extra with Gold Label.

Could be interesting to use the Belgian-brewed John Martin’s Pale Ale in a… D&B, shall we call it?

I once redecorated someone’s lavatory walls after a night of Directors and Bulldog in a pub outside Harlow in early 1976 – and not in a good way. Dangerous stuff.

To do it properly would involve smuggling a bottle of John Martin’s into a pub that sells Directors’, drinking half the pint and topping it up – a practice that I personally would be uncomfortable with.
Also, sadly, Directors’ just doesn’t seem to me to the same as it was in those days, and John Martin’s Pale Ale (now contract brewed in Belgium) now definitely isn’t what it used to be. Bulldog was a lovely beer. (Same with Gordon’s Scotch)

The other approach, then, might be to work out what the specific qualities of a D&B were, and then identify two beers available today which approximate the experience when mixed.

Which bitter on the market today is closest to your memory of ‘Golden Era’ Directors’?

(Sorry to go on — this is interesting!)

I’d say Marston’s Pedigree but I’ve no doubt there will be detractors.
Funnily enough Bass has remained pretty consistent over the years which is probably why I can’t recall ever having to mix it with anything else.

Sorry, but wrong on both counts in my humble….
Ped is nothing like the old Directors’, and Bass is nothing but a pale shadow of what it was before they scrapped the unions.
The closest to the old Directors’ is the current Directors’, but it isn’t quite the same. Nor is John Martin’s, but that’s what you’d be best using to try to get a feel of what it was like.
Now that I think about it, I had a couple of evenings on Gales’ Prize Old Ale and HSB – the closest you’re likely to get to that these days is GK Old Crafty Hen (but that’s not that close).
Sic transit gloria mundi

I had a pint of Bass in Atlanta about three weeks ago.
I’ve not idea where it was brewed but it was cool,malty and in tip-top condition.
Admittedly it wasn’t the warm,flat Bass that I used to drink but,by jove, it was tasty.
Pedigree has been shit for at least two decades imho.

I agree that John Martin’s has changed, what a pity. It was a good-bodied English bitter with aromatic, flowery English hops, a touch fruity too. Director’s! I remember that. All the Courage beers were wonderful in the 80’s with estery, flowery and sweet malt notes. All the good old days.

I wouldn’t use Pedigree for the mix because Director’s didn’t have the Burton Snatch. Hook Norton’s Old Hookey would be good perhaps. For the bitter, any traditional bottled bitter with a flowery English (not citric American) hoppy taste should work.


arent the “newer” beer mixes that were suggested quite a different thing from the “classic” beer mixes, not that Im saying its wrong, its just one seems to be experimenting for experimenting sake, ie what happens if I mix these two beers together that dont immediately leap out as oh yes that might work, whilst the “classic” style is about blending beers together that you know complement each other. Id quite happily drink a MiL (and yes fortunately able to wander in most pubs and people know what you mean) as a repeat session beer if they were both on, Im not sure Id be able to drink some of the other suggestions at all.

Stono — yes, they’re quite different, but since that’s where people’s heads went, we thought it worth including here.

It also occurred to us that several of the mixes we mention above use mild which is hard to find in large parts of the UK, and almost impossible in the US, so a bit of flexibility is required.

Its still a lot easier to find than old ale though.

A lot of the modern twists seem to reveal a latent unfulfilled desire for beer that is simultaneously dark and hoppy. A mild and a modern pale ale would make a palatable mix.

Perhaps its because you rarely see black IPAs on draft and when you do they’re often far too strong.

Back when Dogfish opened their brewpub in Gaithersburg, MD, I could have sworn my friends and I invented the “75 minute” which was a half and half of 90 Minute and 60 Minute. It really took the sweet edge off the 90, but gave the 60 a significant ABV oomph.

I was pleased (and surprised) when Dogfish actually started bottling their own version of 75 minute, but the honey they add kind of negates the reason we blended the two in the first place.

Great topic. I’ll definitely be joining it.

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